Matt. 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” (NIV)
Freedom: From the bondage of being defined by our persecutors and from bondage to anger and bitterness. Instead, for Christians, antagonism and hatred should motivate us to rejoice.
Blessed “fortunate, happy” ( Dictionary of New Testament Theology [DNTT], C. Brown, ed. 1:215 )
What are the requirements for rejoicing? When, for the sake of Christ, you are:
Persecuted (basic sense of hostile pursuit— [DNTT, 2:805] )
Insulted (reproach, revile, heap insults upon— A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, Bauer Arndt, Gingrich [BAG], p. 573 )
People speak evil against you falsel (“evil”—from the idea of doing bad or dangerous work [ DNTT, 1:564-5 ]; “falsely”--lying
Hated (originally this came from resentment from a sense of injury [ DNTT, 1:553 ], “persecute in hatred,” “detest” [ BAG, 524 ]
Excluded –a boundary is set around you—you are excommunicated ( BAG, 126 )
Your name is rejected as evil—literally, your very name is “cast out” as evil
I’ve had only a couple of fairly minor instances of such persecution. I’d been evangelizing in a housing project and was paying a return call upon a woman who had made a profession of faith. The woman living very close next door, with a brick in each hand, threatened to hit me and to smash the windshield of my car if I didn’t go away and not return. The confrontation went on for about 20 minutes, during which I refused to move. She eventually dropped her arms, hung her head and went inside. She was probably high on “crack” cocaine, which can make people aggressive. This put fear into my heart about returning, but I did and when she saw me a short time later she apologized, accepted a free Bible, and asked for prayer.
Another time I was alone going house-to-house evangelizing and giving away free New Testaments in an African American neighborhood. I’d not been there before and was about 45 miles (72 kilometers) away from my home. Two teenagers started following me through the neighborhood, mocking and insulting me. I kept up the work and eventually they went away. In both cases, my work for the sake of the Gospel led me into these situations and in both cases the people knew that I was evangelizing and tried to discourage me. I realized that I’d had the privilege of rejoicing over my future reward.
I’ve been in dangerous situations for the sake of the Gospel, once going to western Uganda through country in which armed rebels could have been hiding. I’ve gotten malaria while doing the work of the Kingdom, but I couldn’t rejoice over these more passive situations. They were “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor. 4:17 ), without malice and hatred. It is for enduring persecution, not hardship that Christ tells us to rejoice. Of course, we aren’t to unnecessarily provoke others to oppose us by indiscretion, zeal without knowledge or obnoxiousness. Some people seem to attract attack by radical behavior.
We are in the noble line of the prophets when reviled. By example, Jeremiah’s life was a series of persecutions, because he counseled surrender to the enemies of Judah (Jer. 38:2-3). God determined to punish Judah for her sins, and use Babylon to do it. Jeremiah was put to public shame in stocks (Jer. 20:2), beaten (Jer. 37:15), and thrown into a deep, muddy pit and left for dead (Jer. 38:6). People from his own village sought to take his life (Jer. 11:21 ). But he could not stop proclaiming God’s word (Jer. 20:9).
False prophets said what was desired. Hananiah falsely prophesied that Judah would be saved from Neduchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jer. 28:10-11), but God killed Hananiah within a year for that lie, as Jeremiah was told to predict (Jer. 28:15-17).
When all speak well of us, beware, because false prophets have popularity coming from compromise (Luke 6:26 ).
We are disciples in the line of Jesus, who was mocked and reviled (Matt. 27:29-31), beaten (Matt. 26:67-68) and crucified (Matt. 27:35) for the sake of the Kingdom, and then died asking forgiveness for His persecutors (Luke 23:34 ).
Why can we expect such persecution? (John 15:18-25)
We are in the world, but do not belong to this world (John 15:18 -19).
No servant is greater than his master (John 13:16 ). They hated Jesus first (John 15:18). A Christian’s goal is to become like Christ (Eph. 4:13 ; Col. 1:28 ), which is also a goal of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18 ). The more we look like Christ, perhaps the more we will be treated as He was.
Persecutors do not know God and do not follow Christ’s teachings (John 15:20 - 21).
Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted
(2 Tim. 3:12 ).
Christians have the stench of death to those going to hell (2 Cor. 2:15 - 16).
Christians still participate in Christ’s sufferings (2 Pet. 4:12 - 19; Col. 1:24; Phil 2:17 ), although we do not add to His atonement for sin, which Christ alone, being sinless, could pay (1 Pet. 2:24 ). He fully paid our sin debt.
Are you able to rejoice over your reward in heaven due to persecution? Christians can still rejoice that their names are written in heaven (more than if demons submit to them--Luke 10:20 ).