Jesus taught his disciples to expect persecution. He said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:10).
By saying "theirs is the kingdom of heaven," Jesus indicated that those who endure persecution for his sake will find entrance into the kingdom.
To be persecuted for the sake of righteousness means to suffer for the sake of fidelity to God despite various types of coercion and attempts to force a person into compromise and apostasy.
The Jewish people had a long legacy of enduring suffering and persecution for their allegiance to God. In the days before the Hasmonean revolt, the wicked Syrian-Greeks persecuted and even martyred Jewish people who remained faithful to the commandments of circumcision, Sabbath observance and dietary laws. The same fate awaited the faithful Jews of the apostolic and post-apostolic age as the Roman world attempted to suppress the practice of Judaism.
Rabbi Jesus warned His disciples they would be insulted, persecuted and falsely accused specifically because of their affiliation with Him. He said, "Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they separate you from their company and insult you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man" (Luke 6:22).
Some New Testament scholars suggest that the original Hebrew of Matthew 5:10 might have read, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of The Righteous One (HaTzaddik, Ã—"Ã—ÃÂ¦Ã—"Ã—Ã—ÃÂ§), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus is the Tzaddik, i.e., the "Righteous One."
Jesus reminded His disciples that the prophets of old suffered similar persecution from their countrymen. He said, "Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for indeed, your reward is great in heaven. For in like manner their fathers treated the prophets" (Luke 6:23).
In fact, Yeshua's disciples should be concerned if they do not experience some measure of persecution for the sake of the Master: "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers spoke of the false prophets" (Luke 6:26).
The reward of the persecuted is laid up in heaven, that is to say, it remains with the Father to be paid out at the coming of the kingdom of heaven: "They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4d).
Daniel Thomas Lancaster is a writer, teacher, and the Director of Education at the Messianic ministry of First Fruits of Zion (www.ffoz.org), an international ministry with offices in Israel, Canada, and USA, bringing Messianic Jewish teaching to Christians and Jews. He is the author of several books about the Jewish roots of Christianity and the Jewishness of the New Testament, and he is the author of the Torah Club Bible study program (torahclub.org). He also serves as the teaching pastor at Beth Immanuel (bethimmanuel.org), a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Hudson, Wisconsin. Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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