“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Beatitudes refer to believers (specifically those within Israel during our Lord’s time but still apply to all born-again individuals of every period) because the meaning of each one has applications that do not describe an individual within a state of unbelief. It is also important to point out that the beatitudes all build on each other and are connected (or related). Most of them have to do with the peaceful (tranquil), happy, and joyful state the believer can (or should experience) through all the difficulties they will encounter here in Satan’s world system (his cosmos diabolicus). Thus, these verses contrast the justified state and reality of the believing individual to that of the unregenerate person. The unbeliever sees the believer’s situation as a misfortunate disgrace. However, things are not what they seem, from the worldly perspective that is. Only the believer can truly see everything for what it really is.
Jesus contrasted the true spiritual state of the born-again individual as opposed to those (particularly the Scribes and Pharisees) who were spiritually dead because of their unbelieving attitude toward the Law (twisting and adding to it). The Pharisees were known for their “do-goodism” because they thought they could work their way to heaven through keeping the Law (which was never the purpose of the written code). The sacrifice of Christ and one’s faith in it is the only way to possess and enjoy these blessed spiritual realities. Jesus contrasted the spiritual state of the unbeliever who relies on works for salvation, to the individual who approaches salvation in the correct manner by faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The unbeliever does not see the spiritual significance of Jesus’s words in this passage. And though the follower of Christ seems to have little in this life (in the shallow secular sense), they will “inherit the earth.” The beatitudes demonstrate the great contrast between faith and unbelief; the spiritual realm from that of the worldly and fleshly. The perception of both groups could not differ any greater because they both view life from a different lens.
To begin our examination, those “poor in spirit” are believers who realize their helplessness and emptiness before God (hence the words poor “in spirit”) as opposed to those who think they can do something for Him as many Jews did with the Law. This attitude is what led them to Christ initially and is what keeps them on that “narrow way.” Because of this faithful and humble attitude toward the Almighty, they have all the spiritual blessings granted to them by the Lord as those justified by faith through grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). The poor in Spirit (the Jews in Christ’s time but also all believers of today) are aware of their own poor and deprived condition without Christ (contrasted with the Pharisees who thought they could save themselves). In other words, they realized (and still do) their need for a Savior. They understand that apart from the Lord, they can do nothing (John 15:5). With that said, it is unlikely that Jesus was talking about physical and literal wealth (even though that can be an application) since the beatitudes apply to ALL believers who are poor in spirit (not necessarily physical wealth even if that was/is the case for many) regardless of their financial circumstances. Jesus would not discriminate against rich disciples. The believer is the polar opposite of the person who stands condemned because they (the unbeliever) see no need for God in their life because they are too proud to accept Him.
The word “blessed” in verse three above (and in all the beatitudes) means “blessed” or “happy” and refers to the true and meaningful joy all believers hold through the hope which they possess in Jesus Christ. Believers have these fruits of the Spirit (peace, joy, hope) because of their born-again status before God. However, that does not mean we will always experience these “virtues” as we should because we don’t always handle life’s circumstances in a spiritually fitting way. These are true gifts of the Spirit we automatically have as Christians (we receive them at the moment of salvation), and should experience to the greatest possible degree. But sin and improper thinking and behavior can interfere with these godly manners. Believers are responsible to access as many of these spiritual blessings through maximum spiritual growth, progress, and production. Those who advance less in the Christian life will experience these heavenly gifts less (the lukewarm and carnally minded will naturally feel less joy, peace, and hope).
Nevertheless, all believers (regardless of their level of spiritual maturity) naturally rest within a happy or joyful sphere because their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). They have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ Romans 5:1 (a state they entered into by faith through grace alone Ephesians 2:8-9).
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Verse four in our present context links well with 1 Thessalonians 4:13, which says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” The unbeliever has and will not receive any spiritual comfort from Christ as long as they continue in a state of unbelief. And because of this rejection of Him, they have no hope (which means they have no spiritual blessing for any of their personal losses). So what this verse is saying is that although the believer may lose some things in this world (whether friends, family, relatives, friendships, possessions, etc.), none of the present sufferings compare to the eternal weight of glory that awaits them on the other side in eternity (Romans 8:18). Not only will they receive consolation from God in this life, but they will get to experience the greatest comfort of all to an incomprehensible degree in the following (eternity).
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
Believers who mourn have every reason to be happy in the long run. That is because they are in the realm of life. And although some losses are very tough to bear, they will (if reacted to and handled in a godly way) lead to even greater spiritual benefits. When we mourn, we will receive comfort from Christ (whether we choose to receive some of it or not is entirely up to us). We have hope in this life and the next. The world sees us as people to be pitied and without any cause for joy. But nothing could be further from the truth. They mourn for different reasons than we do.
The believer naturally has the comfort of hope they possess through the salvation by which they stand. However, any of us can scorn such merciful sympathy by reacting badly to our circumstances. That is to say, either our trials and tribulations will strengthen our faith by leading to further growth, or they will cause us (if we allow this to be the case) to embitter us to the point of getting angry at God and giving up on the faith altogether (Luke 8:13). This latter scenario is to be avoided at all costs because only those who endure in their faith to the very end will receive any further blessing in this life and the next.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
The Greek word “meek” often translates as humble or gentle. Humility (an inner strength as opposed to a weakness as many have correctly noted) is the best way to describe this word, a spiritual attribute that only believers can possess since all unbelievers (no matter how humble in other ways) are too proud to see their need for a Savior and thus believe in Him for salvation (most of the Israelites during our Lord’s time). Only those who humble themselves in the true spiritual sense (leading to their salvation and continued spiritual growth and endurance thereafter) will be exalted. Nothing “good” any unbeliever does for another (perhaps even “in the name of” Christ) will count in God’s eyes because everything they did, they “accomplished” in the power of their flesh absent God’s strength. If one does good things but not as a follower of Jesus Christ, nothing they do will mean a thing in the end.
This explanation above helps to interpret part of the meaning of the parable of the sheep and the goats when Christ says to those on His left (the goats representing all unbelievers of all time), “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these (Millennial believers represented by the sheep), you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:45). As this verse indicates, these unbelievers put themselves above and before the wellbeing of their fellow neighbors (believers) by not doing anything truly good for them in Christ’s power (because of their unbelief).
A good question to ask (in light of our interpretation above) is, what is the meaning of the phrase “will inherit the earth?” It doesn’t mean present rulership/ownership of the world as unbelievers would see it. These words refer partially to the spiritual blessings believers have access to by faith. We possess eternal life right now (although we are not experiencing it yet). Therefore, we enjoy the earth spiritually and meaningfully (unlike the unbeliever’s experience). The unsaved cannot experience life on this earth as Christians do.
However, we must understand that the believers to whom Jesus spoke these words have long since passed away. Does this mean that they haven’t inherited the earth? What about all the saints that have come and gone before our present time? These questions indirectly give us our answer. The eternal kingdom is a future inheritance (but not the same as the Millennial earth). Still, all believers who die before Christ’s second advent return will share in Christ’s rulership of the world during His thousand-year reign known as the Millennium. In that sense, I believe the words “will inherit the earth” should be taken to mean both present spiritual realities (the spiritual benefits that come to the believer alive presently on earth) and future spiritual administrative rulership (duties) that all believers will enjoy during the temporary period of the Millennium. So, I would say our verse has multiple applications (the New Heaven and Earth also being one of the three). Believers will inherit the new heaven and earth, something unbelievers will miss out on because they never wanted it.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
This verse applies to both believers and unbelievers. Regarding believers, these individuals are those who not only seek the truth out but they understand, believe, and apply it. God will not turn away His own (John 6:37) or anyone who comes to Him who wishes to be “filled.” As long as there is a desire to believe (a prospective convert) or keep advancing in the truth to live a more righteous life (a truly committed believer), the Lord will grant them that which they desire. But the only way to get the true righteousness of God is to receive it in faith and not by attempting to do so by the works of the Law.
Of those who desire to receive the righteousness imparted at spiritual rebirth, Revelation 22:17 is an excellent example of these individuals.
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
And all that the believer asks for within the Father’s will (especially that which is needed and pertains to their spiritual welfare), the Lord will not begrudge to give His children. God will grant the believer answers (the truth) if they genuinely want it and provide everything necessary for their spiritual sustenance. Those who wish to grow spiritually (they long to seek out, understand, and apply the truth) will receive everything required to live the most righteous life possible. That doesn’t mean the word “filled” means God force feeds us the truth apart from our own free will decisions (we have to hunger and thirst for righteousness) because we still have to seek it out and apply it through faith. But if the faith and desire are there, all the prerequisites will be forthcoming (Matthew 7:7-11).
God would bless Israel if (for those unbelievers) they accepted their Messiah in faith (something most in the religious class failed to do), while those who already believed continued to demonstrate a continual thirst for more (knowledge of kingdom living and the desire to apply it). Jesus offered the kingdom to His Jewish brethren. The question was who and how many of His countrymen would receive this offer through faith and hold onto it through continued allegiance. The sermon on the mount stresses the need for the Israelite believer (and all of us today) to live a life worthy of God’s kingdom.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
The merciful described above refers to believers. Unbelievers cannot be shown mercy by inheriting eternal life for the simple reason that they reject Jesus Christ. Although it is true that any person (regardless of where they stand in relation to God) can demonstrate this virtuous behavior at any point in their life, our present context has to do with the born-again individual receiving mercy from God in this life and the next. The believer has received eternal life and will never perish (John 10:28-29). They can, however, still receive a stricter judgment at the Bema seat (an evaluation only for believers to determine their eternal rewards) for failure to show mercy toward others as they should have, as the passage below (which can apply to both Christians and non-Christians) vividly indicates.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
But as we have already shown, nothing any unbeliever does in this life means a thing to God. That is not to say that the Lord will not demonstrate mercy to any unbeliever during their stay on earth for being merciful toward another person. But having good morals and being an exemplary, law-abiding citizen will not earn anyone eternal life. They will still suffer the lasting consequences of rejecting their Lord and Savior. Therefore, they will not receive mercy after their physical life has passed. This point clearly shows that Jesus had believers in mind. To show mercy toward another is to forgive and pardon them. But the Lord will discipline any of His children (He will also punish any and all unbelievers) for failing to do so, as the parable below shows. It should be noticed that Jesus spoke those words to His disciples (in that parable) who were believers (the primary application). However, we need to remember that our Lord’s words in this passage can apply to unbelievers (they constituted most of His listening audience in Matthew 5-7).
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-34 follows on the heels of Jesus’s teachings on forgiveness and reconciliation (see Matthew 18:10-20- the parable of the lost sheep and forgiveness of a repentant brother). The Lord emphasized mercy in all of these connected verses. To further drive home His point, He highlighted the fact that no one deserves forgiveness which means we should grant it to others as well (especially those who seek it). If God Himself is merciful and compassionate, should not all of His followers be the same? God is love, so if that is how He comports Himself to His creatures, we must do our very best through His strength to replicate this behavior. 1 John 4:8 says, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Failure to show mercy shows a lack of love in one’s heart (no one is perfect on this score). To demonstrate love toward others is to love one’s neighbor and, thus, God Himself. That right there sums up all the Law and the prophets (Mark 12:30-31). That being the case, our parable shows that we would all be lost without the grace and mercy of Christ. We are at His mercy so that we must totally rely on Him for salvation and spiritual growth.
12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Believers are to forgive other believers (and unbelievers) as much as needed. Our Lord forgave us of all our sins which were many indeed. No one deserves eternal life, and yet God loved us so much that He gave us a way to have it. The behavior of the unmerciful slave is quite outrageous in light of this fact because he owed a much larger debt (one he couldn’t repay just as we couldn’t pay for our sins) than what his servant owed him. Despite this, he treated his slave harshly and had him thrown into prison, which warranted his treatment from his lord of being handed over to the torturers.
In the same context of this parable, we have in verse twenty-two the seventy-seven principle. The number seven is unique in the Bible in that it represents completion and perfection, meaning that seventy-seven indicates forgiving someone as many times as they seek for and need it. The blood of Jesus covered all our sins, past, present, and future, so that not one unrighteous act (except for the eternal sin of unbelief through rejecting Jesus Christ) is left uncleansed by the precious blood of the lamb. God’s forgiveness of us is perfect and complete, as the number seven represents, but we must seek it through faith in the person and work of His Son. Unbelievers, therefore, must accept this offer of grace, while believers must continue to confess their sins to keep their “feet” clean (John 13:4-11) and their relationship and fellowship with God pure. So although believers may stumble, we have an advocate in our Savior Jesus Christ who goes to the Father on our behalf as an intercessor and intermediary confirming that His blood has covered any sin we have and will commit.
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
God is love because He is holy, and He has commanded us as believers to be so as well. But when we fail to be merciful and show compassion through forgiveness, we cannot be loving God at that moment because true love for Him translates into and manifests itself in our treatment of others. For if we love God as we should, we will love others as we should. The unforgiving servant represents a real person whose sins have been paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Yet despite owing a much larger debt (representing all of humanity of which do not deserve forgiveness but the lake of fire), the slave who owed more persecutes the man who owed far less, making him a total hypocrite. The unmerciful servant forgot the treatment that he received and his original status before being forgiven. Believers must remember their status before God and what He did to grant us that position we are blessed to enjoy. We must never forget that we owed a debt to God that we could not repay, and yet He paid it for us by suffering for thirty-three years on this earth only to die on a cross. Why would we not forgive other people, especially our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? The debt they may owe will never compare in size and importance to what we once owed Christ. Just as God forgave us everything, so we as believers must forgive others all as well, no matter how many and terrible the trespasses.
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
When we get saved, we have been crucified with Christ and have become a part of Him. God is love, so how can we say we are abiding in Christ if we do not show and demonstrate through our own lives that whom supposedly resides within us? We are identified with our Lord, meaning we have the power and ability to live a righteous life as He lived, though we will never be perfect. When believers mistreat others, they are failing to live out their true identity. They are not true to themselves because they allow the flesh to control and manipulate their behavior. You could say then that someone who is not loving was never a believer at all or is a believer who has taken a perilous path (of course, not even the greatest believers are perfect on that score).
12 So speak, and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”.
The word pure in the Greek in verse eight means being pure and clean (the current state of someone who has been regenerated in Christ) because all believers have had their sins cleansed and washed away by the blood (the Lord’s spiritual death for us on the cross) of Jesus. Thus, the pure in heart are believers with the right attitude and standing before God.
The word heart in the Greek in the same verse refers specifically to the inner person (not the physical organ that pumps blood through the body), which is the center of our very being (it is who we are as individuals- the real us!). Our heart is our “soul,” where our body and spirit meet (the interface between the two). This part of our makeup contains our volition, attitude, character, thoughts, free will, etc. Everything starts in the mind and goes down to the heart, where we make our decisions.
In light of our explanation above, to have a pure heart is to have one’s attitude and choices correctly aligned to God’s will (a state of mind only possible through faith in Christ). It is a state that stands in stark contrast to that of the unregenerate individual. Only those who have believed and trusted in Jesus through faith can please Him. And without holiness (stemming from a pure and right heart toward God through belief and acceptance of the gospel), no one can see or please the Lord. The meaning is that no unbeliever can experience a right relationship with Jesus now and into eternity. They cannot “see” Christ and understand Him through faith because they lack it.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Again, our word “blessed” (in the true meaningful sense of the word “happy and “joyful”) refers to believers who rest in the spiritual realm accessed only by faith in Christ alone. The meaning is that although many outside of Christ’s body can act peacefully toward others and as “peacemakers” in the general sense of the word, one cannot be a true “peacemaker” for Christ unless they have peace with Him in their lives. The only way to have this true peace is to possess salvation through faith in Jesus. Those who reject God’s offer of eternal life are not part of His family and cannot be called “children of God.” The Lord has said, “Whoever is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23).
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
So, the unbeliever has no genuine feeling of security and tranquility while they live. Nor can they be at peace with anyone (especially believers) because they only support Satan’s cause (even if some to lesser degrees). They have no peace with those who share the same spiritual status as they do because they refuse to help them escape the “defilements” of this world spurned on by the one who wishes to propagate it’s lies aggressively. That is to say, they don’t care about themselves (their own eternal destiny) and are thus incapable of caring for and helping others (whether spiritually dead or not). We must remember that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:16).
The above starkly contrasts the believer’s ability to help ALL men, regardless of their spiritual status. These are the true peacemakers in this hostile world presently controlled by the evil one. Satan seeks the destruction of all men, but the believer can pierce through the darkness in Christ’s power and help the lost attain the true peace found only in Christ Jesus. The believer who has made peace with God in His heart can now bring that peace to the world. They can help other believers attain greater tranquility in their own lives and bring the good news of the gospel message to bring peace to a chaotic earth. These are Christ’s ambassadors who bring the good news of peace.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
10"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11.Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Persecution is a sign that one belongs to Jesus Christ and presently possesses and will inherit eternal life because they are a follower of Him. However, it is true that many claim faith and are ill-treated for their religious tendencies despite lacking the Holy Spirit. In their case, their persecution means nothing other than that they suffer unfair mistreatment for something their enemies despise. But without true saving faith, the religious man does not rest in the true blessed state and possess the kingdom of heaven.
We see in a few passages that, just as how discipline indicates that one is a child of God (Hebrews 12:8-11), so too persecution also points to the same reality (except in the case we mentioned above). The verses below should suffice to demonstrate this. Happy is the man who suffers for doing what is right in the name of the One they love so much! It is a sign to them that they possess eternal life and are doing what they should be doing (growing, progressing, and producing).
14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
21 They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.
The awards we accumulate in eternity will be based on all the correct faith choices we made in life, including, but not limited to, the fruit we produce for the Lord. Most relatable to the phrase “Because great is your reward in heaven” is one particular reward for bearing up under the most severe tests and trials of the believer’s faith, which is the crown of life. We see it mentioned in James 1:12. Nine verses later, the text says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” We have studied the crown of life elsewhere in this ministry. Based on that examination, we know that it is rewarded to all believers who have grown past the basic level of spiritual maturity (the reward for that first stage is the crown of righteousness 2 Timothy 4:8) by passing the excruciatingly difficult tests sent from the Lord meant to refine their faith.
The final sentence, where Jesus mentions the prior affliction of the Old Testament prophets (and all other men and women of God who stood for and proclaimed the truth), should act as a great comfort, motivation, and encouragement for all who read these words faced with their own trials and tribulations. Jesus encouraged His listeners/readers to press on in the faith and be joyful (such a person is truly blessed). 1 Peter 5:8-9 serves the same or a similar purpose.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.