The following is updated from a previous post.
In Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-11) he gives us eight definitions of those who are blessed and the outcomes of those blessings. Who are the recipients of these blessings?
The Poor in Spirit
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The International Standard Version translates “poor in spirit” as “destitute in spirit.” God’s Word Translation says, “Those who are spiritually helpless.” In other words, those who are poor in spirit recognize how unworthy they are to stand before the throne of God. They agree that their sin is ever before them, and without God, they are utterly and hopelessly lost. People who are poor in spirit, therefore, recognize their spiritual condition and the need to make themselves right before God. The majority of those who come to Christ do so with a repentant heart, knowing they are sinners and need Him. Therefore all those who have come to Jesus are poor in spirit. The promise, of course, for them, is the kingdom of heaven.
Those Who Mourn
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
When I lost my mother, I was comforted by all the friends and family who came alongside me to mourn her loss. But this is not the "mourning" Jesus is referring to. Why? I believe when Jesus was teaching his disciples, he had a more spiritual goal in mind. For example, when building on the first blessing listed above (Blessed are the poor in spirit), if you recognize that you are poor in spirit, do you mourn your separation from God because of your sin? If you do, then God not only promises you the kingdom of heaven, but he promises that you will be comforted as well. To those who believe in Jesus as their Saviour, your sinful state was washed clean, and God sees you as a new creation, holy and perfect in His sight (2 Corinthians 5:17). What a comfort to the soul that is!
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Each blessing seems to build on the next. If you recognize that you are unworthy to stand before God and you mourn that spiritual state, then when you humbly bow before Him confessing that sin and repenting of it, God promises you will inherit the earth. But what does it mean to "inherit the earth?" Not only are the poor in spirit promised the kingdom of heaven, but they will also share in the kingdom of God on earth. The kingdom Jesus preached is both "in you" (Luke 17:21) and is yet "to come" (Revelation 21:1-4). Who are the meek? All those who kneel before the King of the universe and humbly submit to His will and leadership.
Those who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Who fills us when we seek the Lord with all our hearts? The Holy Spirit. He alone makes us complete in Christ. Jesus said in John 15:4-5: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If you are not actively pursuing God by getting to know Him through His Word, if you do not hunger and thirst for His Word, you are stifling His Holy Spirit and missing out on His blessings. If you believe in Him but don't pursue a relationship with Him, you are missing out on the blessing of being filled by Him. Jesus confirmed that apart from Him, you can do nothing. So if you are actively pursuing God, you have the promise of being filled with His Holy Spirit.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
How do you treat others? When they wrong you, are you forgiving? How about when it comes to sharing the Gospel? Do you do it often? God's eyes roam the earth. Will He find you merciful toward others in that you have freely shared not only His love and kindness but His message of salvation as well? There are many opportunities to extend mercy to another. But the greatest mercy of all is sharing the truth about Jesus with one who does not know Him.
The Pure in Heart
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Because of this, no one can see God face to face and live (Exodus 32:20). But those who are made new in Christ Jesus are justified by His blood and will one day see Him face to face (Revelation 22:3-4). God has wiped their sins away, and they are no more. On judgment day, they will be considered pure of heart and will see God face to face. If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, this verse applies to you!
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Do you see the pattern? The Beatitudes don't single out one type of person. Jesus was describing the blessings that all who follow Him will receive. The early Christians sought to live in peace with each other as much as possible. They lived their lives for God and because of Him and were known as a peaceful people. While there were many issues they had to deal with from within their circles, such as eating food sacrificed to idols and whether or not Gentile converts should be circumcised, they were still devoted to each other (Acts 4:32-35). To my knowledge (and please point me to Scripture that I am missing if I'm wrong), the early Christians did not single out unbelievers for their sins or attack their lifestyles as Christians do today with specific groups. Iniquity found within the church was dealt with, but as far as I can tell, they did not openly attack people outside the church. They shared Jesus' message of redemption and the gift of eternal life, but they let the Holy Spirit convict the hearts of those listening. Christians who openly attack gays (or anyone for that matter) and who spew hate (like Westboro Baptist, for example) are directly opposed to God's will and, therefore, will miss out on the blessings Jesus talks about in these verses.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
Christians are currently the most persecuted people in the world. "Out of every ten people, seven cannot live their faith in full freedom. And the most persecuted faith is Christianity, with at least 200 million people suffering from discrimination." 1 Jesus added to this blessing by saying, "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 (Matthew 5:11-12, NASB). Yes, serving God is a risky business, but significant are the rewards for those who follow Him.
Finally, did you notice that it is the persecuted and the poor in spirit who will receive the kingdom of heaven? Each blessing, as I said, builds on the other. Each blessing describes a person who is living for God. All these blessings are intertwined and granted to those whose hearts are set on God, ready to serve Him. But what does the phrase, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" mean? Revelation 3:21 gives us a hint of what it will be like to receive the kingdom of heaven. Revelation 20:6 goes even further to suggest we will reign with Christ. This is the gift of the kingdom of heaven - to not only serve as priests to God but to serve with Him in the new heaven and new earth. What an inheritance awaits those who live their lives with God as the centre and focus of their beings! Don't miss out on these blessings. If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Saviour, I implore you to do so today. Set your heart and your mind toward the King of Heaven. Repent and humble yourself before Him and be welcomed into the family of God!
1 Rome Reports TV News Agency, November 30, 2010