The Atmosphere of Eternity

Bible Book: Matthew  5 : 10-12
Subject: Persecution; Rewards in Eternity; Beatitudes; Sermon on the Mount
Series: The Beatitudes - The Divine Atmosphere

The Divine Atmosphere of Eternity

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

This is the 8 and last sermon in a series of 8 messages on the Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:10-12:\

"10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

Today we are going to consider how Jesus taught us that we must live the Christian life with eternity in mind.

The following humorous story appears in the autobiography of Clarence E. McCartney: As two men were walking through a field one day, they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull was in hot pursuit, and it soon became apparent they wouldn't  make it to the fence before the bull caught them. Terrified, the one man shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We're in for it!" John answered, "I can't. I've never made a public prayer in my life." The other man said, "But you must! The bull is catching up to us." John replied, "I will say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful."

What is the moral to the story? In all things, the Christian must learn to be thankful, even when confronted by the horns of painful dilemma. Jesus actually taught this principle in the last part of the Beatitudes.

We come now to the last message on the Beatitudes and we are called upon to grasp and understand the background of this last passage. The Jews had the idea that when the Messiah came He would come arrive like a mighty warrior and deliver them from all invaders - expecially He would deliver them from the Romans. When Jesus was presented to them, they loved the miracles he did but the certainly didn't want to hear the truth about their souls. Jesus was actually throwing cold water on the hopes and ideas the people had regarding the Messiah they were looking for.

They thought that when the Messiah came they would be proud, powerful, conquerors. So, when Jesus told them were to be poor in spirit, mourning for their sins, meek in attitude and actions, forgiving toward their enemies, and ready to endure great hardship, they simply could not understand it - the rejected Him! Jesus was telling them the truth but they certainly were shocked by what He had to say.

Jesus was completely honest. He did not get his method of preaching from the advertising business, nor did He obtain it from the practice of politicians. He certainly did not learn it from the modern preachers of HIs day. He was totally honest with people, even when He had to tell them how difficult following Him would be. He told them that His followers would be persecuted. When some sought to follow Him, Jesus sought to discourage them by telling them that the foxes had holes but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus factually shared truth with everyone. He was building a crowd of followers, He was calling a people who would be disciples.

Note that this is the only Beatitude that Jesus spoke about extensively. It took three verses to share this one. Why? It took more words to speak in the last section because this idea was so foreign to all the people, especially as it related to their image of the Messiah. We will consider through this message that what we are called to go through in order to follow Christ must be viewed in the light of eternity. One who thinks of following Jesus without a long view will likely be disappointed.

So, look at eternity and consider that following Jesus involves ...

I. The Reality of Persecution

The only doubt about persecution is the time of it. The word is not "if" you will be persecuted as a follower of Christ, but is only a matter as to "when" you will be persecuted.

Look at John 15:18-21:

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me."

Note that John reminds us of what Jesus said. Since the world hates Jesus, the world will hate those who believe in Him and follow Him. Don't be surprised at the hostility the world shows toward the true Gospel of Christ. The world hates the Gospel and the world hates those who uphold the Gospel.

In Philippians 1:29 we read that we are not only to believe on Him but to suffer for His sake.

Colossians 1:24 reveals that Paul suffered as part of the kingdom plan.

In 1 Peter 4:12 we learn that we should not think it strange when we are going through trials.

What does all this mean? It means that I must identify with Jesus, including suffering for Him. In this way, I ready myself for the blessings which shall come when I meet Him.

Most of us do not know real persecution, but be assured that real persecution is going on in the world. We think it is a blessing to be relieved of persecution, yet the disciples came back after being jailed and beaten rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Is it possible that we are not persecuted because we are not really worthy of such suffering?

The Bible says that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Maybe some of us are not persecuted because we are identified with the world that we are not treated like true followers of Christ. I pray that is not true of us. All over the world, Christians are facing rejection, persecution, loss of property, and even death because they express open faith and allegiance to Christ.

Also, Jesus reminded us in our passage today that following Him in this world leads to ...

II. The Reviling in Persecution

Jesus said that the world will revile the people of God. Now what does the word "revile" mean? Reviling means being abusing through insults and criticism. It is the devil's great joy and strategy to cause people to revile the children of God. Let a preacher, deacon, Sunday School teacher, or any church leader make a mistake or fall into sin and you can be sure that the world will put it in headlines and on top of the internet search engine. The world loves to revile the believer. All Christians get the blame when one Christian falls. The devil makes sure that the world knows all about it when a believer falls into the clutches of Satan.

The word persecution comes from a word which means "to pursue with the idea of catching a person in an error." Do you remember when Jesus was accused of harvesting grain on the Sabbath Day? I have a question for you. What were a bunch of Pharisees doing in a cornfield on the Sabbath Day following Jesus around? It seems that they always had some people watching Jesus in the attempt to "catch" Him doing something for which they could accuse Him. The world watches Christians just to catch them saying something wrong or doing something that is considered wrong. If they cannot find anything, then they will make up things to say about you.

So, understand that you will be reviled, or those Christians with whom you serve will be reviled by Satan and the world. You must be prepared for that kind of behavior, if you wish to have the backbone, the courage and commitment to remain true to Christ.

Now, let's consider ...

III. The Reasons for Persecution

The blessing that comes from being persecuted must come because you stand for righteousness in your life and your stand for Christ Himself. They did not persecute Jesus because He was good; they persecuted Him because He was different. Jesus was different and they hated Him for it. The word righteousness means to be separated, so if you are different from the world in attitude or action you will be persecuted. Live like Jesus, walk like Jesus, talk like Jesus and you can be sure that the world will persecute you.

Now think about this for a moment. The people of the world use the platform they have to support the causes which are important to them. Whether kneeling at a ballgame, or holding up a fist as part of a crowd seen by television cameras, or going so far as to throw a fire bomb into a building, people tend to use any public opportunity to make known their deepest feelings and beliefs about issues in life and society. But, if a faithful Christian uses a public appearance to mention Jesus, to give a testimony of God's grace or to call people to place their faith in Him, the world will say, "Why don't you keep your religion to yourself!" Speak of Christ openly and you are likely to be cut out for some harsh treatment in this world. Jesus told us it would be like this and we are not to allow the disdain for our Savior to keep us silent regarding the forgiveness, peace and joy that only Jesus can provide to people - even if doing so costs us in terms of being rejected and despised.

One man came to his preacher and asked, "Preacher, if I come to Christ, will I have to give up the world?" The preacher wisely responded, "Sir, if you truly come to Jesus, the world will give you up." How true that really is!

Look at Matthew 7:13ff. We see that there is a narrow way and a broad way. We are to live in the narrow way, obeying the Word of God.

Look at Matthew 7:24ff. We must build our lives on the Rock so that the wind and rain cannot wash away the foundation upon which we build our eternity.

We will be persecuted because of our relationship to Jesus Christ. People don't like the name of Jesus, unless of course they know Him as Savior and Lord. His name is above every name, and every true Christian knows that and honors it. We will be persecuted if we take a clear stand for Jesus.

Do know the difference between punishment and persecution. Punishment is what good men do to us when we do wrong. Persecution is what evil men do to us when we do what is right. Serving Jesus is right, regardless of the cost the world may extract from us.

That best part about the subject we are considering today is ...

IV. The Reward after Persecution

What is to be our reaction to the persecution by the world? We are to have an eternal view. We are to remember that this world is not our home. We will one day reign with our Lord and Savior.

We are part of a kingdom, and we ought to remember whose we are and act like the One to whom we belong! We are to rejoice when we are counted worthy of suffering for Jesus. The word "rejoice" means to jump up and down with joy. Acts 5:41 tells us that the early Christians rejoiced when they were persecuted for our Lord.

Also, we are to respond to our persecutors with kindness and grace. We are to respond to them the way God has responded to us. This is a great challenge, for it is the natural nature of humans to respond to others in the same way they treat us. Yet, Jesus gave us a command not never act like the world or treat those who reject Him in the same way they treat us.

Granted, that those of us in America don't know much about suffering for Christ. For example, in a church newsletter a preacher wrote, "I want to thank those members who braved the rain last week to come to church." Imagine church leaders writing something like that to those people in the Book of Acts who suffered so greatly for Christ. They were beaten, intimidated, stoned and put to death in various ways.

Once when Paul was going to Jerusalem, it was revealed to him that he was to be bound and imprisoned. Yet, he stated that nothing could keep him for fulfilling God's will. Paul walked right into the trap set for him in order to be obedient to the Lord and carry out His will.

The prophets were persecuted. Jesus was persecuted. The Apostles were persecuted. What about you and I? What are you doing for Christ that cost you any kind of persecution? What inconvenience are you suffering in order to be more like Jesus and to honor Him?

Look at Romans 8:17:

"17 and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."

Consider 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

"6 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

There it is - we are to live in the light of eternity. That is what God has called us to do, for that is why Jesus came and suffered in this world. He went through the horrors He faced in order for us to live in the joy of heaven. Now He calls us to carrying on His work till He calls us home.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that persecution and suffering are not desirable experiences. A cake in process is not very appetizing. Raw eggs, dry flour, milk, and butter all mixed together does not look appetizing and you can be sure that uncooked it doesn't taste very good either. Yet, when those ingredients are placed in the heat of the oven and are cooked for a proper amount of time, the cake that comes out is delicious. Life for Jesus is a lot like that cake. All we are facing in our lives for Him can seem unappetizing, yet once we have been put through the fire of life for Christ, we will rejoice at the results when the work is done.

Not only does our attitude in suffering make life more meaningful for us, but it can also affect others. What brought Paul to Christ? Likely, he saw the way Stephen acted in love toward those who stoned him. Perhaps Paul could not escape the expression of kindness which came from Stephen when the dying man actually prayed for God to forgive those who were stoning him. You and I never model Christ better than when we respond in love and kindness to bitter criticism.


Let every Christian determine to live for Jesus whatever the cost.

Let every Christian determine to show love even when treated badly.

Let every Christian keep his or her eyes on the skies, looking for the return of our Lord.

Let every Christian live in view of eternity and not just for the moment.

Let every person without Christ consider that eternity is coming and only Christ can grant you grace and forgiveness with an eternal home at the end of the way.