The Sermon on the Mount
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

9 – The Eighth Beatitude:  Suffering for Christ

Turn to Matthew 5:10-12.  We have come now to the last Beatitude.  It is recognized by most commentaries that verse 10 is the Eighth Beatitude and then, in verses 11 and 12, Christ is expanding on that.

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.

This is a tough one isn’t it?  First of all, may I remind you that this Beatitude, like the rest of them, begins with the word “blessed.”  “Happy is the one who is persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”  The best way I can describe this Beatitude is in the words of that great German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoffer.  He said, “This is the cost of discipleship.”

We must be absolutely clear that it is blessed, it is happy, it is wonderful, it is fortunate to be a disciple of Christ.  But if you look at the Beatitudes, many of the blessings, in terms of reality, are in the future.  Only number seven has to do with the present reality.  Let’s look at them.  The First Beatitude, Matthew 5:3:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When will we really have the kingdom of heaven?  When Christ comes.  The Second Beatitude, Matthew 5:4:

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Shall be or will be comforted — maybe not now, but in the future.  The Third Beatitude, Matthew 5:5:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

The earth made new, which is also future.  And so down the line.

The only one in the present tense is the seventh Beatitude in verse 9:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

When do you and I become a child of God?  Let me give you a couple of texts.  Turn to John 1:12:

Yet to all who received him [and that is what a disciple has done], to those who believed in his name [the moment you received him], he gave the right to become children of God—....

Then in 1 John 3:2.  I like this one.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

So in this eighth Beatitude, the blessing is in the future.  The question that I want to ask is, “Why are Christians to be persecuted?”  Notice the Beatitude:

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.

It is one thing to be persecuted for doing something wrong, but this has to do with righteousness.  Why?  Why should I be persecuted for doing something right?

I would like to give you some reasons.  First of all, because the righteousness that we are doing is not the righteousness of man but the righteousness of God.  You will notice He says, “because of me” (or “for my sake,” in some translations).  It is the righteousness of Christ that is imparted that we are being persecuted for.  Why?  Because the moment you become a Christian and you begin to reflect the character of Christ, then you become actively involved in the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan.  You can be sure of that.  Satan, who is the prince of this world, looks at you as a traitor.  He looks at you as an enemy.  And since the whole world is under him (1 John 5:19), he will use the world to persecute you.  Not for being bad, but for being good.

I want to give you a passage where Christ brings this out.  Turn to John 15:18-25.  Here Jesus gives one of the reasons why you will be persecuted:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  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.

A Christian is an extension of Christ and if the world hated Christ, it will hate you.  The world looks at you as a traitor; you used to belong to the world, but you have changed sides.  You have taken the side of Christ, instead of the prince of this world, so the world will hate you.  Continuing with verse 20:

Remember the words I spoke to you:  “No servant is greater than his master.”  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.

Christ is saying here, “Please don’t think I am asking you to suffer while I go scot free.  If I, your master, was persecuted and had to go through difficulties, you can be sure that you will, too.  I have been through it.”  Continuing with verses 20-21:

If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

The words “do not know” can be deliberate.  The Jews knew the Messiah but they deliberately rejected him.  So this is not out of ignorance they are persecuting, because they deliberately reject Christ, therefore, they abhor you.  Verses 22-24:

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin.  Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates me hates my Father as well.  If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.  But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.

They hated Christ because the works which He had done, no other man could do.  If the world can imitate the Christian, no problem.  But if you are doing something they cannot do, they will get angry.  Verse 25:

But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law:  “They hated me without reason.”

And they will hate you without a cause.  The moment you accept Christ, you have a wonderful hope for the future, but right now you have become involved in the Great Controversy.  It is no longer simply an idea.  You are implicated, you are involved, you are part of it now.

The second reason that Satan will persecute you is that he wants to get you back on his side.  He has lost a citizen from his kingdom and he wants you back.  The only way he can have you back is by destroying your hope and one way he will do it is by persecuting you.  You will say, “Why should I suffer?  Let me give this up and go back to the world.”

I was talking to a lady in Idaho when I was there and she had stopped coming to church.  She said, “I was a faithful Christian for three years.  I paid my tithe, and I did this and this, and things went from worse to worse.  My bills increased, and I decided it isn’t worth it.”  I said, “You mean heaven isn’t worth it?”  And she said, “Heaven is o.k. but it isn’t worth it to be a Christian.  When the time of trouble comes, I will accept Him again and I will come back to church.”  I said, “If you can’t put up with these problems today, how do you expect to put up with the problems in the time of trouble?  Don’t kid yourself.”

Jesus also brings this out in Matthew 10:16-22.  This is because you are (to Satan) a traitor, because he is mad, because he wants you back:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.  Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues.  On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles [i.e., unbelievers].

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. [Isn’t that a wonderful promise?]

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

This sounds impossible, but I saw it happen in Ethiopia.  I saw parents report to the government their children who were not giving up Christ and vice versa.  It was terrible.  Please don’t say that can never happen here.  We are all sinful and, when the devil controls us, we will do things that are unbelievable.  And you will be hated not because you are bad but because you are a Christian.

Satan is trying to destroy your faith but as you go through persecution, remember the words of Christ.  The prophets suffered this, too.

There is also another reason why a Christian is persecuted and that is because God wants to refine you and prepare you for the time of trouble.  A Christian who reflects Christ is looked upon as a traitor.  He’s also looked upon as a thorn in the flesh because the Christian reveals a life that the unbeliever cannot reproduce.

Let me give you another text.  John 7:7.  We read in Chapter 15 of John that the world hated Him (Jesus) because the works He did no other man can do.  But now He says the same thing from a different angle.  He’s is talking to the Jews and unbelievers.

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil.

When man compares his works with man, he is not so bad off.  But when he compares his works with God’s, what do his works look like?  Filthy rags.  And that is very painful to the human ego and so he will persecute you for that sake.  This text was applying to Christ.

I want to give you another text, 2 Timothy 3:12:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,....

Now, in what form is this persecution to come?  Let’s go back to the Beatitudes.  In Matthew 5:11, when Christ expounds on this persecution, He tells us there are three ways that we will be persecuted:

Blessed are you when people [1] insult you, [2] persecute you and [3] falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Number one, Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people will mock you for being a Christian.”  (Revile, as some translations read, means mockery.)

When I was Chaplain at Nairobi University, a lot of our kids went through this.  Some of the students would say to our young people, “You mean you still believe in God?  That is old-fashioned!  It is for our parents who have not been educated.  We know better; there is no God.”  They were victims of reading Marxist books.  Karl Marx said, “God is an invention of man.”

It was a German scholar who was teaching the class at the University where Marx was a student who made this statement.  He said, “We have been raised up to believe that man was created in the image of God but that is a lie.  The fact is that God was created in the image of man.  Because much of the world is living in poverty, man invented God and he invented heaven where he can retire after going through a hard life in this world.  There is no God.  There is no heaven.  When you are dead that is the end of you.”

And many of the University students had fallen for this.  And they were mocking our kids.  You can be mocked here (in America) in a so-called Christian country.  One day my head deacon in the Nampa [Idaho] Church stopped coming to church.  I asked him what happened.  At work somebody gave him a little tract by Jimmy Swaggart about the Seventh-day Adventists and there he called us a cult.  And the deacon said, “I don’t want to belong to a cult.”  So he stopped coming to church.  That was mocking because the word “cult” has a stigma.  So he said, “I will not come to church.”

So, number one, Satan will make life hell for you by reviling you.  It comes in different ways.  When you go to the University and get a Ph.D. — especially in theology — it is very hard for you to stand with your peers and say, “I believe in Ellen G. White.”  Because she had only three years of education.  It’s hard for our students, so we need to pray for them.  “You mean you believe in that person who had hallucinations, and had only three years of education?  How can you believe that nonsense?”  Persecution comes through mockery.

Number two, through persecution, the devil will make life hell for you on this earth.  He will make life difficult.  It can be physically difficult, it can be socially difficult — you can be ostracized — or it can be economically difficult.  You can lose your job for being a Christian or for Sabbath-keeping.  But he will persecute you.  He will make life difficult for you until you give up.  But only those who endure to the end will be saved.  So whenever you go through any of this persecution, please remember, “Blessed is the person who is persecuted.”

Why should he be blessed?  Because the kingdom of heaven is his.  I want to give you a text to keep in mind when they are persecuting you.  I want to give you a picture of what will happen to those who persecute you, those who revile you, who mock you, when Christ comes and establishes His kingdom.  In Revelation 6:14-16, you will notice what happens.  Before that time, the believers, because they are persecuted, will be hiding in caves and rocks.  They are human beings.  They are scared like the disciples were in Jerusalem.  And they are waiting.  They are crying in agony, “Lord, when will deliverance come?”  There will be an earthquake and the heavens will open and we will see the Redeemer coming.  And two things will happen at that time:  Those who have been hiding in the caves will come out and say, “This is our God; this is the day we have been waiting for.”  Those who have been hounding us and persecuting us and reviling us, they will take our place (in the caves) and they will cry to the rocks, “Please fall on us.  It is better for the rocks to kill us than for us to face the Messiah with all our guilt.”  So please remember when you are going through this, it is only for a season.

The third way the devil will accuse you — this is a hard one — is by false accusation.  He will falsely accuse you and speak of you.  It is hard when someone phones you and says, “The reason I don’t come to your church is because you are a heretic.”  I have to say, “The judgment will reveal who is a heretic.”  But I hear all the time, “Don’t listen to this fellow, don’t buy his books; he is a heretic.”  The truth will triumph.  They said the same thing about Christ and about Paul.  We are in good company.  It is very hard for you to be falsely accused.  But the devil wants to get you.

How should we Christians react to all this? Look at Matthew 5:12.  Not only are we to take persecution sitting down — that would be hard enough — but:

Rejoice and be glad [that takes the grace of God], because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I want to give you an example of this; turn to Acts 5:28.  The disciples, after they received the power of the Spirit, were able to do exactly this.  They were having a hard time; they were taken captive by the councils, the Jewish brethren.

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said.  “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

But now turn to Acts 5:40-42.  After Gamaliel spoke to them and said, “Look fellows, if this is of God, we can’t stop it, but if it is of man, it will come to an end.”  Very good advice.  And verse 40 begins:

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.  The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.  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 Christ.

It is hard enough to get people to witness for Jesus in good times, but these people were commanded not to speak, they were beaten.  But they rejoiced for suffering for Christ and daily they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.  I thank God for this.  We are waiting for that power today.  Remember, this only happened because they received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Before this, they were a bunch of cowards.

Now, let’s notice three groups of texts why we should rejoice.  Number one, because heaven is ours.  Turn to Romans 8:17.  To understand this, I must remind you of something.  A Christian is a person who has identified himself or herself with Christ; therefore, Christ’s cross is your cross.  His suffering is your suffering.  But, also, His resurrection is yours and His heaven is yours.  You receive both the good and the bad that He went through.  And this is what Paul is saying in verse 17.  Look at verse 16 first:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

This is the only Beatitude we have in reality now:  we are the children of God. 

Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ [heirs in the future], if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

What came first in the history of Christ:  the glorification or the suffering?  The same thing will happen to us.  Suffering first and then glorification.  Not because God wants but because we are living in enemy territory.

Turn to another passage — especially written for Christians that had been persecuted — the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.  Hebrews 11:24-26.  It’s about Moses, one of the men of faith used in this chapter.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  [He was refusing to become one of the greatest leaders of the greatest nation of his time.]  He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  [Do you think he was a fool?  Where would he be today?  In a museum.  Where is he today?  Is he alive?  Very much so.] He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

He was willing to suffer for the Messiah even though Christ had not yet come.  He was willing to suffer what Christ would go through in exchange for the treasures of Egypt because he knew that the reward he was getting in Christ was much, much greater than the reward he would get from Egypt.  The reason I chose this passage is because we are living in a country where materialism is one of the dangers.  The devil will dangle trinkets and say, “If you follow me, if you give up the church, I will make you a great man.”

When I first went to our College in Ethiopia, like they have in some of our academies here, there were pictures of graduates of every year.  And I looked at the first graduates.  There were 12 of them and every one of them were graduates in theology.  That was all the College taught in the beginning; it was not a Liberal Arts College at that time, it was just a seminary.  I looked at the names and I asked how many of these men are still in the ministry.  And out of the 12, only five.  So I asked the five, “Where are your buddies?”  And I was quite surprised:  one of them was the Finance Minister of Ethiopia, one was the Assistant to the Emperor; they all had very high positions.  Then a year later, we had the Marxist revolution and these men’s lives were in danger.  And they came back to the Church because now they had lost everything.

And I asked the Finance Minister, “Exactly what made you leave the ministry?”  He told me a very interesting story:  “I was coming home one day from visitation — I was doing things for our members — and one of my schoolmates from the academy stopped me.”  He (the schoolmate) was a chauffeur-driven man now, Assistant to the Emperor, sitting in the back of the limousine and he stopped him.  They hugged each other; they hadn’t met for years.

This politician said to the minister, “You are still an Adventist, I can see.  You are working for the Church.  Are they paying you well?  Why are you walking?  Don’t you have a car?”  The pastor said he couldn’t afford one on his salary.  “You are a fool.  You were one of the top students in our class and here you are, walking like an uneducated man.  Why don’t you join the government?  I have the second-highest position in this country.  I can get you a nice job and you can help the Church with your money.”

It was such a great temptation that he left the ministry, joined the government, and rose up to be the Finance Minister.  He said, “I thank God for everything, even this revolution.  If it hadn’t come, I would have been lost forever.  But now God brought me to my knees like he did for Nebuchadnezzer.  I was fool to fall for it.  Even though I became the Finance Minister for Ethiopia, I was not happy.  I was always full of guilt wondering what my eternal destiny would be.  I had no peace.  I had money but no peace.  The thing that bothered me the most was that there once was a Finance Minister who went to Jerusalem and was converted and here am I who was a minster for God and did the reverse.”  (It was a Finance Minster who the Apostle Philip converted, the Ethiopian).  So this pastor said he was glad to be back and was willing to lose everything for Christ.  This was his testimony.  But, unfortunately, not all of them do that.  We must keep our minds on that City Whose Builder is God.

The second reason that God allows us to suffer is that we may be partakers of Christ’s righteousness.  Do you know that there can be no reflection of Christ without suffering in the flesh?  There are many texts I can give you.  Let’s start with 1 Peter 4:1:

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.

But just let me give you 2 Corinthians 4:7-11.  Please notice the statement in verse 7:

But we have this treasure [Christ] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. [There you have “Not I, but Christ.”]  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed [because we have a hope]; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned [never forget that you are not abandoned]; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

For Christ to live in you, you must be willing for your pride, for your glory, to be cast to the ground and that is suffering.  When somebody mocks you, what is your first reaction?  It is to fight back, especially if the person is weaker than you.  But if you want Christ to be revealed in you, what do you do?  Was Christ falsely accused in Pilate’s court?  He opened not His mouth, like a sheep going to the slaughter.

That is the cost of discipleship.  Dietrich Bonhoffer knew what he was saying.  His colleagues, fellow professors here in this country, pleaded with him not to go back to Germany.  He was here in this country lecturing at Princeton and Harvard [Universities] and they pleaded, “Don’t go back to Germany.”  And he said, “If I don’t go back, what will I preach?  I have already died in Christ.  What will I tell my people?  You suffer there while I enjoy America?”  So he went back, was imprisoned, and was martyred by Hitler, two months before the War ended, at the age of 39.  Was he a fool?  No.  During his prison years, he wrote books and letters and today Bonhoffer is still speaking.  He is dead but he is not dead.

There is a third reason that is connected with the second reason:  to strengthen us for the future.  God knows that the time of trouble is about to come upon us.  God is holding the winds but He will not do it forever; He will have to let go.  Do you know why He will let go?  Because the world will make a decision and the decision is, “God, please stop bugging us; we don’t want you.”  I read in Romans 1 that, because they don’t want to retain God in their memory, He will let go.  When He lets go, all hell will be let loose and Satan will use the world, now controlled by him, to persecute the Christians.

In closing, I want to give you two texts.  First is James 5:10.  Because we who are living in these last days must be prepared for it.  Peter is repeating what we read in Hebrews earlier, but this is a good text.

Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

We must use God’s people in the past as an example.  But the text that I want to close with is Revelation 7:1.  Chapter 7 is answering a question found in verse 17 of Chapter 6, which has to do with the Second Coming of Christ and the events that precede it.

For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?

God’s wrath is “letting go.”  Romans makes it very clear that God’s wrath is revealed from heaven:  He will let go.  And who will be able to stand?

It is a question that was asked by Jesus himself in Luke 18:8b:

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Who will be able to endure to the end, withstand the great tribulation?  Most Christians today say we don’t have to worry about it because Christians will be raptured before the great tribulation.  They are in for a shock.  That is a cop out.  Can God produce a people whose faith is unshakable even though the heavens fall?  Yes.  So God says to the four angels in Revelation 7:1-3:

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.  Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God.  He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:  “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

“Don’t let loose yet.  Protect these people until they are ealed.”  Until the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads and then, when they are sealed, the four angels will let go.  But now look at verse 14, which answered the question in verse 13.  Who are these precious people?

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes — who are they, and where did they come from?”
I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

They were willing to die rather than to give up their faith in Christ.  These are the people that we can belong to.  Verse 14 is dealing with the last generation of Christians.  “Blessed are they who are persecuted, mistreated, reviled, and falsely accused for my name’s sake, for great is your reward.”  When you come to the final trouble, I hope this will come to your memory and we will say, “I am not going to give up because I am going to put myself in the hands of Christ.”

Now remember, Christ will never let go of you, but you can say, “God, I don’t want you.”  Christ suffered so you might be saved.  The prophets suffered because they knew in Whom they believed and it is my prayer that all of us will be in that camp that belongs to verse 14 in Revelation 7.  We have come out of great tribulation and made our robes white in the blood of the Lamb and we will receive the blessing in verse 15:

Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.”

Isn’t that a wonderful hope?  Blessed are they who suffer persecution.

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