“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:10
The kingdom of heaven! Oh how we long to enter those pearly gates right? Except persecution isn’t our ticket to eternal life spent with Jesus, our adoption as sons paid for at the cross is. And anyway, does it say “there’s will be the kingdom of heaven as a reward”? It actually uses the present, tense, “is”. There’s is the kingdom of heaven. Whose is the kingdom of heaven? Only those who have suffered persecution?
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. -1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Justification and imputed sanctification in the name of Jesus Christ are what make us heirs to the kingdom. It says nothing about persecution being a qualifier does it? To each of us who are in Christ belongs the kingdom of heaven.
The world hated Jesus Christ literally to death
So then, in that context, what can this mean? Let’s turn it around a little and think about what it means to be part of God’s kingdom.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
If we are in Christ, the current inhabitants of the kingdom of heaven, we are new creations on a mission! A mission of reconciliation between our Father and a world that Hates him. How does a world that hates the ambassadors of Christ treat new creations that are apparently different from them in ways that convict them and threaten to inspire a fear of the Lord in them? How did they treat the first ambassador of the Father, the shoelaces of whom we are unfit to tie?
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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 also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. John 15:18-21
We rejoice at the knowledge that all those who love death, hate us
The world hated Jesus Christ and his mission of reconciliation literally to death. How much more will they hate those of us reborn as new creations in His likeness? Those of us, not of this world, but already inhabitants of a different kingdom, will be hated and reviled by those who love the world and hate everything we represent to them.For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers,that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. -1 John 3:11-15