THE beatitudes, or the blesseds, indicate the character graces necessary to our Lord’s followers, if they would receive the blessings which the Heavenly Father designed they should enjoy through Christ. These beatitudes form the text for Jesus’ great “Sermon on the Mount,” which He delivered after His ministry had been fully inaugurated. Let us consider each one of the eight beatitudes in turn (Matthew 5: 3-12):
“The Poor in Spirit”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 3). This first beatitude, or blessed state is humility. It is the gateway and the main roadway from which all the other avenues of blessing branch off. The word blessed signifies much more than happy. The root of the word blessed here carries with it the thought of great or honorable. Our Lord is describing the characters which from His standpoint and that of the Father are truly great, honorable characters, which God is pleased to bless and ultimately to reward with the Kingdom and eternal life.
The Greek word here translated poor has the meaning of destitution, extreme poverty. Hence, the thought is that a full appreciation of our own spiritual destitution is essential before we will be ready to receive Divine grace. And our realization of our destitution, our dependence upon Divine grace and a realization of our own insufficiency must continue throughout our entire life, in order to be acceptable to God and granted a share in His Kingdom.
“They that Mourn”
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (v. 4). This passage does not imply that everyone who mourns will be comforted, but merely “the poor in spirit,” whose mourning will be from the right standpoint, and which will bring heavenly comfort – a realization of sins forgiven and Divine reconciliation and favor.
If the Lord desires His people to be joyful, why should they ever be mournful? We should not be satisfied with present imperfect conditions, but develop sympathy with the sorrows, difficulties and privations of the “poor groaning creation,” especially our Christian brethren. Life is a serious matter, especially for those who are running for a place in God’s Kingdom, a consideration of which should make us vigilant, sober and watchful! Besides, all who are striving for the victory over self, the world and sin are sure to make a number of failures, insuring them considerable experience in mourning for these deflections. Our Lord comforts such with the assurance that He is preparing them through present experiences and the development of character for the Kingdom.
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (v. 5). Meekness is a mild submissiveness of heart and mind, and is leadable and teachable as to the Divine will. We may say that this third grace is the outer manifestation of the second grace, sympathy, which is inward, of the heart. Meekness, realizing that as one of the Lord’s people all our affairs of life are under Divine supervision, is naturally and properly helpful to others in their weaknesses, failures and ignorance as opportunity presents itself.
The “meek” shall inherit the earth, not at the present time, but in the future. Our Lord and His Church shall soon inherit the earth, and at the close of the Millennial Age, they shall bestow the earth upon those of the world of mankind who will prove worthy of eternal life. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which the Lord’s people inherit the earth now, by faith in God’s promises.
The Hungry and Thirsty
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (v. 6). Some may have a little hunger for Truth, but only the Lord’s people at the present time are hungering and thirsting for Truth and righteousness in respect to the Divine revelation on every subject and affair of life. Additionally, no one can have this hunger and thirst unless he has previously developed the first three graces to a considerable extent.
Those who possess this hunger and thirst shall be abundantly satisfied when God’s Kingdom shall be established, and when its reign shall suppress all evil and sin, and God’s holy will shall “be done in earth even as it is in heaven.” But as it is with the other graces, there is a sense in which by faith we already attain a foretaste of its fulfillment.
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (v. 7). Mercy may be defined as compassion, or sympathy relieving the weak and unfortunate. It is the outward expression which results from an appreciation of righteousness and a hunger and thirst for it. Human mercy, sympathy, pity and compassion are reflections of God’s character. These qualities may be found in the world, but it is essential for the Lord’s people to develop mercifulness from the heart, for only the merciful shall obtain mercy. And to prove that this mercy is not merely an outward expression, our Lord declared that if we do not from the heart forgive one another, neither will our Heavenly Father forgive us (Matthew 18: 35).
“The Pure in Heart”
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (v. 8). We need to distinguish between purity of motive, intention, effort, will and absolute purity of every word and act of life. The former is possible, whereas the latter is impossible, so long as we are in our fallen condition. Our Lord set the standard for us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5: 48). Let us measure ourselves by this standard, and not with one another; and seek to bring the conduct of our lives and the meditation of our hearts up to this standard, as much as possible.
The four elect classes will all eventually attain the spiritual nature and literally see God. Those who attain eternal life upon the earth, though they will not literally see God, will see Him with their mental eyes of understanding, and that increasingly so throughout the eternal Ages of glory. But we may even have a foretaste in the present life. Those whose mental eyes of understanding are open are privileged to see the glories of God’s character of Divine wisdom, power, justice and love cooperating in harmony with one another for the blessing of every creature, according to God’s purpose.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (v. 9). This seventh beatitude is an outward manifestation of the sixth. The purity of heart toward God, which others cannot discern, will manifest itself in peaceable desires and efforts to promote peace in others. The anger, malice, hatred, envy, strife and quarrelsome disposition, which to some extent is inherited through the fall of our race, must be recognized as “the works of the flesh and of the devil,” and must be resisted in heart fully, and in outward conduct as fully as possible. The Apostle said, “As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12: 18). Of course, this does not mean peace at any price, for principle must always come first (James 3: 17).
The promise held out to the peacemakers is that “they shall be called the children of God.” Such have God’s spirit, and the likeness of His Son in their hearts. These are not only peace-makers, but peace-lovers, for to attempt to make peace without first having the spirit of love will surely result in failure. But those who make for peace, righteousness, love and mercy, in meekness, thereby prove themselves to be children of God.
The “Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake”
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (vs. 10-12). The first seven beatitudes present the seven elements of character which constitute righteousness, and imply harmony with God and an entrance into the Kingdom which He has promised. Nevertheless, we must not only love these characteristics, but must be ready and willing to endure persecution in support of these truths and principles.
The Apostle Paul declared, “All that will [in this present time] live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3: 12). The world in general throughout this Age has been so blinded to the Truth, and so in harmony with sin, that righteousness has been hated in proportion as sin is loved. But if persecution come to us as a result of our faithfulness to the Lord, then we may indeed rejoice, for all the faithful of the past were so persecuted.