In our study of Matthew chapter five, we look at the way things will be when Jesus comes to establish His kingdom. This chapter begins what is commonly called the sermon on the mount and is also often referred to as the "law of the kingdom". In the previous chapters, we saw how Jesus was identified and confirmed to be the King. A king has complete authority and rules for their kingdom and that is what we will see here.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, He said:
The crowds started to follow Jesus because of the physical healings but we see that Jesus retreated from this and began to teach about spiritual things. Although we are not given the exact location for these events, the mountainside is likely north and west of the Sea of Galilee. Even though His teaching was specifically meant for the disciples, the natural breeze coming down from the mountain towards the sea would have carried His words to the masses. This is a picture of the fact that it is the Holy Spirit that works in our hearts to enable us to hear and to act on the things of God.
'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
Jesus begins His teaching with what is commonly called "The Beatitudes" because they describe the heart of a believer. The word blessed basically means worry free and, here, Jesus says that the poor in spirit do not need to worry. He goes on to say that His kingdom (the kingdom of heaven) is theirs. He is talking about those who are humble enough to admit that they cannot get to heaven on their own. The poor in spirit realize that their ability to enter the kingdom is a gift from the king and not based on what they have achieved on this earth.
'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.'
The comfort that is associated with being a part of His kingdom is reserved for those who mourn over their sins and the sin of the world. This teaching ties in with what John the Baptist was preaching and the fact that repentance must come before salvation is possible. The poor in spirit will be bothered inside by the sin of their lives and the sin around them. This Godly sorrow will bring them to repentance and mourning which opens up the door to accepting the grace of the King.
'Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.'
Jesus quotes King David from Psalm 37:11. So, what does it mean to be meek? In that Psalm, we see that the meek are those who wait and trust in the Lord. They realize that they cannot do anything on their own and so when faced with people doing bad things to them, they simply trust in God to handle the situation. During the Millennial Reign, it will be these people that rule and reign with Christ.
'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'
Those that focus on living for Jesus are those that "hunger and thirst for righteousness". God has promised that, if we are focused on Him, then, He will provide for the rest of our needs. None of us can say that we constantly do this as we all still have moments of self but, during the Millennial Reign, it will be all about the Lord.
'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.'
What is mercy? Mercy is withholding a punishment from someone that deserves to be punished. This verse describes a Christian that, when they are offended or mistreated by someone else, does not retaliate. Once again, we probably all fall short of this reaction at times but we will be perfect in this at the proper time.
'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.'
A pure heart is one that is 100% focused on the things of God. It is not contaminated by our own fleshly desires or emotions. The heart is the center of our spirit and being; everything else in our lives flows out from what is deep down in our hearts. An impure heart can have good things come out of it often but, at times, other things will come out as well. During those times, it will seem like we are so far from God that we cannot even see Him. When we are perfected at His coming, there will not be any more of those times and we will see Him at all times.
'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.'
What is a peacemaker? It is one who promotes peace by telling others about Jesus Christ who is the ultimate source for peace. There are many people these days promoting a man-made "peace" but think that it is achievable if God is left out of it. A true peacemaker knows that Christ is the Prince of Peace and is recognized as a child of God.
'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
Persecution is a type of testing which proves what is in our hearts. This is talking about those that are punished and even killed for telling others about Jesus Christ. When faced with the choice of keeping our faith to ourselves or sharing it and facing the earthly consequences, those who share it demonstrate that their kingdom is 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.'
Rejoicing when you are being attacked is not a normal reaction but it is a characteristic of those who are close to the kingdom of heaven. We are blessed when this happens because it can be a confirmation that the world sees that you are a child of God. Only those that are identified in Christ will be a part of the kingdom of heaven and we can be happy when even the world sees that we are His. This verse completes the section of the sermon that is commonly called "The Beatitudes" and we notice that there are nine times that the word "blessed" is used. Throughout the Bible, the number nine is associated with finality and judgment. We are reminded that these characteristics of people of the kingdom will be demonstrated during the Millennial Reign. This will be a time of demonstrating that, even without the influence of Satan, man cannot live up to these standards on their own. After the Millennial Reign comes the final judgment.
'You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.'
Most of the salt that is used in Israel comes from the Dead Sea but the Dead Sea also contains many other minerals. These other minerals (impurities) cause the salt to lose some of its saltiness and so, the people would have known what Jesus was talking about. Salt is used to add flavor to foods and for preservation and Jesus was reminding His disciples that they were receiving the power to preserve the people from death and decay. If they chose to not do so or to add some of the Law of Moses into the Gospel, then, they would be of no use to the kingdom. As His disciples in the world today, the same thing applies to us. The pure salt is the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ.
'You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.'
When you try to keep light for yourself by hiding it, it stops being light. In Jesus' day, they used small clay lamps that burned olive oil. If you lit that lamp and then put a bowl over the top of it, it would quickly go out. Each and every day, God gives us opportunities to let our light shine by telling people of the grace of Jesus Christ. If we make the most of those divine appointments, people will accept Jesus Christ and God will be glorified. If we try to be closet Christians or pew-sitters, then, our own fire will dwindle and go out. We, like the unsalty salt, will be of no use to the kingdom and will be trampled by this world.
'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.'
We continue our look at the kingdom way with Jesus explaining that it is not a new way. He shows us this by the fact that He did not come to replace the Law or the words of the Prophets but to show us that He is the fulfillment of all of it. Many of the religious leaders of that day were upset because they thought that Jesus was doing away with their religion and there are many like that today (especially in Israel). Some may ask: "What about grace?" and say "We are not under the Law". They are right in saying so, if we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. But, for those who have not accepted Him, they are under the Law and will be judged as such like the Prophets said. Jesus went on to say that this will be the way it is until "everything is accomplished". He was saying that the Law and the other writings will remain in effect until the final judgment day. On that day, there will be a new heaven and a new earth (see Revelation 21). This new heaven and earth will only be inhabited by those who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Therefore, the Law and the Prophets will have completed their purpose and will not apply.
'Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.'
Is Jesus telling us that we have to keep the Law? Of course not but He is telling the religious leaders that, if you trust in part of it, then, you are required to obey all of it. The religious leaders had an outward appearance of righteousness as they followed the letter of the Law but would completely miss its spirit.
'You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, "Raca", is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell.'
In the last part of His sermon, Jesus explained that, to be a part of the kingdom of heaven, a person must be more righteous than the religious leaders. Now, He goes on to explain what that would look like by using the example of murder. Jesus goes beyond the physical Law by explaining that even talking bad about someone was the same offense. The term hell comes from the Greek word gehenna. Gehenna gets its name from the deep ravine to the south of Jerusalem which, in Hebrew, is known as ge' hinnom (Valley of Hinnom). This was a place where the trash from the city was taken out and burned and would have had a constant stench and smoke. The area today is much better but there is still a lot of trash as well as a stench.
'Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.'
Not only did Jesus expand the commandment to the spiritual but He also gives an example from everyday life. Notice that Jesus says if someone has something against you whether it is justified or not. He says that, before you come to worship, you should be reconciled to them. So, how is this possible? How can we be reconciled to people that do not want to be reconciled with us? We must remember that Jesus is describing what the kingdom will look like during the Millennial Reign. This is after we have all been perfected to be like Him and are brought back to this earth. It is not possible to live up to this standard in this fallen world and that was the point that Jesus was trying to make.
'Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.'
Jesus gives a second example of going above and beyond the Law concerning our dealings with others. As Christians, we are to be men and women of peace and to try to settle disputes quickly. We notice that Jesus does not say whether you are in the right in the eyes of the law of the land or not. He reminds the disciples that there are earthly consequences to our actions today.
'You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'
Jesus amplifies another of the Commandments by saying that it goes beyond the physical act of a man and woman coming together. In the eyes of the Lord, the desire is the same as the action. Once again, we are reminded that this is not possible in our world today but will be normal in the Kingdom.
'If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.'
Is Jesus telling us to mutilate our earthly bodies to avoid sin? Not at all. He is describing the lengths that a man would have to go to in dealing with his body to surpass the righteousness of the religious. In the Millennial Reign, we will not be facing this battle as we will have new bodies without the effects of sin.
'It has been said, "Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce." But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'
The kingdom way of marriage is that God creates a specific woman for a specific man. God brings them together and they become one in His sight. Once again, Jesus uses the words from Deuteronomy which gave the rules for a legal divorce. He amplifies the law by saying that the only acceptable excuse was in the case of sexual immorality. The kingdom way does not include divorce because the Creator of all things knows what he is doing and so there would be no reason for divorce. He was demonstrating the fact that kingdom law is above the laws of a nation. That is important for us in our world today. As we see governments saying that homosexual behavior is an option, we must remember that God says it is not. Jesus basically said that the piece of paper (certificate of divorce) meant nothing and the same applies to marriage licenses.
'Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made." But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair black or white. All you need to say is simply "Yes" or "No"; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.'
We see people make oaths all of the time but, in the kingdom way, it is not necessary. If you always tell the truth and do what you say, then, there is no need for any other words. He goes so far as to say that any other words are from the devil. Why? Because, when we swear by anything, we are asserting that we are in control of those things when in fact God is the only one in control. Therefore, it is as if we are elevating ourselves to the position of God which is what Satan tried to do.
'You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.'
Jesus goes on to explain that the kingdom is ruled by love and not by the laws. He quotes from Exodus 21 where the penalty for injuring someone was given. He also used the example of a slap which was referring to an insult more than physical harm. In the kingdom way, insult is met with forgiveness and love.
'And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.'
With the way our world is today, it is hard to imagine a place where a court system will not be needed. In the kingdom, they will be replaced with sacrificial love. That love goes above and beyond what is required as it flows from the heart. It is not possible for us to be perfect in this today as we still have our flesh and balance our wants with those of others.
'Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.'
True love never runs out or reaches its end. Our capacity to share the love of God with others is limited by our flesh and its desires. In the kingdom, there will be no worries of the flesh and we will finally be totally free to share and experience the complete love of God.
'You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.'
Once again, Jesus contrasts the love in the kingdom to the ways of the world. In the kingdom, the love is universal as there is no room for hate in our hearts. God has the right to judge and yet He demonstrated His love for us while we were His enemies. As His children, we let the world see His nature when we do this but we are not perfect in it yet.
'He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.'
Why are we to love our enemies? The simple answer is because God loves them and is allowing them to benefit from His grace just as we do. The time for judging the unrighteous will come but, today, His mercy and grace are still flowing to all.
'If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?'
Jesus explains that we are to demonstrate the love of God to all men so that we stand out. The whole purpose of us standing out is so that we have an opportunity to tell people of why we are so different. This is the chance to tell them about Jesus so that they might be saved as well.
'Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'
As His children, we are to be a good reflection of our Father. The kingdom way is perfection and we will get there when He comes to rule and reign. Until then, we do the best we can through the power of the Holy Spirit.