The last of the beatitudes taught by Jesus that day on the mountain is similar to His first one. The “blessed person” receives the Kingdom of Heaven. I love how Jesus does not sway from what He knows is needed. And what we all need is awareness of, and entrance into, the Kingdom of Heaven. Although it includes the place where the redeemed go when life on earth is over, there is more to it. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever God, the King, is in charge and reigns.
While living in the kingdom of Thailand it is very easy to recognize who the king is. His image is everywhere: on billboards, on the currency, in the form of statues, clips about his life are shown before each movie in the theaters, and his photo is displayed as the highest picture in the homes of Thai families. Thai citizens know what it is like to live in a kingdom, yet less then 2% of the population know the King of Heaven.
One rainy morning I ran with friends through Thailand’s second largest city. Crossing a bridge with banners of the king waving in the breeze we caught a glimpse of a cross on the other side of the river marking the location of Chiang Mai’s first Christian church. As we ran through the ancient city passing temples, markets, monks and others going about their day, we prayed, and as we prayed we sang out Jesus’ teaching from the day He taught on a mountain. I started us off with, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirt” and my running companions replied, “For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” When we got to the eighth beatitude, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, I thought of the cemetery where some of the early Christian workers had been buried.
If we are persecuted, wronged, offended, ill treated, or oppressed because we are on the side of rightness, Jesus tells us to be happy. We are living in the place where God is in control. Rather than seeing His photo everywhere, we see and live in the very world He spoke into existence. Stay on His side and at His side. He loves you and is giving to you His Kingdom.“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” As God reigns here and now, we have access to Him and His Kingdom, even though we do not see Him fully. There is the present blessing of knowing this truth and there is a blessing coming that is so worth holding on to. Hold on to hope in times of persecution. God is still King.