Matthew 5:10 (New International Version)
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus proclaimed that people who are “persecuted because of righteousness” are especially blessed. In the next posting we’ll look more in depth at what persecution means in our current context. But today I want to consider Jesus’ promise that “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Usually, the definitions provided by the Friberg lexicon are pretty concise: no more than a few words to explain the concept behind the word in the Greek. But here the word for kingdom, basileia, is given a long, detailed definition: “(1) abstractly, the power exercised by a king; (2) concretely, the territory ruled by a king; (3) predominantly in the New Testament of the rule of God as promised, prophesied, and fulfilled through the spiritual rule of God in the hearts of the people now, and ultimately to be fulfilled in the messianic reign of Christ on earth.”
Abstract, concrete, present, and future. All that wrapped up in one eight-letter Greek word! Here’s the part that interests me the most: back in Matthew 5:3 Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In both 5:3 and today’s 5:10, Jesus used the Greek eimi— the verb “to be”– in the present tense: “is.” But the verses in between 3 and 10– in verses 4 through 9– all those other verbs are in the future tense: “will be.”
Present tense: God’s kingdom is already here, shown through loving actions, kind words. God’s rule is demonstrated whenever good triumphs, whenever compassion overcomes apathy, whenever truth shines through. God’s kingdom is already here in the hearts and spirits of people who actively seek out God’s grace.
Future tense: We know that God’s kingdom is not yet fully realized in our world. That’s obvious enough when we turn on the tv or look online. Or when we just walk the streets of our city. There is so much pain, so much suffering, so much that is out of alignment with God’s loving will. Our job as Christ-followers is to show God’s love in everything that we do and say. We can act in ways that bring peace, that relieve suffering, that demonstrate God’s healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Every day, in every moment, we have the opportunity to joyfully make God’s kingdom known on earth.
Until the day that “will be” becomes “IS.”
What does it mean to you that God’s kingdom is already here, and also not yet fully realized?