Beatitudes - Bible Verses and Meaning

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Beatitudes - Bible Verses and Meaning

The beatitudes, statements of characteristics and blessing, are part of the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus spoke and is recorded in Matthew. Each beatitude looks at different circumstances of life and how all Christians are blessed through their faith. Through these 8 Beatitudes, Jesus teaches of virtues and values in life that will result in blessings and rewards. These beatitudes are not singled out for specific people - they are blessings applicable to all Christians.

These Scriptures will encourage you and give you hope as you face each day knowing that you are called blessed! No matter your age, job, or family role, if you apply the beatitudes to your life you will experience a joyful, fulfilled life! You can read the full Bible passage below where the words of Jesus are recorded, however, here is a short summary of the beatitudes.

The 8 Beatitudes and Their Meaning

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

The poor in spirit are those who feel a deep sense of spiritual destitution and comprehend their nothingness before God. The kingdom of heaven is theirs, because they seek it, and therefore find and abide in it. To this virtue is opposed the pride of the Pharisee, which caused him to thank God that he was not as other men, and to despise and reject the kingdom of heaven. There must be emptiness before there can be fullness, and so poverty of spirit precedes riches and grace in the kingdom of God.

2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

The blessing is not upon all that mourn but upon those who mourn in reference to sin. They shall be comforted by the discovery and appropriation of God's pardon. But all mourning is traced directly or indirectly to sin. We may take it, therefore, that in its widest sense the beatitude covers all those who are led by mourning to a discerning of sin, and who so deplore its effects and consequences in the world as to yearn for and seek the deliverance which is in Christ.

3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth

The humble would receive far greater than the arrogant and prideful. Not only do the meek enjoy more of life on earth because of their ability to be content, but they will possess and enjoy the earth after Jesus' return and triumphal entry. 

4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Because of Christ, we can cling to the promise of everlasting righteousness in heaven. While we are called to live like Christ, we also have forgiveness of sin. 

5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy is an active virtue that Christians can show to each other because we have been given mercy ourselves. Since God has forgiven our offenses, we should forgive others and show mercy.

6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

The pure in heart are those who are free from evil desires and purposes. They can see and experience God's presence because they are free from self-righteousness and arrogance. 

7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.  

The term includes all who make peace between men, whether as individuals or as communities. It includes even those who worthily endeavor to make peace, though they fail of success. They shall be called God's children because he is the God of peace who sent His own Son as the Prince of Peace.

8. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Those who suffer because of their loyalty to the kingdom of heaven are blessed by being bound more closely to that kingdom for which they suffer.

Most of us approached the Beatitudes as if there's some sort of platitude [inaudible 00:00:18] phraseology and principles on how to live life. I mean that's usually how they're approached, but that is very far removed from what they actually are. These are like laser-guided bombs in the culture that Jesus was preaching to. I mean, these quips, these statements, these things that we've come to recite in the flannel board of our youth are devastating statements that turn Jesus' culture on its ear completely. It is not what they expected to hear it. It takes aim at all of these prized dispositions and virtues and their worldview. They didn't expect this to come out of Jesus' mouth and wherever Jesus went, He preached these. These aren't platitudinal. I mean, these are detonated on the culture.

I'll give you an example. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. That's not what they expected to come before theirs is the kingdom of God. What they expected to hear was, "You're Abraham, therefore yours is the kingdom of God." What Jesus said was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Well, they believed in self-righteousness because of who they were. Jesus says, "No, it's actually the broken people, those who recognize their need for God, the poor in spirit, people who are spiritual beggars inherit the kingdom." He didn't say, Abraham, He didn't say the descendants of Abraham, and He didn't say Jews, and He didn't say Pharisees. He didn't say good people. He didn't say moral people, He said broken people. Those are the ones that inherit the kingdom of God.

So Jesus' audience is sitting there having learned what they've learned from their tradition, and Jesus drops this grenade and it touches every nerve in the audience because every single one of them underneath the facade of their life realizes they actually are poor in spirit. And so He turns the thing upside down.

They realize, as the Bible will go on to explain, that they need righteousness which is much greater than their own, which is exactly what Jesus says in Matthew chapter five unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Basically what He said was, "You're not getting in in your own righteousness."

And so the Beatitudes go through and they just throw off all of these misunderstandings about what constitutes a devotion to God and what man truly needs. It is the Beatitudes, which ultimately get Jesus killed as He explains them in every possible way that He can as they flow. That is their principle and core meeting through all of His teaching and put Him on the cross, and save those by His death who are poor in spirit.

What Is the Meaning of the Beatitudes?

During His ministry on earth, Jesus preached powerful sermons that exposed error and breathed revelation. In His Sermon on the Mount, our Lord revealed eight mysterious promises that accompany Kingdom living. In awe and wonder the disciples marveled at Jesus’s explanation of the beatitudes, knowing that the blessings were already theirs—while masses of mountainside seekers hung on Jesus’s words of hope.

“Never before had His audience heard such marvelous truths presented in such an interesting and meaningful manner. They longed to have those promises incarnate in their lives. And so do we,” says Chuck Swindoll in The Beatitudes: Three Observations.

What Did Jesus Hope to Convey through the Beatitudes?

The word beatitude comes from the Latin word beatitudo, meaning blessedness. Eight times during the opening lines of Jesus’s revolutionary Sermon, He repeats the phrase “blessed are”. The message He means to convey through these proclamations of blessing—or beatitudes—is a simple one, but it flies in the face of everything the spiritual leaders were teaching at the time.

 With each conditional promise of provision came an instruction in true righteousness, illustrated by one small character trait.

Up to that point, the Jewish people had been raised on long lists of strict rules and regulations taught by the Scribes and Pharisees through the law of Moses. But no one had ever been able to fulfill all the requirements of the law and obtain righteousness. No. Not one. Yet, Jesus was taking these impossible laws, boiling them down to their truest essence, then baiting the proclamation with promises of provision from God, rather than judgment. He spoke to His audience as if these collective traits were not only attainable but theirs for the taking.

The unregenerate listeners were mesmerized. They could hear the revelatory truth in Jesus’s words—feel it. They’d already witnessed His miracles and knew Jesus possessed God’s power. They instinctively believed in the promises He preached and longed for them. But how could they possibly live this countercultural lifestyle and become these perfect people Jesus described? To do so their righteousness would have to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

Meanwhile, Jesus’s disciples basked in the news of all they’d inherited through Christ. They realized on that day that the promises Jesus spoke of were a byproduct of the true blessing—the ability, through Christ’s power, to live a life of righteousness.

What Are the Beatitudes?

Jesus had just begun His ministry. After numerous healings, demon extractions, miracles, and teachings, the Son of Man had gained an enormous following. A crowd of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, Tyre, and Sidon flocked around him in hopes to be touched by Jesus’s healing power—which literally flowed from Him (Luke 6:17-19).

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went to a nearby mountainside and prayed all day and night. When morning came, He called his disciples to him and designated twelve of them as apostles (Luke 6:13). The hordes of followers still clamored for Jesus’s attention, so He gathered His disciples, sat them down on the mountainside, and began teaching them within the hearing of the masses (Matthew 5:1,2).

Jesus began His teaching with eight statements of correlating blessing, instruction, and promise, which have come to be known as the beatitudes. Here’s a brief summary of each of Jesus’s powerful declarations:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus began His sermon with this statement because it’s the key to all the others. For centuries the Jewish people had relied on their own spiritual integrity to fulfill the laws of Moses. The problem is after sin entered the world that feat became impossible.

The laws were given by God through Moses to bring mankind to the understanding that humans possess no inherent goodness of their own, and they have no ability to draw close to a Holy God apart from perfection (Romans 7).

Jesus gives His listeners the keys to the Kingdom with this first statement, by prescribing the only means by which the spirit of man can be revived. To be “poor in spirit” one must admit their own utter spiritual destitution. They must be broken and contrite over the realization that they possess absolutely nothing to commend themselves to the Father and have no right to His Kingdom.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Jesus’s listeners were no strangers to mourning. They had suffered great tragedy and hardships as a people, and as individuals. They knew what it meant to mourn and even practiced ceremonial mourning. But when Jesus spoke these words that day, no doubt the power of the Holy Spirit touched each listener in that hollow place of the heart where ultimate mourning exists. Separation from God because of sin causes mourning in our soul that is too deep for words.

That separation causes such emptiness and pain, that those who experience it will often attempt to self-medicate through distraction, vain pursuits of pleasure, or even drugs. But only when we acknowledge and embrace the mournful state of our sinful hearts, can we find the comfort of our Redeemer. Our Godly sorrow leads us to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Jesus spoke these words to a group who would have found this statement perplexing. Theirs was a world where Caesars ruled by force and armies killed to claim land. Today’s lost world would find the declaration equally odd. In a culture where rights are everything and pride is a virtue, the brand of meekness seems like an insult that suggests weakness.

But the meekness Jesus spoke of—and lived out—was far from weak. He chose to surrender His rights and submit to the Father’s will, He poured Himself out for those He came to save, He became a servant even unto death so that the power of God could be displayed through Him. Through His meekness, He literally saved the world (Philippians 2:6-11). Only through the surrender of our will to the Father’s can we experience the power of meekness.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). The words translated as “hunger” and “thirst” here are related to words that describe someone dying of starvation and one in danger of death through dehydration.  This likens to David’s outcry in Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”

Many today, like those on the hill listening to Jesus’s message, desire to tap into Jesus’s power for personal needs like healing, prosperity, or wisdom. But Jesus knew that the only thing that would truly satisfy their souls, and ours, is the righteousness of God.

Jesus is God’s righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). He came to earth as the bread that gives life to the world, and those who partake in His living water never thirst again. When we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness first, He promises to take care of all our other needs (Matthew 6:33).

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The pagan Roman world of Jesus’s time despised pity, likewise the Pharisees doled out mercy with extreme prejudice because they saw the suffering of others as a consequence of sin (Matthew 23:23). But Jesus prescribed a new way of dealing with people. This kind of mercy—the unmerited kind—would have been a foreign concept, yet it opened the door for Jesus’s ultimate example of mercy to be revealed in the form of His saving grace. 

“While God’s work of creation demonstrated His mighty power, God’s work of redemption revealed His marvelous love, shown through His mercy and grace. This very love of God is indispensable for the existence of life and the salvation of humanity,” says Philip Wijiaya in What Is the Difference Between Grace and Mercy?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). To be pure in heart is to have a single-minded devotion to seek God and yield to His ways. To expand on this thought, Jesus later reiterated the first and greatest Old Testament command to His followers, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Because no one can boast of a sin-free heart, God sent His Son to redeem us. When we cling to Him, He purifies our hearts and makes us whole.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, means much more than just absence from strife. It means completeness or wholeness. Apart from Christ, it’s impossible to live at peace with others because He is our Shalom. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-16).

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus followed this last beatitude with several verses that expand on the idea of persecution to include insults, lies and enduring all kinds of evil for His namesake (Matthew 5:10-12).

Persecution was a familiar concept to Jesus’s disciples in that day. Through Christ’s strength, they daily bore the burden of horrific oppression and torture for the sake of the Gospel. While rare in the U.S., it might surprise you to know that in other parts of the world Christian persecution is considered one of the largest human rights issues of our era.

According to Open Doors, a ministry dedicated to the radical idea that every Christian belongs to one Church and one Family, within the last year “4,761 Christians were killed for their faith, 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked, 4,277 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.” As the Body of Christ, if one of us is persecuted so are we all.

We have the responsibility to support our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer persecution (Hebrews 13:3). We should do this with the awareness that “while evil men and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived,” there may be a day coming when we are the ones standing in the need of prayer. For “If you live a godly life, you will be persecuted. You can count on this. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when and how much. (2 Timothy 3:12),” Greg Laurie reminds us in The Promise of Persecution?

Why Did Jesus Preach on These?

As Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, starting with the beatitudes, He was not offering His listeners a new set dos and don’ts for Godly living.

On the contrary, the whole purpose of Jesus’s message was to offer a new way—revealed truth—and everlasting life. The character traits defined in the beatitudes were every bit as unattainable as Moses’s commands had been. But they all pointed to the One who could change that.

Jesus was offering the seekers in the audience a glimpse of the power His Spirit could work through them. The Kingdom of Heaven was within their grasp. Jesus showed them what it looked like so they would hunger for the freedom His salvation would bring.

Through Christ’s indwelling Spirit those who were once bound to the deeds of the flesh, and perishing under the burden of the law, would be set free to live in Jesus’s righteousness, as God’s own children (Romans 8:11-15).

Matthew 5:1-12

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,
2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12 Commentaries