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What Are the Beatitudes?

A Study of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount

By

Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount

Public Domain

A Study of the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount

The beatitudes come from the opening verses of the famous Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 5:3-12. Here Jesus states several blessings, each beginning with the phrase, "Blessed are ..." (Similar declarations appear in Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-23.) Each saying speaks of a blessing or "divine favor" bestowed upon a person resulting from the possession of a certain character quality.

The word "beatitude" comes from the Latin beatitudo, meaning "blessedness." The phrase "blessed are" in each of the beatitudes implies a current state of happiness or well-being. The expression held powerful meaning of "divine joy and perfect happiness" to the people of the day. In other words, Jesus was saying "divinely happy and fortunate are" those who possess these inward qualities. While speaking of a current "blessedness," each pronouncement also promises a future reward.

Matthew 5:3-12 - The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom 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.
(NIV)

Analysis of the Beatitudes

What are these inward qualities Jesus spoke of and what do they mean? What are the promised rewards?

Of course, many different interpretations and deep teachings have been set forth through the principles conveyed in the beatitudes. Each one is a proverb-like saying packed with meaning and worthy of thorough study. Still most Bible scholars would agree that the beatitudes give us a clear picture of the true disciple of God.

For a basic understanding of the meaning of the beatitudes, this simple sketch is meant to help you get started:

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

With this phrase, "poor in spirit," most likely Jesus was speaking of our spiritual condition of poverty—the recognition of our need for God. "The kingdom of heaven" refers to people who acknowledge God as their King.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who humbly recognize their need for God, for they will enter into his kingdom."

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

"Those who mourn" speaks of those who express deep sorrow over sin, or those who repent from their sins. The freedom found in the forgiveness of sins and the joy of eternal salvation is the "comfort" of those who repent.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who mourn for their sins, for they shall receive forgiveness and life eternal."

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Similar to "the poor," "the meek" are those who submit to God's authority, making him Lord. Revelation 21:7 says God's children will "inherit all things."

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who submit to God as Lord, for they will be heirs to everything God possesses."

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

"Hunger and thirst" speaks of a deep need and a driving passion. This "righteousness" refers to the Lord, Jesus Christ, our righteousness. To "be filled" is the satisfaction of the soul's desire.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who passionately long for the Lord, Jesus Christ, for he will satisfy their souls."

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Simply put, we reap what we sow. Those who demonstrate mercy will receive mercy. Likewise, those who know great mercy will show great mercy. This mercy is shown through forgiveness and also by offering kindness and compassion toward others.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who show mercy through forgiveness, kindness and compassion, for they will receive mercy."

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

The "pure in heart" are those who have been cleansed from within. This is not talking about outward righteousness seen by men, but inward holiness that only God can see. The Bible says in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness, no man will see God.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who have been purified from the inside out, being made clean and holy, for they will see God."

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

The Bible says we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Reconciliation through Jesus Christ brings restored fellowship (peace) with God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says God entrusts us with this same message of reconciliation to take to others.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and who bring this same message of reconciliation to others. All those who have peace with God are called his sons."

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Just as Jesus faced persecution, so he promised his followers persecution. Those who endure because of their faith rather than hiding their righteousness to avoid persecution are genuine followers of Christ.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those daring enough to openly live for righteousness and suffer persecution, for they will receive the kingdom of heaven."

More About the Beatitudes:

  • Church of the Beatitudes - See the present-day church located near the site where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.
  • More analysis of the beatitudes from Bible.org.

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