Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).
Our Lord mentions, in verse 11, three sorts of suffering that His disciples should expect to endure in the line of duty. The first is reviling, that is, verbal abuse or vituperation. The second is persecution. This word is a proper rendering of a Greek word meaning to pursue, which means, in this case, to harass, trouble, or molest(either physically or verbally). It may include the sort of handling or hunting down to which Saul of Tarsus subjected the Church before he was apprehended by Christ (Acts 8, 9).
Christ sets forth the third type of suffering as follows: Blessed are ye, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely.Thus He describes the defamation of character to which His saints must he subjected. This last is doubly painful to sensitive temperaments, finding its realization in the countless calumnies that the Devil is never weary of inventing in order to intensify the sufferings of the children of God. The words persecuted for righteousness sake and for My sake caution us to see to it that we are opposed and hated solely because we are the followers of the Lord Jesus, and not on account of our own misconduct or injudicious behavior (see 1 Peter 2:19-24).
Persecution has ever been the lot of God's people. Cain slew Abel.And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous (1 John 3:12).
Joseph was persecuted by his brethren, and down in Egypt he was cast into prison for righteousness sake (Genesis 37,39). Moses was reviled again and again (see Exodus 5:21; 14:11; 16:2; 17:2; etc.). Samuel was rejected (1 Samuel 8:5). Elijah was despised ( 1 Kings 18:17) and persecuted ( 1 Kings 19:2). Micaiah was hated (1 Kings 22:8).
Nehemiah was oppressed and defamed (Nehemiah 4). The Savior Himself, the faithful Witness of God, was put to death by the people to whom He ministered. Stephen was stoned, Peter and John cast into prison, James beheaded, while the entire course of the Apostle Paul's Christian life and ministry was one long series of bitter and relentless persecutions.
It is true that the persecution of the saints today is in a much milder form than it assumed in other ages. Nevertheless, it is just as real. Through the goodness of God we have long been protected from legal persecution, but the enmity of Satan finds other ways and means of expressing itself. Let persecuted Christians remember this comforting truth: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake ( Philippians 1:29).