Yeshua taught his disciples to expect persecution. He said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). By saying “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Yeshua indicated that those who endure persecution for his sake will find entrance into the kingdom.
To be persecuted for the sake of righteousness means to suffer for the sake of fidelity to God despite various types of coercion and attempts to force a person into compromise and apostasy.
The Jewish people had a long legacy of enduring suffering and persecution for their allegiance to God. In the days before the Hasmonean revolt, the wicked Syrian-Greeks persecuted and even martyred Jewish people who remained faithful to the commandments of circumcision, Sabbath observance, and dietary laws. The same fate awaited the faithful Jews of the apostolic and post-apostolic age as the Roman world attempted to suppress the practice of Judaism.
Rabbi Yeshua warned His disciples that they would be insulted, persecuted, and falsely accused specifically because of their affiliation with Him. He said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). Some New Testament scholars suggest that the original Hebrew of Matthew 5:10 might have read, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of The Righteousness One (HaTzaddik, הצדיק), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Yeshua is the Tzaddik, i.e., the “Righteous One.”
Yeshua reminded His disciples that the prophets of old suffered similar persecution from their countrymen. He said, “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets” (Luke 6:23). In fact, Yeshua’s disciples should be concerned if they do not experience some measure of persecution for the sake of the Master: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way” (Luke 6:26). The reward of the persecuted is laid up in heaven, that is to say, it remains with the Father to be paid out at the coming of the kingdom of heaven: “They came to life and reigned with Messiah for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).