7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
pure in heart (v.8) — This beatitude, like all the others, is based upon Old Testament Scripture. Indeed it is one of the great Millennial Psalms, Psalm 24, that our Lord seems to be referring to here. The 3rd and 4th verses of this Psalm read: Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart … — Stam, page 57
We, the members of the Body of Christ, the Church of the present dispensation, have suffered at last some of the expressions of hostility mentioned in the above passage, and for this we too shall receive generous rewards, but it is never said of us that ours is the kingdom of heaven. Ours is rather a present position in the heavenlies in Christ, and the prospect of living and reigning with Him there.
But were not our Lord’s disciples looking forward to reigning with Him in heaven? No, for the kingdom of heaven is to be set up on earth, as the following Scriptures clearly demonstrate:
… a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth (Jeremiah 23:5).
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14).
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the heart (Matthew 5:5)
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
But does not our Lord promise His hearers, in this last beatitude: “great is your reward in heaven?” This is true, but we must not read into this that He referred to a reward which they were to receive when they reached heaven. In 1 Peter 1:4 Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, declares to his readers that their inheritance is “reserved in heaven” for them. Likewise in Revelation 22:12, a passage having to do directly with the return of Christ to earth to reign, we read His words: “And, behold I come quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.”
That the apostles did rejoice in their sufferings for Christ is verified by the record of the Acts. In the closing verses of Acts 5 we read how the religious leaders lowered themselves to the level of common bullies as, finding no just reason to condemn the apostles, they had them beaten and further commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus before letting them go.
But the lashes did not bring only suffering and pain, for were not the apostles bearing them for the blessed Messiah, with whom they hoped soon to be reigning? thus the record continues: “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:41-42). — Stam, pages 61-63
The Sermon and its beatitudes, showed the hearers how to have good human relations, but they did not deal with the impossibility of man’s achieving this in his present sinful condition. Like the Law, the Sermon on the Mount taught its most important lessons historically, for after more than 1900 years it is surely evident that man, in his present state, cannot, surely does not, live up to the Sermon on the Mount. — Stam, page 69
None of the commentaries that teach that the Beatitudes are directly applicable to us today escape without sinking into a form of legalism — that God will only reward those who are merciful, or are pure of heart. Any theology which makes God respond to our actions is works-based.
While, in our new natures, members of the Body of Christ have all the internal attributes listed in the beatitudes — sorrow for sinfulness, a thirst for righteousness, meekness before God, mercy, purity of heart — these are a response to what God has already done for us, not requirements to achieve blessing. Our only requirement in faith.
My understanding is that Christ was preaching that the prophesied Kingdom was at hand. But before it could be ushered in, His death and resurrection had to occur, along with the Tribulation (the 70th week of Daniel). If the generation Christ was ministering to on earth had accepted Him as Messiah, they would have had to face the persecution of that period. It is for that time (which, because of Israel’s rejection of Christ, is still to come) that He gave them the Beatitudes as preparation.