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Living as Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 5:1–3 begins the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible does not use that title. Augustine (354–430 ad) seems to have given Matthew 5–7 this name. Jesus went up on the mountain and taught his disciples these things. The message of this sermon is, “This is what it looks like to repent and be part of the kingdom of heaven.”

The kingdom has already begun to arrive, though it has not come in its fullness. As Matthew did, we live in a period of the already/not-yet. Sinclair Ferguson writes: “To belong to the kingdom of God, then, is to belong to the people among whom the reign of God has already begun” (Sermon on the Mount, 3).

Matthew 5:1–12 are known as the Beatitudes, which stems from the Latin term used in the translation of these verses. A beatitude is a declaration of blessing and a statement about why that type of person will be blessed. Blessing here is a covenantal rather than a subjective emotional idea. It is the bestowal of God’s favor—enjoying his presence. Being blessed is much more than being “happy.” The opposite of blessed is not “unhappy,” it is “cursed.”

There are nine beatitudes and a chiastic structure from 5:3 through 5:10 based on the verbal forms. Notice the parallel between verses 3 and 10:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase “is the kingdom of heaven” (ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) serves as a type of bookend. Verses 11–12 then expand on verse 10 to conclude the section. Together, these verses indicate who the kingdom people are and how they are blessed.

In coming weeks, we will work through the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, exploring what it means for Christians to live distinctly as citizens of the kingdom of heaven.

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