Heaven For Persecuted Saints -- By: Ajith Fernando

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 18:1 (Spring 2014)
Article: Heaven For Persecuted Saints
Author: Ajith Fernando

Heaven For Persecuted Saints1

Ajith Fernando

Ajith Fernando serves as Teaching Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka after being National Director for 35 years. He is also a visiting lecturer and Council President of Colombo Theological Seminary and also serves as Visiting Scholar at Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has written 15 books including The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry (Crossway, 2007); Deuteronomy: Loving Obedience to a Loving God (Crossway, 2012); and Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World (Zondervan, 2013), and his books have been published in 19 different languages.

Seven of the eight Beatitudes that begin the Sermon on the Mount are about the character and behavior of blessed persons. Only the eighth is about what is done to blessed persons by others: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). This must have been particularly significant, as it is the only beatitude given a subsequent explanatory expansion (vv. 11-12).

Clearly, the topic of heaven for persecuted saints was important in the thinking of Jesus. His basic call to discipleship was to a cross (Mark 8:34), which included losing one’s “life for [Christ’s] sake and the gospel’s” (v. 35) and of not being “ashamed of [Christ] and of [his] words in this adulterous and sinful generation” (v. 38). These both imply persecution. Included in this discourse is the promise of final reward for those who take up the cross, which is described as saving one’s life as opposed to losing it (v. 35); as not forfeiting one’s soul (v. 36); and as acceptance by Christ when he comes with his holy angels (v. 38). Paul’s statement that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12) adds to the conviction that the Bible considers persecution to be a basic aspect of discipleship. The gospel is so radical in what it teaches that anyone living anywhere who seeks to obey it should expect opposition.

Persecution, then, is basic to the Christian life and intimately connected in the Bible with the expectation of fin...

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