“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
What is the 'kingdom of heaven'?The phrase "kingdom of heaven" is often misinterpreted as being a physical place. It is often pictured as a place up in the clouds where a bunch of old people in robes are sitting around playing harps and God - an old man with a long gray beard - is floating over them.
Actually, the "kingdom of heaven" that Jesus is referring to is not a location.
Here the phrase "kingdom of heaven" is being translated* from the Greek phrase, βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. The word "kingdom" is translated from the word βασιλεία (basileia), which means, according to Thayer's lexicon, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule" and "not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."
This means that Jesus is speaking of a particular consciousness. It is the acceptance of God as having dominion or authority over all things. That God is the center. Thus the "kingdom of heaven" that Jesus is speaking of is a state of awareness or realization about the Supreme Being being the center, rather than us being the center of the universe.
Yes, the word "heaven" - translated from the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) meaning "the region above the sidereal heavens, the seat of order of things eternal and consummately perfect where God dwells and other heavenly beings." Indeed, this does make the phrase "kingdom of heaven" sound like a physical place.
But this is not what Jesus is referring to. The word used between βασιλεία and οὐρανῶν is not the word "of" as translated. It is the word τῶν - which is best translated to "the."
This would mean that Jesus would be saying, literally, something like "acceptance of God's authority the heaven."
This means that the acceptance of God's authority and dominion is heaven. Realizing that the Supreme Being is the center of our lives is the spiritual realm.
Thus we can conclude that the original phrase translated to "kingdom of heaven" that Jesus is referring to is the consciousness where God is the center. The kingdom of heaven is the consciousness where we see God as our life and soul.
Is this about love?Where there is love, there is service and sacrifice. Where there is love, a person will undergo various hardships in order to facilitate the will of their beloved.
In other words, no matter where they may be located physically, a person who has put God in the center of their lives, in both love and service, is already dwelling within the spiritual realm.
Whatever sacrifices are made in the physical world are not difficult for such a person. Because they are not considering their welfare that important. They are functioning to please the Supreme Being.
However, this does not mean the loving servant of God seeks suffering. While we might qualify a devoted lover of God as one who sacrifices the comforts of the physical world, the devoted lover of God simply does not seek happiness and fulfillment in the comforts of the physical world.
Thus, if physical comforts allow the lover of God to better serve the Supreme Being, then such a lover of God will seek those comforts in an attempt to accomplish God's will. This is because the devoted lover of God finds pleasure in doing the will of God.
A devoted lover of God is not looking to be persecuted. Jesus may have accepted arrest because he knew the High Priest wanted to arrest him and silence him at some point. He simply allowed it to happen at a point that pleased the Supreme Being.
What is the goal?Love of God is the goal.
The true lover of the Supreme Being is not out there looking to be punished so that they can claim to be devoted. They have no intent to show others how devoted they are. The lover of God simply works to please the Supreme Being. They work to glorify the Supreme Being.
If, however, the lover of God is ridiculed, punished, or banned somehow for their work in pleasing God, they accept this as a matter of course.
If a person is persecuted for pursuing the will of God and keeps on trying to please God throughout, they are already in heaven - the spiritual realm. God created everything, so every location is located within the kingdom of God.
Such a person who sees God as the center and works to please Him has already achieved the spiritual realm.
Such a person - as Jesus states - is truly "blessed" - translated from μακάριος (makarios) meaning "happy" according to the lexicon.
In other words, Jesus is stating that a person who sees God as the center and sees everything to be used to please the Supreme Being, such a person is happy. They are fulfilled.
We might compare it to a finger. If the finger tries to eat some soup by itself by submerging itself into some soup, it will remain under-nourished. It will not get any nutrition from the soup. But if the finger helps pick up a spoon so that it can deliver some soup to the mouth and eventually to the stomach, the finger will become nourished.
It is the same with us. We become happy when we work to please the Supreme Being.
In other words, we are not the enjoyers. The Supreme Being is the Enjoyer and we were created by Him to be His servants and playmates. Thus we are nourished spiritually - we become fulfilled or happy - only when we are endeavoring to please our Best Friend and Soul Mate, the Supreme Being.
This is confirmed by Jesus when he said:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of Jesus' statement from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of devotion, for theirs is the sanctuary of the spiritual realm." (Matthew 5:10)