What Are the Beatitudes?

Study the Meaning of 8 Blessings From the Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount
Jesus Opened the Sermon on the Mount With the Beatitudes. Public Domain

The beatitudes come from the opening verses of the famous Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 5:3-12. Here Jesus stated several blessings, each beginning with the phrase, "Blessed are ..." (Similar declarations appear in Jesus' Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-23.) Each saying speaks of a blessing or "divine favor" that will be bestowed on the person who possesses a certain character quality.

The word "beatitude" comes from the Latin beatitudo, meaning "blessedness." The phrase "blessed are" in each beatitude implies a current state of happiness or well-being. This expression held powerful meaning of "divine joy and perfect happiness" to the people of the day. In other words, Jesus was saying "divinely happy and fortunate are those who possess these inward qualities." While speaking of a current "blessedness," each pronouncement also promised a future reward.

The Beatitudes Are Found in Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)

Beatitudes Meaning and Analysis

Many interpretations and teachings have been set forth through the principles conveyed in the beatitudes. Each beatitude is a proverb-like saying packed with meaning and worthy of study. Most scholars agree that the beatitudes give us a picture of the true disciple of God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The phrase "poor in spirit" speaks of a spiritual condition of poverty. It describes the person who recognizes his or her need for God. "The kingdom of heaven" refers to people who acknowledge God as King.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who humbly recognize their need for God, for they will enter into his kingdom."

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

"Those who mourn" speaks of those who express deep sorrow over sin and repent from their sins. The freedom found in forgiveness of sin and the joy of eternal salvation is the "comfort" of those who repent.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who mourn for their sins, for they shall receive forgiveness and life eternal."

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Similar to "the poor," "the meek" are those who submit to God's authority and make him Lord. Revelation 21:7 says God's children will "inherit all things."

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who submit to God as Lord, for they will inherit everything he possesses."

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

"Hunger" and "thirst" speak of deep need and driving passion.

This "righteousness" refers to Jesus Christ. To "be filled" is the satisfaction of our soul's desire.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who passionately long for Christ, for he will satisfy their souls."

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

We reap what we sow. Those who demonstrate mercy will receive mercy. Likewise, those who have received great mercy will show great mercy. Mercy is shown through forgiveness, kindness, and compassion toward others.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who show mercy through forgiveness, kindness, and compassion, for they will receive mercy."

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

The "pure in heart" are those who have been cleansed from within. This is not outward righteousness that can be seen by men, but inward holiness that only God can see.

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:14 that without holiness, no one will see God.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who have been purified from the inside out, being made clean and holy, for they will see God."

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The Bible says we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Reconciliation through Christ brings restored fellowship (peace) with God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says God entrusts us with this same message of reconciliation to take to others.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and bring this same message of reconciliation to others. All who have peace with God are his children."

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Just as Jesus faced persecution, so will his followers. Those who endure by faith rather than hide their faith to avoid persecution are genuine followers of Christ.

Paraphrase: "Blessed are those daring enough to openly live for Christ and suffer persecution, for they will receive the kingdom of heaven."