The Beatitude of Comfort
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Luke 6:21b
Because we know what the word, blessed, means, we can move directly to category of people Matthew refers to as mourning. This is the present active participle of the Greek word, PENTHEO πενθέω. It is a participle that refers to those in this certain state, to those mourning. These people are in a state of grief; a grief so deep and overcoming that it can’t be concealed. When it takes hold of a person, it must be expressed, often with tears and crying. Historically, it often referred to the grief and mourning one has when a loved one has passed away. In this context it refers not to the response to difficult circumstances or from the death of a loved one but to the soul response to the realization of spiritual destitution.
Isaiah, when he was placed in the presence of the 2nd Person of the Trinity, in his vision, said,
“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5
The Hebrew expresses the soul wrenching horror he experienced when face to face with his corruption, weakness and spiritual destitution far better than the English translation!
Luke used the word, KLAIO κλαίω in the present active participle, translated as “weep.” Interestingly enough, the various lexicons define this word much the same as PENTHEO, above, though they are not listed among synonyms of each other! In the New Testament it is used in two distinct contexts. First, it is used in the present tense for the attitude taken by those who realize their inadequacy when faced with knowledge of God. In the future tense, it is used for the state of those at the end of times, who have rejected God’s grace, and find their final destination is the Lake of Fire.
God is said to bless those in this present state because it precedes faith in Christ. This beatitude, then, compliments the first by identifying the response to the realization of spiritual destitution. We are all born into the world spiritually dead or destitute. Only through God’s grace do we ever come face to face with that destitution, and seek Him for comfort through salvation and subsequent spiritual growth.
Comfort is the future passive indicative of PARAKALEO παρακαλέω. The Jews to whom our Lord addressed this verse would have immediately recognized this as the “divine passive.” The passive voice means that this comfort is received, not earned or deserved. It always results from divine activity; because, ultimately, only God can bring real, total and continual comfort. No one ever earns or deserves this comfort. You receive it as a grace gift from the Lord.
The future tense doesn’t denote that the comfort comes only in the future but that the comfort is progressive, determined by the amount of our Lord’s thinking circulating in the soul of the individual believer. The reality of this comfort is directly related to the content of the believer’s soul. This comfort brings with it the concept of happiness because only through divine comfort can you maintain your contentedness in the face of any and all adversity. Mechanically, God provides comfort for the believer through knowledge and application of His Word. Instead of being comforted as Matthew recorded, Luke says that they will laugh, as translated from GELAO γελάω. This laughter reflects the confidence of one who has believed in the Lord, then also has assurance of his status before the Lord. Such assurance, like comfort, can only come from spiritual growth.
God, through His word, provides a many facetted comfort, a reason to laugh with relief, sure to apply in any situation. Comfort in the time of grief when a loved one passes away comes from the sure understanding that death for the believer is a permanent change of station from this temporal life to life face to face with our Lord. So when a loved one passes into God’s presence, that one is in the best possible place. Furthermore, you, as a believer will be reunited with loved ones in Heaven after his time on earth is complete! Your loss is never permanent. Comfort in times of stress and personal adversity comes from understanding that God provides perfectly for every exigency in your life. Not only has God provided perfectly for these times but what adversity God allows in your life is for your benefit. He allows adversity to test and accelerate your spiritual growth. But what profit spiritual growth? By means of it you glorify God, provide a witness to men and angels all while living a life of great contentment and fulfillment! Note, that this is personal comfort. It is God’s comforting your soul through the activity of God’s word in your soul.
So this beatitude provides encouragement for believers in prolonged periods of intense suffering. During the course of spiritual growth, God both tests and accelerates your spiritual growth by means of suffering. The test: are you applying the doctrines you have been taught to maintain your contentedness? Do you have inner happiness despite the fact that you are living in what the world may call miserable circumstances? One of the by-products of your spiritual maturity is inner happiness and great peace despite your circumstances. To experience this, you must be empowered by the Holy Spirit and apply the faith rest drill and other doctrines which relate to sharing God’s happiness. This beatitude reminds us that we can possess constant and consistent inner happiness regardless of life circumstances we face. A better translation reflects the concept of soul wrenching grief, expressed outwardly. An interpretive translation, then reads this way:
Inner happiness to those under soul wrenching agony. Matthew 5:4
Inner happiness to the weeping because you will laugh. Luke 6:21b
When you take these first two beatitudes together, they echo Isaiah 61:1-3:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:1-3
The point of these two beatitudes is that the comfort from the arrival of the Messiah was to be experienced from that precise moment of time. For the Church Age believer, that comfort begins at the moment of understanding of salvation and progresses as one grows up spiritually.