As I listened to my thousandth sermon on The Sermon on the Mount, it occurred to me that we always read it forwards- "Blessed... blessed... blessed...", but there is a lot to be gained in looking at it in reverse. For example, the first thing I realized was that the first and the second to last carried "is" rewards- Theirs IS the Kingdom of Heaven; theirs IS the Kingdom of God. the ones in between are "shall be"s; and the last one carries a little of both.
Let's look first and mainly at the IS blessings. Both of them involve already being adopted as princes, children in the Kingdom. Something already established, already done. This is the Christian's security right here. And what are they? Well, they contain two key words that I went to the concordance about, and learned that, once again, what Jesus preached is what God has always said.
The first, "Blessed are they who are poor in spirit". But what does that mean? I took to the concordance on the word "poor". This word definitely has nothing to do with your financial condition. In fact, it references a figurative "beggarly", but it comes through the meaning "to crouch." Before you scratch your head, this word also derives (the concordance says "is akin to") another word that indicates "to fall in fear; to frighten". Confused? Give me a moment and it will make perfect sense.
The second, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." Note what it says- and what it doesn't say. Because it doesn't say what the last Beatitude says- "for My Sake". The word "righteousness", and the word it derives from, indicates a character- and the actions that spring from that character- of innocence, justness, HOLINESS.
So in effect, the first says to fear God (and how many times have we heard that?) and the second says to live a life of obedience. Again, and not parenthetically, I say, where have we heard that? The answer lies when God made His deal with Abram way back in Genesis 17:
17 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Then God began to explain what He was going to do for Abram in return. And what was Abram's reaction to what God said to Him?
In verse 3, he FELL ON HIS FACE.
In verse 17, he FELL ON HIS FACE.
(See, now we have the first part covered not once, but twice.)
In Verse 23 forward, he OBEYED GOD by circumcising himself and his whole family.
Therefore, we see that what God requires of us NOW to get to Heaven is what God required THEN to get to Heaven. But wait, you say, come back to verse 17 again:
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
Abram comes upon the impossible here, and wonders how God can do such a thing, to which God reminds him that He can do the impossible. So let's now take that to the last Beatitude:
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
See, in the second-to-last, you receive persecution for living a just, innocent, holy lifestyle. But here, it's something more- this is persecution JUST for being a Christian- for believing in Jesus. And it carries both a "now" and a "then", unlike the others. You can rejoice now; and your reward is great then. Why rejoice now? Because you have the IS promises already! The impossible is taken care of by faith in Jesus- which goes hand in hand with Fear of the Lord and living the obedient life. Those three things earn you the adoption, the surety of the next life.
And the shalls are an extension of that promise: You will be comforted of this world's sadness. You will inherit the earth. You will be filled- fulfilled in the holy life. You will obtain mercy. You will see God, and be called His sons. And what do you have to do for those? If you are doing the IS requirements, you will already be doing the SHALL requirements!
So when you take them apart backwards, the Beatitudes are not a list of "do this"s. They are first, what God requires for salvation; second, how the unsaved world will react to your actions; and third, how God will react to your actions. Or to put it even simpler: Follow Jesus, fear God, live a holy life. The world will attack you for it, but so what? You will have received Heaven, where all things will be taken care of.