Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of justice: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny (falsehoods) against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.
It is not surprising that this beatitude follows the last. When you stand up for peace and justice against a violent system, you have to expect persecution. Even in the modern era, remember that both Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated.
Both the first and the last beatitude are in the present tense: the kingdom of heaven is theirs. It seems He is talking about what is already happening right in front of them. Persecution has already begun for His followers and He is telling them to rejoice and be glad! But more than that those who are suffering now already have the key to the kingdom. The poor and the persecuted have an edge on the rest of us. The gospel message is easiest for those on the bottom of society. They have nothing to lose, but what’s more they have been failed by the system, they have been humbled. They know they can’t do it themselves, so they are much more ready to turn it all over to God.
Persecution for the cause of justice is inevitable, it is a sign that you are on the right track. The system always fights back against the full gospel. In Luke, Jesus points out the opposite, “Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.” Too much praise is usually an indication that you are not living and speaking the full gospel. Responding properly to Jesus’s teachings is a prophetic action. To be joyful while others misunderstand you, and are spreading lies about you, and maybe even threatening you. Jesus promises us that when we do live joyfully under persecution, the world won’t understand, it will only hate you.