Matthew 5.5 [ESV]
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
If Christ knows his followers will end up in heaven with him, why in the world would he teach that the meek will inherit the earth? Is it the case that redeemed people in general will go to heaven, and only these meek ones will find themselves restricted to a terrestrial landscape? The meek are the ones that the proud power brokers of our age squeeze out and out maneuver at every turn. The meek are the very ones that will never take over the earth, yet it is they whom God wishes to inherit his renewed world. Consider these words by the famous Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
They [the meek] show by every word and gesture that they do not belong to this earth. Leave heaven to them, says the world in its pity, that is where they belong. But Jesus says: ‘They shall inherit the earth.’ To these, the powerless and the disenfranchised, the very earth belongs. Those who now possess it by violence and injustice shall lose it, and those who here have utterly renounced it, who were meek to the point of the cross, shall rule the new earth. We must not interpret this as a reference to God’s exercise of juridical punishment within the world, as Calvin did: what it means is that when the kingdom of heaven descends, the face of the earth will be renewed, and it will belong to the flock of Jesus. God does not forsake the earth: he made it, he sent his Son to it, and on it he built his Church.
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, (London: SCM Press, 2001), originally Nachfolge published in 1937, p. 63.
Furthermore, comparing the other beattitudes in the same context we observe that each of them ends with a promise of future reward. Putting them all together we get:
- poor in spirit -> kingdom of heaven
- those who mourn -> comforted
- the meek -> inherit the earth
- those who hunger/thirst for righteousness -> satisfied
- merciful -> receive mercy
- pure in heart -> see God
- peacemakers -> sons of God
- those persecuted for righteousness -> kingdom of heaven
- reviled, persecuted, falsely accused -> reward is great in heaven
Putting this altogether we can see that the kingdom of heaven is when the mourning receive comfort, the righteousness seekers get satisfied, the merciful receive mercy, the meek inherit the earth, pure-hearted see God, etc. When the kingdom arrives our reward, currently stored in heaven, will be manifest on earth. This is God’s master plan.