“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” This verse is a quotation, or at least a rephrasing, of Psalm 37:11. The plain and simple meaning of this verse has been lost due to the traditional teaching that saved people go to heaven when they die and then live in heaven forever. Actually, what the Bible teaches is that Jesus Christ will come down from heaven to the earth, fight and win the Battle of Armageddon, and set up his kingdom on earth, which will fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35, 44; Rev. 19:11-21). He will set up his palace in the newly rebuilt Jerusalem, and for 1,000 years reign over all the earth. Many scholars refer to this 1,000-year kingdom as the “Millennial Kingdom.” It is the “Kingdom” that Jesus spoke about so often. After the 1,000 years are over there will be a great war (Rev. 20:7-10). Then there will be the second resurrection, and after that the Eternal City will come from heaven to earth, in which the saved will live forever (Rev. 21:1-4).
The reason the “meek” will inherit the earth is that the meek, the humble, believe and obey God and will be granted everlasting life, and that life will be on earth, and many verses of Scripture teach that, which is why Jesus taught it (cp. Psalm 37:9-11; Isaiah 57:13; Ezekiel 37:12; Zephaniah 3:8-12, Matt. 5:5). Many commentators espouse the erroneous teaching that “the meek...will inherit the earth” means something like, “the meek can enjoy what they have on earth.” But that is not what the verse is saying. Anyone who has lived among the truly poor and destitute knows that their lives are incredibly hard and a daily struggle, and to say, “Well, if they are godly they can enjoy what they have” is ignorant and insulting; they have little or nothing, often not even food, adequate clothing, or health.
Matthew 5:5 says nothing about enjoying life now, nor does it say the opposite—although the opposite is sometimes taught—that wicked people cannot enjoy what they have. The verse is simple and straightforward and says exactly what the Old Testament says: that meek people will be saved and live in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom and inherit the future earth. In contrast, we also know from the Old Testament that the wicked will be destroyed and will not live on the earth: “Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more. Yes, though you look all over for his place, yet he will not be. For the wicked will perish. Yes, the enemies of Yahweh will be like the beauty of the fields. They will vanish—vanish like the smoke” (Ps. 37:10, 20).
[For more on the Beatitudes being about the future, see commentary on Matt. 5:3. For more on Christ’s coming kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth].
“earth.” The Greek word ge (#1093 γῆ; pronounced “gay”), means 1. arable land; 2. the ground, the earth; 3. the mainland, opposed to sea or water; 4. the earth as a whole, the world; a. the earth as opposed to the heavens; 5. a country, land enclosed within fixed boundaries, a tract of land, territory, or region, when it is plain from the context what land is meant, as that of the Jews.