AND THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST

(You can listen to this article by audio and stop the audio to follow page links, then resume the audio when you are ready. Please note that I use page links for important details and credits in lieu of footnotes and reference.)

Quiz time. Where does this quote come from:

“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Click here for the answer.

How did you do?

Now for round 2. Where in the Bible is this quote found?

Click here to find the answer.

How are you doing so far?

Round 3. What does this quote mean?

Click here for the quote and the context of that quote.

THE SUBJECT:

Verse 16. ”And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?”

THE ANSWER:

Verse 17.  “And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.

THE QUESTION:

Verse 18. “Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Verse 20.  The young man said to Him, “All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?”  

THE DILEMMA:

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

THE RESPONSE:

Verse 22. “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”

THE TEACHING:

Verse 23. “And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

THE HOPE:

Verse 25 ”When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them, Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The Disciples’ Reward

THE LAMENT:

Verse 27 “Then Peter responded and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?

THE PROMISE:

Verse 28. ”And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms on account of My name, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.”

THE MYSTERY, THE ORACE:

Verse 30. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

Verse 30 is the summary of Jesus’ teaching on what it means to be saved from perishing and the path that leads to salvation.

This teaching or principal, when acted out in our natural lives, says two things:

  1. The first and dominate matter or subject of this teaching is found in verse 16, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?” Jesus begins His answer by redirecting the young man’s focus from doingsomething good’ , (“what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?”) to God (there is only One Who is good).

This is the same for us. We cannot do anything, no matter how good, to earn favor with God, and this includes our own salvation. It is His free Gift to us by His Grace and mercy.

  1. Jesus then seems to contradict Himself when He says, if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.He goes from ‘not doing’ to ‘doing’ something? Not at all.

A simple study of the words of Jesus will show that the word ‘keep’ is the Greek word, ‘téreó’), and actually means ‘to guard over, to observe or watch over’; maintain, preserve; spiritually guard and watch over, to keep intact. 

In other words, you are to keep these commandments within you, within your heart and mind at all times, meditating on them, considering them, in all circumstances, so your behavior will be guided by them.

  1. The young man recognizes that although he has ‘kept all the commandments’, but is still lacking something. The young man uses the Greek word ‘phulassó’, when he says ‘I have kept all these things, what am I still lacking?’. This word bears some of the same meanings as the word Jesus used, ‘téreó’, except ‘phulasso’ means, to ‘personally be on guard against emphsizing the personal interest involved with the guarding, doing or avoiding.

The young man’s perspective and thinking is still guided by the material world, his possessions and doing according to his ability. This is a fine distinction, easily missed by the natural mind. But this is the obstacle to entering the Kingdom of God. This too, is our problem most of the time, failing to grasp the Spiritual over the natural.

  1. Now, having gained the young man’s attention, Jesus goes to the heart of the matter and makes clear what is necessary. Jesus said to him, If you want to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Jesus tells him to dispossess all things of the natural world, everything done by his own strength, mind or will, holding nothing back, and to follow Jesus from that day forward. Jesus is using a special tense for the words ‘go and sell’, the aorist tense, which means ‘to go and sell and keep going and selling’. There can be no going back. You will have to depend solely on God to provide your every need.

This is where almost all of man’s attempt to follow Jesus have fallen short. In this postmodern world even the church is rife with worldly possession and dependent on wealth or mammon. This is why the church has become weak and impotent in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the world, in these Last Days.

  1. Scriptures tell us that the young man went away grieving because he was very wealthy. It is interesting that we read in Matthew 5, what we call ‘The Sermon on the Mount’, Jesus is teaching this same principal,

Matthew 5:1-4, “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

In these verses we see that all who enter and possess the Kingdom of Heaven, have first become ‘poor in spirit’, which literally translates as, “to crouch or cower like a beggar”; deeply destitute, completely lacking resources and earthly wealth, i.e. helpless as a beggar. “the pauper rather than the mere peasant, the extreme opposite of the rich”.

Matthew 5:1-11, pronounces nine blessing on those who ‘go and sell their  possessions and give to the poor, and will have treasure in heaven; and follow Jesus.”

I have heard all the ‘excuses’ by theologians and bible teachers as to what Jesus actually said and meant by His Words. But, let me say, everything I have read and studied, in the English, Greek and Hebrew say the same thing, ’Keep the commandments; go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

I also understand why the young man went away sad.

  1. Next, Jesus turns His attention to his disciples, who have been watching and listening to this episode and declares, “And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

Imagine, two people standing at the gate of heaven, one very poor and one very wealthy, and Jesus explains the cost to enter is everything you own. The poor man jumps with joy over the fact that he easily qualifies; but the rich man would pause at this seeming inequity and his horrendous cost. The cost is everything. You must become poor, a poverty so deep that it reaches down into you soul and spirit! Can you do it? Have you done it? Are you saved?

  1. The Bible tells us that Jesus’ disciples were very astonished at what they had heard. They asked, “Then who can be saved?”

Every time I read this I have the same thoughts as the disciples, “Then who can be saved?” I struggle with keeping the commandments. No, correct that: I fail at keeping the commandments and I wither at the thought of selling all my possessions and giving that money to the poor. How is this possible?

“And looking at them, Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Well, I thank God that with God all things are possible, but I feel like Peter when he blurted, ”Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” Please explain, Jesus!

  1. Jesus answers with words too profound to fathom: ”And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms on account of My name, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.”

Faith. It is by faith we accept and trust the words of Jesus. The natural mind cannot grasp these deep, profound oracles of God.

As Isaiah 55:8-11 says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways

And My thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

And do not return there without watering the earth

And making it produce and sprout,

And providing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

So will My word be which goes out of My mouth;

It will not return to Me empty,

Without accomplishing what I desire,

And without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it.” 

Jesus promises that for those of us who follow Him, in the regeneration when He sits on His glorious throne, everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms on account of His name, will receive many times as much, AND will inherit eternal life.”

Just like when Job, after he suffered loss of every thing he had once possessed, submitted to God, was obedient and prayed for his friends, The LORD restored the fortunes of Job and increased double all that Job had.

As I said earlier in this study,this teaching or principal, when acted out in our natural lives, says two things. The first was how do I obtain eternal life. The second principal is that although we must give everything away in order to enter the kingdom of God, He will multiply and restore our fortunes now and give us eternal life!

  1. Finally, COMES THE MYSTERY, THE ORACE of Verse 30. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

Verse 30 is the summary of Jesus’ teaching and tells us that as we live out His commands and follow Him in all He says and does, by allowing God to rid us of our earthly possessions and desires, by humbling ourselves and become as servants, by making others more important than ourselves, by making ourselves as last, He will grant us access to His Kingdom and to eternal life and we will be made first, the head and not the tail. 

Your Brother and Friend,

Mike Young

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s