Matt 19:30 Many First Shall Be Last, and the Last First 10/23/2016 ßà
#1. The Parable of the First and the Last (Matt 20:1-16)
#2. An Ominous Connection (Matt 20:16, 22:13-14, 7:13-14)
#3. Chosen to Hear About Rewards (Luke 17:10)
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel According to Matthew 19:29 (2X). The sermon of last week was titled, “Rewards” (2X). A Dutch expression goes as follows: “Here is a little mouse with a long tail”, meaning that this subject of rewards is connected to many, many consequences. And these are not irrelevant consequences. These are consequences with a bite, by which I mean that they pertain to salvation and damnation. Let me show you this in the present sermon, which is titled, “Many First Shall Be Last and the Last First” (2X). Last week’s sermon dealt with the text of Matt 19:27-29, where Peter raised the question if there would be any rewards for the twelve disciples. What he really meant was, “Are there any special rewards for us?” Many more people have asked this question. And they believe they do have special rewards. But to this the Lord Jesus gave two answers. You mean:
To sum it up, the Lord Jesus spoke in Matt 19:29-30 these words,
Mt 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
Mt 19:30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
It is hard to see that the little word “and” toward the end of verse 29 separates the 2 answers the Lord Jesus gave. This answer was not only directed to Peter, but to all of us. It is directed to all of us who became saved, who have forsaken all that they had, and have followed Jesus. But what is it that we shall receive an hundredfold? And what shall we inherit when we inherit everlasting life? That is such an abstract concept. The answer Jesus gave in verse 29 is not as transparent as we would like it to be. And therefore we turn to the parallel passage in the Gospel of Mark. Please turn now to the Gospel According to Mark 10:28 (2X). Where do WE expect our rewards? Do we expect them now in this time, or do we expect them in the world hereafter? Last week I did talk about verse 29, but I did not talk about the mysterious clause in verse 30 that “many first shall be last; and the last first”. And in the answer of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark, the same mysterious clause is found at the end of Jesus’ answer. Jesus spoke about our rewards in this life, and our rewards in the life to come.
Mr 10:28-29 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
Mr 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Mr 10:31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
And so, we see that now in this time, in this life, we receive “houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions”, and we receive these “an hundredfold”, meaning in abundance”. And in the world to come we all receive the same “eternal life”. All receive
the same reward. To drive home this last point the Lord Jesus told His disciples about:
#1. The Parable of the First and the Last (Matt 20:1-16, 22:13-14)
Please turn again to the Gospel of Matthew 19:30 (2X). The Lord Jesus continued His answer to Peter’s question with the words, “But many first shall be last; and the last first”. Why and how does this mysterious clause have anything to do with the question of rewards? We can only see this if we connect the following parable to this question that Peter had. And do you see that the Lord Jesus started this parable with the word “For”. The word “For” connects this parable to Peter’s question about rewards, and especially it answers all those people who are seeking special rewards in the life hereafter for the “O-so-good-works” they have done in this life. Let’s read this parable.
Mt 20:1-2 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day (= a Denarius a day), he sent them into his vineyard.
Mt 20:3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
Mt 20:4-5 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
Mt 20:6-7 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
Mt 20:8-9 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
Mt 20:10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
Mt 20:11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the Goodman of the house,
Mt 20:12-13 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Mt 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Mt 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Mt 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen (= elect).
You can see the scenario that Jesus is painting. A rich man hires laborers to work in his vineyard. He goes to the marketplace at 6 O-clock in the morning and finds people with whom he agrees to pay them what is fair: One Denarius for one day’s labor. He hires more people at 9 O-clock in the morning, and at Noon, and at 3 O-clock in the afternoon, and he even hires people at 5 O-clock in the afternoon, shortly before quitting time. And then he gives them all the same amount of money, whether they have worked long, or whether they have worked a short time. And now only 2 groups of people are in view: Those who have been hired early in the morning, and those who have been hired close to quitting time. And then we have to ask ourselves:
· Are These Wages, or Are These Gifts? (John 15:5, 1Cor 10:10)
When Jesus said, “the Kingdom of heaven is like” we are reminded that this is a parable that refers to the Gospel and to the way of getting into the Kingdom of heaven. Remember that this is only a parable and thus we should not try to fit every detail into the truths of the Gospel. But what are the main principles that are conveyed in this story? The householder represents God, who is appointing laborers for His vineyard. We remember that the Lord Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the braches”, in John 15:5. And so, the vineyard represents the OT congregation, or the NT church, where Christ is present. The end of the day represents the time of the death of the body. It is quitting time. The main principle is this: God draws people into His congregation to do whatever work needs to be done. Some are drawn early in life, and some are drawn shortly before their body dies. But whatever work they have done in this life, or whatever they have accomplished, it does not contribute one iota to the blessedness of eternal life with Christ in the NH&NE. Both the Pastor and the janitor receive the same eternal life, if they are saved. Both the rich man and the beggar receive the same eternal life, if they are saved. Martin Luther and John Calvin will receive the same eternal life as the “Thief on the Cross”, who was saved in the nick of time. The people who were hired just before quitting time, who are called “the Last”, what did they receive? They received a Gift. It was unexpected. They were overjoyed. It was much more than they had hoped for. The favor of the Rich Man rested upon them. It reminds us of the unmerited favor of God that is called grace. It is true, they worked for an hour before quitting time, but the Rich Man’s favor was upon them already before they had done any work. When He hired them, He intended to pay them much more than they expected. Now let us look at the people who were hired early in the morning, who are called “the First”; what did they receive? They received their fair Wages. They wanted the Rich Man to be fair. They wanted to receive what was coming to them, and they did receive it. God will be fair to those who want to be treated fairly. There are those who say, “What is the big deal? Didn’t all the laborers get a Denarius? The Last were first in line to receive their money, and the First were last in line to receive their money. What is the big deal? So what if I am going to be last in line? I am still saved.” Well, the big deal is that they have not looked closely at this parable and at its consequences. Let us consider the group that is called “First”. You noticed that they murmured against the Goodman of the house. This is a big tip off to their inner condition, the condition of their heart. This verb, “to murmur” <1111> is in every case in the Bible used of people who are not saved, and who are murmuring against God for being unfair. For example, we read in 1Cor 10:10, “Neither murmur ye <1111>, as some of them also murmured <1111>, and were destroyed of the destroyer”, which refers to the children of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness. And from Hebrews chapter 3 we know that most of them were not saved. So the “First” group murmured against God. Paraphrased God says to them:
Look at what the Lord Jesus said in Matt 20:15, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” In other words, “Are you angry because I have poured my favor upon someone else?” What does that tell us of the condition of this man’s heart? Well, he wanted the Goodman of the house deal fairly with him. Do we want God to be fair with us? Absolutely NOT! We do not desire God to be fair with us! We desire God to be merciful on us. But not fair. If God would be fair He would send all of us to Hell. Have you noticed that the quality of the work of the laborers in the vineyard did not enter into the picture? And that is because the Bible tells us that even our best works are like filthy rags in the sight of God. All our works are tainted with sin. How then can we offer those filthy rags to God and expect Him to reward us for those filthy rags? Certainly, if we insist, He will reward us for those works, but the reward is an eternity in Hell. And you see, that is exactly what the group of people who were hired early in the morning, who are called the “First”, were asking for. They did not realize what they were asking for. But if we interpret this Parable with what the rest of the Bible has to offer, then we must conclude that this group of people was unsaved. They were murmuring because they reject a God who can be generous. They serve a god who knows no grace, nor mercy, and who requires that each gift must be earned or deserved. Therefore they will receive for their works the fair wages that they bargained for. You see, their Denarius was their Wage, whereas for the group who were hired last their Denarius was their Gift. The Lord Jesus painted the contrast between the First group and the Last group: One group received the wages of sin, and the other group received the Gift of God. And God again painted a contrast between those two groups in Rom 6:23, where God says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. The wages of sin is death. Physical death is not the penalty for sin, because on the Last Day there will be many people who will enter eternity without physically dying. However the unsaved will be cast into Hell body and soul, and the death that God has in view is not physical death, but the 2nd death, which is to be cast into the Lake of Fire and be tormented there for an eternity. Can our God be generous? Indeed He can be! Our God bestows His grace, or unmerited favor, upon many laborers who were hired “Last”. They too committed works that were tainted with sin, but God mercifully forgave them those sins. Can our God be merciful? Indeed He can be! God says in Mic 7:18, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy”. How do God’s acts of mercy show? God’s greatest act of mercy was on Friday, April 3, in the year AD 33, when the Lord Jesus Christ, laden with the guilt of all the sins of all those whom He chose to save, suffered and died in their place on the cross of Golgotha. By this act of substitution for us Christ mercifully forgave us the penalty for all our sins, because He paid for them in full there on the cross. Moreover, Christ also generously bestowed on us the Gift of eternal life with Him in the NH&NE. And so, I have portrayed these two groups of laborers in the vineyard as those who are condemned to Hell, and those who are given the Gift of eternal life. Does God agree with this conclusion? Indeed He does. Let me show you:
#2. An Ominous Connection (Matt 20:16, 22:13-14, 7:13-14)
We read here in Matt 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen”. We talked about the Last and the First groups of people, and God identified these two groups of people with the words, “for many be called, but few chosen”. Who are the many, and who are the few who are chosen? Please turn a few pages to Matt 22:13 (2X). There in Matthew chapter 22 the Lord Jesus told His disciples about the great wedding feast that shall be celebrated at the end of time. It will be the marriage feast of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, the Body of Believers, the eternal church. Only those whose sins have been paid for at the cross are invited to the wedding feast. All others will be removed far away into a place called Hell. Here in Matt 22:13 is one of those who will be cast into Hell. We read in Matt 22:13,
Mt 22:13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mt 22:14 For many are called, but few (are) chosen.
Here in verse 14 are exactly the same words we found in Matt 20:16. “For many are called, but few chosen”. And even though your English KJ Bible does not exactly say the same in these two places, in the Greek Textus Receptus they are letter for letter exactly the same words. God directed us to this passage to clarify the words we found in Matt 20:16. What does it mean, “For many are called, but few chosen”? It means that only the chosen ones may be present at the great wedding feast of Christ and the church. And they are not many, but few. Please turn to Matt 7:13 (2X). Only a remnant chosen by grace will be saved. We do not know why God will not save many more. We must leave that in His hands. Certainly, God knows what the best plan of salvation is, and God knows how to be a Just Judge. But it is certain that only a minority will be saved and that the great majority will choose the road to Hell, just like the laborers did who had been hired “First” in the vineyard. The Lord Jesus addressed this matter of the many and the few in the Sermon on the mount, in Matt 7:13-14.
Mt 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait (= narrow) gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction (= Hell), and many there be which go in thereat:
Mt 7:14 Because strait (= narrow) is the gate, and narrow (= troubled) is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
And so, here we find that from the entire world population only a remnant will be saved. Let us now apply this. Today, when you hear of many successful churches or new movements, which are drawing great crowds and are famous throughout the world, be aware that the Lord Jesus warned us not to jump on the bandwagon too quickly. Where everybody is going is most likely not the troubled road with the narrow gate. For example if everyone joins the movement of healing miracles, and of signs and wonders, and of speaking in tongues, which was a 19th century innovation, then we know that this is not the troubled way with the narrow gate.
Please turn to the right in your Bible, to the Gospel according to Luke 13:23 (2X). This was another time when the Lord Jesus was asked about the few and the many. The Lord Jesus took this opportunity to take this matter of the few and the many and link it to the puzzle of the First and the Last. Again, this is a confirmation that we are on the right track in Matt 20. Historically, who were the ones hired First? The Jews, or the children of Israel, were hired First. They had to take care of the Tabernacle, and the burnt offerings, and they were the keepers of the oracles of God written on rolls of paper. Historically, who were the ones hired Last? The Gentile nations were hired Last. Entire nations were under the wrath of God for many centuries. Their beginning to be called was when the Last Days began, which according to Acts 2 began on Pentecost of AD 33. Let us read Luke 13:23,
Lu 13:23-24 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them:Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
Lu 13:25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:
Lu 13:26-27 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.
Lu 13:28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
Lu 13:29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.
Lu 13:30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.
Who was the Lord Jesus speaking to? He spoke with the Jews. Jews who had no use for a Messiah who asked people to repent, and who died on a Roman cross in shame. They were Jews who adhered to the Laws of Moses, and no Messiah was going to draw them away to a new religion. But the Lord Jesus said that their unbelief classified them as workers of iniquity. The expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is pointing to the fact that they will be in Hell. And who will be those present at the great wedding feast of Christ and the church? There will be “Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets”. Joining them will be Gentiles coming “from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south”, meaning from all over the world. And then Jesus said in verse 30, “Behold, there are last which shall be first”, referring to the Gentiles who were Last, meaning under the wrath of God, but who will become First, meaning they will be children of God. And there are those who were First, referring to the Jews, or to the children of Israel, who were supposed to be children of God, but they shall be Last, meaning that they will come under the wrath of God. Not all the Gentiles will be saved; only a remnant, in accord with Matt 7:13-14. Not all the Jews will come under condemnation; a remnant will be saved, in accord with Matt 7:13-14. And why is it that most Jews and Gentiles will be under the wrath of God? Because:
Please turn again to the Gospel of Matthew 8:5 (2X). Only a remnant is chosen to sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of God and to celebrate the great wedding feast of Christ and the church. Here is another example of those who were Last who became First. And others who were hired First became Last. Again, this example refers to the Jews and the Gentiles. Matt 8:5-12,
Mt 8:5-6 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
Mt 8:7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
Mt 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
Mt 8:9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
Mt 8:10-11 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 8:12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When Jesus said, “Many shall come from the east and west” this referred to Gentiles who were coming into the Kingdom of God. But who are those in verse 12 that are called “the children of the kingdom”? These are Jews who historically were supposed to be the Children of the Kingdom, but through their unbelief they were disqualified from this honorable position. Where is their destiny? Again, Jesus used the expression “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” to indicate that they will be in Hell, under the wrath of God. Let us make sure, however, that we do not generalize in this matter of damnation. In the NT time there is no more a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Under the cross all nations receive equal treatment, because God says in Gal 3:28,
Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Ga 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Since Abraham is called “the father of all believers”, to be spiritually Abraham’s seed means to be heirs of the NH&NE. Both Jewish believers and Gentile believers are all one in Christ. Today we must not make a distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers, because that would rob Christ of the oneness in Him. All believers are now called saints, regardless our physical descent. We do not become sons of God by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, and certainly not by being born in the bloodline of Jacob. Why did this centurion have such great faith? God gave it to him. Faith is a gift from God, and it is given to those whom God delights to give it. They are called chosen, because they were chosen by God from before the foundation of the world. And they were:
#3. Chosen to Hear About Rewards (Luke 17:10)
Please turn in your Bibles again to the Gospel according to Luke 17:10 (2X). Wickedness abounds in the church-world today. Many fairytales have been woven around this subject matter of “extra rewards in heaven”. Some people think that we receive an extra jewel in the crown we are going to wear. I will not discuss such nonsense. This matter of understanding rewards is connected to the mysterious clause of the First and the Last. Today I have taken you from an apparently benign Parable of the First and the Last in Matt chapter 20 to an ominous connection in Matt chapter 22 where Hell is in view, from which we can see that the First and the Last refer to the many who are called and the few who were chosen by God before the foundation of the world. The Gospel call goes out into the world, so there are many who hear the Gospel call, but there are only a few who believe it, and these are the few who have been chosen. They believe because God the Holy Spirit has caused them to believe. Then I have led you to another ominous example of the First and the Last in Luke chapter 13 where Hell is in view. Then I have led you to another example of the few who are chosen in Matt chapter 8 where again Hell is in view. All these references must be taken into account when we study the matter of rewards, and especially when we want to know about special rewards in heaven. Apparently verses such as Luke 17:10 have become very unpopular, because they are not well known. Here the Lord Jesus says,
Lu 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Again, let me repeat this plain statement, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do”. We must not expect any special rewards in heaven for work done here on earth. God made known to everyone who is willing to read and study the Bible that seeking special rewards in the life hereafter for works done here on earth is the road to Hell. God made that clear in no uncertain terms. The laborers who were hired First showed by their actions that they were on the road to Hell. They were called Last because that is the label attached to coming under damnation. Those who were initially called Last, bore that name because they were under the wrath of God until the eleventh hour, until the time that they received the special call to work for the Lord Jesus Christ. These have received the special call that identifies the elect, because they received the Gift, whereas those who were hired early in the morning did not receive the special call, because they never received the Gift. And then we have seen how this Parable of the First and the Last could be applied to Jews and Gentiles. But the Bible was written for all times, and for all places. Today in God’s sight there is neither Jew nor Gentile. And so we must apply this situation of Jews and Gentiles to people in the church. The underlying principle still stands: Those who seek rewards in the life hereafter for their own works done here in this life, will receive the wrath of God as their reward. These are the First hired who will be Last. In other words they will receive their reward at the end of the line, when an infinite time in Hell has been spent. But when we turn our eyes on the church we can see examples of Pharisees and publicans. The Pharisees identify with those who have been hired First, and the publicans with those who have been hired Last. The Pharisees were those who had the task of teaching people what the Word of God says. But the Pharisees cooked up their own modifications of the Gospel, and so they ended up with a works gospel. This is exactly what is happening today. Many Pastors teach that special rewards are waiting us when we get to heaven. They have mixed the grace of God with the works of man. Do they not realize that all the fairy tales about special rewards in heaven are a relic from the Roman Catholic era? These are doctrines that are taught in the RC church. We should stay away from these as far as we can. It is true that there are special rewards, and these are found in Mark chapter 10. But when we search for those who receive an hundredfold in this life, with persecutions, we find that they are those who have truly become saved, and who expect nothing else than eternal life in the NH&NE. And that is the bottom line we have derived from the Parable of the First and the Last.
AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.