Many Who Are First Will Be Last,
and Many Who Are Last Will Be First!
I’ve thought of this section of Scripture before, and I remember Bill Hammond giving his take on this scripture, and yet perhaps his interpretation is not necessarily the right one.
Hammond concluded that those who are called to the Five-fold Ministry would correlate with this scripture, as some arose first in prominence in the 20th century.
So in the 1950’s, he considered this to be the time and era of the Evangelist. In the 1960’s he summarized this as the time of the Teacher, with the role of the Pastor being more prominent in the 70’s.
In the 80’s we see the thrust of the Prophetic Movement coming into view, and finally the Apostolic Ministry being birthed then in the 90’s.
I for one considered his interpretation, and yet I don’t think his viewpoint is really one to take to the bank. For if we view the context of this verse in its entirety, we see Christ speaking with the rich, young ruler.
After the young man had turned away from Jesus, he was unable to give up his great wealth (Matthew 19:16-30).
The disciples had asked Jesus what reward they would have in Heaven, since they had given up everything to follow Him. (vs. 27-30)
This is where Christ promised them “a hundred times as much,” plus eternal life.
But then He said, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (verse 30).
This parable is also reiterated in Matthew 20:16 concerning the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, where at the end of the parable Jesus says, “Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”
First of all Jesus was not teaching that the way to heaven is to live a life of poverty in this world. It is plain that Salvation is by Grace through Faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is not an automatic reversal of roles in heaven. There is no heavenly law where the poor and the oppressed would rule over the rich and powerful.
In other words, the rich aren’t always “last” and the poor aren’t always “first.”
We see the laborers complaining that others who did not work as long as they did, were to be paid an equal amount. They didn’t think this was right, because they had worked much longer than some of them.
This is where again we see His words reiterated:
“The last will be first, and the first last” Matthew 20:16a.
We also see the example of the apostle Paul who was the last of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). There are some who were first in “privilege” and yet are not first in The Kingdom.
The Gentiles had equal access to The Kingdom of Heaven, even though they had not served God under the Old Covenant.
The Jews had labored long under the Old Covenant and were jealous of the Grace that was extended to the “newcomers” (Romans 11:11)
What we see is that there will be many surprises in Heaven. The value system is much different than the one upon this earth.
Those who have been esteemed and respected in this world (like the rich young ruler, Matthew 19:16ff) may well be frowned upon by God, and the opposite is also quite true, for those who are despised and rejected in this world, may in fact be rewarded by God.
~ Stephen Hanson
Stephen Hanson of In His Truth Ministries came to The LORD is a special way in 1975 and has prophesied regularly since. In these end-time birthing pangs we are reminded that judgment must first begin with the household of God. Will we be prepared and ready?