“and the last shall be first”… [may refer] to the case of persecution, when some, who seem most forward to endure it at a distance, when it comes nearer, are most backward to it; whilst others, who were most fearful of it, and ready to shrink at the thoughts of it, most cheerfully bear it…
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible; Commentary on Matthew 19:30
It is a general sentence, and may be applied variously. But if we consider what discourse follows, we shall see reason to interpret it as an awakening sentence to the best of men. It is the apostles, those who had forsaken all to follow him, to whom he here saith, “But many that are first shall be last”, As much as if he had said, You have forsaken all and followed me, but you had need look, and consider, from what principle, with what love, and to what end you have done it; you had need keep a watch upon yourselves, and see that you hold on, and that you have no confidence in yourselves. For many that are first in profession, first in the opinion of others, first in their own opinion and confidence, at the day of judgment will be found to be last in mine and my Father’s esteem and reckoning: and many who make not so great a noise, nor have so great a name and repute in the world, and who have the lowest and meanest opinion of themselves, will be found first, and highest in my favour. The day of judgment will frustrate many expectations.
Matthew Poole’s Commentary on Matthew 19:30
People will search and pervert the Bible for authority to indulge their sins and to perplex Christians… No device is more common than to produce a passage of Scripture known to be misquoted or perverted, yet plausible, for the purpose of perplexing Christians. In such cases, the best way, often, is to say nothing. If unanswered, people will be ashamed of it; if answered, they gain their point, and are ready for debate and abuse.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible; Remarks on Matthew 19:7
23 Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πλούσιος δυσκόλως εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. 24 πάλιν δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ τρυπήματος ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. 25 ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐξεπλήσσοντο σφόδρα λέγοντες, Τίς ἄρα δύναται σωθῆναι; 26 ἐμβλέψας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις τοῦτο ἀδύνατόν ἐστιν, παρὰ δὲ θεῷ πάντα δυνατά.
27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι· τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν; 28 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 29 καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου, ἑκατονταπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει. 30 Πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι.
23 Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I say to you that (only) with difficulty does a rich man enter into the Kingdom of the heavens. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were exceedingly amazed, and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man, this is impossible, but with God anything is possible.”
27 Then Peter responded and said to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. So what will there be for us?” 28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that you who follow me, at the Rebirth when the Son of man sits on his glorious throne you also will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And each one who left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms because of my name will be given a hundred-fold, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and last first.”
It is rare that Matthew says “the Kingdom of God”, usually preferring the metonym “Kingdom of heaven”. It may simply be stylistic, avoiding repetition of “Kingdom of heaven” in the previous verse, or it may be that he wants to highlight the difference in character between (most) rich men and God.
EGGNT likes the NLT translation of 26, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible.” The disciples seem to have assumed that the richer you are, the more God must favor you and thus the easier to be saved. If Jesus is saying that it is hard for the rich to be saved, then the disciples think that it would be even harder for the poor. Rather than correcting this, and saying (as we might suppose), “No, it is hard for the rich but easy for the poor”, he simply says, “With God, anything is possible.” Humanly speaking, it is not possible for anyone to be saved.
Grammatically, verse 28 could read, “You who follow me in rebirth…” But it seems more like Jesus is looking forward to the eschatological Rebirth, the event that all of his followers are eagerly anticipating, which the NIV assumes in its translation “the renewal of all things”.
13 Τότε προσηνέχθησαν αὐτῷ παιδία ἵνα τὰς χεῖρας ἐπιθῇ αὐτοῖς καὶ προσεύξηται· οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτοῖς. 14 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Ἄφετε τὰ παιδία καὶ μὴ κωλύετε αὐτὰ ἐλθεῖν πρός με, τῶν γὰρ τοιούτων ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. 15 καὶ ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτοῖς ἐπορεύθη ἐκεῖθεν.
16 Καὶ ἰδοὺ εἷς προσελθὼν αὐτῷ εἶπεν, Διδάσκαλε, τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω ἵνα σχῶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον; 17 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί με ἐρωτᾷς περὶ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ; εἷς ἐστιν ὁ ἀγαθός · εἰ δὲ θέλεις εἰς τὴν ζωὴν εἰσελθεῖν, τήρησον τὰς ἐντολάς. 18 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ποίας; ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Τὸ Οὐ φονεύσεις, Οὐ μοιχεύσεις, Οὐ κλέψεις, Οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις, 19 Τίμα τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὴν μητέρα, καί, Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν. 20 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ νενίσκος, Πάντα ταῦτα ἐφύλαξα · τί ἔτι ὑστερῶ; 21 ἔφη
αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Εἰ θέλεις τέλειος εἶναι, ὕπαγε πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα
καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς, καὶ δεῦρο
ἀκολούθει μοι. 22 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος· ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.
12 Then children were brought to him in order that he might lay his hands upon them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to these belong the Kingdom of the heavens.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on from there.
16 And behold, someone came up to him and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do in order that I might have eternal life?” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One
is good. If you wish to enter Life, obey the commandments.” 18 He says to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You will not commit murder, you will not commit adultery, you will not steal, you will not testify falsely, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man says to him, “All these I have kept; What am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have a treasure-store in the heavens. And come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving, for he was having many possessions.
Τίμα (v. 19) is the only imperative (”Honor!”), while the others are imperatival futures (”You will love!”). Matthew is simply following the verb tenses of Exodus 20:12-16 and Leviticus 19:18 in the LXX.
The primary definition of φυλάσσω (v. 20) is “I guard/protect”, and secondarily “I keep/observe [regulations]”. English has a similar range of meanings with the word “keep”, meaning “to observe a rule” and also “a stronghold”. Since he did not employ the usual word τηρέω, this might give a flavor to how devoutly the young man feels he was keeping the Law.
τέλειος (v. 21) means “perfect, mature, complete”. Most translations say “perfect” here; only the NASB says “complete”. I think “complete” is the best translation.
I love that
τὰ ὑπάρχοντα (v. 21) literally means “the things that exist”.
7 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Τί οὖν Μωϋσῆς ἐνετείλατο δοῦναι βιβλίον ἀποστασίου καὶ ἀπολῦσαι [αὐτήν]; 8 λέγει αὐτοῖς ὅτι Μωϋσῆς πρὸς τὴν σκληροκαρδίαν ὑμῶν ἐπέτρεψεν ὑμῖν ἀπολῦσαι τὰς γυναῖκας ὑμῶν, ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς δὲ οὐ γέγονεν οὕτως. 9 λέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι ὃς ἂν ἀπολύσῃ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ μὴ ἐπὶ πορνείᾳ καὶ γαμήσῃ ἄλλην μοιχᾶται. 10 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ [αὐτοῦ], Εἰ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἡ αἰτία τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μετὰ τῆς γυναικός, οὐ συμφέρει γαμῆσαι. 11 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Οὐ πάντες χωροῦσιν τὸν λόγον [τοῦτον] ἀλλ᾽ οἷς δέδοται. 12 εἰσὶν
γὰρ εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς ἐγεννήθησαν οὕτως, καὶ εἰσὶν
εὐνοῦχοι οἵτινες εὐνουχίσθησαν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, καὶ εἰσὶν εὐνοῦχοι
οἵτινες εὐνούχισαν ἑαυτοὺς διὰ τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν. ὁ δυνάμενος
7 They say to him, “So why did Moses command (us) to give a notice of divorce and send her away?” 8 He says to them, “Because of your hardheartedness Moses permitted you to send away your wives, but from the beginning it did not happen like that. 9 I say to you that whoever sends away his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another commits adultery.” 10 The disciples say to him, “If this is the case of a man with his wife, it is not beneficial to marry.” 11 And he said to them, “Not everyone accepts this statement, but those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are some eunuchs who were born such from their mother’s womb, and there are some eunuchs who were castrated by men, and some eunuchs who castrated themselves (figuratively?) for the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this must accept it.”
EGGNT points out that grammatically, the present verb
μοιχᾶται (v. 9) can be either gnomic or progressive. If the former, it would mean that adultery is committed only at the first sexual act of the forbidden, second marriage. If the latter, that each sexual encounter in the forbidden marriage is adulterous. Most pastors I know take the former view.
τὸν λόγον [τοῦτον]
(v. 11) could be anaphoric, referring to the disciples’ statement that it is not beneficial to marry, or cataphoric, referring to Jesus’ statement about eunuchs in verse 12. The latter view is commended by the end of verse 12.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell 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.” … 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
P. Young just preached a sermon on how to be poor yet faithful. That night, someone referenced this sermon and said to me, “I think most people can’t do this. I don’t think I can do it. But I think you can do it”. That is one of the highest compliments I have ever received and also one of the highest ideals to aim for as well. I forgot how much I actually have in this world - a loving family, food, shelter, friendships, education, and comfort. Yet one day, I know that each of these may be taken away if it means fixing my eyes on the infinitely better eternal reward. I mean, Jesus didn’t even have a place to rest his head, yet he never wanted, for Jesus knew that the real reward is coming later, and cannot be taken away.
Dear God, I don’t often count my blessings nearly as often as I should. There is so much I take for granted, and even though it is good, it can keep me numb and blind to what is truly important. It might hurt a lot if you ask me to give these things up, or if you take them away. When that time comes, please Abba, remind me of Jesus.
4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
Matthew 19:4-6 | NASBThe wedding was nice, the couple was happy. I could only see the groom’s face, and he smiled through most of the ceremony. They had fun. The church was full, many family and friends coming to wish this new couple well. Jana and I talked of our wedding on the way home. Almost 18 years ago, now. The Conversation was regarding the things that were funny, the things that we would do different. It’s the little boo-boos that we remember, though… Maybe we shouldn’t do anything different, as if we could!
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
– Matthew 19:26-30
These are two place in scripture that praise remaining single and say that if one feels called to not marry, to embrace that feeling and do so. I’ve mentioned these passages many times on this blog. I decided to look up what the footnotes say in my Life Application Study Bible. I thought I’d share some of them for you. (Using ellipses […’s] to make these a bit shorter since I’m typing these out myself.)
1 Corinthians 7:
- 7:7 “Both marriage and singleness are gifts from God. One is not morally better than the other, and both are valuable to accomplishing God’s purposes…
- 7:29-31 “Paul urges believers not to regard marriage, home, or financial security as the ultimate goals of life. As much as possible, we should live unhindered by the cares of this world…
- 7:33-34 “Some single people feel tremendous pressure to be married. They think their lives can be complete only with a spouse. But Paul underlines one advantage of being single—the potential of a greater focus on Christ and his work. If you are unmarried, use your special opportunity to serve Christ wholeheartedly.
- 19:12 …Jesus’ point here is that some people have physical limitations that prevent their marrying, while others choose not to marry because, in their particular situation, they can serve God better as single people… A good reason to remain single is to use the time and freedom to serve God. Paul elaborates on this in 1 Corinthians 7.
So, as you can see, this isn’t the most ace-friendly interpretation of scripture ever (in fact, it seems to be directed as a comfort to those who cannot find relationships more than anything), but it does confirm that we are never told me must marry, have sex, or have children.
“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on 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 lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Lord, may we follow you at whatever cost! Lord, give us hearts of obedience, knowing that we obey the one who has never failed to be faithful, who has paid the highest price for us.
The part about the wealthy guy in the last portion of this passage really resonates. I think that it connects well with my recent reflections.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
I think this mindset/question that the guy has is very similar to my struggle. I was, and still to a very large degree, have a very, “I’m doing all the ‘right’ things, like praying, qt, service, etc. But there’s something missing. There must be something more that I can do because this isn’t really working/doing what I want/need it to do for me” mentality.
What is Jesus’ answer to him?
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The man didn’t want to give up what he valued so greatly in his life. If God asked me to give up the things I wanted most, would I respond any better? Naw, bro. I’d rebel and throw a tantrum.
I think one of the biggest issues with my spiritual condition right now is because of the lack of change in heart. I need to be transformed from the inside or all of my external actions will never amount to much.
I would try to be more eloquent but I’m too tired to think properly. Heh.
Sigh, today was quite a challenging day for me. A good friend was in town, and a group of our closest friends met up for dinner & fun stuff. After dinner, said friend wanted to go to a bar for munchies and drinks. Now, I would never judge someone else for their decision to drink. That’s their situation with God, and only God may judge. But I do have a reasoning that follows why I am inclined to think that drinking, and social drinking in particular, is not biblical.
Unless you actually have an acquired taste for it, alcohol itself actually tastes disgusting. My friends usually point me to some fruity, sugary alcoholic drink that doesn’t taste like alcohol. But then, why not just drink juice or soda? Most of my Christian friends believe that drinking is okay as long as you’re not getting drunk, aka drinking enough for the stuff to affect you mentally. So… if you’re not drinking for the effects of alcohol, which impair your judgement and disconnect your spirit from being 100% child-of-God-you (hence unbiblical), why drink a sugary drink that tastes nothing like alcohol when you can drink a delicious, non-alcoholic, usually less expensive, drink? Beats me.
It is challenging for me to discern what is the best way to handle a situation such as tonight. I love my friends. I want to be in their company. However, what should my course of action be when I witness their participation in ungodly activities.. if I’m even allowed to label their behavior as such? Am I supposed to be the Salt and Light by.. leaving the vicinity? Or can I go with them, but just refrain from drinking? (Which is what I ended up doing.) And is that enough?
And today’s passage makes me really pray for discernment as to what or whom I should let go of in order to follow Jesus correctly.
V29: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father of mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
God, are my friends included in this category? What is the best way to love them and love You at the same time? When I think about the Cross, esp in this Lent Season, doing anything that may mess with my judgement and spirit seems so idiotic and dangerous. Jesus paid such a high price for my sin… dare I willingly sin again? But life after 21 is so tough these days. God I need Your wisdom and discernment and DISCIPLINE!