The First shall be last and the last shall be first!
“A lesson in Kingdom Priorities”
By the Watchman Dana G Smith
The other day as I came to stop at the local tire dealer thoughts of finishing this tire repair were utmost. It had been another day, one that began early, very early. The night before our tire went flat and the businesses were closed that repaired them. I always have a tire repair kit with ‘vaporized glue’ that goes into the tire via glue and air. This stops the hole nicely, but the tire needs repaired. So the next morning here I was. I walked into the dealership and a guy was reading the paper, no one was at the counter to take my job order. I stood there a minute or so and nothing. The guy reading the paper finally came behind the counter and smiled saying “I will find someone to help you.” “That’s Good, I thought to myself” as I looked around the showroom filled with tires and rims.
A guy came up and started to take my order. As I stood there watching the man try to find our account in his database, he looked up and said, “I’m in the M’s now.” This referred to the accounts, of course, and I waited for him to get to the S’s. Finally in the group where our account was to be located, he could not find it. I went out to the car and found the last receipt from this dealer when they did work for us, on the corner was the number. I went in and gave it to the counterman who had given up taking our order and now, though I went in first and was first to be waited on, now I was second. But the last of two. So here I was, the last, though I was first. I waited, getting a little troubled that this guy so quickly shoved my business to the side and took another customer, but as I waited the Lord gave me this, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” I smiled to myself as I pondered this quote from scripture.
Finally my order was taken and the other guy’s truck was the first in the bay to be fixed. Then our car was taken next to the bay where the other customer’s truck was. Thus here I was last in the bay. Again I thought of this “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” It would be a 45 minute wait so I went down to the river to take pictures, pray, and possibly write. After the time was up I stood in the showroom waiting for the car to be done, nothing yet. I went outside and within a few minutes our car was done. Yes, that’s right. Even though I was last in the bay, our car was first to be done. So although I was first, yet I was last, and while I was last, still I was first. What a lesson for me today, thanks LORD!
I called the wife and let her know of a lesson today the LORD showed me in practical terms. Terms I could definitely get the point. I further looked over the gospels, one part in particular comes alongside what the lesson learned was. It was here as I read how the Lord stunned the disciples when they heard Jesus say “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven – Mtt 19:23.” This statement was made even clearer in the context of the Rich young ruler had kept the commandments. All good young Jews at this time would indeed observe the commandments and consider themselves to be of Abraham. This young rich ruler, which, scripture would later say ‘went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions’ Matt 19:22. Why was this young man so sorry? Was it just because he had great wealth, possessions, and thought that if he just kept the commandments it would be okay? If we look further into this section we see that he called Jesus ‘Good Master’ and wanted to know what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life! Of course, today we know that in the flesh, there is no good thing, but although Jesus was God’s son, He put the Father first as usual by refusing to be called good and saying that only “God is good, vs 16”. Here the context brings to light a ‘rich young ruler who in appearance had it all’. He had wealth, possessions, and did good, but on top of all that he kept the commandments. The point here is what many today miss, you cannot buy your way into heaven. You cannot do one single good thing to inherit heaven. For this young man to keep all the commandments and yet not know the Son of God who now stood before him was blindness. This young man would keep all the commandments but not follow one single commandment from the Son of God. The Lord had called this young man, but this rich young man did not heed the call. The call to give up everything you had, money, wealth, possessions, and even your religious upbringing to follow the LORD was too much. Therefore he went away sorrowful. This young man would never realize that to know God truly, he had to come to the Son of God, Y’Shua and believe [trust in, rely on, cling too] in this Messiah.
Moreover this whole section speaks of those who indeed would give all to follow the LORD. It speaks of those who are part of the kingdom of God because they have come as little children and believed what the Son of God told them. But even though the group of followers who were Y’Shua’s disciples saw and heard this, they were stunned to say the least. This sounded to them as if no one could be saved. But in the call from God all things were possible Jesus said to them.
Matthew 19:13 ¶Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.
16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto 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 his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
One in particular, Peter saw this and wanted to know “Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? Matt 19:27”. It was still in the mind of the disciples that Y’Shua had come to bring in the kingdom on earth. If that was so they thought, as his first disciples then they would have seats of power, judgment, wealth, and be at the side of God himself. They still did not understand the full scope of the suffering servant Isaiah wrote about. This was the backdrop as Peter wanted to know what about us!
Jesus spoke to them all, even though it was Peter who asked the question. This must of been in the minds of all of them as they watched in horror at the thought of someone not being able to enter the heaven if he kept the commandments. The Jews at this time knew how to be righteous and work their way to heaven, or so they thought, Jesus had come to bring the full measure of salvation and understanding to them all. But he would have staunch enemies in the religious camp of the Pharisee’s and Sadducee. Jesus told them that in the ‘kingdom to come’, those that have followed him, would ”sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel Matt 19:28″. Further he also said that “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 vs 19”. Mark’s gospel says in chapter 10 and verse 30 that this would be “now in this time” and “with persecutions” plus in the “world to come eternal life.” In both sections speaking on this the LORD puts the phrase, “The first shall be last and the last first”.
Mark 10:28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
29 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,
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.
31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
Matthew 19:27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
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.
30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Luke chapter 18, verses 18-34 also speaks to the Rich young ruler as well. In Luke’s account it says in verse 22 that the LORD knew he lacked one thing. He had to give that thing he treasured most, i.e. ‘his possessions, wealth, pride, and his religion’. Y’Shua was turning on its head, the religious perception and teaching that the Jewish religious leaders had been teaching. This was not about a ‘kingdom of God’ you could see. Jesus came to bring salvation to all men and the ‘kingdom of God’. But this kingdom would be within men until that time when God would live with men on earth, in the ‘regeneration or the millennial kingdom’. Jesus told them what he was doing, he came to be delivered up to the Gentiles, mocked, entreated spitefully, spit on, scourged, put to death and on the third day he would be resurrected. But in all this they did not understand that the LORD came to fulfill all things written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man.
Luke 18:31 ¶Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.
32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:
33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
It was a kingdom Jesus brought that would not come with observation at this time. The kingdom, Y’Shua said is ‘within you Lk 17:20-21’. The kingdom indeed would come someday, but in the future. When this kingdom would come Y’Shua [Jesus] would light up the heavens as lightening does from one part of the heaven to the other so all see it, so all will see when he comes to bring in the kingdom of ‘regeneration.’ Until that time, there would be deceptions, deceivers, false Christ’s, false messiah’s, and people would desire to see the ‘kingdom’ and many would be deceived. A whole generation would face this someday, a time as in the days of ‘Noah’ and likened unto the ‘days of Lot’.
Luke 17:20 ¶And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
22 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.
23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them.
24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.
25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.
26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.
27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.
28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;
29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.
30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.
32 Remember Lot’s wife.
33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.
34 I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.
35 Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
36 Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
The call to the rich young ruler and many today has gone out. But in this, ‘the first shall be last and last shall be first’ is directed at what the Son of God came to do and why. He came to ‘seek and save’ those who are lost. Today, the call still goes out. Many have had as the young rich man did, i.e. received God’s call! God’s first call to men is that ‘all men everywhere repent. Acts 17:30’ Just look to those things he had. He kept his religious ideas, his money, his possessions, and rejected following the LORD, for the cost was too high. The same today. The Lord is saying to us as he did to the young rich man who had an idea of religion and getting to heaven, don’t trust in what you can do or what you see. Trust in me, give up all you have and follow me. Again, the cost was too high and for many still is.
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
The phrase ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’ has to do with the highest most noble effort man can make on the Lord’s behalf. What is that? It is the call of obedience, to follow what the LORD has said to do. You see in the world, if your first, you win. All the highest accolades, awards, money, fame, fortune, and wealth are yours if you are first. This is the worlds wisdom. If your last, well you lose! If your poor, you lose! If your ugly, you lose! If your fat, you lose! If your anything the world considers last, you lose. But this is the worlds wisdom based on the ‘lusts of the flesh’, the ‘pride of life’, and the ‘lust of the eyes’. God’s wisdom is higher, to the world, this wisdom cannot be understood nor attained!
Matthew 20:1 ¶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.
2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 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?
7 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.
8 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.
I have been on the worlds lose list! I have known defeat! I have known being last, without hope, lost, and in sin! To find hope, you must find despair! To find salvation you must find you need saving in the first place. Pride blinds us of that, lust robs us of what we have, and religion will kill us. Jesus came to bring to all, even to those who are afar off from the first time he walked this earth, salvation and knowing God! He came to bring the kingdom of heaven into our lives, hearts, and souls. To redeem man, to save them from sins, to allow them the blessings of the Father, to be delivered from the hopelessness and wickedness of the world.
1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
This is why, Jesus said the ‘first shall be last and the last first’. The context of this statement follows the discourse we have been talking about in Matthew. God goes to the poor, downtrodden, the sickly, the sinner, the ungodly, and anyone else first. Although in this life they are last, yet many of these are the first to respond to Gods call and accept it. They recognize the need for God and hear his voice and feel his love for them. For many it is the first time anyone or anything cared deeply about them at all. But this is also about ‘workers in the Lords vineyard’! It is about those who are called to work. It is about the chosen! God has put out a call to those who say they love him and follow him. This call is ‘chosen’, it is for those who respond and say Yes, LORD, I will go, I will do, I will walk in your ways! It is about those who will respond to the LORD and follow him, taking their cross. When they first hear the call, this is where the ‘rich young man was.’ He had a form of religion and success in the world he knew. But in the world of the Savior, this was ‘gaining the whole world’ and not God! Many today are called, they refuse, chosing to follow the worlds idea of fame, religion, and even success. Many accept the call but refuse to be chosen, that is, taking up their cross and following the Lord. These are those who save their life, and the result is they will lose it! Others accept the call, then follow the LORD by taking up their cross and following him. These are the chosen.
Matthew 16:24 ¶Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
In going out as the ‘chosen’ some are first to go into the vineyard, and others are the last to go. In the Lord’s system and righteousness, no matter when you go, you will receive the same reward, the reward is for obedience to go and work, not in the work itself.
Matt 20:9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 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.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
This is about you and me responding to lose our life, our pride, our own self will and do as the LORD says. Not worrying about the world, its idea of success nor reward. This is for those who are not yet in the field of the LORD working. This is for those who have not responded yet to go! This is not about going to China, India, or some foreign place. This is about going to the LORD’S field and taking up the position he wants you too. It is about finding a niche to work in for the LORD, a niche that he has called you too and chosen you for. Even if your late it won’t matter the reward is the same! The obedience is paramount, for he has called, you answered! Then you have to go and do! For the LORD himself said, ‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.’ We all know about the beatitudes, the ten commandments, the fruits of the Spirit. But this one commandment is to ‘ignore your own life, don’t try to save it, give it to me and I will take care of you.’
In conclusion, the marching orders for the time we live in are found in Revelation. One verse stands out revealing the chosen for this era and age we live in. These are the ones who will take the LORD’S command and call to the limit of what he has said to do. These are exciting times and the message must get out! Time is short, the field is waiting, people are hurting, and someone has to go! Someone must love the LORD more than their own life! Someone must ignore the flesh, the pride, the call of the world and love the LORD even More. Who is that someone? Where will we find them? One things for sure, when you go, remember, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”
The Marching order again is found in Revelation 12 and verse 11 which says: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
The verse in Revelation 12 speaks volumes to those who want to overcome at this time. A time which is definitely not for half way this or that! It is all the way! It is here that I get back to the ‘practical lesson’, a way of showing me what to understand. The LORD is with us all the time. The field is wherever you go, the work is all the time, and the rewards will not come until the end of age. Even in the simple days, times, and events such as getting my tire repaired, the LORD reminded me of the Kingdom importance. That we are always in the vineyard, at all times, and we must walk in him, be in him, for he knows us and our every thought and motive. Nothing is hid from him and he knows us. More important he knows me and all those times I am living, working, and having a life. This life is and must be in Him, pleasing HIM. For eternal principles and priorities take over when your ‘chosen’ and have decided to be ‘chosen’ by following him, losing your life, taking up your cross, and losing totally yourself in Christ Jesus. Yes, the LORD was there that day! As the morning sun shone, as the man read the paper, as the other customer came in, as the man could not find our account, and as I stood there wanting to get it all over with. The LORD was there saying, remember the ‘kingdom priorities I have called you to!’ Yes, LORD I remember! I knew immediately you spoke to me, “the first shall be last and the last first.” But you did not just speak to me that day, you gave me a 100 % practical experience in the ‘kingdom’ that day. No one heard it but me. No one saw it but me. No one knew the lesson, but me, till now. Now you too, can learn the lesson with me. “Kingdom priorities 101, the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” No matter when you go, the reward is the same. The first ones shall reap the reward of the last ones, and the last one shall reap the reward of the first ones. It is about obedience and being chosen.