JESUS EXPLAINS THE FIRST AND LAST OF THE 2 COVENANTS

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Many that are first will be last and the last shall be first. Mt.19 and 20. This phrase has been used to describe all sorts of things mostly associated with things like greed and selfishness. Mostly used to describe what happens when someone feels like they they deserve more. But, because of their selfishness will ultimately end up being last in whatever it is that they are being selfish about.

But, when we look at how Jesus actually used this phrase we see that His use of the term meant something completely different. Something that describes God's plan for creation concerning how He will redeem the world through the use of 2 covenants.

First with Israel who like so many of us so often do, would complain about what they didn't have, instead of being thankful for what they did have. Not realizing that it happens this way by God's design. And then with both the Jews, and also with the Gentiles. Gentiles who had no covenant with God until Jesus said in John16 He would send the Holy Spirit to reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

In Mt.19 toward the end of the chapter after speaking to issues concerning eternal life for those who were under the 1st covenant we find Jesus answering Peter's question about what will ultimately happen to them since they had left everything to follow Him.

In vs.28-30 He told him, "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.

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.

But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first."

So this is the first time we see Jesus using this phrase. And He uses it in connection with those who have left everything to follow Him. And specifically these Israelite disciples who He promises will one day sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.

Beginning where we left off we see Jesus begin to explain who the 1st and last are. He says, "For the kingdom of God is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard." He tells them the householder does this again and again throughout the day. Finally ending with those who at the 11th hour were also hired saying to them "Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

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.

But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny."

So in vs.1-10 we see first Jesus saying many that are first will be last and the last will be first in the kingdom of God. And that in the kingdom of God all will receive the same regardless of the length of time they worked in God's vineyard. And also that they who were last hired will receive their's first.

In vs.11 we see trouble brewing. The workers who worked the longest were not pleased that those who came later and worked for a shorter time received as much as they did. They simply assumed that because they saw these that worked less receive a penny the householder surely would give them more than what was originally agreed upon.

So when they had received theirs they began to murmur against the good man that hired them 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."

Now this would seem like an appropriate response considering the circumstances they found themselves in. That is until we hear the reply from the good man. I mean after all they did work longer than the others, right? So it only seems right that they should receive more.

But, when the good man answered one of the murmurers concerning his complaint he said, "Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?" So it becomes clear now that they had no right to murmur against the good man. Even though Israel knew they were special to God. Having been called out to be God's people from among all other nations.

But, now it makes perfect sense, right? Because they had already agreed on what they would receive for their work before they started. And now, after seeing the good man give the same to those who worked less, they wanted to change the deal because the original deal seemed unfair to them now.

This is why we see here again Jesus ending His teaching with the same statement He gave to Peter earlier saying, "So the last shall be first, and the first last". Adding this time that "many be called, but few chosen."

Now can you see what Jesus was referring to? How that those who were called first to work in His vineyard were the Israelites under the 1st covenant? And how they have been working for their pay since God called them to be a people called for His namesake?

So this is why in reference to these two covenants Jesus says "Many are called but few are chosen".

He is telling them here that just because they were called to work in the vineyard and they did work, doesn't mean that they are the chosen for the kingdom of God. Because God's plan was that in a 2nd covenant it would only be by faith that men were to become the chosen for His kingdom.

A faith that says yes to God's promise of eternal life. And will never be by the works of the law as so many Israelite had come to believe.

So 1st covenant Israelites are the first that shall be last that Jesus has been referring to in His answer to Peter and the parable He told. Because they are the "called" of God in this parable.

But, they can only become the "chosen" the same way all men become the chosen of God. When they come to a saving faith in Jesus as Jesus told them in John15 when He said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."

Israelites now needed to trust in Jesus to have eternal life as they had been trusting in God since they had begun working in His vineyard. And in the New Covenant they must trust in Jesus apart from works. This is why in Heb.6:4-8 Paul says,

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned."

This passage is not for everyone. It is only for Israelites who had a covenant with God before Jesus came that they could "fall away" from by not trusting in Jesus when He came. By not turning from salvation that came by works + faith in the 1st Covenant. To the salvation in the New Covenant that is by faith apart from works.

The last that shall be first in the parable are also the sheep that in John10:16 Jesus said "are not of this fold". These are the Gentiles that have come to believe in Jesus in the New Covenant. During this dispensation that Paul referred to as "the dispensation of the grace of God". The time when men are saved not by faith + works as it was for Israel under the law. But, by grace through faith without works as Paul taught in Eph.2:8-10.

So this is how these who were last to begin working in God's vineyard become first. And is why all that worked in God's vineyard are "paid" the same eternal life.

Because in the New Covenant all men are called. But, only those who trust in Jesus become the chosen of God. Not because God planned for anyone to perish. Because in 2Peter3:9 we see it is not God's will that any should perish. But, because only those who by their God given free will say yes to the gospel when they hear it receive the gift of faith that receives the gift of eternal life.

This is why Paul repeatedly said that this message would be preached "to the Jew first and then also to the Gentile" or Greek. We see this again in the fact that Jesus said in Mt.15:24 He came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This is because they alone were in the first covenant.

We see this also in the book of Acts when Jews were coming to believe in Jesus and the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. And only later would the gospel be preached to the Gentiles through Paul's ministry.

Paul gives us another clue to this in Rom.11. Here we see Paul describing how the Gentiles who did not have a covenant with God before are now called as well as the Jews to a New Covenant with God. Only to become part of the chosen by believing in Jesus.

And in vs.25 Paul says until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in a blindness in part has happened to Israel. In part because this blindness did not happen to all Israelites. Which is why Jesus said many, and not all, who are first shall be last.

Because only those Israelites who will not put to death the "old man" who was under the law of Rom.6:6,7 so that they are dead to the law through the body of Christ as Paul said in Rom.7:4 and set free from sin will be last. Like the Pharisees of whom Jesus said in John5:38, "ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not."

So it is only those Israelites who will come to a saving faith in Jesus as their promised Messiah in the New Covenant that join with the chosen who are 1st. Chosen because by their God given free will they said yes to the gospel when they heard it.

But, those that will not are the focus of the coming great tribulation that Jesus told them about in Mt.24. The time of Jacob's trouble spoken of in Jer.30:7. A time when Dan.9:25-27 will be fulfilled.

So the Gentiles, along with some Israelites who would leave behind the old system of works to believe in Jesus for salvation, are the last who will be first. Because these are by choice, and not by fleshly birth as it was for Israel under the law, part of the last covenant. And so will be the first to receive eternal life because they come into God's kingdom through the New Covenant that is by faith without works.

And the first who will be last are the Israelites who began working in God's vineyard first and are given their pay last. After the fulness of the Gentiles has come in as Paul says in Rom.11:25. After the rapture of New Covenant believers when Israel's blindness will be removed so that the finishing of the 1st covenant can take place.

Because in God's plan there was to be what Paul called "the dispensation of the grace of God" sandwiched between the 1st half and 2nd half of the final week of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy. A prophecy meant only for those in the 1st covenant. And it is in this dispensation, this New Covenant, that we have the last who shall be first.

There is so much more that could be said on this. But, what God wants to know from you is will you trust in Jesus for eternal life? Will you be part of the last that will be first when Jesus comes for the church? The "one new man" that Paul speaks of in Eph.2:15?

To become the chosen who with your God given free will hear and say yes to this gospel to receive the gift of faith? If you will then Paul said in Rom.10:9,10 that you need to confess Jesus is Lord. And believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.

If you are reading this God is calling you. He loves you and wants you to know Him. So if you do not know Him please take the time right now to pray and confess Jesus as Lord of your life. Because with your mouth confession is made unto salivation. And with your heart you believe unto righteousness.

Righteousness for eternal life that does not come by any man's works. Paul said in Gal.3:21 that if it did, "surely righteousness would come by the law". But, righteousness unto eternal life only comes by faith. By believing in Jesus just as He believed the Father.

Because in John 17:3 Jesus says knowing Him is eternal life. So knowing Him is righteousness. It is the righteousness of faith. The righteousness of those who are the last that shall be first.

So trust in Jesus for eternal life today and I will

See you there or in the air!

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Source: Edward O' Hara

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Newsletter

Support Orphans

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Editor's Bio

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