In my growing up as a christian, I can still remember the many times that people have used that phrase “ So the last will be first, and the first last.” Sometimes some people lose their position or place for some reason or the other which could be due to their own fault and that phrase becomes handy. Like I always suggest interpreting scripture by scripture is vital for correct interpretation.
So the question is why did Jesus say this?
One of such of such reference was when Jesus healed the centurion’s servant. Jesus commended his faith and said that he had encountered such a faith in all of Israel. Then he said the following:
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 8:11,12
Another of such reference was when he taught them the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius 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 to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle,[a] and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’[b]
8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
That grace was an equal opportunity employer for all men. But first to the Jews and second to the gentiles.
This salvation has provided justification. He justifies us when we believe in Jesus Christ and that constitutes God being just and fair then that means that all of our sin has been placed in the body of Christ at Calvary, and that God is honoring the price that Jesus paid by forgiving us.
It is not about how long we have labored for him but how much he labored for us.
This justification makes us appear before God as if we have never sinned in our life. This act is miraculously done by no effort on our part; it is all a gift of God’s grace through Christ’s finished work. By justifying us upon our faith in Jesus, God proves to the world that He is a righteous God. If He required us to earn our salvation or our blessings by works then He would be guilty of killing His Son for our sins and then holding us accountable for them as well.
But was this grace accepted by the first receipients? For majority the answer was No!
He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. – John 1:11
Jesus made a conclusion and it was a prophecy that was fulfilled not long after he ascended back to heaven.
Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you (the Jews) and given to a people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43)
The Jews were an Esau that gave up their birthright and the gentiles were the Jacob that took what they lost. The first became last and the last became first.
11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
When the temple was burnt down in 70AD the kingdom was transferred to the gentiles. It was an official announcement by God as the “old earth and heaven” passed away and the new appeared, the new city is the bride of the lamb of God.
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” – Revelation 19:7-9