Matthew 19:30
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
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(30) Many that are first shall be last.—The words point obviously not only to the general fact of the ultimate reversal of human judgments, but to the individual case of which the disciples had made themselves the judges. They had seen one who stood high in his own estimate brought low by the test of the divine Teacher. They were flattering themselves that they, who had left all, and so could stand that test, were among the first in the hierarchy of the kingdom. For them too, unless their spirit should become other than it was in its self-seeking and its self-complacence, there might be an unexpected change of position, and the first might become the last. The parable that follows was designed to bring that truth more vividly before them.

19:23-30 Though Christ spoke so strongly, few that have riches do not trust in them. How few that are poor are not tempted to envy! But men's earnestness in this matter is like their toiling to build a high wall to shut themselves and their children out of heaven. It should be satisfaction to those who are in a low condition, that they are not exposed to the temptations of a high and prosperous condition. If they live more hardly in this world than the rich, yet, if they get more easily to a better world, they have no reason to complain. Christ's words show that it is hard for a rich man to be a good Christian, and to be saved. The way to heaven is a narrow way to all, and the gate that leads into it, a strait gate; particularly so to rich people. More duties are expected from them than from others, and more sins easily beset them. It is hard not to be charmed with a smiling world. Rich people have a great account to make up for their opportunities above others. It is utterly impossible for a man that sets his heart upon his riches, to get to heaven. Christ used an expression, denoting a difficulty altogether unconquerable by the power of man. Nothing less than the almighty grace of God will enable a rich man to get over this difficulty. Who then can be saved? If riches hinder rich people, are not pride and sinful lusts found in those not rich, and as dangerous to them? Who can be saved? say the disciples. None, saith Christ, by any created power. The beginning, progress, and perfecting the work of salvation, depend wholly on the almighty power of God, to which all things are possible. Not that rich people can be saved in their worldliness, but that they should be saved from it. Peter said, We have forsaken all. Alas! it was but a poor all, only a few boats and nets; yet observe how Peter speaks, as if it had been some mighty thing. We are too apt to make the most of our services and sufferings, our expenses and losses, for Christ. However, Christ does not upbraid them; though it was but little that they had forsaken, yet it was their all, and as dear to them as if it had been more. Christ took it kindly that they left it to follow him; he accepts according to what a man hath. Our Lord's promise to the apostles is, that when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, he will make all things new, and they shall sit with him in judgement on those who will be judged according to their doctrine. This sets forth the honour, dignity, and authority of their office and ministry. Our Lord added, that every one who had forsaken possessions or comforts, for his sake and the gospel, would be recompensed at last. May God give us faith to rest our hope on this his promise; then we shall be ready for every service or sacrifice. Our Saviour, in the last verse, does away a mistake of some. The heavenly inheritance is not given as earthly ones are, but according to God's pleasure. Let us not trust in promising appearances or outward profession. Others may, for aught we know, become eminent in faith and holiness.This verse should have been connected with the following chapter

The parable there spoken is expressly to illustrate this sentiment. See it explained in the notes at Matthew 20:16.

Remarks On Matthew 19

1. We should not throw ourselves unnecessarily in the way of the enemies of religion, Matthew 19:1. Jesus, to avoid the dangers to which he was exposed, left Jerusalem, and passed over to the other side of the Jordan. If duty calls us to remain in the presence of our enemies and the enemies of religion, we should do it. If we can do them good, we should do it. If our presence will only provoke them to anger and bitterness, then we should turn aside. Compare the notes at Matthew 10:23.

2. People will seek every occasion to ensnare Christians, Matthew 19:3. Questions will be proposed with great art, and with an appearance of sincerity, only for the purpose of leading them into difficulty. Cunning men know well how to propose such questions, and triumph much when they have perplexed believers. This is often the boast of people of some standing, who think they accomplish the great purposes of their existence if they can confound other people, and think it signal triumph if they can make others as miserable as themselves.

3. We should not refuse to answer such persons with mildness, when the Bible has settled the question, Matthew 19:4-6. Jesus answered a captious question, proposed on purpose to ensnare him. We may often do much to confound the enemies of religion, and to recommend it, when without passion we hear their inquiries, and deliberately inform them that the question has been settled by God. We had better, however, far better, say nothing in reply, than to answer in anger or to show that we are irritated. All the object of the enemy is gained if he can make us angry.

4. People will search and pervert the Bible for authority to indulge their sins and to perplex Christians, Matthew 19:7. 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.

5. We learn from this chapter that there is no union so intimate as the marriage connection, Matthew 19:6. Nothing is so tender and endearing as this union appointed by God for the welfare of man.

6. This union should not be entered into slightly or rashly. It involves all the happiness of this life and much of that to come. The union demands:

(1) congeniality of feeling and disposition;

(2) of rank or standing in life;

(3) of temper;

(4) similarity of acquirements;

(5) of age;


Mt 19:16-30. The Rich Young Ruler. ( = Mr 10:17-31; Lu 18:18-30).

For the exposition, see on [1330]Lu 18:18-30.

So saith Mark, Mark 10:31. We have much the same sentence, Luke 13:30 Matthew 20:16. The Jews that are counted now the first, nearest to the kingdom of heaven, shall have no place there; and the Gentiles, looked upon as most remote from it, shall be admitted into it. The Pharisees and great doctors, who think themselves first, that is, nearest the kingdom of heaven, shall be last; and those whom they count last, such as shall have nothing to do with heaven, shall be counted the first, shall have the preference, the chiefest place in heaven. 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, & c. 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.

But many that are first shall be last,.... This may refer unto, or be occasioned by, either the young ruler; signifying that he, and others like him, who were superior in riches and honour, were first in this world, of the first rank and figure, should be the last in the world to come:

and the last shall be first; the apostles, who were last in this world, being poor, mean, and abject, should be the first in the other: or to the Scribes and Pharisees, who were in the chief place, and highest esteem, in the Jewish church, and yet least in the kingdom of heaven; when, on the other hand, the publicans and sinners, who were in the lowest class, and in least esteem, went first into it: or 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: or to the apostles themselves, one of which, who was now first, Judas, should be last; and the apostle Paul, who was last of all, as one born out of due time, should be first: or to Jews and Gentiles, intimating, that the Jews, who were first in outward privileges, would be rejected of God for their unbelief, and contempt of the Messiah; and the Gentiles, who were last called, should be first, or chief, in embracing the Messiah, professing his Gospel, and supporting his interest. This sentence is confirmed, and illustrated, by a parable, in the following chapter.

{8} But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

(8) To have begun well, and not to continue unto the end, is not only unprofitable, but also hurts very much.

Matthew 19:30. However, the measure of rewards in the Messianic kingdom is not to be determined by the time, sooner or later, at which any one may have entered into fellowship with me. No, it is not seniority of discipleship that is to be the standard of reward at the setting up of the approaching kingdom: Many who were the first to enter will receive just the same treatment as those who were the last to become my followers, and vice versâ. The correct construction and translation are not those of Fritzsche, who interprets: Many will be first though last (ἔσχατοι ὄντες, namely, before the second coming), and last though first (πρῶτοι ὄντες), but those usually adopted, according to which πρῶτοι is the subject of the first, and ἔσχατοι that of the second part of the sentence. This is not forbidden by Matthew 20:16, where, on the other hand, the order seems to have been inverted to suit the context. Observe, further, that the arrangement by which πολλοὶπρῶτοι stand so far apart serves to render πολλοί very emphatic: In multitudes, however, will the first be last, and vice versâ. The second clause is to be supplemented thus: καὶ πολλοὶ ἔσονται ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι. But to understand πρῶτοι and ἔσχατοι as referring, not to time, but to rank, regarded from the divine and human point of view, as though the idea were that “when the rewards come to be dispensed, many a one who considers himself among the highest will be reckoned among the lowest” (Hilgenfeld, following Euthymius Zigabenus, Erasmus, Jansen, Wetstein, de Wette, Bleek),—is forbidden by the subsequent parable, the connection of which with the present passage is indicated by γάρ. However, there is a little warrant in the text for taking the words as referring specially to the Jews on the one hand, and the Gentiles (who were later in being called) on the other (Theophylact, Grotius).

Matthew 19:30. πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται, etc., but many first ones shall be last, and last ones first. Fritzsche reverses the meaning = many being last shall be first, so making it accord with Matthew 20:16. The words are so arranged as to suggest taking πρῶτ. ἔσχ. and ἔσχ. πρῶτ. as composite ideas, and rendering: many shall be first-lasts, and last-firsts = there shall be many reversals of position both ways. This aphorism admits of many applications. There are not only many instances under the same category but many categories: e.g., first in this world, last in the Kingdom of God (e.g., the wealthy inquirer and the Twelve); first in time, last in power and fame (the Twelve and Paul); first in privilege, last in Christian faith (Jews and Gentiles); first in zeal and self-sacrifice, last in quality of service through vitiating influence of low motive (legal and evangelic piety). The aphorism is adapted to frequent use in various connections, and may have been uttered on different occasions by Jesus (cf. Luke 13:30 : Jew and Gentile), and the sphere of its application can only be determined by the context. Here it is the last of those above indicated, not the first, as Weiss holds, also Holtzmann (H. C.), though admitting that there may be reference also to the self-complacent mood of Peter. The δὲ after πολλοὶ implies that this is the reference. It does not introduce a new subject, but a contrasted view of the same subject. The connection of thought is: self-sacrifice such as yours, Peter, has a great reward, but beware of self-complacency, which may so vitiate the quality of service as to make one first in sacrifice last in the esteem of God.

Matthew 19:30. Πολλοὶ δὲ, but many) in opposition to πᾶς, (every one), in Matthew 19:29. Perhaps also it is hinted that the young man in question would return again, and from being one of the last, become one of the first.—πρῶτοι, first) In the first clause of the verse this word is the subject, as is clear from its attributive, πολλοὶ (many), which absorbs the article; in the latter clause it is the predicate: in ch. Matthew 20:16 the opposite is the case. In the present instance, therefore (since the greatest emphasis is placed on the last clause), the apophthegm is propounded rather by way off encouragement, as in Mark 10:31; whereas in Matthew 20:16 and Luke 13:30, by way of warning. In both cases the assertions are modified by the addition of the attributive πολλὸι, (many), which applies especially to the worse class; for the better contains but few. The “first” and “last” differ; either, (1), in kind, so that the former means those who are saved, the latter those who are lost; or, (2), (which is preferable) in degree, so that the “last” may mean those who are also saved, but who obtain a station far inferior to that of the “first.” F. S. Loefler (p. 106), in his exposition of the following parable, supposes ὡς (as) to be understood here, so as to produce the following meaning; The First shall be AS the Last; and the Last AS the First. Nor is the idea of such an ellipsis in itself objectionable: but this interpretation is irreconcileable with the context in the parallel passages, of St Mark who does not give the subsequent parable, and of St Luke who records this saying when uttered on another occasion. Our Lord intimates particularly the change of relative condition which was to occur between the Jews and the Gentiles.—Cf. ch. Matthew 8:10-12; Luke 13:28-30 (taken in connection with ib. Matthew 19:23-27), and Romans 9:30-31.

Verse 30. - Many that are first. This proverbial saying, which Christ uses more than once (see Matthew 20:16; Luke 13:30), is illustrated by the parable in the next chapter, and would be better placed at its commencement Here it conveys a warning that man's estimation is liable to error, and it must not be thought that those who are first in privilege are therefore highest in God's favour. The Lord may have had in view the case of Judas, who was an early apostle, and had the care of the bag, and fell by reason of covetousness; and that of one like St. Paul, who was called late, and yet laboured more abundantly than all that were before him. The application may be made with perfect truth to many professors of religion.

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