But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:30, NKJV)
Jesus had corrected the apostles’ implication that only the rich could enter the kingdom of God and have the blessings of salvation and honor (Matthew 19:23-28). All who sacrificially give their lives to faithfully serve Jesus are blessed now and eternally (Matthew 19:29). Jesus summed up this exchange with His apostles by reverting to where it began. Those who seek and expect places of honor from men will not find it in the kingdom of God. Such will not enter His kingdom with that as their expectation. The humble in heart, who do the will of the Father, are “first” (blessed) in the kingdom. Jesus had earlier taught the one who humbles himself as a little child “is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). Let us remove every vestige of prideful expectation from our hearts and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Remember, the kingdom of Christ is not of this world (John 18:36). We must not expect it to conform to our expectations. Kingdom citizens conform themselves to the king’s will, and are eternally blessed for doing so (Romans 12:2).
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. (Matthew 19:29, NKJV)
Jesus had previously explained the kingdom of God is not entered by the power of money and human expectations, but by the power of God (Matthew 19:23-26). After assuring the apostles of their reward of service in the kingdom, Jesus went on to explain how kingdom entrance requires sacrifice and devotion by everyone who wants kingdom citizenship (19:29). One is not entitled to kingdom citizenship who does not enter it correctly. I cannot simply enter the kingdom by expecting citizenship. Everyone who wants to be in the kingdom of God must leave behind (forsake, yield up, let go) everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus said. Whether it is possessions or people, Christ demands first place in our hearts and lives or we will not be regenerated (born again, saved, and conveyed into the kingdom, cf. Luke 14:33, 26; Colossians 1:13-14). Many spiritual blessings accrue here and now to the disciple of Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And finally, the inheritance of eternal life is the faithful Christian’s reward (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Blessings from heaven belong to all who submit to the will of Jesus (Acts 3:19). Every attempt to enter God’s kingdom without doing the will of God will fail (Matthew 7:21).
23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 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 the kingdom of God.” 25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:23–26)
The kingdom of Christ is a spiritual realm (John 18:36). It is not defined and evaluated by worldly metrics. The kingdom (the church, Matthew 16:18-19) is not entered based on one’s wealth (verses 23-24). Gold and silver do not give a person ready access through Zion’s gates. Nor is God’s approval manifested by the wealth of a church, although that is the conclusion many draw. This is what men expect, but the kingdom of God is not defined by human expectations (verse 25). Rich people often expect to be given places of honor due to their wealth. That’s how it is in the kingdoms of men. But, only when the rich person humbles himself is he fit for the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:20-22).
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
Some nations are ungodly, like Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-6). Some nations are angry and headstrong, like ancient Babylon (Habakkuk 1:6). Israel was a “sinful nation” during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:4). But, the church of Christ is a spiritual nation of holy people (saints). We are sanctified in Christ Jesus – set apart from sin and made holy before Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). The call of the gospel is a call to holiness in heart and life, not a call to continue living in the defilement of sin (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7). “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, therefore, as its citizens we must not be of this world and we must not love this world (John 18:36; 1 John 2:15-17). The church is a holy nation that constitutes a holy priesthood, serving in the house of God under the kingly and priestly rule of Jesus Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 1:8-9; 5:5-6). Therefore, let us “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. (Matthew 19:13–15, NKJV)
Children provide a beautiful portrait of those to whom the kingdom of heaven belongs. Children are open, honest and enthusiastic. They are trusting, humble and innocent. So, it is not surprising that Jesus said unless we are “converted and become as little children” we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Yet, here we find His disciples rebuking people for bringing children to Jesus for His blessing. With a gentle reminder Jesus reinforced that we must never hinder those who come to Him for His blessing. Just as Jesus readily received the children, God readily receives every sinner who comes to Him with a child’s heart of faith, anxious to please Him with humble conversion and obedience (Acts 3:19; Matthew 7:21). It is completely out of character for a Christian to become a stumbling block to someone seeking Christ’s blessing (Matthew 18:4-6). Let us be sure we are always helping people come to Christ and never hindering them.
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:25–28, NKJV)
Jesus Christ is reigning at the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21). He is King today, and will continue to reign until death – the “last enemy” – is destroyed at the resurrection of the dead. Only God the Father, who gave all authority to the Son, and to whom the kingdom will be delivered, is exempt from being under the Son’s powerful authority (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23). Christ’s return will be the grand summation of God’s plan of human redemption. The delivery of the kingdom to God the Father will usher in the everlasting kingdom in which righteousness dwells and over which God will reign forever and ever (2 Peter 1:11; 3:13; Revelation 21:22-22:5). The gospel calls us to submit to the authority of Christ with full, obedient faith. By doing so we are preparing to live with Him forever when He returns (John 14:1-6).
23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:23–26, NKJV)
All who die will be raised from the dead because Jesus was raised (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). The resurrection of the dead will be orderly, not haphazard or random. Christ’s empty tomb signaled His defeat of physical death and began the resurrection of the dead. When Jesus returns, those who are His, as well as those who are condemned, will be raised (John 5:28-29). With the resurrection completed, judgment will occur, and Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (Acts 17:31, Hebrews 9:27). Here is a prominent and pivotal truth: Christ will not return to establish the kingdom. When He returns, He will deliver the kingdom to the Father. The kingdom of God exists today; it is the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4, 29-36, 41, 47). The end or conclusion will occur when Christ comes and raises the dead. If the kingdom begins when Jesus returns, then that is not the end. But, when Christ returns all enemies will have been vanquished, the last one being death itself. When Christ returns, the King and His kingdom will be victoriously presented to God the Father.