Matthew 19:27 Then Peter said in reply, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?"
28 Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. (New Revised Standard Version)
I’ve heard people speak about how many blessings they have received from God. Often they do this by referring to how they serve the Lord, and the Lord has given them a nice home, family, bank account, a great position in life. They also use verse 29 above as a teaching that this is an example of how they would be blessed. Go back to verse 27- Peter asked Christ in terms that they had left everything in terms of this earthly, material life. Look again at verse 28- Jesus responded to what they would receive at ‘the renewal of all things’ (also translated as the ‘regeneration’ or ‘in the age to come’). The disciples had chosen Jesus’ Kingdom as opposed to earthly families; they were not promised earthly families in return. They had left the home of this world for our Lord’s home; they were not promised homes in this world. Let’s look at this from the perspective of Mark’s gospel. (Remember that people don’t always remember every word you may say, so things may be quoted a little differently by different people. This often causes misunderstanding, but in the Scriptures, the meaning is more important than the actual words.)
Mark 10:30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age--houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions--and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first." (NRSV)
Here, Mark records that Jesus said these blessings would come in this age. Now to understand how this can be confused in the human mind, one has to understand and interpret it in keeping with Christ’s teaching. In a manner of speaking, leaving behind this earthly concept of family, one becomes a member of an ‘hundredfold’ family of brothers, sisters, mothers, and children in Christ. Having a ‘hundredfold’ in fields does not mean one would receive ‘hundredfold’ in earthly material prosperity, but that all of God’s children are to share their possessions, so that those who have not (the poor) are not left without. As Peter speaks of leaving all earthly possessions for Christ, all earthly possessions are to be shared and used in common. This is not Marxism- it is Christianism. Notice that Mark also records “…with persecutions…” Jesus taught that those who followed Him would meet with persecutions and resistance from this world, which is ruled by Satan.
Let’s look at this ‘first’ and ‘last’ in both Matthew and Mark. In common expression this could mean first and last in a line, though culturally it has much deeper meaning. I have heard that this means that the last to become Christians would be the first to meet Christ, but I believe that Abraham and Moses are already with Him. Also, later in the New Testament it is taught that the dead in Christ would rise first to meet Him, and then those who are alive will be called up, so why would those who already Christians who are dead be risen before those who know Him and are alive to be risen? It appears that ‘first’ and ‘last’ in this context has to mean something more than first and last standing in a line.
First often refers to the ‘highest in rank or order’ as in the ‘first order’. Last often refers to the ‘lowest in rank or order’ as in the lowliest servants. There are some who seem to be well to do in earthly, material blessings who seem to think that the Lord has blessed them because they have a natural ability to be leaders to teach others how to be how to live the way they are meant to. “Hey- you see how God has blessed me? I must be doing something right. Come to me, and I’ll teach you how to be so blessed by God.” From that perspective, being so blessed makes them the first and therefore the poorest are last. They equate being ‘so blessed’ as the reward of right living and being ‘poor’ meaning someone is not quite living up to their ideals. This is not how God measures people. If one is truly blessed by the Lord, it is to care for the needs of God’s children. If one of God’s children is blessed beyond his own needs, then his excess is to be shared with those who have less. This is the measure of God’s love. Jesus taught that we were to love and care for one another, and especially to love and care for the poor. The measure of God’s love in a person’s life is in how he handles whatever the Lord has given. If a person uses earthly, material possessions to boast of his own position (being ‘first’) then that person is displaying his own pride which will fall before the glory of God, and he will be made last. If a person humbly appreciates God’s blessings, and shares with those in need, he is making himself ‘last’ and God will exalt him to a position more firstly in His kingdom.
Rich people call this Marxism because they want to enjoy their earthly blessings too much to consider a concept that calls for sharing. The Lord will reveal His TRUTH at the judgment. Each person must consider if he is proud that his striving in this life has filled him with earthly, material blessings, and that puts him in a ‘first’ position. Those who are in the ‘last’ position will be made ‘first’, and those who are in the ‘first’ position will be made ‘last’ which could well result in everlasting shame and contempt.
Remember this- if you are always thanking God for your blessings, don't forget, God is looking at how you use those blessings.