The Last Will Be What?

Dan Lovaglia, Camp Pastor, Camp Paradise | May 21, 2024

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Matthew 19:28-30

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:5

When I read a section of Scripture that is hard to comprehend at first glance, I often ask, “What happened just before this?” And if it’s Jesus’ words in red ink, I am almost always confused until I pan out to read more from the start. What precedes often sets the stage, providing needed context to better understand the text.

If you didn’t already zoom out, Matthew 19:28-30 is Jesus’ response to His disciples who are missing the point (again). First, the Lord gets stern with them for holding children back from being blessed by Him (Matt. 19:13-15). Then, He challenges a rich young ruler to sell everything and follow Him (Matt. 19:16-22). Finally, Christ wraps up by explaining how hard it is for the wealthy to get into God’s Kingdom but with God anything is possible (Matt. 19:23-26). All of this puts what happens next in perspective.

Because Peter knows how much he and the other disciples had sacrificed, he puts two and two together and blurts out (as usual): “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matt. 19:27). It’s in response to this, that Jesus essentially says: “When the time comes, you’ll have plenty to do in the Kingdom. Trust me, you’ll receive way more than what you gave up. But don’t miss this surprise. When everything is renewed, ‘many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first’” (Matt. 19:8-30, paraphrased).

God guarantees with certainty that everything—all of earth and heaven—will be fully restored (Rev. 21:5). But what our human nature expects will be quite disappointing if we don’t embrace the heavenly Father’s upside-down hierarchy. It’s better to be last than first. It’s better to serve than be served. It’s better to give than receive. It’s better to sacrifice like Jesus than be self-seeking, self-preserving, and self-promoting.

When the time for renewal of all things comes, Christ starts with Peter but wants God’s children of all ages to be clear about the future and what matters most today. The opportunity to be renewed is before us daily as we walk with God, but the story doesn’t stop there. In the end, the Lord will make everything new, including you. In the meantime, you can start bringing that reality from heaven to earth by living out “the last will be first” as part of God’s forever family.

Next Steps

Read Matthew 19:13-30 as one passage and put yourself in Peter’s shoes. Then,  respond to these questions:

  • What thoughts and emotions surface as you experience each scene?
  • What does it feel like to be corrected and challenged by Jesus?
  • What step(s) can you take today to live out “the last will be first” towards your family or friends?