so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. -Isa 55:9
May this last study serve as a comfort, and as a wake up call.
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:28-31
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet, and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. -Rom 13:8-10
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. -Matt 5:17-19
The greatest command is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. And it is by loving your neighbor as yourself that the law is fulfilled. Jesus came to fulfill the law, and how He fulfilled it was to make it so everyone is your equal neighbor, without regard to being male or female, Jew or Gentile, free or slave. For the only way for people to truly follow the first and second greatest commandments was for them to understand that all people are their equal neighbors, and that they should treat them equally as they want to be treated, doing to them as they would have done unto them.
In every case in which a man has not loved a woman, or a person has not loved a foreigner to them, or a master has not loved their slave, as they love themself, and as their equal neighbor, this has broken the 2nd commandment and violated the Law of Love. So if someone who breaks the least of the commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, what will someone be called who has broken the second greatest commandment?
But even if there are only 2 listed here which encompass all others… if the 2nd commandment is the least of the 2 commandments, then those who have broken it and taught others to break it will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.
And so all Christian men who have not loved their wives as themselves and as their equal neighbor, and have taught others to do the same, all masters who have not loved their slaves as themselves and who have taught others to do the same, and all those who have not loved foreigners as themselves and have taught others to do the same, these all will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
If there are those who are called least in the kingdom of heaven, then there must also be those who are called great in the kingdom of heaven. What else does Jesus say about the kingdom of heaven?
And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?”
And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. “Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from. Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets’; and He will say,
‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. “And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.
“And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.“
Here the meaning seems to be that some of the first Jews who first heard the Gospel will not be saved, who were of first importance, who knew of Jesus first. While many of those who come from all over and every direction (the Gentiles) will be saved, even though they were considered last, and heard of Jesus last. And so some of the Gentiles are last to hear the Gospel, but they will be first in that they are saved, and some of the Jews were first to hear the Gospel, but they will be last in that they will not be saved. And so those who were honored the most here on earth, will not receive it in heaven and will not be saved, but those who were honored the least here, will be far more honored in heaven, in being saved. This shows that the way things are here may be reversed in heaven, despite people’s expectations and beliefs.
Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. -Matt 19:27-30
Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
“But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”-Mark 10:28-31
Jesus says that Christians in this age will receive a hundred times as much, in the way of family. Who might those be? Either in the millennial kingdom of Christ or Heaven, Christians will receive houses and/or land, and will all receive eternal life. Also, in heaven, Christians will receive many times more in the way of family than what they have left. Jesus makes clear that in heaven no one will be married to each other. Listed as family we will receive are brothers, sisters, mothers, and children. God of course is our only Father.
There is no special category here for a “wife” or a “husband”. This is because in truth, a husband and wife now, are a brother and sister in Christ. Also note that people who have left everything to follow Jesus, receive many times as much in the categories of family, and land. But nowhere mentioned are slaves, or wives. This is because God does not recognize slaves as the property of other people, nor does God recognize wives as the property of their husbands. Land is property, but people are not. Christians are all considered as family by Christ. In this present age, we were intended to find new family in the church. In heaven, these same Christians who in truth are our family here, will also be our family in heaven, along with many more Christians.
There is nothing fake or sentimental or officious or metaphorical about the New Testament’s repeated use of the terms “brethren” “brothers” “sisters” and “mothers”.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.
A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” -Mark 3:31-35
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” -Matt 12:46-50
In Christ, we really are all family. If you do the will of God, then you believe in Jesus Christ, as did the disciples. And if you are disciple of Jesus Christ, then Jesus says you are His brother or sister or mother. And so if Jesus says you are His brother, and says your wife is His sister, and as Jesus Christ is the Truth and spoke the truth, then it is true that you are siblings. It is not really debatable if you take the words of Jesus as literal and true. In context, Jesus made it clear that His disciples were as truly and literally family to Him as his actual mother Mary, and His actual blood brothers by birth.
If you are His brother or sister or mother, then all other believers are your FAMILY. This is best understood as brothers and sisters, but sometimes it is easier for an older woman that she is like a mother to the younger believers, but in any case the point is that Jesus says we are His family, and what Jesus says IS the TRUTH.
Jesus did not say “they are like my brothers and sisters, metaphorically speaking”.
Jesus said, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven IS my brother and sister and mother.“
So among Christians, if you ARE Jesus’ brother, and a woman IS Jesus’ sister, then you are siblings.
And so we ARE all family, in truth, and Jesus says this is just as much as family by birth and blood.
And so a Christian slave-owner makes his brother, as bonded as blood in Jesus’ view, his slave.
And a Christian man who mistreats a Christian woman, mistreats his sister, or his mother,
as bonded as blood in Jesus’ view, whether his sister as his wife, or in any other capacity.
Back to the ambiguous phrase above, “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”
What does this mean? It says that many of those who are, currently, first will be last, and the last, first.
Who is first now? In the context above, “first” means those who are more important or honored in the current time. But in heaven, many of those who are first now will be last. And many of those who are last now will be first. Other verses give more clarification:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. “When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ And so they went. “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ “They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.’ “When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. “When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. “When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.’
“But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’ “So the last shall be first, and the first last.” -Matt 20:1-16
Here the meaning seems to be that God will give everyone who serves Him the same thing in heaven. This likely refers to eternal life, the family, and houses mentioned previously. In reference to the earlier verses with this phrase, it seems to indicate that all believers will receive the same thing. So it’s likely we each shall receive the same in the way of life, family, and a home, as every one else.
For being God’s servants, it is like He will ‘pay’ us all the same amount, no matter how much work we did in comparison to others. And for those that think they should have deserved more, this could be disappointing. One one hand, this may seem disappointing, but to others, it is uplifting. For instance, at a baseline level, a slave will receive the same as his master, and a wife will receive the same as her husband. In heaven, at a baseline level, everyone is given the same, and importance here on earth does not matter. This indicates that in heaven we will all be equal in what God gives each of us.
And for a heavy fixation on this verse, some people seem to think if they want riches, or honor, or power, or whatever, then they best get it here in this life, because in heaven we will all be repaid equally. They see that their time is now, to get what they can, in this life. However, in context, this verse only refers to the fact that all Christians will receive salvation, and family, and a home. As Jesus said in John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” So this refers to family, to a home with God, and to eternal life, which will all be equal. This does not refer to rewards based on individual actions. This is clear, because no matter how much each worker did, they all received the same. As such, this does not explain anything about those who will be called least or great, nor many other verses that mention “rewards” in heaven that are based on individual actions of merit.
The verses on “rewards”, the “least” and “great” we will cover next; verses that refer to individual rewards based on individual merits as a Christian, and not just on the basis that one is a Christian:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.
It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.
If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved
—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. -1 Cor 3:10-19
These verses say that each one will receive rewards for whatever they have built which survives the test. The Christian will be saved, but will suffer loss and only be as one escaping through the flames. The Christian therefore will only receive rewards if what they have built survives the test of fire.
But they still will receive the same gifts of eternal life, a house, and family, even if everything burns up and they receive no “rewards”. Whatever they are rewarded with is to keep for all eternity, the same as eternal life, the family of believers, and their home. But their “rewards” will be based on their individual works, deeds, and what they have built, so these will vary person-to-person.
Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought,
but that we receive a full reward. -2 John 1:8
Again, it is confirmed that there is a full reward, and a lesser reward in which one has lost what they had built. While everyone receives the same baseline of eternal life, family, and home… some will receive a more full reward than others as some will lose part of what they built in a test of fire.
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. -Matt 16:27
Jesus says he will reward each person according to what they have done. As a Christian if you have done more deserving of reward, then you will have more for all eternity.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.
I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!”
And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. -Rev 22:12-17
In heaven, all Christians will be there, and will receive rewards according to their works. So just to make it clear, all Christians will receive the same in the way of eternal life, the family of believers, and a home. As His bride, Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for each of us, and in His Father’s house there are many mansions. This applies to all believers equally. We all receive the same of these gifts from the Lord by His Mercy and Grace, because we are saved by Jesus Christ. We are God’s children, so He gives us eternal life, in a home with Him, and each other as family.
But on top of this, there are also “rewards” that Christians can receive based on what they have done, according to their works, and what they have built. And this will vary by individual person. These “rewards” are not the same for all believers. These “rewards” are given based on merit of a person’s actions, not on the basis of simply being a Christian. When you add it all up, this means that some Christians will have more “rewards” for all eternity, than will other Christians. And this will be entirely fair, as the “rewards” are based on a person’s own works, as judged fairly by the same standard for every one. They are not based on God loving one person more than another, or any sort of favoritism, especially among His children, but only on a Christian’s works.
To make an analogy:
It is like a child who is adopted into a family, they receive a home and a family, and a life there.
But each child may bring their personal belongings with them from the orphanage, which are theirs. What we build in this life that passes the test of fire and receives an eternal “reward”, is our Father letting us keep what is ours, which is allowed in our new home, which He has adopted us into.
Our Heavenly Father adopts many children into His family, giving them all a life with Him, a home, and each other as family. But Our Heavenly Father also lets His adopted children carry what good things they had from the orphanage to their new home, which does vary.
And so some will have more “rewards” than others, in the kingdom of heaven, for all eternity. And as it seems that Jesus implies there are those who will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, then there also must be those who are called great. As such, who is least and who is great very well may relate to these “rewards”.
What are the sorts of things that God gives out “rewards” for? He does tell us. In fact, Jesus had much to say about the way things are going to work out once we get to heaven, and much to say comparing it to the way things are here. Some of what is said below applies to believers in comparison to non-believers, but some also applies to believers in comparison to other believers.
Looking at His disciples, He said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. -Luke 6:20-36
Rewards seem to be given for loving your enemies, for loving those who mistreat you, loving those who insult you, loving those who steal from you, and dominate you, and doing good to those who practice hate towards you. Jesus also makes it clear that the have and have-nots will be reversed. Rewards are also given for those who are hated, excluded, and insulted “because of Jesus”. These verses do not just apply to non-believers, but also apply to Christians, as it relates to heaven.
Every Christian woman or slave who has ever been hated, and excluded, and insulted, by those in the church who say they do all this “for Christ”, or by her husband who says he does this “for Christ”, here Jesus says that her reward in heaven will be great. So much so, she should rejoice and leap for joy!
And for every slave or woman who has ever loved in futility a master or husband who behaved as their enemy, and insulted them, excluded them, forced them, and took from them, esp. “for Christ”, that slave or woman will be rewarded greatly in heaven. And this is among the body of Christian believers.
No rewards are mentioned for those who exclude others for the reason of Christ. No rewards are mentioned for those who force others to do what they want, or act hatefully, or insult others, even if they say the reason is Jesus, is God, or is the Word of God, the Bible, who is Jesus. And so those Christians who have been masters, or husbands who have been hateful, or men who have been hateful towards women and excluded them all saying it is justified by the Bible and Jesus and God…. they aren’t going to get any reward for this. But the Christian people, the slaves, the women, that have been mistreated “because of Jesus, God, and the Bible” are going to get a reward, according to their works. And these “rewards” will be theirs for all eternity.
The concept is in more specific in Luke, but understanding that things in heaven will be reversed, and those who love their enemies will be rewarded, let’s look at the same paralleled in Matthew.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. -Matt 5:3-12
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matt 5:39-48
Who is more poor in spirit and meek, a woman who submits to being dominated, doing good to her husband, or a husband that dominates her? A slave or her master? Who mourns more? If the poor in spirit and meek will inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven is theirs, then is it not the woman and the slave who will inherit more or more fully? (This among Christians.) Comparing between believers, this seems assured.
Women have had all sorts of evil said against them, as have slaves, and Christians have claimed it was because of Jesus, who is the Word of God. So every time a woman has been insulted and attacked using the Bible, or a slave has been, and the accuser was a Christian claiming justification by the Word of God… that Christian woman or slave is going to get a reward! And so again, when women or slaves or foreigners are insulted, persecuted, and people say all sorts of evil against them, saying it is for Christ, the Word of God, the Bible, for God, the reward of the abused Christian will be great, and will be for all eternity.
No such great reward is mentioned for the abusive Christian master, or husband, or persecutors. The meek and abused will inherit a reward that the more powerful persecutors and abusers seem to not inherit. And this reward is in the kingdom of heaven which will last eternally!
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.-Matt 6:19-21
A slave, or wife that is treated as if she is property, and wealth… no man will keep in heaven. No man will possess other people as property in heaven. And in mistreatment, and not loving your neighbor as yourself, there is no reward. But those loving Christians who are mistreated here in Jesus’ name, they will receive a reward. They will receive rewards in heaven that will last for all eternity, treasures for the slaves and treasures for the mistreated women like slaves, who this is said to be done because of Christ, and who knows what these “treasures” or “rewards” will be. But one thing we do know about them is that they will last for all eternity.
Surely Christian slave-owners, and wife abusers, who mistreat their neighbor saying the reason is Christ, and God, and the Bible, and religion… and the slave or wife took it lovingly, returning good for evil for the sake of Christ…. the abusers have not realized the truth! Which is that their slaves and their wives will likely have more treasures in heaven than they do, for all eternity. With every act of mistreatment stated for the reason of Christ, or God, which the meek accepted and returned with love, they assure and have assured more and more that the person they are mistreating will have more rewards than them in heaven, that last for all eternity.
And if it is the humble, the servant, the slave, the meek, those who try to love, and women who seek to submit under conditions of being dominated, and insulted for being a woman, who is treated as insignificant and unimportant, and a slave who is treated as subhuman, and a woman who is treated as subhuman, who will receive rewards for not resisting, and for submitting to abusive rule, who love their enemies who treat them like possessions, and serve their enemies who are like their owners… if it is these humble that will receive more rewards than those who mistreated them, then doesn’t it make sense that among Christians, that the abused will be greater in heaven, and the abusers will be lesser? In the kingdom of heaven, which lasts for all eternity… could it be that those with more rewards (the abused here) will be the greater in the kingdom of heaven, forever, than those with less rewards (the abusers here) will be the lesser in the kingdom of heaven, forever?
And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them. -Mark 10:13-16
The disciples, as it is commonly taught, did not see children as important enough to take up Jesus’ time. Men were important, women far less so, and little children not really at all. But Jesus said that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all, and that the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. There are a couple of meanings to look at here. The first is that there will be many children in heaven, many many children, who for whatever reason died early in innocence. They will be in heaven, and perhaps there will be many more children there than adults!
But there is another reference here, which is seen by comparing other similar verses:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said,
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. -Matt 18:1-14
Unless they become like little children, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And whoever is humble as a little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Surely, men have often been less humble than women, and masters less humble than slaves. So who is more like a humble child? The more humble like a child you are, the greater you will be in heaven, for all eternity.
It is also interesting here that Jesus seems to advocate harming yourself rather than sinning against a child who is a believer, and makes it clear that they must not despise or hate children, which seems most likely to refer to despising a child by their actions. Jesus also references to causing or tempting a Christian child to sin. Rather than in any way act hatefully, they should cut off their hand or foot… and this implies rather than harm a child with any sort of hateful violence, they should instead injure themselves.
An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest.
But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.” -Luke 9:46-48
They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them,
“What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them,
“If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me.” - Mark 9:33-37
Here Jesus makes it clear that to be the greatest and first among them, then one must be last and servant of all. In context of the other verses on the greatest and the least, this is a truth that applies both to being the greatest Christian on earth, and also the greatest Christian in heaven. And in context, this means being a servant even to a child, by receiving a child. Jesus says that whoever “receives” a child, actually receives Jesus and God. A child was one who was thought to be of the lowest importance, lower than men or even women.
What does “receive” mean?
1) to take with the hand a) to take hold of, take up 2) to take up, receive a) used of a place receiving one b) to receive or grant access to, a visitor, not to refuse intercourse or friendship 1) to receive hospitality 2) to receive into one’s family to bring up or educate c) of the thing offered in speaking, teaching, instructing 1) to receive favourably, give ear to, embrace, make one’s own, approve, not to reject d) to receive. i.e. to take upon one’s self, sustain, bear, endure 3) to receive, get a) to learn
It means to welcome and accept in friendship, help, hold up, accept as family, and not to reject. And so by doing this to a child, they were doing this to Jesus and to God.
This is very similar to:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matt 25:31-46
Again here Jesus mentions those who are His brothers and sisters. And he mentions even the “least of these“, His brothers and sisters. And so if a child is the least important in the eyes of men, but the greatest will be a servant to even a lowly child, then this same understanding can apply to both a slave, or a woman, if men also regard them as not important. And so as for welcoming, befriending, accepting as family, and helping the lowly and unimportant, if you accept them, then you accept Jesus and God with them, but if you reject them, then you reject Jesus and God along with them.
And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ “But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.
“For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves?
Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom,
I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. -Luke 22:24-30
As Jesus was here as one who serves, the greatest and leader must be like the youngest and a servant. Which means that those who have been like servants, such as Christian slaves and women, are in fact greater, and more leaders for God, then those Christians who have been served and who have lorded authority over others as their leaders. In the case of a Christian husband who tries to claim and lord authority over his wife, he is like the worldly Gentiles, and there is nothing Christlike to be found there to reward. In contrast, a wife who is treated like a servant, she is in fact the leader in what is real Christian leadership. She is more like Jesus, and the husband is more like a pagan. Between Christians, the abusive-ruling husband, and the serving wife, she is the greatest. And the same is true of a slave being greater than a master.
And also note that in this verse Jesus again references to the kingdom of Heaven, and reassures the disciples that they will all eat and drink at His table and also that they will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This is to reassure them, in context, about their greatness in the kingdom of heaven. And so it is clear that again all this references not to just on earth, but also to the kingdom of heaven and to eternity.
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” -Matt 20:25-28
Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. “But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” -Mark 10:42-45
Here twice more, 3 times total, Jesus makes it very clear that Christians are not to be like the Gentiles, exercising authority over each other, but rather that they should serve each other. To be great, one must be a servant of the others, but to be first (the greatest) one must be a slave of the others. And so the more one is like a slave, the more one is honored, but those who try to rule over others with authority, they have no honor to them. And so among Christians, the slave is greater than the master, and the wife forced by rule to be like a servant, is greater than her husband that rules over her.
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying:
“The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.
“They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.
For anyone that has questioned what I have said in this book, that the rule of man over other man is from sin, and not from God, please examine the words of Jesus on this matter, in all the passages above. Christians are not to be called leaders, as in worldly systems of authority, nor to be called father, as in the church gone astray in the last 2000 years, nor for men to exalt themselves as teachers coveting the position as an honor, reserved for men, while they use rule and authority to deprive women of being able to teach. Men in fact turn teaching from being a service of a servant into a worldly honor as did the Rabbis, any time a man teaches that women may not teach, but only men.
So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave (any Christian) is not greater than his master (Jesus), nor is one who is sent (any Christian) greater than the one who sent him. (Jesus) “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
- John 13:12-17
Truly, Jesus sought for his people to follow His example, and to ALL serve, and only through service and loving others, to gain their respect and esteem and the desire for them to follow a servant by choice as a loving servant of others. This is who Jesus was to us, and we followed Him by His love for us. There is no place here in Jesus’ teachings for Christians to imitate worldly models, which have all come from sin, of “authority” and man ruling over another man. Over and over Jesus tried to teach this, that humble service is the ONLY right way to lead others, but so many have and do mangle His message by polluting it with worldly understanding. Many teachers have reduced the wisdom of God to only the foolishness of men, and teach the lowly thoughts of men, only seasoned at best with a dash of the high thoughts of God. God loves us, and gives us all free will. No one has been forced to follow Jesus, but we do because of His love for us, and because He served us by giving up His life for us in Love so that we could be saved. He helped us and served us and loved us, and still does help us and serve us and love us. This is why we follow Jesus, and by free will we choose to obey Him. He never has forced us, He never lorded His authority over us as God, or violated our free will. He is our only example of how to get others to follow us the right way, and it is through service and love. But the ways of mankind, of domination and rule and authority, have no right place amongst believers who are trying to have others follow them.
What shows more faith and trust in God? Service to others, or forcing rule over others? Which is more an act of faith and shows trust in God? When you force rule over others, the tool to bend their free will to yours is fear of something negative. When you serve and love others, it is left up to God, in the nature He made people to have, to follow their heart and by free will choose to follow, out of love.
Jesus showed His faith and trust in God even to death. He was a servant of all of us, helping us, serving us, loving us more than His life, even to death, all showing His faith in God. Service and love, not forcing rule, is what He has told us to do. When we serve and love, to help someone follow out of a free choice, instead of forcing rule, we show our faith in Jesus Christ, by doing what He said to do.
There is only one right way to do it, and it has nothing to do with positions of power as in worldly systems. These were invented by man in sin, and while sometimes good can work in the world through them, they are inherently based on a lie, as God was always meant to rule directly over each person individually, and He will restore the world to this in the kingdom of heaven.
And when we get there, many Christian slaves and women will be rewarded for their works, in loving those and submitting to the forceful rule of those who abused them, even their own brothers and sisters. The abusers will not receive a reward for this, and so many of these women and slaves will find themselves to be greater in rewards in the kingdom of heaven than Christians who abused them.
And in this, the abused will also be greater in the kingdom of heaven than the abusers.
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!” Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” -Rev 19:5-9
Someday, we Christians are going to be invited to the Wedding supper of the Lamb, our wedding to Him, in which we will all take our places at the table.
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” -Luke 14:7-15
Let every one be careful of where they sit at a wedding supper. For those who have been humble will be exalted, and those who have been exalted, even exalting themselves, will be humbled. This is what Jesus said concerning wedding suppers. At the wedding supper of Jesus and the church, is there any reason to think that the caution Jesus gave would not also apply? It seems that the situation may likely be the same in heaven, that some will be assigned to the more honorable seats, and some to the less honorable seats. It would also make sense that those who are greatest in the kingdom of heaven would have the more honorable seats, and those who are least in the kingdom of heaven would have the less honorable seats.
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” -Matt 20:20-23
From this passage, we can understand that there will be assigned seats in heaven. Where does the Bible say we will sit with Jesus? At the wedding feast of the Lamb. So there is every indication that the wedding supper will have assigned seats. God, who judges righteously, who repays each according to their works, will choose where each one will sit and what is their proper place. Jesus said the seats of honor are to be decided by God, who will judge justly and reward righteously. These seats are assigned by God. And as here on earth, those in heaven with greater rewards and therefore more distinguished, they are honored by sitting at the head of the table. Which is why Jesus warns us Christians to all go to the foot of the table at the wedding feast, so we will not risk being publicly humbled by being asked to move down to a less honored seat at the foot of the table.
Just as an illustration, to make a point, this is what I picture, after all have been shown to their reserved seats, assigned by God :
There is a table that stretches far and wide, at the wedding supper of the Lamb. All Christians are invited. Everyone there is celebrating and happy, and every single person is rejoicing.
And what you see there is Jesus sitting at the head of the table. Sitting by Jesus are many loving and humble Christian women and some men who were slaves, who have been greatly rewarded, and many loving and humble women who as wives were treated like slaves and mistreated “because of Jesus, God and the Word of God” and took it lovingly. The Christian women and slaves are great in the kingdom of heaven, and are given seats of more honor. Zooming back a ways to look at this long table, it becomes clear that many of those who are sitting near Jesus are women, with some men also, but many are women, likely even more women than men.
And as you look farther and farther away, towards the foot of the table, there are an increasing number of men, masters of slaves, and those who ruled over their wives. Sitting nearer to the foot of the table are those who are lesser in the kingdom of heaven, who have received less rewards, and are less honored.
And among these are many Christian men (and women) who practiced the abusive forcing of rule of man over other man, with fear and threats and even lies about the Word of God, those who did not love women or slaves as themselves, and would not acknowledge them as their equal neighbors. These are those who succumbed to teachings to not love your neighbor as yourself, and abused and mistreated their Christian sisters and brothers.
At the very foot of the table are those who are least in the kingdom of heaven. These are those teachers who both practiced, and taught others to not love your neighbors as yourself, and to not treat others as you would want to be treated. These are those who taught others to be hateful and prejudiced against women, or slaves, or foreigners, teaching men’s superiority, the exclusion of women from equal participation in the church, and who said this was all the will of God as per the Word of God, the Bible, who is Jesus. These are those Christians who both taught this, and practiced their own teachings. These Christians who were false teachers are at the very foot of the table, the least in the kingdom.
If they look around, they would likely not see the familiar faces of their slaves, or their wives, their brothers and sisters who they abused and mistreated. This is because their sisters and brothers who were their slaves or wives are far away towards the head of the table sitting nearer to Jesus.
And these seats represent the honor God gives that person, their assigned seat, for all eternity.
And so for those who need comfort, and for those who do not understand how God could have made this world in which there are slaves, and in which women have been treated as subhuman servants for almost all of human history, for those who find the history of humanity and the church to be so unfair towards women that they wonder how a just God could have made woman at all, knowing she would go through this, and for her to have gone through all of this…
Please, take comfort, for the sorrows of this life and the unfairness, cannot compare with the joys and justice of the eternal never-ending life we will have in the kingdom of God with Jesus. Those who have lovingly accepted abuse and mistreatment here, will be greater in the kingdom of heaven, more honored for all eternity, while those who abused and mistreated and taught such will be lesser in the kingdom of heaven, and less honored for all eternity, if they are there at all.
God is Just, and will reward every one with justice. This is portrayed in the illustration or analogy seen above at the table, which is a picture of the accumulation of the many things Jesus had to say about the greatest and least in the kingdom of heaven. The Lord has told us of His justice and His thoughts and His ways. The humble will be exalted, and the exalted will be humbled, for all eternity.
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!
So, love your enemies, even other Christians who act like your enemies, and do not resist them when they force you, repay evil with good, bless those who curse and persecute you, pray for them, and rejoice when you are mistreated “because of Jesus”. Your reward in heaven is great, and is everlasting. And so in this, I hope those who needed comfort are comforted.
And for those who needed a wake up call, I hope you have it.