MATTHEW 16: 13 - 20: 29.








(From THYNNE AND JARVIS, with four selected quotations of the author’s book: “HADES.”)



However dim Scripture may be in its portrayal of the intermediate state, it is at least explicit in negativing the current conceptions of Hades, both Roman and Protestant.  Nothing short of a betrayal of the original Christian position has been the abandonment, through sheer unbelief, of the clauses in the Creed on Hades and the Ascension: if these clauses are merely figurative and pictorial (the Modernist legitimately retorts) so can be the clauses on the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection.  Thus also the modern obliteration of the doctrine of Hades has dislocated, and to a large degree nullified, the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead, which, when an intermediate world is eliminated, is made so unnecessary as to slip out of belief.  The elimination of a single truth is a hurt done to all revelation.  Mr. Govett sets the state after death on its Scriptural foundations: – (THYNNE AND JARVIS.)

1.  The Pharisees had asked the Lord for a sign, which he refused in the following words: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights IN THE HEART OF THE EARTH,12: 39, 40.

Now to say that this was fulfilled by our Lord’s body being placed in the cave of the rock is trifling; for a rock on the very surface cannot, with any propriety, be called the heart of the earth.  It bears no sort of analogy to the invisible position of the heart in the body, to which it is compared.  It would more properly be said - if this were its meaning - in the skin of the earth.  Nor has it any analogy with that case of Jonah, with which our Saviour institutes a comparison; for it was not in the exterior surface of the whale that Jonah was lodged, but in the fish’s deep and invisible interior.  Neither, lastly, could the dead body of Christ be justly called “the Son of Man.”  The Son of Man” denotes the human soul of Christ united to the divinity.  For the Scripture, when it speaks of Abraham and of David after death, does not mean by those terms their dead bodies, but their living and yet surviving souls - which are far more truly themselves, than any part of their corruptible bodies could or can be.  I conclude, therefore, that this passage not ambiguously signifies, that Christ’s soul should sojourn for three days in the deep and invisible interior of the globe, among the rest of the departed spirits [souls] of human kind; for thus only will the analogy between Jonah and the Lord be satisfied.  Nor will the conclusion be shaken by a reference to the prophet Jonah, a prophet sent of God to warn an ungodly nation.  But as the “greater than Jonah,” he did not refuse his message, nor seek to flee from the face of Jehovah.  He resembled, however, Jonah in the storm that lay upon the vessel wherein he sailed; and the advice which he gave to the sailors, that the sea “might be calm unto them,” answers to the prophetic intimations of his death our Lord gave at various times during his life.  For what said Jonah when the mariners asked what they should do?  And he said unto them, LIFT ME UP, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.”  Now this was our Lord’s declaration respecting himself – “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, SO MUST THE SON OF MAN BE LIFTED UP, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3: 14, 16.  Again – “When ye have LIFTED UP the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He,” John 8: 28.  And again – “I, if I be LIFTED UP from the earth, will draw all men unto me.  This he said signifying what death he should die,” John 12: 32, 33.  As, then, the storm that lay on Jonah and the mariners typified the storm of God’s wrath; and the vessel and the mariners, the world and its inhabitants; and Jonah’s advice to the mariners to lift him up and cast him into the sea, signified the death he was to die, that the sea might be calm unto them: so the same expression of “lifting up,” signified the Saviour’s death by crucifixion, as the means whereby the wrath of God may be pacified toward us.  Jonah thus was “lifted up” and cast into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging.”

Thus Jesus was cast forth into the ocean of God’s wrath, that his displeasure against us might cease; and thus his indignation has ceased from its raging, toward all those that are in Christ Jesus.  But we are next informed, that the “Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah,” and that “Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”  Now as Hades answers to the fish - and the fish had its habitation in the raging sea, and was prepared to swallow up Jonah - so the existence of Hades was the consequence of the wrath of God, and was rendered necessary as an abode for the spirits [souls] of men, because of sin and its attendant death; - and it is prepared to swallow up the souls of all - even as it swallowed up the prophet.

2. That the righteous shall be redeemed thence [i.e., from ‘Sheol’ / ‘Hades] at the Lord’s coming, many places of Scripture declare.  Take the following: “Jehovah killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to Hades, and bringeth up.  He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory, (Rev. 3: 21); for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.  The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them; the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth; and shall give strength unto his King, and exalt the horn of his Anointed,” (‘Messiah’ … See Hebrew) 1 Sam.2: 6, 8, 10.  The words last quoted define the period at which the former take place; and to those announcements is added, in the 9th verse, the declaration, that then “the wicked shall be silent in darkness,” words which correspond exactly with the principles just laid down.  So again, not to quote the Psalms, it is said in Hosea 13: 13, 14 – “I will ransom thee from the power of Hades; I will redeem thee from death;” (for the first resurrection is peculiarly the resurrection of Christ) – “I will raise him up at the last day.”

3. If this be admitted, we shall find an easy explanation of a very difficult passage in Ecclesiastes, - “Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.  For out of prison he cometh to reign: whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor,” Eccl. 4: 13, 14.  This, as it stands, does not give any intelligible sense to the concluding verse.  But a more accurate translation of that verse is the following: “Better is a poor and wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished; for from the house of the prisoners (the one) shall come forth to reign; whereas, (the other), he that was born to his royalty shall become poor.”  The interpretation of this is now simple.  The poor and spiritually wise child, after his soul has been awhile detained among the spirits in prison or custody, shall come forth at the first resurrection to reign with Christ: whereas the king, old and spiritually foolish, though he was born on earth to a kingdom, shall become poor, and be cast into the house of the prisoners: and so their respective destinies shall just be reversed; except that the portion of the child is royalty for ever, while the other’s temporary royalty is countervailed by perpetual poverty and imprisonment.  Well therefore may Solomon, by the Spirit, say that the child’s lot is preferable by far.

4. It is to this sojourn of the saints in Hades that I would refer a very difficult passage in the 139th Psalm, which speaks of a body being curiously fashioned in “the lower parts of the earth.”  Now, the saints are the body of Christ, Eph. 4: 12, 16; Col. 1. 18, &c., and in that body each has his place.  But the saints, who are to form that body, are being gathered in the lower parts of the earth; and Hades is the womb from which they will be born at the resurrection.  Understood thus, the passage presents no difficulty.  It is Christ who speaks - “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lower parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book were all my members written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them,” Psalm 139: 15, 16.  Now, there was a time when the saints existed as the elect in God’s purpose alone – “as yet there was none of them.”  Yet they were made members of Christ, and so are nowin continuance being fashioned,” as time, and the purposes of God, bring each to their natural and supernatural birth.  In God’s book also, are all “the members written.”  That book is the book of life, as it is written – “rather rejoice because your names have been written in heaven,” Luke 10: 20.  Clement also, and other my fellow-labourers, whose names are written in the book of life,” Phil. 4: 3.  Whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire,” Rev. 20: 15.

In this respect the building of the real temple of Christ, answers to what is recorded of the typical temple of Solomon.  And the house, when it was building, was built of stone, made before it was brought thither; so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor tool of iron, heard in the house while it was in building,” 1 Kings 6: 7.  As, then, the stones were cut and squared in the quarry-depths before they were fitted to their permanent places in the temple, so are the saints of God preparing in Hades for their future place in the kingdom and blessedness of Christ.  All advances noiselessly: till that day when the fullness of time shall have come, and the temple of Messiah shall be beheld in all its beauty, majesty, and perfection, to the praise of the glory of his grace.

When, then, the Council of Florence (Verba Conc. Flor. P 86), affirms that “the spirits of believers are instantly received into heaven, and clearly behold the Triune God as he is,” they are directly at variance with the words of the Lord Jesus, who tells us – “I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go to prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN AND RECEIVE YOU UNTO MYSELF, THAT WHERE I AM THERE YE MAY BE ALSO, John 14: 2.  From these words it is easy to discover that the [regenerate] believer is not with the Lord in the place where he [now] is, until Christ has come again and received him unto himself.

*       *       *



The Saviour inquires of His disciples what Israel thought of Him, and finds it mere unbelief and blindness.  But what said disciples? Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.”  Here is the confession of one beloved of the Father, and enlightened by Him.  This is the faith of the church in Christ slain and risen: and now at once Jesus proceeds to promise that upon Himself, as the rock, proved impregnable in resurrection, He would build His Church : 1 John 4: 14, 15; 5: 1, 13, 20.  Accordingly, at Pentecost, through the power of the [Holy] Spirit sent down from on high to testify of the risen and ascended Head, the church began to be.



As yet the gates of Hadees (not “Hell”) detain in custody the souls of those who shall have part in millennial bliss.  Once Samson, the judge of Israel, was detained by the shut gates of Gaza: but rising at midnight he bore them away, and gained his triumph over them.  Had any been fellow-prisoners with him, he had delivered them also.



But when the souls of the saved are released out of Hadees, the question arises – ‘Shall they enter the millennial kingdom?’  Jesus shows therefore, that not all those possessed of the Church’s faith will attain the [millennial] kingdom.  For He gives to Peter the keys of admittance into, or exclusion from, that kingdom.  Now some were by apostles adjudged to be put out of the Church, and therefore put out of the kingdom of glory when it arises.  Apostles’ decisions during the day of mystery, will be confirmed by Jesus in the day of the kingdom’s manifestation.



The Saviour then lays down His title of the Christ,” to take up instead that of Son of Man.”  As Israel knew Him not, they would reject Him and slay; but the third day He would rise again.  Peter refuses the testimony, and is heavily rebuked.  Jesus takes occasion thence to teach disciples of the time of the Mystery that they must expect, and will receive like treatment with Himself, even unto death.  They might escape such suffering now, but it would be loss of millennial glory in the day of the first resurrection.  Suffering for and with Christ is the church’s portion.  Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of Godin its day of manifest glory.  If we suffer we shall jointly reign:” Acts 14: 22; 2 Tim. 2: 12.  This recovery of all that we lost for Christ’s sake is to take place when the Son of Man comes in glory, and gives to each of His disciples according to their works.



The Saviour’s words in the end of this chapter discover to us a twofold glory.  Jesus comes in the glory of His Father, as Son of God; and in His own kingdom, as the Son of Man: 16: 27.  Then follows the promise that some of those present should, ere they died, see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”  As Mark gives it, they should see the kingdom of God come in power:” 9: 1.  Luke’s expression is very similar: 9: 27.  This was fulfilled in the transfiguration of our Lord, which occurred upon the seventh day after the promise.  Three of the apostles were taken secretly by night to the top of a lofty mountain; and there the appearance of Jesus was altered, His face shining as the sun, His raiment white as the light.  He has companions in glorified bodies like His own; and they are the head of the Law, and the chief of the prophets.  But they talk with Jesus, not He with them.  And it is about the work that the Saviour is about to fulfil at Jerusalem that they converse.



Moses was the witness of the earthly glory of the Law.  Yet after tarrying amidst the heavenly things and in the presence of God’s glory forty days, his own face, by its attraction of light, shone.  But here in Jesus’ case is glory bursting from within, not borrowed from without.



Peter foolishly proposes to constitute three heads of the kingdom, and to make a tent for each.  But the Father rebukes instantly the folly, and pronounces of Jesus – This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, HEAR HIM.”  Jesus is not only the head of the kingdom, when His sceptre shall be swayed on earth; but now also the Father in heaven commends Him to all sons of God, as the teacher of all that believe during the Time of Mystery.  The Son came to reveal the Father.  The Father bids His sons under the gospel to listen to His Son’s precepts.  Here is the heavenly glory of the Son of God, rejected by man and slain, but accepted by God the Father.  It is to this scene that Peter turns, when he would stir up the church to bring forth the fruits of faith.  He sets before them the transfiguration, as the proof that Jesus’ coming, and kingdom of power and glory were no mere fables: 2 Peter 1.  They then who would obtain the glory of the millennial kingdom are to obey the Lord Jesus as His disciples.  Moses and Elijah depart - Jesus abides: Matt. 28: 20; Rev. 3: 8; John 14: 15, 21; 15: 7, 10, 14; Acts 9: 1; 20: 35; Col. 3: 16; Heb. 2: 2; 1 John 1: 1-7.



This heavenly glory of the kingdom is that hope of the Church, which is to sustain it in its conflict with Satan, and in its sufferings and from the world.  They who have lost this hope have had their faith overthrown: 2 Tim. 2: 12, 18.



That scene was, by Jesus’ desire, to be kept secret till after His resurrection [out] from the dead: ver. 9. That is, it is a heavenly glory; the glory of the risen in the kingdom of their Father.  Then follows a beautiful example of the principle stated by Jesus in the thirteenth chapter, that the Old Testament prophecies are not overturned by the new disclosures.  That which the Scribes taught from the Old Testament about the coming of the literal Elijah was true.  Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.”  But the unbelief of Israel, and God’s dispensation of mercy, had made a second coming of Jesus necessary.  Before Jesus’ first coming in grace, John the Baptist had come, in the spirit and power of Elijah,” but not the Elijah expected and foretold, (John 1: 21.)  As it was the day of grace, this Elias, instead of slaying, was slain; even as the Lord Himself would be by and bye.  Then the disciples saw, that the Scribes were right in teaching the coming of the literal Elijah.  But they saw also, that Elijah, in a certain sense, had already appeared to introduce Jesus; and that that Elijah was John Baptist.  Their ancient views are not overturned; but new ones are added.  The Spirit notices only the additional one which they derived from our Lord’s words.



There are seven present again in this second Companionship with Jesus.  Three are in bodies glorified, - Jesus, Moses, Elijah.  Three are still in the flesh - Peter, James, and John.  And over all speaks the Father from His excellent cloud of glory.  Moses represents the sleepers in Christ awaked from the dead: Elijah, those alive and remaining unto the Lord’s coming: 1 Thess. 4.  This scene instructs us also what is meant by the Lord’s Presence,” of which we read so oft.  It is His personal presence, in His body of glory, after leaving the throne of the Father.*


* As the Greek word is usually translated ‘coming,’ I give its occurrences, where it refers to Christ’s presence, for the sake of the English reader.  Matt. 24: 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor 15: 23; 1 Thess. 2: 19; 3: 13; 4: 15; 5: 23; 2 Thess. 2: 1, 8; James 5: 7, 8; 2 Peter1: 16; 3:  4, 12; 1 John 2: 28.



The favoured three descend with our Lord on the next day to the foot of the mountain.  And there is shown, in type, a picture of the world’s state, when the Lord Jesus shall appear.  One possessed by a demon had been brought to the nine disciples who were left below; but they had not been able to dispossess the enemy, who, at irregular intervals, left the lad, and then again returned at his pleasure.  Here the history illustrates the previous parable of the Evil Spirit, and the last state of the evil generation.  The father, in a very doubting mood, beseeches Jesus to deliver His Son.  Our Lord descends with rebuke.  Faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?”  But He commands, and the spirit leaves the lad.  Enter no more into him.”  The devil must be ejected from among men, ere the [millennial] kingdom of God can come: Rev. 20.



For a considerable space henceforward, Jesus is occupied with giving directions to the Church; and they who will accept the command of the Father in heaven, will listen to the Son as their Teacher.



1.  After the demon is ejected, the disciples enquire, - ‘Why they could not cast him out?’  Our Lord replies, that it was owing to want of faith; and yet that there were demons of a stronger kind, which could not be ejected, save by the use of special means - such as prayer and fasting.  He [Christ] proceeds then in this place to teach us, that the faith which produces miracles ought to belong to disciples; as he does also in Mark 16: 15-18.  So does Paul teach the Church in his universal epistle sent to Corinth: 1 Cor. 12: 7, 9; 14: 1, 12, 13; 1: 2.



2.  The collectors enquire of Peter,-Would Jesus pay the half-shekel tribute to the temple of the God of Israel?’  Peter replied that he would, unknowing how much the act involved.  For, except the Saviour had expounded the matter, a strong objection against the Christian’s standing might have arisen from this circumstance.  Paul argues from Abraham’s paying tithes to Melchizedec, that both Abraham and his priestly son Levi paid tithes to this priest-king, and therefore owned themselves his inferiors.  To us, then, it might, but for this word of explanation, have been objected,-You disciples of Jesus speak of yourselves as priests and kings to God, and as occupying a far higher level than the kings and priests of the Law – and yet, here you are found, together with your High Priest, paying taxes to the priesthood and temple of Israel.  That priesthood therefore you own as superior to yourselves, and that temple as superior to your temple above!’  Hearken, then, to the Saviour.  He claims exemption from this tax, as the Son of Him who enacted the law.  But He puts disciples on the same footing with Himself in this matter.  Then are the children free.  Notwithstanding lest we should stumble them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a stater (marg.) that take and give unto them for me and thee.”  Here Jesus pays at once, and with one coin, for Himself and the disciple.  He is our Surety, who discharges all claims upon us.  See, too, how He distinguishes between Israel and the Church.  Give them for me and thee.’  Notice also the contrast between this and the case of Israel; when the insidious enquiry is pressed on our Lord, whether taxes ought to be paid to the heathen emperor?  Jesus decides, that Israel is to discharge its own debts.  They are under the power of the Gentiles, because of unbelief.



3.  But lest it should be imagined (as many are now imagining,) that this grace of the Saviour sets the disciple free from all responsibility for his own acts in the day of justice to come, the next chapter is devoted to instructing us concerning the solemn effects entailed upon us by our actions after we believe in Christ.  The apostles had been contending among themselves by the way, which of them should be chief in the kingdom of glory.  Unable to effect the adjustment of their respective pretensions, they refer to our Lord the question – ‘Which of them should be the greatest in His future kingdom?’  His reply is a startling one – ‘Except they forsook this ambitious rivalry,* and these evil strivings, becoming like little children, they should not enter the kingdom at all, apostles though they were!’  Not the proud, but the meek, are to have part in the kingdom of the saints.  The most humble, therefore, during the time of the kingdom in mystery, shall be the most elevated when the kingdom in manifestation is come.  These strife’s for pre-eminence, and other stumbling-blocks to the world would indeed surely arise, but woe to the disciple that occasioned them!  Woe also to the disciple whose misconduct should cause the young Christian to stumble!  Better he should die by the most violent of deaths now, than so offend: verse 6.


* It is not – “be converted.”  They were so already.  It is, “Except ye turn.”



In order not so to stumble others, keep under the flesh!  Else offences against the Church and the world will arise, and Jesus in the day of judgment, will have to dispense a suitable recompense.



In the case of a personal offence received from a brother, the Christian offended is to go alone to the brother, and set his guilt before him.  If that succeeds not, one or two are to go with the plaintiff, and to state the case anew.  If that prevail not, tell it unto the Church, but if he neglect to hear even the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen and a publican.”  In these words Jesus puts aside for His disciples the old courts of Israel and of the world.  Now that apostles are not found on earth, there is no higher court of appeal [on earth] than the local assembly of believers.  Here, then we come upon two more occurrences of that word which becomes so important in the Acts, and in the Epistles.  It is a proof that the Saviour is now occupied with rules for disciples of His assembly.  Jesus promises to ratify on high, and in reference to the future kingdom, whatever His local assemblies shall rightly adjudge in matters of difference between brethren.  This subject is enlarged upon by Paul in 1 Cor. 5 and 6.  Our Saviour further promises to be present with all assemblies met unto His name, how few soever their numbers might be.  Moreover for them He would intercede, and bring to pass their petitions.  Are not these two verses, (19 and 20,) in force now, as the warrant on which disciples of the Church may meet? Here then, again, we have a proof that Jesus is speaking to the Church.



But if one brother offended often against his fellow, how long was he to be borne with, and forgiven?  The Redeemer replies in effect, that whenever the offender sought forgiveness, he must be forgiven.  For if the Christian do not forgive his brethren’s offences against him, Christ’s heavenly Father will not forgive such an one his offences as a servant.  And if any be an un-forgiven servant, there can be no entry for him into the kingdom of reward.  Very awful are the Saviour’s words about such.



4.  In Matt. 19, Jesus repeals for His people the liberty of divorce, save for fornication.  Any offending against this rule, will be dealt with in the great day as adulterers.  That is sure, though the government of England may have legalized such divorce.  But was not that too strict a rule?  Were it not better, if such was the law of Christ, not to wed at all!’  Jesus admits that it would, in certain special cases, be best not to marry: it would be attended with peculiar honour in the coming kingdom, and it was good to seek that honour: v. 12.  The full force of this is exhibited in the opening verses of Rev. 14.  Here is something not ‘Jewish,’ but in perfect contrast with its blessings.  There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land:” Ex. 23: 26.  Thou shalt be blessed above all people; there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle:” Deut. 7: 14.  He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.  Praise ye the Lord:” Ps. 113: 9.



5.  Little children are brought to Jesus, and He allows them to come to Him.  For they who enter His millennial kingdom must resemble them.



6.  The case of the rich young man which follows is very instructive in its hearing upon our question.  It is so important, as to be given by Mark and Luke also.  The young man enquired of the Saviour what good things he was to do in order to obtain eternal life?  Jesus points him to the second table of the Ten Commandments of Moses, and to the general statement of duty towards a neighbour.  The young man replies, that these he had observed from his earliest youth.  Was there anything more to be done?  Now most would have set themselves to refute the ruler’s assertions, and to prove him a sinner, and therefore not possessed of the law’s prize, but of its curse.  The Saviour does not do so; but tells him that there was a higher standard than Moses’, and a higher reward.  The Law made nothing perfect.”  If he wished perfection in doing good, let him give up the wealth of this world which the Law had made over to him, and he should have treasure in heaven.  This is not ‘Jewish,’ but in contrast with it.  The Law promised treasure on earth.  The heaven itself was by the Law regarded as instrumental in giving wealth on earth. The land of promise was a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:” Deut. 11: 11.  The Lord shall open to thee his good treasure the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in its season, and to bless all the work of thine hand:” 28: 12.  The fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine: also his heavens shall drop down dew:” 33: 28.  Of heaven, as a place in which the dweller on earth was to lay up treasure, Moses had no idea.



The disciple of Moses stumbled at this new requirement, and turned away with sadness.  Jesus then addresses Himself to disciples: “Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Here is a new object.  The Law sets a man to win eternal [i.e., age-lasting] life by his obedience.  The gospel gives eternal life, but sets a [regenerate] believer to seek the [millennial] kingdom of God by works of faith and obedience: Rom. 6: 23; Matt. 7: 21; 6: 33.  He who will keep present wealth, and retain the old standard of Moses, cannot enter the millennial kingdom.  This is not ‘Jewish’ then; but quite a contrast thereto.  Impossible to nature as this call of perfection is, the [Holy] Spirit of God, on His descent at Pentecost, wrought the result in the Church and among Jews, whom we ordinarily regard as pre-eminently fond of money and property: Acts 2: 45; 4: 35-37.  This was not then, on our Lord’s part, a solitary expedient to convince the young man that he was covetous; nor was it any claim of Moses’ law.  Jesus had made the same call upon the apostles; and they had obeyed it, as Peter observes, while he enquires what would be the result to them?  Jesus’ reply shows us, that the kingdom of God is a future thing; indeed, nothing else than His millennial kingdom.  We are led back to the scene of glory on the Mount: we are shown how those now in the flesh may hereafter be found there in the glory.  For then, when earth is regenerated [i.e., restored to its former glory], and the Saviour, as Son of man, sits upon His bright throne on earth, the twelve raised from the dead shall each rule one of the twelve tribes recovered again to the land of promise.  Immediately after, the Saviour generalizes the principle He has announced, making it apply to every case in which, during the day of mystery, any disciple shall surrender any advantage of earth for His sake.  They shall receive manifold the value of the thing surrendered now, and in the millennial age their eternal life shall begin.



7.  Into the Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard I propose to enter somewhat fully, both because it is really difficult, and quite misunderstood; and because it is closely related to our subject.  For in it Christ carries out into open view, and reasons on, the difference between the standing of Moses’ disciples under law, and that of His own disciples under grace.



That it stands strictly connected with the previous context, is seen at a glance, by putting together the last verse of the 19th chapter, and the first of the 20th.



But many shall be first last, and last first.  For the kingdom of heaven is like unto an householder.”  This fastens on to the general statement of ver. 29.  Every one that hath forsaken houses ... shall receive an hundred fold.*  But many” -


* Manifold” is the better reading.



The previous context follows as a result from the question of the rich young man.  By doing what acts of goodness can I win eternal life?’  The young ruler professes that he had observed the terms of goodness required by Moses; and therefore he had won eternal life, as he supposed.



I believe then, that the parable springs out of the previous history.  The young man represents the disciple of Moses, blameless to the eye of man.  The apostles then put in their word, in order to exhibit to us the new body - the disciples of Jesus.  The question therefore which the parable decides is this – ‘Is God unjust to Israel His ancient people in setting up another standard, and new rewards? introducing thus another and a superior body?’



The Saviour begins His teaching by the studiedly obscure sentiment – But many shall be first last, and last first.”



In what sense are we to take “last” and “first?”  The story of the parable explains the matter.  It ends with the sentiment, - So the last shall be first, and the first last.”* This therefore throws us back upon the history of the parable; and we learn that first and last relate to the order of the householder’s call.


* The words, “For many are called, but few chosen,” are omitted by four of the most valuable ancient Manuscripts.



But the words on their second employment take a new sense.  Many shall be first last, and last first.” Looking again to the parable for explanation, we see that the narrative tells, not only of calls to labour, but of calls to reward.  The calls to reward begin after the labour is over.  The sense then is – ‘Many of the first-called shall be last in order of reward; and many last-called shall be first in reward.  For this is shown, by the householder’s commanding his steward to pay the labourers beginning at the last.  But not only so, they are first in other privileges of reward; as the Lord’s words to the apostles (ver 28) show. Israel [as a nation] shall be in the coming day earthly subjects of Messiah; but apostles and those of the Church who are accounted worthy [and resurrected from the underworld of ‘Sheol’/‘Hades], shall be heavenly rulers, joint-kings with Christ.



In the parable then of the Labourers in the Vineyard the Householder is God the Father, the Steward is the Son.  The labourers first hired are the Jews, and the agreement is the covenant of Sinai.  The labourers hired afterward have no definite agreement made with them.  But we have especially to do with the last hired.  At the eleventh hour, when it wanted but an hour to the close of the day’s work, the householder engages some who have been idling all day.  To them He simply says - Go ye also into the vineyard.”  The words, ‘And whatsoever is just ye shall receive,’ are not genuine;* and only hinder the true interpretation of the parable.  For it turns on this, - that towards the last called the goodness of the Master is exhibited; as His justice, is displayed toward the first.  Accordingly, apostles had followed Christ without any previous agreement.  To Simon Peter, and to James, John, and Andrew, Jesus says, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they leave their ship and nets, and follow.  Jesus sees Matthew sitting as the collector of taxes, and says, Follow me.  And he arose and followed Him:” 4: 19-22; 9: 9.  They now learn the reward they are to receive as [obedient] trusters in Christ.


* See Tregelles, Alford, and the critics generally.



The coming of the evening or end of the day’s work answers to the close of this present evil age.  It is then time for the rest which remaineth for the people of God to begin.  The workmen therefore are called, and receive their pay, beginning at the last hired.



What then is their “hire,” “the penny,” (or “the denarius,”) which is given to each of them?  It seems clearly to signify “eternal life.”  For the subject begins by the rich man’s question - ‘How shall I win eternal life?’



The wages which all the labourers are to receive cannot be the millennial glory; because Jesus assures the disciples, that the young man who will continue Moses’ servant [by seeking to win ‘eternal life’ by obedience to the law] is to be excluded therefrom.  Jesus had exhibited to him the higher reward set before [His disciples] the later-called, and he turns away.  The apostles in their words to the Saviour manifest who are meant by the last-called.  The Redeemer adds too at the conclusion of the chapter, - that His own disciples [i.e., obedient followers] should obtain also [millennial glory and]eternal life.”*


[* NOTE.  It appears - (by being set in a context of works – ‘What must I DO?’) - that what the rich young ruler asked for was ‘age-lasting’ life, which our translators have interpreted: “eternal life”!  The Greek word, here translated “eternal,” can be also interpreted as ‘age-lasting life’ or ‘life for the age’: and the context of works determines this is exactly what the rich man asked for: and how the text should have been correctly interpreted by the English Translators.]



The superiority of the last called consists in their being first paid.  This earlier payment then would answer to the truth, that some will enter upon eternal life a thousand years before others.  But there is more in the Saviour’s previous words than is exhibited by the parable.  Christians “accounted worthy” are not only to attain [i.e., ‘gain by effort’ (Dictionary Definition)] the millennial glory, but also a higher standing in it than that which will be granted to [the nation of] Israel.  To Israel under the millennium will be given the earthly glory; to Jesus’ followers - [after the ‘First Resurrection] - the heavenly glory, and the place of rule over the men of earth.



The plea then which Israel, in the jealousy of nature, would naturally make, is put into the mouth of the first order of labourers.  “These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, who have borne the burden and heat of the day.”  The Lord’s answer is in effect – ‘That so long as He keeps His original terms with the Jew, the Jew has no just grounds of complaint, if his Father choose another body and bestow upon them higher privileges than He has on the earthly people.  The terms of justice are fixed.  But there are no limits to the outflow of goodness, when the dues of justice, are paid.’



But the Saviour has stated the case far too favourably for the Jew.  He allows it to be assumed, that Israel has observed the terms of the agreement; and therefore can demand the promised pay.  Accordingly, He does not question the young man’s plea of unfailing obedience to the Decalogue.  But we know, that no flesh can be pronounced righteous, when brought face to face with the law of God.  Thus God is fully justified in His choice of the Church [of the firstborn (Heb. 12: 16)] before all time, to be superior to every creature; as being [the ‘Bride taken out of] the body of Christ,” “the fulness of Him who fills all in all.”  So the last shall be first.”  The people who are called after Israel shall yet exceed them in glory, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He made us accepted in the Beloved:” Eph. 1: 6.  Israel is a witness of God’s justice; the Church, of His mercy.



Moreover, another point should be observed.  The higher place is presented to the young man, but he prefers to keep to the rule of Moses.  Thus  - Jesus tells us - he shuts himself out from the earlier, or millennial glory.  This is an exemplification of our Lord’s previous word - [relative to the standard of our personal righteousness required for entrance] - in Matt. 5: 20.



The general principle holds good, not with regard to this young man alone, but to all others under the gospel, who hear the terms of entering the millennial glory, but prefer to take the old standard of Moses as their rule of life.  Hence the Saviour limits His first statement.  He says not – “All the first shall be last, and all the last first.” But Many shall be first last, and last first.”  This therefore shows, that millennial glory is not something inseparably attached to a position given by God - such as the position of Israel under law, or of Christians under grace: - but is the reward of obedience to the words of Jesus.



It is evident from what has been said, that the usual interpretations, of this parable are founded on mistakes.



1.  It is clear from the parable itself - that our Lord is not speaking of the calls to [eternal] salvation of individuals at different stages of life.  For at the close it is not a plea of individual against individual; but of class against class.  They are hired in classes.  At the conclusion, the first class pleads against the last. These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us.”  It is not - as it would have been on the theory I have named – ‘I worked more than he.’  Besides, the lesson which would then flow from the parable – ‘that there will be no difference of degrees in glory’ - is quite untrue - negatived by the most express Scriptures: 1 Cor. 3: 7, 8; Gal. 6: 5-10.  And Jesus in the previous context promises to the twelve apostles thrones over the twelve tribes.  Moreover in the parable of the Pounds, we find ten cities given to the man of ten pounds; and five to the winner of five pounds.



This portion of the gospel then presents in clearest light the two standings of Moses, and of Christ.  The precepts of Moses are one thing; the requirements of Christ are another.  The blessings which the Law promised and bestowed on the obedient, are absolutely hindrances in the way of the Christian’s present walk, and future reward.  The young man if he would obey Christ, must surrender his wealth; and with it also the good opinion of his fellows, in order to obtain riches in heaven, and glory in the millennial kingdom: Luke 6: 20-26.  The precepts of Christ are the perfection of goodness: the precepts of Moses were not.



The Gospel gives eternal life at once to every believer.  But, as this parable shows, even when eternal life is possessed, there is a lofty rule of life set before us by Christ, and a prize to be sought for in the way of obedience to that rule.  The reward is to be in proportion to the surrenders for the Lord Jesus, and to diligence in His service.  Also we see, that since Christ has come, all who fixedly attach themselves to Moses as their rule of life, refusing Jesus’ loftier commands, cut themselves off from millennial glory.



8.  Again does our Lord prophesy His death at Jerusalem, and His resurrection on the third day: 20: 17-19.  This gives us the attitude of Israel and the Gentiles towards Jesus.  But resurrection would set Him above them both.  Jerusalem, during the time of Mystery, is the city of murderers: the guilty city handed over to Gentiles.



9.  The highest places in the millennial kingdom are next sought for by James and John in the way of canvassing and early solicitation, after the manner of courtiers of this world.  But Jesus undeceives the petitioners.  The chief posts in His kingdom are not so to be won.  Their request proceeded upon several mistakes.  (1) First, that the kingdom was now close at hand - so that, as soon as Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, they would, with Him, mount their thrones.  The Lord therefore instructs them, that a dreary time of the world’s enmity against Himself and His followers, must yet intervene.  This is more fully drawn out in the Parable of the Pounds: Luke 19.  (2.)  The person who would appoint directly to the posts of glory was not Himself, but his Father.  To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, save to those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” (Greek.)  (1) And the Father means to distribute such posts, according to sufferings endured for Christ’s sake.  Unconsciously, therefore, James and John were asking to have presented to themselves a cup of suffering second only to that of our Lord!  Had they known that, they had certainly not presented such a request.  So true was it, that though there are such thrones to be had at last, they knew not what they were asking for.



The discovery of this request by the remaining ten apostles produced great indignation against the two; who, as they thought, had acted in a mean, underhand manner.  Jesus then makes known to us the second contrast, which ambition after the future kingdom presents to the ambition of the flesh and of the world. It is quite right to be ambitious of glory in the Saviour’s future kingdom.  But the ambitious of the world’s kingdoms are ordinarily the great; and they seek to rise, by assuming rule and authority over their fellows, and by thrusting aside their rivals.  But the way to rise to glory in the future kingdom is by lowly service to our inferiors and equals.  Jesus is promoted to a name above every name, because of His wondrous humility and self-emptying: Phil. 2.  As, then, the Father’s good pleasure has thus decreed with regard to the King of the future kingdom, so also with regard to the nobles of the millennial reign. Through suffering and service, not through luxury, self-indulgence, and dominion, those who would win a post of honour in the millennial kingdom must attain it.  Here ends the body of Jesus’ precepts to THE CHURCH.