5.5 Surprise at Acceptance

The sheep will feel worthy of condemnation. By a fascinating trick of the tail, the Lord's right hand is our left hand, and vice versa, if we imagine ourselves standing before Him. Those who put themselves to their right hand , i.e. justify themselves, are putting themselves at His left hand; and vice versa. There is another way of looking at 'first' and 'last'. Those who "are first" in their own eyes, those who think for sure they will be in the Kingdom, will seek to enter the Kingdom at the day of judgment, but be unable. Those who strive to enter the Kingdom now are "last" in their own spiritual assessment; and the first will be made last in the sense that they won't be in the Kingdom.  Thus when those who will enter the Kingdom are described as thinking of themselves as "last", this must mean that they think of themselves now as being unworthy of the Kingdom, but as "striving" to be there now, in their minds (Lk. 13:23,24). The likes of Samson died with a confession of unworthiness on their lips- in his case, that he deserved to die the death of a Philistine (Jud. 16:30)- but he will actually be in the Kingdom (Heb. 11:32).

We have shown that all those who will be in the Kingdom will feel that really we should not be there, we don't deserve it, we will be hesitant to enter it and therefore Christ will have to almost make us go into the Kingdom. It's the same in the parables of Matthew 25, at the judgment Jesus will praise the righteous for doing so many good things, and then they will disagree with him, they will say 'No, we didn't do that, really we didn't', and He will say 'Yes, in my eyes, you did'. Their good works had not been consciously done. This is surely what the Lord was driving at in saying that our left hand must not know what the right hand does. We aren't to be self-consciously brooding on our own generosity. It would seem that with a spirit of amazement and surprise the man says 'Your pound has gained 5 pounds!'.  It's the self-righteous, those who think they have done so much and therefore they must be in the Kingdom, who will be rejected.

The Evidence Of The Parables

There is a highly repeated theme in the Lord's parables. It is that he saw his people as falling into one of two categories: the sinners / spiritually weak, and the self-righteous. This isn't just the possible implication of one or two parables:

The sinners / weak

The self-righteous

The prodigal son (each of us) who genuinely thought he had lost his relationship with his father (cp. God) for ever (Lk.  15:11-32).

The elder son who said he'd never disobeyed his father (cp. God),  and who in the end walks away from his father.

The sinner who hasn't got the faith to lift up his eyes to God, weighed down with the weight of his seemingly irreversible sins (Lk. 18:1-8).

The man who looks up to God with what he thinks is a good conscience and thanks Him that he is better than others, feeling that the sinful brother praying next to him is somehow too far gone.

The weak labourer (no employer wanted to hire him) who works one hour but is given a day's pay for it. We are left to imagine him walking away in disbelief clutching his penny (cp. the faithful with salvation at the judgment) (Mt. 20:1-16).

The strong labourer who works all day and complains at the end that the weak labourer has been given a penny. "Go thy way..." (Mt. 20:14) could imply he is fired from the Master's service because of this attitude. This would fit in with the way the other parables describe the second man as the rejected one. Note how the man alienates himself from his Lord by his attitude to his weaker brethren.

The builder whose progress appeared slow, building on a rock, symbolising the difficulty he has in really hearing the word of the Lord Jesus.

The builder who appeared to make fast progress (Mt. 7:24-27), who apparently finds response to the word very easy.

The (spiritually) sick who need a doctor, represented by the stray animal who falls down a well and desperately bleats for pity (Lk. 14:5 RSV).

Those who don't think they need a doctor aren't helped by Christ (Mt. 9:12)

Those with a splinter in their eye, from God's viewpoint, who are seen as in need of spiritual correction by other believers (Mt. 7:3-5).

Those with a plank of wood in their eye, from God's perspective, but who think they have unimpaired vision to see the faults in their brethren.

Those who guard the house and give food to the other servants (Mt. 24:45-51).

Those who are materialistic and beat their fellow servants.

The man who owed 100 pence to his brother (Mt. 18:23-35), but nothing to his Lord (because the Lord counts him as justified).

The man who owed 10,000 talents to his Lord, but would not be patient with his brother who owed him 100 pence. He had the opportunity to show much love in return for his Lord's forgiveness, on the principle that he who is forgiven much loves much (Lk. 7:41-43).

The man who takes the lowest, most obscure seat at a feast is (at the judgment) told to go up to the best seat. We are left to imagine that the kind of humble man who takes the lowest seat would be embarrassed to go up to the highest seat, and would probably need encouragement to do so. This will be exactly the position of all those who enter the Kingdom. Those who are moved out of the highest seats are characterised by "shame", which is the hallmark of the rejected. Therefore all the righteous are symbolized by the humble man who has to be encouraged (at the judgment) to go up higher.

The man who assumes he should have a respectable seat at the feast (Lk. 14:8-11). Remember that the taking of places at the feast represents the attitude we adopt within the ecclesia now. It is directly proportionate to Christ's judgment of us. Thus Mt. 23:11 speaks of he that is [now] the greatest amongst us will be the servant now; but elsewhere the Lord’s idea is that  he who will be the greatest must be servant now. But effectively, by taking the lowest position now, we are being given the highest place. When the disciples were concerned about who would be the greatest in the future, the Lord replied by speaking of who amongst them is the greatest- by doing acts of humble service (Lk. 22:24,26).

The spiritually despised Samaritan who helped the (spiritually) wounded man.

The apparently righteous Levite and Priest who did nothing to help (Lk. 10:25-37).

The men who traded and developed what they had (Lk. 19:15-27).

The man who did nothing with what he had, not even lending his talent to Gentiles on usury; and then thought Christ's rejection of him unreasonable.

The son who rudely refuses to do the father's work, but then does it with his tail between his legs (Mt. 21:28-32).

The son who immediately and publicly agrees to do his father's work but actually does nothing. The Father's work is saving men. Note how in this and the above two cases, the self-righteous are rejected for their lack of interest in saving others (both in and out of the ecclesia)  (2) .

The king who realises he cannot defeat the approaching army (cp. Christ and his Angels coming in judgment) because he is too weak, and surrenders.

The king who refuses to realize his own weakness and is therefore, by implication, destroyed by the oncoming army (Lk. 14:31,32).

Those who think their oil (cp. our spirituality) will probably run out before the second coming (Mt. 25:1-10).

Those who think their oil (spirituality) will never fail them and will keep burning until the Lord's return.

It makes a good exercise to read down just the left hand column. These are the characteristics of the acceptable, in God's eyes. Reading just the right hand column above (go on, do it) reveals all too many similarities with established Christendom.

Those who enter the Kingdom will genuinely, from the very depth of their being, feel that they shouldn't be there. When we read that the Lord will “wipe away” tears from our eyes (Rev. 7:17), this is the same word used in Acts 3:19 to describe how our sins will be “blotted out” when the Lord returns. The conclusion seems to be, therefore, that the Lord Himself will comfort us with the reality that our sins and being unworthy of the Kingdom is all truly forgiven. The judgment will have achieved its end for us- a true realization of our sinfulness. The faithful will cast their crowns before the enthroned Lord, as if to resign their reward as inappropriate for them (Rev. 4:10). Indeed, they shouldn't be in the Kingdom. The righteous are "scarcely saved" (1 Pet. 4:18). The righteous remnant who spoke often to one another about Yahweh will only be "spared" by God's grace (Mal. 3:17). The accepted will feel so certain of this that they will almost argue with the Lord Jesus at the day of judgment that he hasn't made the right decision concerning them (Mt. 25:37-40). It's only a highly convicted man who would dare do that. Thus the Father will have to comfort the faithful in the aftermath of the judgment, wiping away the tears which will then (see context) be in our eyes, and give us special help to realize that our sinful past has now finally been overcome (Rev. 21:4). We will be like the labourers in the parable who walk away from judgment clutching their penny, thinking "I really shouldn't have this. I didn't work for a day, and this is a day's pay". Therefore if we honestly, genuinely feel that we won't be in the Kingdom, well, this is how in some ways the faithful will all feel.

previous chapter previous page table of contents next page next chapter