"But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matthew 19:30)

What does 'first will be last' mean?

This statement by Jesus follows his response to Peter regarding his followers' fate - regarding the fact that they "will inherit eternal life." (Matt. 19:29)

Jesus adds this statement - the reason why the word "but" is inserted. This indicates that this is an additional requirement to enter the spiritual realm.

The key Greek words in the sentence are εἰμί (whoever), πρῶτος (first in line or succession), and ἔσχατος (last). In other words, εἰμί is defined in the Greek lexicon as "to be, to exist, to happen, to be present" in the singular person. In other words, the use of the word "many" in this translation would be inappropriate. 

We are talking singular. In other words: each person - every person.

So the better translation of this statement in this context would be something like: 

anyone who is first will be last.

Jesus is speaking of a basic part of the consciousness of those living within the spiritual realm and using a double entendre with respect to the concepts of first and last.

A person who considers themselves as first considers themselves the most important person in their lives. This is also spoken in modern English as 'consider yourself first.'

It is a matter of priority. What is our priority in life? Do we retain the position of first in our lives? When we make a decision, do we first consider what we will get in return? And is this our main consideration?

If it is, then we are considering ourselves first. And according to Jesus, with such a consciousness, we will be the last to, as Jesus stated with the previous verse, inherit eternal life.

This is because eternal life is a consciousness of love and humility. Because of their love for God, each citizen of the spiritual realm puts the Supreme Being and His children first. That means they are putting themselves last.

As such, a person who develops this consciousness - of putting God and God's children first and being last - will be the first to inherit eternal life.

And this is precisely why we are here, away from God in the first place: Because we began to consider ourselves first: We became self-centered.

Is this also described in Genesis?

This is actually detailed in the Book of Genesis - symbolized by the fruit. The fruit that Adam and Eve ate - which led to their being tossed out of the Garden (the spiritual realm) and forced to wear "garments of skin" (these physical bodies) - symbolizes self-centeredness: The rejection of our loving relationship with the Supreme Being - a loving relationship where He is first.

Jesus' point also refers to returning to the spiritual world first. This indicates that not everyone who leaves their body after death will necessarily return to heaven - the spiritual world - immediately. Otherwise, how could there be a first and a last?

These words indicate a time factor. It is not that when they are in the spiritual world they will be last in line or something. We are talking about when we get to go home, back to the spiritual world. This indicates that people return to the spiritual world at different times.

This concept of returning to heaven at different times means that some people may return to the spiritual world immediately after leaving this body, while others will return to the physical dimension.

This later factor is also speculated upon by the teachings of many sectarian institutions as purgatory. These speculative teachings propose that no one, not even those who have followed Jesus, will return to the spiritual world immediately after the death of this body.

This speculative philosophy maintains that after death everyone will all have to wait in some kind of waiting room somewhere for the supposed second coming of Jesus.

What about the second coming of Jesus?

This supposed second coming has been speculated upon by many for many centuries. It is based upon a few mistranslated and misinterpreted statements by Jesus and those from the Book of Revelations, specifically near the end, when it says:
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." (Rev. 22:12)
and later, at the second to last verse in Revelations,
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20)
The key Greek word in these sentences (and others) is the word "coming." This is being translated from the Greek word, ἔρχομαι (erchomai). While the first and most direct meaning of ἔρχομαι is 'to come or to arrive,' there is also a second, metaphorical meaning in the Greek lexicon. Here is the exact Greek lexicon on the metaphorical meaning of ἔρχομαι:

2) metaphorically - a) to come into being, arise, come forth, show itself, find place or influence; b) be established, become known, to come (fall) into or unto

"Metaphorically," means a definition that utilizes some figurative language. The Book of Revelation is a figurative text; one that uses a variety of analogies regarding "beasts" and so on. Thus we can conclude that the translation of the Greek word, ἔρχομαι would also be its metaphorical translation.

If we translate the text with the metaphorical translation of ἔρχομαι within the context of the statement, we can understand that the discussion is about arriving at a state of awareness regarding Jesus.

This is also consistent with other verses, such as:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Matthew 24:30)
This is a metaphorical description that relates to the realization of Jesus' glory during a time of distress.

Is this about a change of heart?

These verses are discussing a moment in time when a person will become conscious of Jesus' spiritual relationship with God. This is also commonly referred to as a spiritual awakening or a change of heart.

This is referring to an internal change for a person. A moment of spiritual realization, when a person's heart changes, and they see Jesus and his relationship with God.

This concept of "coming," in fact, could well be compared to the word "seeing." Many of us might say, for example, "I see," when we realize a new understanding about something. Similarly, when a person "sees" God, or "sees" Jesus, is this about seeing in the physical sense, with the physical eyes? Is this about an apparition of seeing God appear like we might physically see a ghost?

God can certainly physically appear if He wants to. But this kind of "seeing" is when a person has a realization of God.

When a person "sees" God, they are "seeing" with the heart. They "see" with understanding. They "see" with consciousness. They "see" with awareness:
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
In this context, a better translation than "coming" would be "appearing". This is connected to seeing - or arriving at a state of consciousness or realization of who Jesus really is and his relationship with God.

This is why Revelation 22:17 discusses "The Spirit and the bride..."

Who are the 'Spirit and the bride' in Revelation 22:17?

Certainly, the text is using some symbolism here. But who is the "Spirit" who is the "bride"?

"The Spirit and the bride"
refers to God and His loving servant, in this case, Jesus. 

The full text of Revelation 22:17 is:
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Note that both the Spirit and the bride are saying the same thing: "Come!"

This means that the "bride" is echoing the same thing that the Spirit says.

We can also note that "the one who hears" can also say "come!"

This means that someone who hears can also echo what the Spirit says and the bride says. Why?

Because God wants us to come home to Him. He wants us to return to Him. This is the "water of life" that is being referred to.

And Jesus also wants us to return to God. And those who receive this understanding - and hear God and Jesus - can also call us back home to return to God.

Jesus is the loving servant of God. He and God have a loving relationship - much as is assumed between a bride and her husband. And those who hear and follow Jesus can take on the role of Jesus' assistants, helping Jesus serve God.

The bottom line is that this supposed "second coming" of Jesus is a misinterpretation of the original scriptures. The reference is to a moment in time when we come to realize that we are completely lost without the teachings of Jesus - and we take refuge in them. This realization - hearing God and Jesus calling us home ("Come!") is the "coming" - the appearing of Jesus within our hearts.

What is the primary teaching of Jesus?
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-40)