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The Parable of the Laborers    Listen to .mp3 propecy podcasts.

Lyn Mize

The parable of the laborers is a parable of the kingdom, so it pertains to those Christians who will enter into the kingdom of heaven. In simple terms, it pertains to those Christians who will reign and rule with Jesus Christ in the millennial kingdom because they have performed works worthy of reward. When reading the parable, please note that all who receive a just recompense of reward have worked in the Lord’s vineyard—even if it was just a short time.

The primary teaching of this parable is that it is not the length of time that a Christian works in serving the Lord, but the attitude of his heart at the end in working diligently and leaving the rewards up to Him. The key is how a person ends his Christian life, and not what takes place at the beginning or at the middle. The Scriptures are clear that a Christian can spend time doing the Lord’s work, and then fall away from the faith before the end. This Christian is still spiritually saved, but he loses his reward of reigning and ruling with the Lord in the millennial kingdom. It is important to note that this parable addresses only those Christians who remain faithful to the end in working in the Lord’s vineyard. It is also important to note that all receive their just recompense of reward—even though some were chastised for their attitudes.

This parable should be encouraging to those Christians who have spent much of their Christian life in idleness, but have been called by the Lord in this eleventh hour to work in His vineyard. It is never too late to begin in earnest to work in the Lord’s vineyard. This parable was greatly encouraging to me 33 years ago when I began to serve the Lord in earnest after many years of idleness. It is clear from the parable that the ones who went later to work in the vineyard had not offered themselves earlier in the day.

We will now take a close look at each verse in the parable.

(Mat 20:1 KJV)  For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

This verse clarifies that the parable involves entrance into the kingdom of heaven and not simply spirit salvation and entrance into heaven. All Christians will enter heaven, but not all Christians will enter into the kingdom of heaven. To enter into the kingdom of heaven means to enter into the king’s dominion, and this simply means to enter into the reign and rule of Jesus Christ. It does not mean simply to go to heaven as is commonly thought.  

(Mat 20:2 KJV)  And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 

In the parable, the laborers who agreed to work early in the morning represent those Christians who offer themselves as workers in the Lord’s vineyard very early in their Christian life. This would include most of the official and/or career workers in the Christian Church. They are the career professionals who begin early in their Christian life and hold longstanding positions in the Church. This would include positions of leadership and honor in the Church, but it would also include career nursery workers, servers, deacons, elders and the like. They are the under-shepherds over the flock of Jesus Christ who hold formal positions in the Church. They are the pastors, ministers of education, ministers of music and other career workers in the local churches. They understand the importance of works and the Lord’s promise of reward for those works.  

The Lord needs career Church workers who serve Him diligently their whole life. They will receive their just recompense of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ. However, their attitude at the end of their Christian life is the key to the order of their reward. The Christian who works diligently his whole Christian life, but ends his Christian life with a superior attitude toward those Christians who began working for the Lord later in their Christian lives will be greatly surprised at the order of reward. This speaks of both the Firstfruits Rapture and the Main Harvest Rapture, which is the order of reward. Many Christians who worked faithfully their entire life may not be resurrected—or translated if they are living at the time—at the Firstfruits Rapture. The point of separation—no pun intended—is the need for chastisement that will be necessary for many Christians at the time of the Firstfruits Rapture. It is very important in the parable to note that the workers who received their reward last—at the Main Harvest Rapture—also received chastisement for their attitude.  

It is very important to note that the laborers who began working for the Lord later in the day (i.e., later in their Christian lives) maintained a different attitude than the career workers. At this point, it is important to note that there will almost certainly be career workers in the Church who serve the Lord their whole lives, and end up with an attitude of humility and love toward the eleventh hour laborers. However, this will be the exception rather than the rule.  

It is often the case that those career or official workers who have devoted their lives to the service of the Lord grow complacent in their work. They become contented to a fault, self-satisfied and unconcerned about their diligence. In addition, many of these leaders in positions of leadership and honor in the Church on earth begin to take it for granted that they will realize the highest positions of leadership and honor in the kingdom of heaven. Their error is to assume that length of service equates with greater reward. This rule is true in the realm of mankind where career workers receive greater rewards because of length of service. It is called seniority, career status, or veteran status. This rule is so ingrained in the affairs of man, that most assume it will be true in the kingdom of heaven. The teaching of this parable contradicts this commonplace attitude.  

The Scriptures are clear that many in the Church who are in the important positions of honor and leadership during the Church Age will not be in the important positions of honor and leadership in the coming kingdom. The Scriptures also teach that many that are unknown and least important in the Church while on the earth will attain to high positions in the kingdom of heaven.  

(Mat 20:3 KJV)  And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,  

In this verse the Steward goes out when a fourth of the day is past to gather other workers. At this time other workers have shown themselves in the market and demonstrate their willingness to work. It is important to note here that the time of day that the workers present themselves in the market for work represents the relative time in a Christian’s life that he begins to serve the Lord with due diligence. Some Christians never present themselves to work in the Lord’s vineyard. Others do so early in their Christian life, and still others do so at the end of their Christian life. As stated above, the ones who presented themselves early in their Christian life are the career workers who work their whole lives for the Lord.  

(Mat 20:4 KJV)  And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.  

It is key in this verse that they have agreed to work for the Lord and leave the pay or reward up to him. The workers were just glad to be working and they were trusting in the Steward to pay them what was fair. It is important to note that there is no attitude of what their pay should be at the end of the day.  

(Mat 20:5 KJV)  Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.  

The Steward goes again to the market place when the day is half over and when the day is three-fourths over, and he also hires workers for the Lord’s vineyard, and they also are trusting in the Steward to pay them what was fair. These also have no competitive attitude with the other workers.  

(Mat 20:6 KJV)  And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?  

In the eleventh hour or the very end of the day the Steward hires additional workers to work in the vineyard, and they also trust the Steward to pay what is fair.  

(Mat 20:7 KJV)  They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.  

This verse goes a little deeper in explaining that the earthly stewards or under-shepherds of God’s Church did not see these eleventh hour workers as worthy of hire. This reminds me of my own situation where I desired to serve the Lord using my talents, but the leaders of the local churches did not see me worthy to work in the local church. I studied the Bible diligently to prepare myself for service, but I was literally cast out of several local churches, and my family and friends as well. Since no one would allow us to work in the local churches, we started our own ministry and wound up in a home church working in the Lord’s vineyard, which is the Church at large.  

The members of our home church are literally outcasts of the local churches, and we are few in number and poor in resources. We trust in the Lord to reward us for our labors of love. We have no idea how we will be rewarded in the kingdom, but this parable, and especially this verse, gives me great hope. As stated in the above verse, “No man hath hired us!” Since “no man” saw us as fit or worthy to work in the Lord’s vineyard, the Steward personally sent us to work in the Lord’s vineyard. The Steward, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord of the vineyard is God the Father.  

(Mat 20:8 KJV)  So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.  

This verse depicts the end of the Church Age and the Firstfruits and the Main Harvest Raptures of the Church. The laborers represent all of the Church that will be rewarded with the kingdom of heaven. It is very important to see that there are two groups being rewarded at different times. The first group to be rewarded represents those who will be rewarded in the Firstfruits Rapture. The second group to be rewarded represents those who will be rewarded in the Main Harvest Rapture of the Church. 

“When even was come” is the end of the Church Age. The Lord of the vineyard is God the Father and the Steward is Jesus Christ. The “Call” is the shout for both the Firstfruits Rapture and the Main Harvest Rapture, since the “last” will be called first, and the “first” will be called last. The Greek word for “last” also means the lowest or least of the laborers. These are those in the Church who are the least in importance, and often they are the ones who have served the Lord for the shortest periods of time. The Greek word for “first” also means the chief ones in order of importance. These are the ones who held the highest or most important positions in the Church while on the earth.  

(Mat 20:9 KJV)  And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.  

This verse depicts the time of the Firstfruits Rapture when those who are the least important ones in the Church—while on the earth—will be rewarded. Remember that these are the ones who were not seen as fit or worthy by the under-shepherds to work in the Lord’s vineyard.  

(Mat 20:10 KJV)  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.  

Again, it is important to note that the ones hired first come at a later time to receive their reward. These are the official or career workers and stewards of the local churches who had agreed to work early in their Christian life. These are the pastors, teachers and workers in the local churches who began their Christian lives working for the Lord in His vineyard. These are the ones who never got caught up in the vilest of sins. These are the ones who looked down upon the Christian who had a problem with alcohol, drugs, sexual proclivity, or other fleshly sins. These are the ones who looked down upon the Christian who went through the heartbreak of divorce, detoxification from alcohol and drugs, demonic oppression, financial hardships, and numerous other problems with the old flesh nature and satanic deception. These are the ones that “never sinned very much” and spent their life in church from early childhood. These are the ones that see themselves as being better Christians than most Christians, simply because of the length of their service to the Lord. Unfortunately, these Christians failed to see the importance of a humble heart, a heart that loves the Lord with the deepest passion, a heart that is filled with thanksgiving for the forgiveness of the vilest of sins, and a heart that is filled with praise for a merciful Savior who even forgives divorce. These are the Christians that do not understand the following passage of Scripture:
 
(Luke 7:39-50 KJV)  Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. {40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. {44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. {48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. {49} And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? {50} And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.  

(Mat 20:11 KJV)  And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,  

In this verse the career or official workers feel resentment and complain against the Lord because of two things addressed in the following verse.  

(Mat 20:12 KJV)  Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  

First, these workers complain that they received the same reward of entrance into the kingdom as the workers called at the eleventh hour. Second, the first workers had not only worked longer, but they had borne the “the burden and heat of the day”. This is an allusion to having gone through the tribulation period. “Burden” refers to the trouble and toilsome effort expended during the tribulation period, and the heat refers to the severe persecution that will be endured.  

(Mat 20:13 KJV)  But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?  

The Steward reminds the workers that they had agreed to work “for a penny” so they received justice in being paid the correct amount. Even though these laborers worked in the vineyard of the Lord, there was clearly an attitude of superiority and self-righteousness over the other workers, thinking that they deserved more than the other workers. This is the difference between the Philadelphia church and the Laodicean church. The Philadelphia church sees itself as being spiritually poor, but the Lord sees it as being spiritually rich. The Laodicean church sees itself as being spiritually rich, but the Lord sees it as being wretched, miserable, poor, naked and blind.  

(Mat 20:14 KJV)  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.  

This verse reflects the sovereignty of the Master, in rewarding according to His judgment. These verses clearly show that the attitude of service in the Lord’s vineyard is very important in the “just recompense of reward”.  

I have believed for many years that the earthly stewards of the Church are going to be very surprised at the Judgment Seat of Christ when the rewards are given out to God’s servants. The ones seen as unfit for service in the Lord’s work will receive the same reward as the stewards receive, and many of the stewards will have to bear the toilsome effort and severe persecution of the tribulation period. Many who thought they would be first to receive their reward will actually be last in receiving their reward, and they will be rebuked for their attitude.  

(Mat 20:15 KJV)  Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?  

This verse demonstrates the sovereignty of God in rewarding his workers as He sees fit. It also shows the envy in the career or official workers because they received the same reward as those that performed less work. This confirms that it is not so much the length and difficulty of the work as it is the attitude of heart in serving the Lord.  

The primary difference is the order of reward as the least important workers will be rewarded at the Firstfruits Rapture, and the most important workers will be rewarded at the Main Harvest Rapture. It is highly significant that those who are rewarded at the Main Harvest Rapture also receive some chastisement. This appears to be the primary difference between those who are rewarded at Firstfruits and those who are rewarded at the Main Harvest. This demonstrates the importance of calling upon the Lord to cleanse us daily and of the necessity of getting the leaven out of our lives during the Church Age. This is seen in the following passage of Scripture:

(1 Cor 11:28-32 KJV)  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. {29} For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. {30} For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. {31} For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. {32} But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.  

(Mat 20:16 KJV)  So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.  

This verse summarizes the parable and it teaches two important truths. The first is that those who are least important in the Church on the earth will be raptured in the Firstfruits, and those who are most important will be raptured in the Main Harvest Rapture.  

This verse also teaches that many of those who held the most important positions of leadership and honor in the Church on the earth will hold the least positions in the kingdom of heaven, and vice versa. Many Christians who are virtually unknown in the Church on the earth will hold the most important positions in the heavenly kingdom.

What about you?  You may or may not be a high-level worker in your church; you may be an archbishop, pastor, teacher or deacon or minister of music.  You may simply mow the lawn or hand out bulletins on Sunday morning.  You may have no position in the church and have just enough energy to open your Bible or to pray.  However, you understand that Jesus could return very soon and you want to be with Him and to be part of His Kingdom. 

You can.  To be a part of Christ's Kingdom, you need to be faithful and to serve Him with a humble heart.
  It's not so much the number of good works that you perform over your lifetime, but it's a humble attitude and a love for God and His people at the end of the age that's important to Him. Jesus will look at every Christian's heart just before He returns for the First Fruits Rapture.  If you are watching for His return and are praying for His return and if you are humbly serving Him, then you will be a member of the First Fruits Rapture at Pentecost.  If you are performing works in the church but they are done for your glory and not God's glory, you will not be a member of the church that will be taken to Heaven by Jesus before the start of the Tribulation.  It's what's in your heart right now that Christ is looking at.  Jesus said to the seven churches in Revelation:

(Revelation 2:1 ASV 1901) To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, he that walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks:

In the Book of Revelation Jesus is walking among the seven churches and is observing our attitude and the works that we do.  The seven stars Jesus is holding in His right hand are the pastors of the seven churches and the seven golden candlesticks are the church congregations that He is observing.  Thus, He knows everything we do including our attitude.  All--pastors, teachers and church members need to be listening to His admonishments to be faithful and to obey what He tells us.  He knows what the church leaders are thinking and the works they are doing.  Because He is watching us right now, we should be as faithful to Him as we can possibly be.  The 11th hour is here.    Jesus is watching us right now, so we should be watching and praying for His Return.