Recently I read something that quoted this verse from the bible:

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19, NIV)

It got me wondering, when Jesus says things like "will be called least in the kingdom of heaven", does this give evidence that there are different positions in heaven, or was Jesus implying the least position in heaven is not going to heaven at all?

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    The phrase "kingdom of Heaven" is equivalent to "kingdom of God" (e.g., Matt. 3:2 cp. Mark 1:15, etc.). "Heaven" (Hebrew shamayim) is a kinnui (substitute) for the Tetragrammaton. The phrase "kingdom of Heaven" does not mean "kingdom in heaven." God's kingdom can even be within someone (Luke 17:21) and is not restricted to a particular locality. – user900 Jan 16 '13 at 0:16
  • The bible does distinguish between levels of rewards in heaven, and levels of punishment in hell, but the verse you mention is on a different topic. The Pharisees avoided some parts of the law while trying to be great teachers by distinguishing between 'so called' small sins versus big sins, similar to Catholic practice today. Jesus is just saying they will no longer be respected by believers and will be considered 'low' no matter who they think they are. Generally this implies actual exclusion from God's kingdom regardless of how they are thought of by men, even when merely thought as 'low'. – Mike Jan 16 '13 at 4:46
  • The answer is the latter (see this Commentary, translated from Greek). That does not necessarily imply, though, that there will be no hierarchy in heaven. This is clear from the imagery of Revelation as well as Matthew 20:23. – guest37 Mar 24 '17 at 22:50
  • It can be translated "will be called "least" by the kingdom of heaven. έν is also translated as instrumental: by or through. See hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/25634/… – Michael16 Jul 21 at 15:36

There are several teachings that indicate that there will be rewards in Heaven. Most commonly this is in reference to the Bema Seat. The statement of "least" and "greatest" in heaven is a art of that belief. Being "great" would imply that you've earned it as a reward for meekness, faithfulness, humility, etc.

More here:

Excerpt from the last:

This article is essentially a continuation of The Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ... Unfortunately many Christians, draw the conclusion that since all our sins have been forgiven, our works cannot possibly be considered at the judgment Seat of Christ.. Not true according to I Corinthians 3:9-13.


Introduction Rewards [mis-thos'] in the Bible means pay for service… literally or figuratively, good or bad… exemplified by Revelation 22:12... - "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Revelation 22:12).

The following two verses are one example each of good and bad.

  • And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; [2Peter 2:13-15]

  • Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. [1Corinthians 3:8].

The wicked are also ‘rewarded’, but this article concerns itself solely with the ‘good’ rewards’.

Rewards Vs. Salvation It will be well to make it clear from the outset that Salvation and Rewards are two totally different things. Salvation is a free gift, but rewards are earned by our works after we are saved. The Bible clearly teaches good works will not get us into heaven. Salvation [forgiveness of sin and entrance to heaven] is based on Jesus’ work on the cross and God shows no partiality regarding salvation (Acts 10:34). [See Salvation].

However, the Bible also makes it clear that the saved will also receive rewards in Heaven over and above forgiveness and eternal life, and that the level of reward will be based on works done here on earth. Apparently there are those that will make it to heaven, but who have earned little or no additional rewards. Right after assuring us that salvation is not by works in Ephesians 2, Paul says this, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".

It is the consistent teaching of the New Testament that God promises to reward believers for their good works… mentioned explicitly in many verses!

  • "The Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works" (Matthew 16:27).

  • "[God] will render to each one according to his deeds" (Romans 2:6).

  • "He who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Corinthians 3:8).

  • Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding (excelling) in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. [1 Corinthians 15:58]

  • Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people, because you know that you will receive your inheritance from the Lord as the reward. Serve the Lord Christ. [Colossians 3:23-24]

And implied in many more…

  • yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you, ye that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:20-26).

  • knowing that whatsoever good thing each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free. (Ephesians 6:8).

  • whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23-25).

  • "God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10).

Some of the good works mentioned in Scripture which will be rewarded include

  • perseverance under persecution (Luke 6:22-23), caring for the needy (Matthew 25:34-36), treating enemies kindly (Luke 6:35), prayer (Matthew 6:6), fasting (Matthew 6:18), and generous giving (Matthew 19:21).
  • Awesome, dude. So, how did you get your sources? – Double U Aug 9 '13 at 23:58
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    @Anonymous - Assuming you're asking seriously, it's simply a matter of paying attention in Church, reading a lot, and using the knowledge gained from those activities to know what terms to search for to get good results in Bing and Google that back up what I have already been taught or read. it's a lot easier to google if you know what to look for. – David Stratton Aug 10 '13 at 13:44
  • Thanks for the info. I am asking this question seriously. Sorry if I bothered you. Out of curiosity, can you be a regular churchgoer without being officially a member? – Double U Aug 10 '13 at 20:11
  • @anonymous, you should be welcomed at any church I would consider attending, as long as you do not engage in outrageously disruptive behavior. I would want to leave with you and help you find a better place if you were rejected. – Bit Chaser Jun 19 '14 at 21:59

Consider logically if the answer is yes. That would mean someone could teach that it is ok to worship idols or another god, never repent of a sin and enter the kingdom of God. Would this be so? Certainly not for it is written

Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy. (Jonah 2:8)

Listen to the words of Jesus

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:19-20)

Verse 20 is a description of the fate of those who break one of the least of the commandments and teach others to do so. A little leaven leavens the whole lump, it is not safe to hold on even to little sins. This is why Peter's declaration stands firm today

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: (Acts 3:19-20)


Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. Jn. 8:34(b). All of the people posting on this page sin because "[t]here is not a just man upon the earth who does good and sins not." Eccl. 7:20. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Jam. 2:10 See also Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10. Repent therefore you who would justify yourselves by your commandment keeping, and teach others so, because you are no better than those upon whom the tower fell in Siloam, nor anyone else for that matter. Repent. See Lk. 13:1-9. Believe on the Lord Jesus, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, who fulfilled the law and purchased you with his blood! See Mat. 5:17; Acts. 20:28; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9.

The Scribes and Pharisees did not believe they were sinners, as other men. See e.g., Lk. 18:11-12. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, (which is perfect), and going about to establish their own (filthy rags) righteousness,[had] not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes." Rom. 10:3-4 (emphasis and parenthetical explanations supplied for the hard of hearing). In short, Christ is the Christian's righteousness. 1 Cor. 1:30; see also Jer. 23:6; 33:16. Christ alone kept the commandments and taught them and thus fulfilled the whole of the law by coming and dying on the cross for the sins of the unjust. See Matt. 5:17 (a verse which provides the context for v. 19 and is sorely lacking from this post). "The just for the unjust." 1 Pet. 3:18.

Given that Christ just got through saying in v. 17, that he came to fulfill the law, the only way this passage makes sense is if Christ is talking about the imputation of his own righteousness to the believer which is by faith. See Rom. 9:30; 1 Cor. 1:30; Heb. 11:7. In the ears of the hearers, it would make no sense for a person to be IN the Kingdom of Heaven who had broken commandments and taught others to do so and at the same time have a righteousness that would exceed the blameless (human) righteousness, which the hearers themselves attributed to the Scribes and Pharisees. See Phil. 3:6 ("... touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."). The only way it makes sense is if all the least in the Kingdom of Heaven are saved sinners, whose righteousness is of the only one who will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven: Christ Jesus, our Lord! For if only one is good, i.e., God, (Mk. 10:18; Matt. 19:17), it follows that only one can do good. This, the Apostle Paul made crystal clear in his Epistle to the Romans:

"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."

Romans 3:21-28 (emphasis supplied).

He said it twice, so hear! Those who obey the gospel do not justify themselves by their commandment keeping. For they know that God alone is just and the justifier of the ungodly! See Rom. 4:5 ("But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.").

Grace and peace be upon all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.


Mt 5:19 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 them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 11:11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

by WAESHAEL: The revealed truth in Mt 11:11 is that John the Baptist was not in the Kingdom of Heaven while alive and in prison. On the other hand some people had entered the kingdom of heaven, even those who were just beginning to understand were allowed in.

by WAESHAEL: God chooses who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven - those He declares righteous, He converts and makes as little children. That is, He gives the grace of repentance, to man, who then is drawn to change his fleshly life, demonstrates this desire to others, accepts Christ as his Lord and King, and studies the word of God - as if a child, accepting all he is taught. And thereby man enters the Kingdom of Heaven.

by WAESHAEL: So you see here that to enter the KOH requires one to accept Christ as Lord and King. John the Baptist did not do this. He sent his own disciples to ask Jesus whether he was the one they waited for i.e JB did not know Jesus was Christ. And JB died before he could enter the kingdom of heaven. But He was declared by God to be righteous (Jesus calls him "the greatest.") and presumably obtained Life Eternal through the Abrahamic covenant.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” Matthew 4:23, KJV.

Summary: To enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is to enter into a life as taught to the disciples by The Master. A life of doing things for others - healing all manner of sickness - whether physical or spiritual. If you did God's will and showed others "teach others to observe whatsoever I have shown you." Jesus had told the disciples at a later time, then you are the greatest. If, on the other hand you disagreed with God's will, and taught others to disagree, you would be the lowest in the KOH - but you were not excluded from it, because you had accepted Christ as your Lord and King. You were only a "child," and could repent.


Context is crucial here:

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

18 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.

19 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 them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20)

The commandments are from the Law. One who breaks the least of those commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least. That's really all there is to it. It has no bearing on salvation, but there is a requirement to get into the kingdom of heaven: that your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees. To understand what this means, we must know what righteousness and the level of Pharisaical righteousness is.

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

The righteousness that is by faith also practices. Indeed, Romans 3:21-22 points to this:

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction

So now we have to ask: what is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? Was their righteousness really the righteousness witnessed by the Law that is practicing righteousness? Did they really practice the Law?

Matthew 23:1-3: 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.

The Pharisees read the Law, and told people to do it... only for them to do entirely different things. In essence, they were hypocritical and defiant. They would see the Law, and how God intended for them to do something, realize that it applied to them, and then instead, decide that they wanted to do something else. So the condition that our faith in Christ merits righteousness hinges on us doing what we believe God wants us to do. In essence, it's a matter of believing God, as Abraham did (Genesis 15:6 - the word 'in' is not in the Hebrew or the Greek). If we believe God, we will try to do what He says we should do. We will fail, but that's what grace is for. Someone who is least in the Kingdom will commit sin without being convicted of it because he or she does not know that it is sin - but that person is accounted righteous by faith because that faith makes that person avoid what he or she does know to be sin. The reason idolaters and fornicators don't get in (without first choosing to stop being idolators or fornicators by repentance through belief in Christ) is because they already know that such things are wrong, as that part of the law is written on their hearts:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)

The idolator knows that idolatry is wrong instinctively, as every man knows that wood, stone, and metal can't actually 'tap into' the divine, and they know that the real Creator of the Universe must be an invisible God who exists outside of the Universe. That's why the idolator stands condemned before the LORD.

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