Dr. Michael J. Vlach
One verse that is often overlooked but carries great theological significance is Matthew 19:28:
And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
The context of Jesus' words in Matt 19:28 is His encounter with the Rich Young Ruler (19:16-26) and Peter's question concerning what rewards the apostles would have for following Jesus (19:27). The Rich Young Ruler loved his possessions more than He loved Jesus and he would not part with his wealth. But Peter asked what reward there would be for himself and the apostles who did forsake all to follow Jesus. The main point is that Jesus reveals great rewards for those who follow Him. But Jesus' answer also reveals four key truths concerning events to come. It is these we highlight:
There is a coming renewal of planet earth. This is made clear by Jesus use of the term "regeneration" which is the Greek word, palingenesia. This term refers to "re-creation" or "renewal." In this context it refers to the recreation or renewal of the earth and parallels the glorified creation that Paul speaks of in Rom 8:18-23. Thus, Jesus sees a restored planet earth in the future. Commenting on this term J. I. Packer states, "it denotes the eschatological 'restoration of all things' (Acts 3:21) under the Messiah for which Israel was waiting" (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 925). The future involves a real tangible earth, not a wispy existence on a cloud. This planet will be the base for the rewards of relationships and farms that Jesus brings up in Matt 19:29. This truth refutes any idea of a Platonic elevation of the spiritual over the physical. The physical earth matters in God's plans and His kingdom certainly includes it.
The Davidic throne of Jesus is future in connection with a renewed earth. Jesus links His assumption of the throne of David with the renewal of creation. He refers to sitting on His "glorious throne" which is a reference to the throne of David. In Luke 1:32-33 the angel Gabriel promised Mary that her Son, Jesus, would sit upon the throne of His father David and would rule over the house of Jacob [i.e. Israel] forever. What is quite significant about this statement is that Jesus tells us when He will sit on His glorious Davidic throne. It is at the time of the regeneration of planet earth. This shows that Jesus' kingdom reign is future from our standpoint since it is connected with the renewal of the earth. In Matt 25:31 Jesus says He will sit on His "glorious throne" when He comes again in glory at His second coming to judge the nations of the earth.
The nation Israel will be restored. On several occasions the Old Testament prophets predicted a restored Israel with a unification of the twelve tribes (See Ezekiel 36–37). The mention of the "twelve tribes of Israel" in Matt 19:28 shows that Jesus expects a future restoration of the nation Israel with the twelve tribes present. Some have tried to read the church into this statement, but such a conclusion is unwarranted. Other than just asserting it, what evidence is there that the church is the Israel of Matt 19:28? Harrington is correct that, "There is no reason to interpret the twelve tribes of Israel as a symbol for the Church. Matthew meant Israel" (The Gospel of Matthew, 279). Thus, Matt 19:28 is explicit New Testament evidence for a restoration and unification of national Israel.
The apostles will rule over a restored Israel. The Bible teaches that when the Messiah reigns, the saints will reign too (see Dan 7:27; Rev 5:10). For the twelve apostles this means "sit[ting] upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." When Jesus sits on His glorious Davidic throne, then the apostles will rule as well over the tribes of Israel. This is a literal rule over the literal tribes of Israel when the kingdom comes. So not only will Israel be united and restored, the nation will be ruled over by the twelve apostles. Other Scripture references indicate that the church and saints of God will be ruling too when Jesus returns (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21; 5:10). For the apostles, their reign is centered in Israel, but the saints as a whole will be involved with a worldwide reign.
Jesus' words in Matt 19:28 are astonishing and show incredible blessings to come. We see that planet earth will be restored, Jesus will reign as King, Israel will be restored and united, and the apostles will have ruling functions. There is much to look forward to for those who give up all to follow Jesus in this age.
- The Significance of Luke 21:31 for the Timing of the Kingdom of God • BPB (Michael Vlach)
- Evidence for a Future Earthly Kingdom from Revelation 5:10 • MikeVlach.com
- Israel Through the Eyes of Scripture • SpiritaAndTruth.org (Tony Garland)
- The Parable of the Minas and the Future Coming of the Kingdom of God • BPB (Michael Vlach)
- The Bible and Economics: Will There Be Inequality in Heaven? • BPB (R.J. Moeller)