Question: In Matthew 19: 28 Jesus promised His twelve Apostles: “In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Was this promise fulfilled between Pentecost and 70 A.D., or will it be fulfilled in the future?
Answer: Some teach that this promise was fulfilled between Pentecost and 70 A.D., when, it is claimed, the twelve Apostles judged the twelve tribes of Israel. We will offer seven reasons why we do not believe this to be true:
(1.) Jesus specifies that the judging of the twelve tribes would be “in the regeneration.” This regeneration does not take place until after Jesus’ Second Advent sets in, and the Church becomes His Bride. Then Jesus as the Second Adam and the Church as the Second Eve, will regenerate the non-elect through His ransom merit, giving perfect life to all who will accept Jesus as their Father. Acts 3: 19-23 also states that heaven would receive (retain) Jesus until the times of restitution (which includes regeneration).
(2.) Jesus specifies that the judging of the twelve tribes was to take place “when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory” which seems definitely to locate the time as at Jesus’ Second Advent, when all nations shall be gathered before the throne of His glory for the final judgment (Matthew 25: 31, 32) (Revelation 20: 11-15).
(3.) Jesus specifies that the judging of the twelve tribes would be at a time when “ye [the Apostles] also shall sit upon twelve thrones” He shows that it was necessary for the Apostles and others to first “overcome” as members of the Body of Christ, before they would reign with Him in His throne. It is evident that instead of ruling in judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel during their earthly sojourn, the Apostles instead were oppressed, rejected, persecuted and even martyred by the Jews.
(4.) In the parallel passage (Luke 22: 29, 30), Jesus specifies that at the time the twelve Apostles would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, they would be eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table in His Kingdom. This definitely places their judging the twelve tribes of Israel at the time of the Lord’s Second Advent.
(5.) In Matthew 8: 11 our Lord shows that when the kingdom of heaven is established in the earth (the twelve Apostles sitting upon twelve heavenly thrones), Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., will have charge of the earthly phase of that kingdom, though they will be princes rather than kings (Psalm 45: 16) (Isaiah 32: 1) (Hebrews 11: 39, 40).
(6.) According to the Scriptures, the whole world will have to become proselytes to the twelve tribes of fleshly Israel in the Millennium, in order to receive their restitution blessings under the New Covenant, which will be established, not with Gentiles, but with the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 31: 31-34). It is only when the world of mankind is thus organized under the twelve tribes of fleshly Israel that the twelve Apostles will be found sitting upon the twelve thrones, or positions of authority, judging the twelve tribes of fleshly Israel. Of course, the 144,000, the Bride of Christ, the twelve tribes of spiritual Israel (Revelation 7: 1-8; 14: 1), will likewise be under these twelve Apostles (Revelation 21: 14).
(7.) It would have been inconsistent for Jesus to arrange for His twelve Apostles to judge the twelve tribes of Israel during the Jewish Harvest, since He Himself did so during His earthly ministry, when He pronounced the final sentence upon Jerusalem (Matthew 23: 34-39).
Thus from an examination of Matthew 19: 28 and other related Scriptures, of which more could be given, we can conclude that the twelve Apostles did not sit upon twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel during the Jewish Harvest, but instead they will rule and judge when Jesus will regenerate “whosoever will” of Adam’s race unto life, when He in His Second Advent sits in the throne of His glory to judge the world of mankind, and when God’s Kingdom is established and His will done on earth as it is in heaven.