Apostles: Will The Twelve be in Heaven?
I suspect many people will be surprised at such a question. But that’s because most people don’t know that God will have one overall kingdom of His people in eternity, but there will be two different groups situated in two different places. Some will live on a restored new Earth and others in this place called Heaven. Of course, people who die as unbelievers, having never accepted Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection as the sole basis for their salvation, will be in neither of these places.
I Corinthians 15:3-4
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
Most people don’t understand that until the church which is the Body of Christ came into existence at the time of the salvation of the apostle Paul, all God’s people were anticipating an earthly kingdom in which they would live, not Heaven. This earthly kingdom was promised as a kingdom OF Heaven, but not a kingdom IN Heaven.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [Emphasis added]
There are thirty-two verses in the book of Matthew that use this phrase speaking of this coming Kingdom of Heaven. But no one was then thinking of living forever in Heaven. Again, they were expecting to live in a new and wonderful earthly Kingdom OF Heaven. They were even told that this coming kingdom was at hand, meaning it was coming soon.
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Emphasis added]
They were told to pray for this earthly kingdom to come.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. [Emphasis added]
The promise to them was that it was at hand, meaning near in its time of coming.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Emphasis added]
They were even told that their generation would not pass till these things leading up to its establishment were completely fulfilled.
33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. [Emphasis added]
So, what happened? It has been roughly two thousand years since that statement was made. Why hasn’t that promised kingdom come? Some want to “spiritualize” these passages saying it really wasn’t a physical kingdom that He promised. But where is the scriptural evidence for that? There isn’t any! The so-called Old Testament is filled with passages that speak of the physical features of the coming earthly kingdom. Our Lord even promised the apostles positions of rulership in that coming earthly kingdom.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, 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.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. [Emphasis added]
Obviously, our Lord intends to fully reward those who’ve followed Him faithfully. But why has this kingdom on Earth still not come? The answer to that is that its coming was conditional. It depended on Israel’s response to the gospel of the kingdom presented by the apostles and others. How do we know that?
Again, Matthew 24:34
34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. [Emphasis added]
The word till is of particular interest and importance here. It is followed by the untranslatable particle AN in the Greek text which serves to add a conditional element to what it stated [or promised]. This means Christ’s coming then at that time, was conditioned upon something. That “something” was Israel’s acceptance of her Messiah. If the people of Israel rejected her Messiah, the event stated would be put off. And that’s exactly what happened! Israel rejected Jesus of Nazareth as her Messiah, and the promised kingdom was not canceled but put off to a future day. That future day will not come until the return of Jesus Christ at the end of what is typically called the Tribulation. It is not until then that much of Israel will finally accept their Messiah. Those that don’t are cast off the Earth [also referred to as the baptism of fire] and not allowed to enter Christ’s earthly Kingdom. It will be then that the Twelve Apostles will be placed in positions of rulership over this kingdom. As per the prayer Jesus gave the apostles, it is then that His will is done “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Therefore, the prayer Jesus gave the apostles [often called “The Lord’s Prayer”] will then at that time be answered. His will is then done “on Earth as it is in Heaven” and it will be for the timeframe of Christ’s Millennial [thousand-year] Kingdom reign on Earth.
In answer to our question for this article, the Twelve Apostles will not reign in Heaven but on this new restored Earth. Their future is not in Heaven. Let’s look again at the verse where this promise is given.
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration [PALINGENESIA = PALIN = again & GENESIA = born] 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. [Emphasis added]
It is at this time when Israel is “born again” that they will live on a restored new Earth. This is a national regeneration or new birth that is different from the “regeneration” or “new birth” of a person becoming a believer today. The apostle Paul discusses that work of regeneration or being born again today when a person is saved. By being born again today a believer simply gains the spiritual life he must have to be saved. Until then he is said to be physically alive but spiritually dead.
And you [believers today] hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins; [Emphasis added]
We then gain eternal citizenship in Heaven.
20 For our conversation [POLITEUMA = citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:
[As you can see, there’s nothing at all in verse twenty about a conversation as we use that word today. Instead, it is to do with our citizenship in Heaven. If we didn’t have the Greek text or a better English translation of that word, we wouldn’t know that.]
21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. [Emphasis added]
It is there in Heaven that we will rule with Him. This is a wonderful promise to each of us today. Our position of rulership will be based on our faithfulness.
II Timothy 2:12-13
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us [of special rewards]:
13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. [Emphasis added]
We are made one with Him as members of His body the moment we are saved. That bonding is secure forever because He will never deny His own body. This is a part of why you need not ever worry about losing your salvation. Once you gain it, it is permanent!
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. [Emphasis added]
Let us all give thanks to God for these wonderful promises!