One verse that is often overlooked but carries great theological significance, particularly for eschatology, 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 here 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 desired Jesus so he would not part with his wealth. But the disciples were willing to give up everything for Jesus. So Peter asked what reward there would be for himself and the apostles who did forsake all to follow Him (Matt. 19:27). Jesus reveals great rewards including relationships and dwelling places (19:28-30). But Jesus’ answer in 19:28 also reveals four key truths concerning events to come. It is these we highlight:
First, 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, or literally “genesis again.” In this context it refers to the recreation or renewal of the earth and parallels the glorified creation that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:18-23. It is also closely related to the “restoration of all things” that Peter refers to in Acts 3:21. Thus, Jesus sees a restored planet earth in the future in connection with the restoration of national Israel. 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 truth refutes any Platonic elevation of the spiritual over the physical. The physical earth matters in God’s plans and His kingdom includes it.
Second, the Davidic throne of Jesus is future. With Luke 1:32-33, the angel Gabriel told Mary that her son would one day sit upon the throne of David. With Matthew 19:28, Jesus explicitly links His assumption of the throne of David with the future renewal of creation—“in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne.” Since the “regeneration” of the earth is future, we can know that Jesus’ assumption of the Davidic throne is future. Matthew 25:31 supports this when Jesus links His Davidic throne reign with the second coming: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.”
Third, the nation Israel will be restored. Jesus also mentions the “twelve tribes of Israel” which refers to the literal twelve tribes of Israel. 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 Matthew 19:28 shows that Jesus expects a future restoration of the nation Israel with the twelve tribes present. There is no reason here to spiritualize the twelve tribes here especially since every other reference to the “twelve tribes” of Israel in the New Testament refers to literal Israel (see Luke 22:30; Acts 26:7; James 1:1; Rev. 7:4-8; 21:12). Plus all references to “Israel” in the New Testament refer to ethnic/national Israel. Thus, Matthew 19:28 is New Testament evidence for a restored and unified Israel.
Fourth, the apostles will rule over a restored national Israel. For their willingness to forsake all and follow Jesus the apostles will “sit[ting] upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Revelation 19:15 reveals that when Jesus returns to earth He will rule the nations of the earth. With Matthew 19:28 we also see that Jesus’ apostles will share His coming reign by judging the twelve 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.
Jesus’ words in Matt. 19:28 show incredible blessings to come with Jesus’ return. The planet earth will be restored, Jesus will reign as King, Israel will be restored and united, and the apostles will have ruling functions over Israel.