-1

This question is an extension of my previous question How do Christians who believe in current-day Apostles, Prophets and the 5-fold ministry interpret Ephesians 2:20?. I encourage the reader to read the previous question first to understand the context of this one.

In the comment section, someone raised a very intriguing and insightful objection:

Just to point out that Eph 2:20 goes hand in glove with Rev 21, which describes the future heavenly New Jerusalem, once "the former things are passed away" (vs 4). Once everything has been restored to perfection, we're told that "the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (vs. 14). That's 12, not 24 or 144 or 144,000 or 12 million. That's another significant point that believers in current-day Apostles & Prophets need to take into account.

Question: How do Christians who believe in current-day Apostles, Prophets and the 5-fold ministry interpret Revelation 21 in a way that is consistent with their views?

Below Revelation 21:9-21 (ESV) for reference:

9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16 The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17 He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. 18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

2
  • 1
    how does the commentor explain verse 1-2 ... first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea...new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God? Do you/they believe this portion of revelation has been fulfilled? If not isn't the rest of the point moot, this has yet to happen?
    – depperm
    Sep 23 '21 at 13:54
  • @depperm - good point, maybe you should expand on that in an answer! Sep 23 '21 at 13:57
3

I don't put much stock in numerology normally, but I think this is one of the cases where the numerological meaning of twelve, the complete people of God, is more important than trying to identify which specific individuals are being referred to, if specific individuals were ever even in the mind of the author.

Consider how the Twelve Tribes of Israel is an important concept even though the Bible sometimes splits Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh, sometimes lists thirteen tribes instead of twelve, or leaves out a tribe, most commonly Levi but also Dan and Gad. This helpful PDF shows all the passages in which the "twelve" tribes are listed.

The New Testament has one listing of the Twelve Tribes, in Revelation 7, but it also refers to the Twelve Tribes as a whole in Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30, Acts 26:7, and James 1:1. Should we seek to identify which enumeration of the tribes Jesus and Paul and James were referring to? How could we possibly decide? No, instead we should understand these references as referring to the tribes as a whole, the whole complete nation of Israel.

In the same way, I think we should see Revelation's reference to the Twelve Apostles as referring to the whole group of the Apostles, whether that includes Matthias, or Paul, or any other Apostles, of the early church or now. Remember that Revelation 21 talks about the Twelve Tribes, and the Twelve Apostles in the very same paragraph, along with twelve angels. The details don't matter, what matters is the picture of complete people of God, first Israel, second the Church, and even in the angelic host of heaven.

Revelation 21:12-14 (ESV): It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

1
0

Revelation 21:1-2 seems to indicate a revelation of things yet to come:

1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

this is what verse 4 is referencing when it says ...for the old order of things has passed away (old/first earth/heaven)

The following verses (9-27) are a description of the new Jerusalem, nothing about these verses indicates the end of prophets and apostles.

all emphasis mine

6
  • I can see a possible counter-objection: what if the foundation of the new Jerusalem was already in place before verses 1-2 transpired? In other words, the foundation is already settled (now) but we are still waiting for verses 1-2 to happen. I think the key question to answer is: when did the construction of the New Jerusalem begin and when was the foundation of the apostles finally established? Sep 23 '21 at 14:13
  • 1
    @SpiritRealmInvestigator while potentially true your counter objection itself has a number of unknowns. We also know the calling of apostle remained for a time as Matthias replaced Judas (Acts 1), which seems to indicate a pattern even after Jesus' death
    – depperm
    Sep 23 '21 at 14:27
  • 1
    Vss 1-2 show that there are still 12 apostles making up the foundations in the future, at the conclusion. They are still named as the same 12 apostles of the Lamb, just the same as the 12 apostles who are called the foundation in the 1st century, in Eph 2:20. There has been no increase in apostles. The intervening centuries have not caused the number of apostles who make up the foundation to be increased.
    – Anne
    Sep 23 '21 at 17:41
  • @Anne can you explain how vs 1-2 show there are still 12 apostles, vs 14 seems to be the only verse referencing apostles and that is names on a wall/foundation. I don't believe the apostles are mentioned by name in Eph 2:20, just the calling. Did Matthias increase the number of apostles or just replace previous one? Does that indicate growing foundation or just switching out people, but keeping the role?
    – depperm
    Sep 24 '21 at 1:07
  • 1
    I will not be drawn into an exchange with you in comments. The PO does not include me in those he wishes to answer. If you persist in asking me Qs in comments, I will wonder if you are trying to goad me into a debate. We both know that comments are not for that, nor is this site.
    – Anne
    Sep 24 '21 at 8:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .