Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28 NIV)
Speaking to his disciples (above), the Savior pledged–or so it seemed–a throne for each, as well as great riches (19:29). In the next chapter, James and John’s mother asked the Lord to grant her sons positions at the right and left (of his throne).
A question first needed answered: “Were James and John willing to drink of the cup from which he drank?” When they said, “We can,” Jesus responded, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” (20:23)
The mention of thrones and wealth planted seeds of ambition in all twelve (20:24). Ambition is only a kingdom trait if it inspires service and sacrifice, not lust.
Holding on to the vision of authority and the power, riches and honor that go with it, the disciples inquired again in Acts 1:6-8. (“Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”)
Jesus’ reply did not feed their desire for fame. Instead, he humbled them. (“Its not for you to know the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority.”) They would be Christ’s witnesses beginning in Jerusalem and proceeding outward to the ends of the earth. If there was a throne in their future, they would be too busy carrying the gospel to sit.
The Federal Head principle explains what Jesus’ disciples did not know: With Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David and others, the Lord made a covenant he would honor throughout all generations. In the way Jacob’s twelve sons were first generation Israelites, the disciples would become spiritual ancestors to a great family. Two millennia later, Jesus’ followers owe much to the twelve. When Christ prophesied about thrones to Peter, James, John and the others, he was peering down time’s corridor to twelve of their spiritual offspring.
Everything promised in Acts 2 to the 120 in the upper room, including the gift of the Holy Spirit, belongs to this generation of believers. But–and here is the rub–so does the cup Jesus promised! Teachers may reject the premise that Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 applies to Gentile Christians, but they are foolishly dismissing the fact Jesus’ disciples are Federal Heads.
Heavenly crowns and pleasures preoccupy our thoughts. Riches are gladly received, yet when, for example, Matthew 24:9-10 or 24:21-22 are read, our humanity often kicks in. No longer do we wish to have the Federal Head principle apply. Does it work that way with an inheritance? What we inherit is not ours to choose.
If the first generation of disciples (our Federal Head) understood that endurance was part of their mission (i.e. Matt. 28:18-20), then it is guaranteed those who will receive a hundred times will overcome tremendous hardship as well (Acts 14:22, 2 Timothy 2:12).
Entering the kingdom is not for everybody. The cup of suffering will not be offered to all. Crowns are worn by only a few. Jesus, our chief Federal Head (1 Peter 2:21) took up his cross before he wore the crown (Hebrews 12:2-3). Disciples of all ages must do the same.
First generation or last, the Great Commission has not changed. Our Federal Head requires our service, not our willingness to be served. All will be fulfilled–the great suffering as well as the future great exaltation. JF