Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
(Matthew 19:27-30 ESV)
After Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to give up all this world has to offer and follow Him, the man decided it was too high a price to pay and he walked away. Jesus then explained how hard it is for someone who is wealthy to enter heaven. In reply Peter points out that, unlike the rich young ruler, he and the other eleven disciples had left everything and followed Jesus. He wondered what would be their reward for doing so.
Notice how Peter asked the question but Jesus response was directed to them. Either Peter was speaking for the twelve or Jesus knew that the other eleven were wondering the same thing. Jesus tells them that they will receive an amazing reward both on this earth and in heaven.
The reward that the disciples would receive would come in the new world, when the Son of Man (a reference to Jesus Himself) will sit on His glorious throne. When Jesus returns to earth at some point in the future He will reign over it. The earth will be very different than it is now [Isaiah 2:2-3; 11:9, 32:16-18 et. al]. One thousand years later this earth will be destroyed and a new earth will be created which Jesus will reign over for all eternity [Revelation 21:1].
During Jesus’ eternal reign the twelve disciples will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Note that Judas clearly won’t be one of the twelve, having forfeited his eternity. He was later replaced by Matthias [Acts 1:12-26] who will be one of the twelve reigning with Christ.
But the rewards for following Jesus aren’t limited to the twelve disciples. They extend to everyone who has left their life behind for Jesus’ name’s sake. Following Jesus comes with a cost. Sometimes we have to leave our original families. This is certainly true of Muslim and Hindu converts to Christianity whose family members often turn violent against them.
Notice too that just forsaking worldliness does not lead to heaven. A self-imposed ascetic lifestyle does not win favor with God. The only value in leaving the world behind is when we do it for the purpose of following and promoting Jesus.
When we do, Jesus promises to pay us back a hundredfold. This is a metaphorical reference as obviously we aren’t going to receive one-hundred fathers or mothers. We also will inherit eternal life.
Receiving a reward from Jesus that lasts eternity in exchange for giving up the temporary things of this world is a great deal. As Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.
The world values the accumulation of things, money, and experiences. Those who have more of these are looked up to and those with less are looked down upon. But the kingdom of God operates oppositely. Becoming “last” in the eyes of world results in becoming “first” in God’s view. And vice-versa.
Any apparent earthly success will count for nothing.
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