You that have followed me shall sit upon seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Verse 28. In the regeneration. Jesus Christ here calls the general resurrection the regeneration, because there will then be a renovation of the human body, and of the whole world. The promise which is here made to the apostles of sitting on thrones at the general judgment, and passing sentence on the 12 tribes of Israel, must not be understood as limited to the apostles, or to the Jews. For S. Paul says, (1 Cor. vi. 2. and 3,) that not only he, but also many of the Corinthians to whom he was writing, would judge not merely the 12 tribes, but the whole world, and moreover angels themselves. It is the opinion of many of the Fathers, S. Jerom, S. Austin, S. Gregory, and others, that all apostolical men, i.e. such as, renouncing the goods of this life, adhere to Christ in mind and affection, and by every possible means promote his reign and the propagation of his gospel, will be so far honoured as to sit in judgment with him at the general resurrection. T. — You also shall sit on twelve seats, or thrones, meaning at the general resurrection, when Christ will appear on the throne of his majesty, with his heavenly court, and with his elect, shall condemn the wicked world. Wi.
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 hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
ORIGEN. Peter had heard the word of Christ when He said, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast. Then he observed that the young man had departed sorrowful, and considered the difficulty of riches entering into the kingdom of heaven; and thereupon he put this question confidently as one who had achieved no easy matter. For though what he with his brother had left behind them were but little things, yet were they not esteemed as little with God, who considered that out of the fulness of their love they had so forsaken those least things, as they would have forsaken the greatest things if they had had them. So Peter, thinking rather of his will than of the intrinsic value of the sacrifice, asked Him confidently, Behold, we have left all.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxiv.) What was this all, O blessed Peter? The reeds, your net, and boat. But this he says, not to call to mind his own magnanimity, but in order to propose the case of the multitude of poor. A poor man might have said, If I have nought, I cannot become perfect. Peter therefore puts this question that you, poor man, may learn that you are in nothing behind. For he had already received the kingdom of heaven, and therefore secure of what was already there, he now asks for the whole world. And see how carefully he frames his question after Christ’s requirements: Christ required two things of a rich man, to give what he had to the poor, and to follow Him; wherefore he adds, and have followed thee.
ORIGEN. It may be said, In all things which the Father revealed to Peter that the Son was, righteousness, sanctification, and the like, in all we have followed Thee. Therefore as a victorious athlete, he now asks what are the prizes of his contest.
JEROME. Because to forsake is not enough, he adds that which makes perfection, and have followed thee. We have done what thou commandedst us, what reward wilt thou then give us? What shall we have?
JEROME. He said not only, Ye who have left all, for this did the philosopher Cratesh, and many other who have despised riches, but added, and have followed me, which is peculiar to the Apostles and believers.
HILARY. The disciples had followed Christ in the regeneration, that is, in the laver of baptism, in the sanctification of faith, for this is that regeneration which the Apostles followed, and which the Law could not bestow.
JEROME. Or it may be constructed thus, Ye which have followed me, shall in the regeneration sit, &c.; that is, when the dead shall rise from corruption incorrupt, you also shall sit on thrones of judges, condemning the twelve tribes of Israel, for that they would not believe when you believed.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 5.) Thus our flesh will be regenerated by incorruption, as our soul also shall be regenerated by faith.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For it would come to pass, that in the day of judgment the Jews would allege, Lord, we knew Thee not to be the Son of God when Thou wast in the flesh. For who can discern a treasure buried in the ground, or the sun when obscured by a cloud? The disciples therefore will then answer, We also were men, and peasants, obscure among the multitude, but you priests and scribes; but in us a right will became as it were a lamp of our ignorance, but your evil will became to you a blinding of your science.
CHRYSOSTOM. He therefore said not the Gentiles and the whole world, but, the tribes of Israel, because the Apostles and the Jews had been brought up under the same laws and customs. So that when the Jews should plead that they could not believe in Christ, because they were hindered by their Law, the disciples will be brought forward, who had the same Law. But some one may say, What great thing is this, when both the Ninevites and the Queen of the South will have the same? He had before and will again promise them the highest rewards; and even now He tacitly conveys something of the same. For of those others He had only said, that they shall sit, and shall condemn this generation; but He now says to the disciples, When the Son of Man shall sit, ye also shall sit. It is clear then that they shall reign with Him, and shall share in that glory; for it is such honour and glory unspeakable that He intends by the thrones. How is this promise fulfilled? Shall Judas sit among them? By no means. For the law was thus ordained of the Lord by Jeremiah the Prophet, I will speak it upon my people, and upon the kingdom, that I may build, and plant it. Bui if it do evil in my sight, then will I repent we of the good which I said I would do to them; (Jer. 18:9.) as much as to say, If they make themselves unworthy of the promise, I will no more perform that I promised. But Judas shewed himself unworthy of the preeminence; wherefore when He gave this promise to His disciples, He did not promise it absolutely, for He said not, Ye shall sit, but, Ye which, have followed me shall sit; at once excluding Judas, and admitting such as should be in after time; for neither was the promise confined to them only, nor yet did it include Judas who had already shewn himself undeserving.
HILARY. Their following Christ in thus exalting the Apostles to twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, associated them in the glory of the twelve Patriarchs.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) From this passage we learn that Jesus will judge with His disciples; whence He says in another place to the Jews, Therefore shall they be your judges. (Mat. 12:27.) And whereas He says they shall sit upon twelve thrones, we need not think that twelve persons only shall judge with Him. For by the number twelve is signified the whole number of those that shall judge; and that because the number seven which generally represents completeness contains the two numbers four and three, which multiplied together make twelve. For if it were not so, as Matthias was elected into the place of the traitor Judas, the Apostle Paul who laboured more than they all should not have place to sit to judge; but he shews that he with the rest of the saints pertains to the number of judges, when he says, Know ye not that we shall judge Angels? (1 Cor. 6:3.)
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 351. 8.) In the number of judges therefore are included all that have left their all and followed the Lord;
GREGORY. (Mor. x. 31.) For whosoever, urged by the spur of divine lore, shall forsake what he possesses here, shall without doubt gain there the eminence of judicial authority; and shall appear as judge with the Judge, for that he now in consideration of the judgment chastens himself by a voluntary poverty.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, xx. 5.) The same holds good, by reason of this number twelve, of those that are to be judged. For when it is said, Judging the twelve tribes, yet is not the tribe of Levi, which is the thirteenth, to be exempt from being judged by them; nor shall they judge this nation alone, and not also other nations.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or, by that, In the regeneration, Christ designs the period of Christianity that should be after His ascension, in which men were regenerated by baptism; and that is the time in which Christ sate on the throne of His glory. And hereby you may see that He spake not of the time of the judgment to come, but of the calling of the Gentiles, in that He said not, When the Son of Man shall come sitting upon the throne of his majesty; but only, In the regeneration when he shall sit, which was from the time that the Gentiles began to believe on Christ; according to that, God shall reign over the heathen; God sitteth upon his holy throne. (Ps. 47:8.) From that time also the Apostles have sat upon twelve thrones, that is, over all Christians; for every Christian who receives the word of Peter, becomes Peter’s throne, and so of the rest of the Apostles. On these thrones then the Apostles sit, parcelled into twelve divisions, after the variety of minds and hearts, known to God only. For as the Jewish nation was split into twelve tribes, so is the whole Christian people divided into twelve, so as that some souls are numbered with the tribe of Reuben, and so of the rest, according to their several qualities. For all have not all graces alike, one is excellent in this, another in that. And so the Apostles will judge the twelve tribes of Israel, that is, all the Jews, by this, that the Gentiles received the Apostles’ word. The whole body of Christians are indeed twelve thrones for the Apostles, but one throne for Christ. For all excellencies are but one throne for Christ, for He alone is equally perfect in all virtues. But of the Apostles each one is more perfect in some one particuar excellence, as Peter in faith; so Peter tests upon his faith, John on his innocence, and so of the rest. And that Christ spake of reward to be given to the Apostles in this world, is shewn by what follows, And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, &c. For if these shall receive an hundred fold in this life, without doubt to the Apostles also was promised a reward in this present life.
CHRYSOSTOM. Or; He holds out rewards in the future life to the Apostles, because they were already looking above, and desired nothing of things present; but to others. He promises things present.
ORIGEN. Or otherwise; Whosoever shall leave all and follow Christ, he also shall receive those things that were promised to Peter. But if he has not left all, but only those things in special here enumerated, he shall receive manifold, and shall possess eternal life.
JEROME. There are that take occasion from this passage to bring forward the thousand years after the resurrection, and say that then we shall have a hundred fold of the things we have given up, and moreover life eternal. But though the promise be in other things worthy, in the matter of wives it seems to have somewhat shameful, if he who has forsaken one wife for the Lord’s sake, shall receive a hundred in the world to come. The meaning is therefore, that he that has forsaken earnal things for the Saviour’s sake, shall receive spiritual things, which in a comparison of value are as a hundred to a small number.
ORIGEN. And in this world, because for his brethren after the flesh he shall find many brethren in the faith; for parents, all the Bishops and Presbyters; for sons, all that have the age of sons. The Angels also are brethren, and all they are sisters that have offered themselves chaste virgins to Christ, as well they that still continue on earth, as they that now live in heaven. The houses and lands manifold more suppose in the repose of Paradise, and the city of God. And besides all these things they shall possess eternal life.
AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xx. 7.) That He says, An hundred fold, is explained by the Apostle, when he says, As having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (2 Cor. 6:10.) For a hundred is sometimes put for the whole universe.
JEROME. And that, And every one that hath forsaken brethren, agrees with that He had said before, I am come to set a man at variance with his father. (Mat. 10:35.) For they who for the faith of Christ and the preaching of the Gospel shall despise all the ties, the riches, and pleasures of this world, they shall receive an hundred fold, and shall possess eternal life.
CHRYSOSTOM. But when He says, He that has forsaken wife, it is not to be taken of actual severing of the marriage tie, but that we should hold the ties of the faith dearer than any other. And here is, I think, a covert allusion to times of persecution; for because there should be many who would draw away their sons to heathenism, when that should happen, they should be held neither as fathers, nor husbands.
RABANUS. But because many with what zeal they take up the pursuit of virtue, do not with the same complete it; but either grow cool, or fall away rapidly; it follows, But many that are first shall be last, and the last first.
ORIGEN. By this He exhorts those that come late to the heavenly word, to haste to ascend to perfection before many whom they see to have grown old in the faith. This sense may also overthrow those that boast to have been educated in Christianity by Christian parents, especially if those parents have filled the Episcopal see, or the office of Priests or Deacons in the Church; and hinder them from desponding who have entertained the Christian doctrines more newly. It has also another meaning, the first, are the Israelites, who become last because of their unbelief; and the Gentiles who were last become first. He is careful to say, Many; for not all who are first shall be last, nor all last first. For before this have many of mankind, who by nature are the last, been made by an angelic life above the Angels; and some Angels who were first have been made last through their sin.
REMIGIUS. It may also be referred in particular to the rich man, who seemed to be first, by his fulfilment of the precepts of the Law, but was made last by his preferring his worldly substance to God. The holy Apostles seemed to be last, but by leaving all they were made first by the grace of humility. There are many who having entered upon good works, fall therefrom, and from having been first, become last.