And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14 KJV)

To whom does the "twelve apostles of the Lamb" refer? Is this the original twelve apostles? or does Mathias replace Judas? Or does this refer to someone or something else?


4 Answers 4


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 someone else. 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.


Paul and Barnabas are both called apostles in the book of Acts:

8 And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them. -Acts 14:8-18 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit had set them apart earlier in Antioch:

1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. -Acts 13:1-3 (NKJV)

So neither Paul nor Barnabas were self-proclaimed apostles, but were set apart by the Holy Spirit. Note that even though Acts refers to them as apostles, there is still a distinction made between them and the other twelve apostles, with one example being in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas go back to Jerusalem to consult with the apostles and elders about the matter of circumcision:

1 And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. -Acts 15:1-2 (NKJV)

The apostles consisted of those who were with Jesus from the start:

15 And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, 16 “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; 17 for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”


21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” 26 And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. -Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 (NKJV)


The word “apostle” does contain a somewhat wider sense at times than just the twelve apostles. However, from the information gleaned from the book of Acts, these were special circumstances where the Holy Spirit set apart certain individuals. The twelve foundations containing the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb in Revelation 21:14 would consist of the eleven plus Matthias, who filled the place left vacant by Judas, who had been with Jesus since the beginning, and as Acts 1:24-26 shows, was chosen by the Lord.


Who are the 12 apostles of the lamb?

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Revelation 21:14 KJV)

The names of the apostles are , Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and that of Matthias. Why?

The scriptures are clear, in that they never referred to Paul as one of the " twelve ". It is logical therefore to conclude, that the apostles of the Lamb inscribed on the twelve foundation stones is that of "Matthias."

The Apostles including Matthias lay their hands on the seven delegates.

Acts 6:1-6 refers to the twelve apostles as appointing the seven men, to handle the problem regarding the distribution of food. This event happened after Pentecost 33 C.E. but before Pauls's conversion. Matthias here is acknowledged as one of the twelve since he shared with the other apostles in laying hands on the seven delegates.

Acts 6:1-6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

6 "Now [a]at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the [b]Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 So the twelve summoned the [c]congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables."

3 "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the [d]ministry of the word.” 5 The statement found approval with the whole [e]congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and [f]Nicolas, a [g]proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them."


The 12 apostles of the Lamb are Simon Peter; Andrew; James; John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas, James son of Alphaeus; Simon the Zealot; Judas son of James; and Paul. Matthias though being with them from the beginning of Christ's ministry, was not appointed by Jesus as an apostle. Peter and the others went ahead of God presumably to fulfil Scripture, to replace Judas Iscariot. Jesus would later in His time appoint How own choice, Saul of Tarsus as His 12th apostle. An apostle is appointed and sent by the appointing authority, which the disciples were not. Jesus Himself was sent by the Father and He is called "the apostle of our confession" (Hebrews 3:1,2) and Jesus was faithful to the One who appointed Him.

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    – agarza
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 21:58
  • @John Ngatho Your answer is a common " speculation" in theological circles. But it is not actually stated in the New Testament Your answer ought to be presented as such to leave the door open for other possibilities. Keep up your biblical study, you're on the right-- and noble-- pursuit. Peace.
    – ray grant
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 22:23