[Heb 12:23 ESV] (23) and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

[Heb 12:23 MGNT] (23) καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων καὶ πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων

What would “enrollment” have meant in the historical context (i.e., Judea, Rome, etc.)?

4 Answers 4


I don't know greek very well, but my Amplified Bible says:

v23 "And to the church (assembly) of the Firstborn who are registered [as citizens] in heaven..."

Joseph and Mary had to register for the Census Luke 2:1-6

In Nehemiah 7:5, Nehemiah finds a register of the people. In Nehemiah 7:61:65 some people could not prove they were a part of a particular family in Israel and were excluded from the priesthood because their names were not written in the register.

In Matthew chapter 1, Matthew either memorised Jesus lineage or it was written down somewhere for peole to know who he was and what family he came from.

This idea of being enrolled/registered is also found in Revelation 20:15.

So it seems that the Jews had their form of registering as well as the Romans.

  • Thanks. And kudos for letting us know that you aren't pretending to be more Greek-savvy than you are. Respect. Do you have an idea of who these registered firstborn (plural) are?
    – Ruminator
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 22:53
  • I think they are God's people - those who have been born again as Jesus says in John chapter 3. If it was singular I would say 'Firstborn ' might be referring to Jesus Christ who was the first to rise from the dead (Acts 26:23, 1 Corinthians 15:20), but if it is plural then 'firstborn' might be those that are God's people - those that have been born again (James 1:18).
    – Michael
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 23:16

Heb 12:23
καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς καὶ κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων καὶ πνεύμασι δικαίων τετελειωμένων

James 1:18
βουληθεὶς ἀπεκύησεν ἡμᾶς λόγῳ ἀληθείας, εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἀπαρχήν τινα τῶν αὐτοῦ κτισμάτων

Acts 2:47
αἰνοῦντες τὸν Θεὸν καὶ ἔχοντες χάριν πρὸς ὅλον τὸν λαόν. ὁ δὲ Κύριος προσετίθει τοὺς σῳζομένους καθ’ ἡμέραν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό.

Col 1:18
καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ σώματος, τῆς ἐκκλησίας· ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχή, πρωτότοκος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἵνα γένηται ἐν πᾶσιν αὐτὸς πρωτεύων,

These verses are provided for additional study to explain Heb 12:23. In Heb 12:23 the word 'firstborn' is in the genitive plural (as well as the participle 'enrolled' or 'recorded'); firstborn has to do with preeminent with regard to what is referenced (whether being enrolled, or brought forth as firstfruits by His Will, or being raised from the dead [Col 1:18 wrt Jesus]; Acts 2 tells us who adds to His assembly.

The enrolled in heaven would be Christians, those who repent and are immersed in accordance with the imperative of Acts 2:38. These are enrolled in heaven by God as Acts 2:47 states. Christ is the firstborn (preeminent) one from the dead; Christians are firstborn preeminent ones, firstfruits of His creation, brought forth by His Will, as obedient ones, who are enrolled in heaven.

  • Use '>' as the first character of a new paragraph. Paragraphs begin and end with a blank line.
    – enegue
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 22:47

The Greek verb ἀπογράφω occurs four times in the Greek New Testament: thrice by Luke1 and once in the Epistle to the Hebrews.2 Luke also uses the related noun, ἀπογραφή,3 meaning a “register of persons liable to taxation.”4

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Therefore, ἀπογράφω means “to register for taxation.” Typically citizens of a polity were taxed. Since Christians are citizens of heaven,4

20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, NKJV, ©1982

then it seems appropriate for the firstborn Christians to be registered in heaven, “a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God,”5 “the heavenly Jerusalem.”6


1 Luke 2:1, 2:3, 2:5
2 Heb. 12:23
3 Luke 2:2
4 LSJ, p. 194
5 Heb. 11:10
6 Heb. 12:22


Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. with revised supplement. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.


This appears to be, among other things, an allusion/fulfillment of this prophecy of the new Jeruslaem:

[Psa 87:1-7 NASB] (1) A Psalm of the sons of Korah. A Song. His foundation is in the holy mountains. (2) The LORD loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. (3) Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. Selah. (4) "I shall mention Rahab and Babylon among those who know Me; Behold, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia: 'This one was born there.'" (5) But of Zion it shall be said, "This one and that one were born in her"; And the Most High Himself will establish her. (6) The LORD will count when He registers the peoples, "This one was born there." Selah. (7) Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, "All my springs of joy are in you."

This may also be the background of references to the necessity of being "born over" aka "reborn" into the new Jerusalem through the new covenant which Paul describes as "the body of Christ" and John describes as a cubic city/temple:

[Rev 21:22-27 NKJV] (22) But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (23) The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. (24) And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. (25) Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). (26) And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. (27) But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Paul describes this city as "the mother of us all";

[Gal 4:26 NKJV] (26) but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

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