Matthew 19:

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, 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.

Is it with or without Levi in this definition?

Joshua 13:

33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.

  • It includes Levi. 12 = 12. 12 /= 11. Even though the Levitical priesthood had the honor of serving in the temple, and did not function as the other tribes, that does not mean they will not have oversight. Inheritance /= Oversight. Oct 18 '21 at 16:55
  • 1
    Expand it into an answer with scriptural supports and I'll upvote it :)
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 18 '21 at 17:00

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. (Matthew 19:28, KJV)

Which Tribes?

Clear reference is made in this text to the kingdom of heaven where "the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory." We find the tribes who will be in heaven listed in Revelation.

But first, just to clarify something regarding the tribe of Levi....

Inheritance of the Levites

Levi inherited the ministration in the sanctuary/tabernacle, and was given cities throughout the land of Israel once they reached the Promised Land.

Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them. (Numbers 35:2, KJV)

And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about. (Numbers 35:4, KJV)

And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities. (Numbers 35:6, KJV)

So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs. (Numbers 35:7, KJV)

The Twelve Tribes in Heaven

And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. (Revelation 7:4, KJV)

Of the tribe of Juda were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelve thousand. (Revelation 7:5, KJV)

Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Nephthalim were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Manasses were sealed twelve thousand. (Revelation 7:6, KJV)

Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Issachar were sealed twelve thousand. (Revelation 7:7, KJV)

Of the tribe of Zabulon were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Joseph were sealed twelve thousand. Of the tribe of Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand. (Revelation 7:8, KJV)

So the list includes (in OT age order):

  • Reuben
  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Judah
  • Naphtali
  • Gad
  • Asher
  • Issachar
  • Zebulun
  • Joseph
  • Benjamin
  • Manasseh

Absentees from the List

  • Dan
  • Ephraim


The following tribes will be in heaven, and comprise those that Jesus would have referenced in Matthew 19:28:

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin, and Manasseh.

  • Really? What is the tribe of Joseph - Joseph was the father of Manasseh (and Ephraim). How is the tribe of Manasseh distinct from Joseph?
    – Dottard
    Oct 18 '21 at 20:26
  • @Dottard, I would expect that "Joseph" refers to Ephraim. Remember that when Israel adopted Joseph's two sons as if they were his own, he gave preference to the younger (Ephraim), so it makes sense that Ephraim would inherit the "Joseph" tribe name. Manasseh, being the "younger" would be the start of a new sub-tribe. The only question is, why not Dan. Oct 19 '21 at 0:43

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 tribes are being referred to, if specific tribes 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.

The details don't matter, what matters is the picture of complete people of God: all of Israel judged over by all of Jesus's Apostles.


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