12th apostle

By Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus

And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. (Rev 21:14)

Why does this passage mention twelve apostles? Judas betrayed Jesus and he was one of the twelve. Can his name be written on the wall? I want to say that the twelfth name may be Stephen, but I am not sure. Could you please bring some clarification to this please. I will greatly appreciate it.

Most Christians speculate that the twelfth apostle is either Matthias or Paul (In Bible verses below, all emphasis and bracketed information added.):

Matthias was chosen to be an apostle

Acts 1:23-26  And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.  And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen “to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”  And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Paul was called to be an apostle

Romans 1:1  Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

1 Corinthians 1:1  Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 Corinthians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

Galatians 1:1  Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Ephesians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Colossians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

1 Timothy 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

2 Timothy 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

Titus 1:1  Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;


What requirements were necessary to be an apostle?

1. The word apostle means “one who is sent”

This word signifies an authorized representation to the point of having equivalent authority as the one who did the sending.  In modern terms we might understand this position to be that of an ambassador, whose responsibility is to perform work according to the will of the one who sent him, or to represent the sender in his absence, or to deliver the words of the sender.

We find in Scripture that both of these men, Matthias and Paul, were chosen and sent.  We know from Scripture that Paul fulfilled his calling, but nothing more is mentioned about Matthias after his initial calling (Acts 1:23-26).  However, just because Scripture is silent about Matthias does not give reason to think he did not fulfill his calling.  Legend says that he served as a missionary to Ethiopia and was probably martyred there.  But remember, that is not biblical…it is only legend.

 2. An apostle had to be an eyewitness of the risen Christ

Matthias witnessed the risen Christ.  Acts 1:21-23  Wherefore of these men [the two candidates to replace Judas] which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.  And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

Paul was a witness to the risen Christ.  1 Corinthians 9:1-2  Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?  If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

 3. An apostle had to be chosen by God.

Matthias:  Acts 1:26  And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.   Acts 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  Acts 2:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,

Paul:  Acts 9:15  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.

4. An apostle possessed the God-given gifts to perform signs and wonders.

Matthias:  Acts 2:43  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

Paul: 2 Corinthians 12:12  Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

So is the twelfth apostle Matthias or Paul?

Again, we do not know.  Scripture does not tell us.  However, many believe that it will be Matthias because of the pattern of 12 is directly related to Israel.

Matthias:  The number twelve represents perfection and completion in relation to Israel.  Consider the patterns in leadership, government, divine authority and appointment:  12 patriarchs, 12 tribes, 12 special anointings for government service,12 disciples during Jesus’ earthly ministry, 12 apostles sent at Pentecost, 12,00 x 12 tribes sealed and sent in the Tribulation, 12 foundations in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:14), 12 gates (Rev 21:12, 21), 12 pearls (Rev 21:21, 12 angels (Rev 21:12), 12 legions of angels (Matthew 26:53), 12 thrones (Matthew 19:28), and more!

With the Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and then his subsequent death,  Peter proclaimed from Scripture (Acts 1:20, Psalm 109:8) that there must be 12 apostles and Jesus confirmed it (Matthew 19:28).

Acts 1:20  “For it is written in the book of Psalms[*Psalm 109:8]: ‘Let his [reference to Judas] dwelling place be desolate, And let no one live in it’; and, ‘Let another [man appointed apostle] take his [Judas’] office.’  (bracketed information added)

*Psalm 109:8  Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Matthew 19:28  So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

 Paul:  Although there are many who think it could be Matthias, there are others who think it could be Paul, because of the great work Paul did in spreading the gospel and building the church.  However, Paul himself qualified that his apostleship was to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, 1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11).

Who knows?

Nobody really knows for certain, because Revelation 21 doesn’t give their names, but I believe it is Matthias.  It seems much more likely that Matthias would be the twelfth because of the pattern of 12 in leadership and government of Israel and because Paul was the “apostle to the Gentiles.”  And it seems likely that those whose name are on the foundations of New Jerusalem are the names of  twelve who walked with Christ during His earthly ministry.

The twelfth name inscribed on the foundations of New Jerusalem has been discussed and debated for centuries. But, remember, only God knows.  I encourage you to do additional study and come to your own decision as to whether it might be Mattias or Paul.

Since the Scriptures do not tell us, we should all defer to the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and others, who said….Oh, Lord thou knowest!

Let us also remember that God promises one day all things will come to pass, all prophecies will be fulfilled and all mysteries will be revealed.  One day there will be 12 names of apostles and we will know who the 12th one is.  One day God’s plan of restoration will be completely fulfilled.  One day all things will be made new…

Oh what a glorious day that will be!


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