In the earliest days of Old Testament history, from the calling of Abraham about 2,000 years before Christ, God began to deal with the Jews in a special way. It is almost as though he turned his back on the Gentile nations, at least for a time, as he began to create, redeem, and eventually teach and disciple those to whom the Lord Jesus would eventually come. The Jews were quite proud of that heritage, as we ourselves would be.

There have been attempts to interpret the parable so as to eliminate the difficulties we looked at yesterday, but these interpretations do not work.

When Peter reacted to the unbelief of the rich young ruler by reminding Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything to follow Jesus but were still wondering, “What then will we have?”, Jesus answered by promising Peter rewards. “you who have followed me...sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:28-29). When I commented on those words in the last study I said that God will be no man’s debtor.

In spite of these obvious qualifications, Christ’s promise of homes, family and fields is an encouragement for those willing to serve him. It tells us that God is good and that he is no man’s debtor. Sometimes the idea that “God is no man’s debtor” has been used wrongly to try to control God, as it were. People have suggested that if we do so-and-so, then God is obliged to do so-and-so for us. That is manipulative, and the text does not support this view. However, properly received, it does encourage us to serve God in Christ’s service, knowing that we will be blessed for it. There are several important grounds for this encouragement.

There is disagreement among commentators as to what Jesus meant when he promised that the disciples would “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (v.28). Some refer it to a literal rule by the disciples over Israel under Christ’s overall messianic rule during a future earthly millennium. Others think of it as a participation of all the saved in the judgment of Christ to be exercised at the last day. Still others refer it to some kind of rule by Christians in this present age. I think the words “at the renewal of all things” and Christ’s “glorious throne” decide the matter in terms of a future millennial age, however that may be conceived.