To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne . . . (Revelation 3:21)
Question: What is the literal meaning, or inference, of Revelation 3:21 where Jesus told the twelve apostles, they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel? Is it only a reference to the role of judgment over the Jews and the nations? Or, is it literally sitting with him on his throne, and if so, how would this be practically accomplished?
Sitting with Christ on his throne is quite an experience to contemplate. If literal, we can’t begin to compare it to anything we might experience in this life, which would be infinitely inferior on every level. It is, however, an experience we should try to understand because Jesus specifically told the Apostle John that it is a hope that each of us may firmly grasp.
We recall the mother of James and John (and James and John themselves) actually did contemplate this very thing (Matthew 20:20-21; Mark 10:35-37). She asked that Jesus grant her sons a seat at his left and right hand when his kingdom was established. Jesus alluded to the trials he had yet to face – trials they did not envision for Jesus or themselves. To end the matter, Jesus simply said the favor was not his to grant. This request of the apostles’ mother may have been prompted by something Jesus said in the previous chapter of Matthew, 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; Luke 22:30).
Comparing this verse with the announcement made by Gabriel to Mary, we are able to deduce that sitting with Jesus on his throne implies governing responsibilities and not some sort of formal seating chart. The angel announced, And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:31-33). Reigning over the house of Jacob is judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The authority promised to the Son will be manifest in God’s adopted sons, who like Jesus, will be raised from the dead, and because their names are written in the book of life, will have been given life everlasting. Indeed, they will all be one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
The throne of David, viewed as a governing body controlled by King David (and David obedient to Yahweh), included the services of many people as we read in 2 Samuel 8:15-18: And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people. And Joab the son of Zeruiah [was] over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud [was] recorder; and Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, [were] the priests; and Seraiah [was] the scribe; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada [was over] both the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were chief rulers. Can we say Christ’s kingdom will mirror that of his father David? (Matthew 1:1) Certainly, it will surpass it in many ways just as Solomon’s kingdom did. King David did grant power as rulers to his sons similar to the power to be given the apostles. Might we not expect various offices to be created and filled with the saints in the Kingdom Age? (1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Revelation 20:6)
This month’s question arose from Revelation 3:21, taken from the letter to the ecclesia at Laodicea. To him that overcometh is a refrain used in the messages given to each of the seven ecclesias. Note the refrain regarding the Thyatira ecclesia, And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star (Revelation 2:26-28: see also Psalm 149:5-9) From what we have examined, this ruling with a rod of iron and breaking the nations as pottery is certainly associated with the throne of the Messiah. The saints could do no such thing without receiving authority from Jesus, who in turn receives it from the Father in accordance with His will and plan for the earth.
Did not Jesus give us a foreshadowing at his first advent? And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples, he gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Matthew 10:1). Jesus gave his disciples power to heal like he healed. He had no throne then, but the purpose of this power to heal was to witness to the fact that he was the Son of God, and therefore the promised seed and heir to David’s throne (John 5:36). The power to heal people as Jesus did was miraculous and unknown as a talent possessed by any mere mortal. This was the kind of power to be associated with the King of Kings, and yet he delegated it to his disciples.
We have examined the idea of the throne as a symbol of government. What about an actual throne? When Adonijah declared himself king, David gave instructions to have Solomon ride the king’s mule, be anointed king, blow ye the trumpet, and then be placed on David’s throne (1 Kings 1:32-35). Solomon sitting on David’s actual throne stopped the insurrection of Adonijah and his confederates. However, we know Solomon replaced David’s throne with one of his own design (1 Kings 10:18-20). It therefore wasn’t David’s actual throne that was of primary importance.
Let us look at one last illustration from Scripture. Eli the priest was sitting by the wayside on the eventful day the ark of the covenant was conveyed to the place Israel battled the Philistines. When the messenger arrived with news from the front that Eli’s sons were dead and that the ark had been captured, Eli fell off his seat backward breaking his neck and dying (1 Samuel 4:12-18). The Hebrew word for “seat” is again the word translated “throne” in other passages. Understanding this makes this passage much more poignant. Eli was God’s priest. He was judged unfit because he did not reign in the excesses of his sons (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22). God revealed his displeasure not directly to Eli, but first through a man of God, and then by the child Samuel (1 Samuel 10-18). The capture of the ark sealed his doom and he fell backward off his “throne” and died.
We have not been told explicitly what it means to “sit with me in my throne,” but “it is the honor of kings to search out a matter.” Based on the above examples from Scripture, it would appear to be the power and authority associated with Christ’s throne that will be conveyed to those that overcome (Revelation 2:26).