“I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things ...” (Matthew 19:28-29)

“I tell you the truth, 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. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:28-29)
This statement follows Peter’s statement:
“We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matt. 19:27)

Comparison with Luke and Mark

Before we dig into the meaning of Jesus' response, it is appropriate to detail the description of Jesus' response to Peter's question from the Book of Luke and Mark:
"Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life." (Mark 10:29-30)
And from the Book of Luke:
"Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life." (Luke 18:29-30)
We find that Jesus' reply is virtually the same in all three except that Matthew's version has the additional discussion of the "twelve." Did he really say this part?

Understanding Matthew's version

Let's break down Matthew's version:

“I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things..."

The word "renewal" is translated from the Greek word παλιγγενεσία (paliggenesia), which means according to the lexicon, "new birth, reproduction, renewal, recreation, regeneration."

But does the original Greek state "all things"? No. It simply says, literally "in the regeneration..." (as it is also translated in the King James Version and others).

So what is "the new birth" or "renewal" or "regeneration"?

Jesus is referring to the spiritual realm - and the person who returns to the spiritual realm after the death of the physical body.

When the physical body dies, the spirit-person who is within the body leaves that body. The destination of this spirit-person - each of us - will depend upon our activities in this physical lifetime, combined with our consciousness at the time of death. If we've lived our lives in a self-centered way focused upon pleasing our senses, we will not be returning to the spiritual realm.

Those who focus their lives upon rebuilding their relationship with the Supreme Being - described as living "for the sake of the kingdom of God" and "for me and the gospel" in Mark and Luke - will return to the spiritual realm. This is clear from all three statements, particularly the use of eternal life - translated from ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

"... when the Son of man sits on his glorious throne ..."

This is where the diversion from Luke and Mark begins. The Greek word translated to "throne" is θρόνος (thronos) means, according to the lexicon, "a chair of state having a footstool" and "to judges i.e. tribunal or bench" and "to elders."

In other words, Jesus is not speaking of a throne as if he is God - sitting on "the big throne." This is also made obvious by the fact that Jesus also described that his disciples would also be sitting on thrones. Would they all be acting as God then? Don't be ridiculous.

Furthermore, the Greek word translated to "glorious" is δόξα (doxa). The primary meaning according to the lexicon is "majesty - a thing belonging to God."

So the "seat" that Jesus is referring to is "majestic" because it belongs to the Supreme Being - in other words, Jesus is describing his position as it relates to the Supreme Being.

Jesus also states this elsewhere, as he said:
“But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
In this statement, "coming" is mistranslated from the Greek word ἔρχομαι (erchomai), which also means, "to appear, make one's appearance." In other words, it should say "appearing on the clouds of heaven."

Anyway, the phrase, "at the right hand" is translated from the Greek word δεξιός (dexios) - which is related to the word δόξα (doxa) - and refers to the "right hand" just as being someone's "right hand man" means to be that person's assistant or servant.

So Jesus is speaking of the fact that his "seat" in the spiritual realm relates to his loving service relationship with the Supreme Being.

Furthermore, "son of man" is also a poor translation of the Greek phrase, υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

The Greek word that has been translated to “son” is υἱός (huios). As indicated by the lexicon, this can only mean "son" in a "limited" manner, of one born of mother and father. In this context, it is more appropriately defined in the Greek lexicon, as "one who depends on another or is his follower."

Thus, the correct translation of υἱός would be "servant," as in one who works for the welfare of another.

"Man" is being translated from the Greek word, ἀνθρώπου, which can mean "man" but can also mean "mankind" or "humanity." Certainly the correct context of Jesus' describing himself was not to state that he was a son of a man.

Thus, within the context of the self-reference of υἱὸς τοῦ [of] ἀνθρώπου, the more appropriate translation would be "servant of humanity."

This is consistent with the same word υἱός, when applied to God would mean "servant of God."

Thus, when Jesus refers to himself as the "son of man" this is a humble reference. He is describing himself as the servant of all humanity. We can also see this humble self-identification when David refers to himself as a "son of man" [servant of humanity]

"O Lord, what is man that you care for him, the son of man [servant of humanity] that you think of him?" (Psalm 144:3)

"... you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

Does Jesus mean this literally? Is this what people do when the return to the spiritual realm - they sit in judgement of others - even if those others were their elders?

The twelve tribes of Israel represent the sons of Jacob - also renamed Israel - who each were sent out by Jacob to teach to others. In the order of their age, these sons were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. However, Benjamin's tribe eventually merged into the tribe of Judah and while no tribe was named after Joseph, his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim each headed up a tribe.

Basically, each of the twelve went out to teach, and eventually each tribe went on to settle a different part of what would later be referred to as the nations of Israel and Judah - until the Assyrians decimated most (ten) of the Northern tribes, causing evacuees to resettle into the South in Judah - more specifically Jerusalem. These ten northern tribes have been referred to as the lost tribes of Israel.

It was after this that multiple versions of the Oral teachings passed down by the teachers of some of these tribes were merged together to form the Five Books of Moses. That is why there are sometimes two or even three versions of the same story in some of the Old Testament texts (for example, the story of the burning bush).

Many teachers among the sectarian institutions make a big show of the symbolism of the "twelve." But we notice that Jesus does not mention the "twelve" in either the Book of Mark nor the Book of Luke with his reply to Peter.

And it makes no sense in this statement either because Jesus had many other disciples and followers ("you who have followed me") outside of the twelve. In the Book of Luke, Jesus sent out 72 disciples to teach. So we know he had at least 72 disciples.

So in the context of returning to heaven, did Jesus really mean that only twelve of his disciples would get a seat there and these twelve would sit in judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel? What about the others who have followed Jesus then?

We must also question the translation of the Greek word κρίνω (krinō) to the English word "judging." According to the Greek lexicon, we find this definition of the Greek word κρίνω (krinō) means "to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose" and "to approve, esteem, to prefer."

Yes, "judging" is a possible translation, but this is listed as a much less prevalent use of the Greek work as evidenced by the lexicon. It is, in fact, the least prevalent use.

And if we tie back to Jesus' statement about his own majestic seat - δόξα (doxa) - we find that Jesus is speaking of the disciples being glorified or esteemed in their spiritual lives - rather than sitting in judgement of someone else. We can see this metaphor with this correction in translation:
“Truly I tell you, that you who have followed me, in the restoration of life after death when the Servant of Humanity shall be seated on a throne of His splendor, you also will be seated upon twelve thrones, presiding over the twelve tribes of Israel."
This is consistent with the rest of Jesus' statement:

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers ...”

This part of Jesus' statement is consistent with the versions in Luke and Mark. It is also meaningful with respect to Peter's query.

Jesus is stating clearly that there is justice within the world.

There is justice because the Supreme Being has designed and organized the physical world. We might think that there is a lot of chaos, but this is only our perception. This concept of chaos is created by our mental perception, resulting from our inability to perceive the spiritual realm with the physical senses.

This is because the physical world and these physical bodies were designed to prevent us from seeing the spiritual realm.

And it is our activities that create chaos within the world. We are the cause of the suffering we see around us.

The physical world is set up as a rehabilitation center of sorts. The physical world is designed as a place of consequence. This means the things we do here - and our very decisions - all have consequences. This is set up to teach us.

Child psychologists recommend consequence training for children because this is the best way to learn. It is the best way because by experiencing the consequences of what we do - we have a better chance of learning something completely.

But living for the Supreme Being - as Jesus is describing those who are following him - produces another type of consequence - a spiritual consequence. This is linked to our relationship with the Supreme Being.

We might compare this to being a student in a classroom. The teacher will set up the class and the lesson plan in such a way that is designed to teach the children certain things. A person who tries hard to learn from the teacher certainly will learn.

But if a student also develops a personal relationship with the teacher, that relationship will take the student outside the realm of the lessons of the classroom.

In the same way, by redeveloping our loving service relationship with the Supreme Being by working to please His representative, we gradually create a place for ourselves within the realm of the Supreme Being - the spiritual realm.

Eternal life?

There, in the spiritual world, they will "inherit eternal life." "Eternal life" contrasts with the temporary nature of the physical world, where we dwell in physical bodies for several decades, and then must leave them behind. In the spiritual world, there is no death. There is no suffering. Everything is blissful. Everyone is loving and giving. This is because the children of God are not self-centered in the spiritual realm.

Furthermore, in the spiritual world, there is no quest to sit on thrones. Do you think that heaven is a place where people sit around on thrones and get off on judging people? Is this the same place that Jesus described:
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
Rather, the spiritual realm is the place of loving service to the Supreme Being. Jesus confirms this elsewhere, that our path back to the spiritual world is becoming one of God's loving servants:
"Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:22)