Day 20. The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14)

Audio (8:30)

Ontario, Canada, church doorway, Behold the Lamb of God, mosaic with gilded sun above Lamb.
Ontario, Canada, church doorway, Behold the Lamb of God, mosaic with gilded sun above Lamb.

Yesterday, on Day 19, we read that John is told to behold the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.

"'Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.' And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." (Revelation 21:9-11)

The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, is "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).

The Glorious City

John begins to enumerate her adornments -- given in terms that would suit an idealized city rather than a young bride (Revelation 21:10-22:4):

  • The radiant glory of God,
  • A great high wall,
  • Twelve Gates, 3 gates on each side,
  • Foundations inscribed with the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb,
  • An exact cube, 12,000 stadia on each side (1,380 miles or 2,400 kilometers),
  • A wall of jasper, the city of pure gold, like clear glass,
  • Foundations adorned with precious jewels,
  • Gates of pearl,
  • Lit by the glory of God and the Lamb, rather than lamps, and
  • A river of life and healing flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

It is a glorious city, a glorious Bride. Paul wrote of how much Christ loves his bride, sanctifying and cleansing her,

"... that He might present her to Himself a glorious116 church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27, NKJV)

  The Twelve Apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14)

The glorious city is amazing! Now we focus in on one of its details as we look for references in Revelation to the Lamb.

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

It is no coincidence that there are twelve apostles. Jesus clearly intended it to be so! The 12 apostles are to be seen as the progenitors of the New Israel as the twelve sons of Jacob, the patriarchs, are the progenitors of the original Israel. The church, Paul tells us, is  "the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2:19-20).

We see the number 12 throughout Revelation relating to both the apostles and the tribes:

  • The Woman clothed with the sun has a crown of 12 stars (Revelation 12:1).
  • The names of the 12 tribes of Israel are inscribed on the 12 gates to the city (Revelation 21:12)
  • The 12 foundations of the city wall bear the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb (Revelation 21:14).
  • There are 12 gates of pearl, one for each tribe (Revelation 21:21).
  • The trees along the banks of the river bear 12 kinds of fruit (Revelation 22:2).

And don't forget that 144,000 is 12 apostles times 12 tribes times 1,000, a very great and very symbolic number (Revelation 7:1, 4; 14:1, 3).

Ambassadors of the Lamb

The word "apostle" (apostolos) means, "delegate, envoy, messenger,"117 used in the New Testament mainly to refer to Jesus' twelve select messengers to the world, bearers of the message of salvation. Apostles were the first official "delegates" or "envoys" of the Lamb. Indeed, the word "apostle" can denote the idea of an "ambassador."

Few of us may ever be apostles in the special sense of the term,118 but we all are sent out by Jesus with a mission of bringing the good news of hope and salvation to a struggling, hurting, broken world. The Twelve are Apostles with a capital "A", but we are surely "sent ones" also, though perhaps with a lower-case "a".

We are ambassadors, delegates, envoys, each of us an outpost embassy or consulate of the Kingdom in our own neighborhoods and communities.119 If the twelve apostles were considered "Apostles of the Lamb" (Revelation 21:14), each of us is no less an Ambassador of the Lamb.

Remember what happened as a result of the intense persecution of Christians in Jerusalem in the early days? "There arose ... a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.... Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:1-4). As a result, the Gospel spreads far and wide, producing pockets of believers in Samaria and Antioch and Judea, and all around the Mediterranean where these believers go. The apostles aren't these messengers; they remained in Jerusalem. In this "scattering," God is intentionally sending out men and women whom he had raised up. They become a new wave of ambassadors that God uses mightily!

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My friend, you are not one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, but you are still Jesus' Envoy, his Representative, an Ambassador of the Lamb, and his trusted Servant. It is a highly honored position, but also one that bears great responsibility. Go forth, oh Ambassadors of the Lamb, and let people know that the Lamb has been slain for them, has conquered, and conquers yet today!


Father, thank you that your ambassadors carried the gospel to each of us. I pray that we might come to see ourselves not as ordinary Christians, but as chosen ambassadors of the Lamb wherever you place us. Give us a heightened awareness of your Spirit's whispers, I pray, so that we might do and say as you are directing us -- words direct from your capital in the heavenly Jerusalem to men and women, boys and girls whom you love where we are. Grant it, Lord, and then help us to rise in faith to the occasion. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Day 20 Meditation (Revelation 21:14). The 12 Apostles of the Lamb became the foundation of the New Jerusalem. How has your life, your example, and your testimony been built into the foundations of the lives of your family and community? In what sense do you see yourself as an Ambassador of the Lamb?


(References and Abbreviations)

[116] "Glorious" (NKJ, KJV), "splendor" (ESV, NRSV), "radiant" (NIV) is endoxos, "pertaining to possessing an inherent quality that is not ordinary, glorious, splendid" (BDAG 332, 2). My mind goes back to the old gospel hymn, "'Tis a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle  /  Washed in the blood of the Lamb." ("'Tis a Glorious Church," arranged by E.T. Reinhart, Martin W. Knapp (1902)).

[117] Apostolos, BDAG 122, 2c, from apostellō, "to dispatch someone for the achievement of some objective, send away/out" (BDAG 120, 1c).

[118] I do believe that there are apostles today, though none of them have seen the Lord or walked with him physically, an early qualification for the original Twelve.

[119] Ephesians 6:20; 2 Corinthians 5:20. The Greek word for "ambassador" is presbeuō, "be an ambassador/envoy, travel/work as an ambassador," used in ancient Greek especially of the emperor's legates. The word originally meant "be older" or "in the first rank" (BDAG 861).

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