The Church Does Not Have Twelve Tribes

Justin Johnson

The church, which is the body of Christ, composed of Jew and Gentile does not have twelve tribes.

When the Bible talks about twelve tribes, it is not talking about the church of one body (Rom 12:5, Eph 4:4).

Twelve Tribes of Israel

There were twelve family tribes that made up the nation Israel. Those tribes came from the twelve sons of Jacob (Gen 49:28).

When Israel agreed to do all the law, Moses built twelve pillars as a memorial: one for each tribe of Israel.

“And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” – Exodus 24:4

There were twelve stones in Aaron’s ephod according to the twelve tribes of Israel.

“And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes.” – Exodus 28:21

Every Sabbath the priests would make an offering of twelve cakes to the Lord in memorial of the everlasting covenant made with the twelve tribes of Israel (Lev 24:5-9).

When Israel was to enter the promised land God sent twelve men to search out the land: one head from each tribe (Deu 1:23).

“Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them.” – Num 13:2-3

Although they did not go in with Moses, Joshua repeated this election of twelve men when they entered the promised land across the Jordan river (Josh 3:12). Each tribe left a stone in Gilgal where they crossed the river.

The land was divided up into twelve portions: one for each tribe.

Twelve Tribes and the Messiah

Twelve tribes always refers to Israel, even when they are found in Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Israel’s Messiah chose twelve men to be minister with him: one for each tribe of the nation Israel (Mark 3:14).

He gave these twelve men instructions not to go to Gentiles, but to only go to the twelve tribes of Israel.

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” – Matt 10:5-6

He promised these twelve apostles that they would sit on twelve thrones: one throne for each tribe of Israel.

“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.” – Matt 19:28

Twelve Tribes and the Kingdom

The twelve apostles ministered the Messiah and the kingdom to the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words…” – Acts 2:22

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.” – James 1:1

John prophesied that twelve thousand from each tribe would be sealed as ministers in the last days.

“And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.” – Rev 7:4

Even the new Jerusalem in the kingdom come has twelve gates on twelve foundations representing the twelve tribes of Israel.

“And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:” – Rev 21:12

Twelve Tribes is Not the Church

It is simple to divide the scripture speaking of the church which is one body, from the nation which has twelve tribes. The church of the one body does not have twelve tribes.

Where the twelve tribes are found in your Bible, it is speaking about God working through Israel. God works on earth through the church only where he is no longer working through the twelve tribes.

This means the one body church is not to be found anywhere in Genesis through Malachi, Jesus’ earthly ministry to Israel, at Pentecost in Acts 2, nor in the Hebrew epistles written to the twelve tribes by the apostles, including the book of Revelation.

When God is working through Israel on earth he is not working through the church which is his body.

Israel is the subject of prophecy, and the one body church is the subject of the mystery not revealed to the twelve tribes of Israel.

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Published: April 20, 2013
Last Modified: May 29, 2021
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