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I got into a short discussion about the tribes of Israel. I stated there were 13 tribes listed in the Old Testament but only 12 in the book of Revelations. I decided to send this message out to the whole mailing list because of the educational value and I believe it will be of great interest to many.

The fact that there were 13 tribes of Israel is vastly overlooked because Jacob had 12 sons. Joseph was separated from his brothers when they sold him as a slave in Egypt.  When Joseph had two boys, Ephraim and Manasseh there in Egypt, Jacob said that instead of Joseph, his two sons will be counted among the 12 tribes; and Levi was not given an inheritance because they were a nation of Priests for all 12.  So in reality, there was really 13 tribes.

The 13 tribes are listed in Numbers 1 starting in verse 20, and are:

and then Levi (verse 47)

The tribes of the Old Testament was a type of shadow of what was to come in the New Testament. 

How many people were there at the last supper? 13. The twelve tribes represented by the 12 disciples and Christ representing Levi who was the priests. 

Now Judas later committed suicide which brought the number back to 12. Then when you go to Acts chapter 1, before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; Peter said we need to replace this position. It was an office that Jesus had established among the Apostles.  Judas killed himself, and so they chose somebody. They cast lots between two characters, and Matthias was chosen. They chose somebody to fill the vacancy to bring the number from 11 back up to 12 Apostles, then the Holy Spirit was poured out which was 13 again. I believe the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the last days will be when the 144,000 are prepared.  
Missing from Revelations is Dan and Ephraim. Instead, Levi and Joseph are listed. 

One of the verses in the Old Testament tells us when Jacob was blessing his children, “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way and a viper by the path that bites the horse's heels so that its rider shall fall backward.” And regarding Ephraim, the Bible says, “Ephraim is joined unto idols. Let her alone.”

The 144,000 are sealed at the beginning, therefore, they are judged early. Dan means judgment and for the 144,000 judgment has passed; so it included the names of Joseph instead of Ephraim and Levi instead of Dan.

I believe that when you look at Revelation, it’s telling us that these names are spiritual symbols. Jesus Himself said that many will come from the East and the West and sit down in the Kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the children of the Kingdom (the literal children) are cast out. John the Baptist said to the Jews who came to hear his preaching, ‘I’m able to raise up children unto Abraham from these stones.’ And again, Paul says, ‘he that is in Christ, he is Abraham’s seed.’ Remember, Jew is a religion (one who believes in the God of Abraham) not a people; this is why a Gentile could become a Jew in the Old Testament and we are grafted in under the new covenant in the New Testament.

And so, of the 144,000, 10 of these tribes were carried away captive by the Assyrians.  They inter-married with their captors and basically disappeared as a distinct people.  The ones who came back from Babylon were from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi. The name “Jew” is derived from the tribe of Judah The majority of the 10 tribes had ceased to exist as a people. You cannot find 12,000 people from the tribe of Zebulun. You cannot find 12,000 literal people from the tribe of Issachar.  They don’t exist as a pureblood. So the idea that God is going to raise up 12,000 pure-blood Jews from these 12 tribes is really absurd if you read the whole Old Testament. They are Spiritual Jews.

Now I do believe we still have a work to do among literal Jews, and that is there in Romans. But I believe many of the prophecies and promises regarding Israel in the New Testament are talking about Spiritual Israel; those who are grafted in.

Another passage that I look at for the spiritual Jews is in Matthew 19 when Jesus told His disciples that they would sit on the twelve thrones and judge the tribes of Israel. Now we know that the tribes of Israel are not the only people who are going to be judged; therefore Jesus was referring to the twelve spiritual tribes of Israel. 

The way I read it, Jesus made a covenant only with the house of Israel and He tells His disciples that they will be judging the tribes of Israel. If Jesus was only talking physical then all of us Gentile would be out of luck, but I don’t believe that God is racist in any way.

Thank you for the discussion. God Bless