The answer to who replaced Judas Iscariot is fairly straightforward from a strictly biblical sense as the story of Judas’ replacement is found in Acts 1. Matthias is chosen by lot to take the place of Judas Iscariot.
But the deeper question usually implied behind who replaced Judas is “who is the twelfth apostle?” Some will say that the remaining eleven correctly chose Matthias to take the place of Judas. Others maintain that Matthias was never God’s choice and that He intended Paul to be the twelfth apostle.
While we can’t say definitively as scripture never states whether the choice of Matthias was correct or not, there is a strong case to be made that the remaining eleven jumped the gun in selecting Matthias.
In Acts 1, Jesus ascends into heaven. His final recorded instructions for the apostles were: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
We know that the disciples stayed in Jerusalem, but they didn’t wait long for something to happen. Jesus’ ascension was 40 days after His resurrection and Pentecost is 50 days afterwards, so this takes place sometime in those ten days.
Matthias is chosen by the casting of lots. This was an Old Testament practice that was used to determine the will of God. It might sound superstitious to modern readers but within the context of “pre-Holy Spirit” this was fine. But that’s the real problem. If the disciples had waited just a few more days, they would have had the Holy Spirit and there would have been no need to cast lots to determine the will of God.
The next issue with the selection is the required qualifications of the options to chose from. There would appear to be no problems with the criteria on the surface: Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. But how do we know that these are the criteria that God has in mind. It seems like common sense but man’s wisdom is not God’s wisdom.
Finally, there are two men selected. Maybe these were the only two who were qualified or maybe there were other criteria – or more human wisdom – used to whittle the candidates down to two. What if God’s choice wasn’t one of the two? Well those are the only two options they gave God to pick from when they cast the lot.
Finally, they prayed before casting the lot. This should have been the first thing that was done. They should have sought the Lord’s wisdom and guidance before even determining criteria. But as it is written, they only pray before making the final decision.
Matthias is chosen by lot and Acts 1 tells us that he was added to the eleven apostles. But, was this God’s choice? Matthias is never heard from again in scripture. We know nothing of him outside of this passage. In fairness, we hear of basically nothing of the other disciples aside from Peter, James, and John though.
Still, the New Testament is dominated by Paul and his writings. Granted, this doesn’t mean anything in terms of him being God’s choice over Matthias. But it certainly feels odd to think that God’s choice of replacement would immediately fade into biblical and historical obscurity.
Finally, there is the words of Revelation 21:14 – The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. It’s never a good idea to make theological assumptions based on feelings, but doesn’t it just feel like Paul’s name has to be included here? Not to take anything away from Matthias who was obviously a great man of faith if he followed Jesus the whole time from beginning to end, but it seems like a guy who’s very name is written on the foundation of heaven would be mentioned more than once in the entire Bible.
All of that said, this is certainly not an issue that I’m willing to fight over. When I get to heaven, if I see Matthias’ name there on the foundation I’m certainly not going to lose any sleep over it. But if I had to guess which one God intended to take the place of Judas, I have to believe that God intended Paul to take Judas’ place.