APOSTLES

"Who were the twelve (12) disciples / apostles of Jesus Christ?"

The word "disciple" refers to a "learner" or "follower." The word "apostle" refers to "one who is sent out." While Jesus was on earth, the twelve were called disciples. The 12 disciples followed Jesus Christ, learned from Him, and were trained by Him. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the disciples out (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) to be His witnesses. They were then referred to as the twelve apostles. However, even when Jesus was still on earth, the terms disciples and apostles were used somewhat interchangeably, as Jesus trained them and sent them out.

The original twelve disciples / apostles are listed in Matthew 10:2-4, "These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him." The Bible also lists the 12 disciples / apostles in Mark 3:16-19 and Luke 6:13-16. In comparing the three passages, there are a couple of minor differences in the names. It seems that Thaddaeus was also know as "Judas, son of James" (Luke 6:16) and Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3). Simon the Zealot was also known as Simon the Canaanite (Mark 3:18). Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, was replaced in the twelve apostles by Matthias (see Acts 1:20-26). Some Bible teachers view Matthias as an "invalid" member of the 12 apostles, and instead believe that the Apostle Paul was God's choice to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth apostle.

The twelve disciples / apostles were ordinary men whom God used in an extraordinary manner. Among the 12 were fishermen, a tax collector, and a revolutionary. The Gospels record the constant failings, struggles, and doubts of these twelve men who followed Jesus Christ. After witnessing Jesus' resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples / apostles into powerful men of God who "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). What was the change? The 12 apostles / disciples had "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). May the same be said of us!

"Does the Bible record the death of the apostles? How did each of the apostles die?"

The only apostle’s death the Bible records is James' (Acts 12:2). King Herod had James put to death “with the sword” – likely a reference to beheading. The circumstances of the deaths of the other apostles can only be known based on church traditions, so we should not put too much weight on any of the other accounts. The most commonly accepted church tradition in regards to the death of an apostle is that the Apostle Peter was crucified, upside-down on an x-shaped cross, in Rome, in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (John 21:18). Following are the most popular “traditions” in regards to the deaths of the other apostles:

Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound. John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. The Apostle John was later freed and returned to what is now modern-day Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.

James, the brother of Jesus (not officially an apostle), the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a club. This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation.

Bartholomew, also know as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching in Armenia, when he was flayed to death by a whip. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, Andrew's body was tied to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: "I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it." He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died. The Apostle Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church there. Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded. The Apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. There are traditions regarding the other apostles as well, but none with any reliable historical or traditional support.

It is not so important how the apostles died. What is important is the fact that they were all willing to die for their faith. If Jesus had not been resurrected, the disciples would have known. No one will die for something he knows is a lie. The fact that all of the apostles were willing to die horrible deaths, refusing to renounce their faith in Christ – is tremendous evidence that they had truly witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.