"I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20
Why You Need to Know How the 12 Apostles Died

How did the 12 apostles die? Here’s the spoiler alert. Most of them died a martyr’s death. And the reason why we’re looking at that is because by looking at how they’ve been killed for the faith, it gives us a better understanding of what biblical Christianity really is.

And as we examine in this blog post, may we pray and ask God, “God is my heart and my life pleasing to you?” The way that the early disciples lived their lives.

Simon Peter

According to church tradition, Peter was killed by Emperor Nero around 64 A. D. after the great fire of Rome, which Nero famously blamed Christians for starting it. A second-century apocryphal text called Acts of Peter was the first account claiming that Peter was crucified upside down because allegedly, he thought that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same way that Jesus Christ was crucified. So he wanted to be crucified upside down.

And in the Gospel of John chapter 21, alludes to the fact that Peter will die a martyr’s death. It says,

“When you’re old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18)

And Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God

In the eyes of men, crucifixion is humiliation and it’s death and it’s something that everyone wants to avoid. But in God’s eyes, it is something that glorifies Him because as the bible says,

“To live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Today we hear a lot of sermons about how Peter is the person who shoots his mouth off and he’s not really thinking straight. He has some kind of emotional issues.

This Peter in the bible which Jesus says “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but you are mindful of the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

And this Saint Peter was also the one who denied Jesus three times! When he thought that he will never deny Jesus, if everybody else will, then I will not. (Matthew 26:33)

But Jesus said  “Surely I tell you, Peter before the rooster crows, you at least deny me three times.” (Matthew 26:34)

But afterward, Jesus restored him when He resurrected and say “Do you love Me, Peter?” He asked him three times and Peter says “Lord, You know that I love You.” (John 21:15) And so Jesus says “Feed My sheep.” (John 21:16)

Today, if you feel like you failed God of your sin, you turn away from God, you’re backslidden, you’re living a lukewarm faith. Today, God is calling you. He’s saying

“Do you love Me?”

“Come back to Me.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Encourage My people.”

“Draw close to Me.”

Because out of this loving relationship with the living Christ is how it is going to sustain our walk with Him. Even at the point of death if we have to be martyred for the faith.

And if you don’t think that we’re in a culture that we can be modeled for faith even in North America and Western countries, think again because, in the Book of Revelation, it says that the antichrist will come and force people to take a mark in their hand and on the forehead. And if they don’t take it they can’t buy, they can’t sell and they’ll basically have to die for their faith. And even those who confess the name of Jesus, can be beheaded and killed.

Are you ready for that day? If not, then today is the day and say “God, change my life, change my heart. So I can live my life for You and not for this world.”

Andrew

Like his brother, Peter did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus did. So he was bound – not nailed – to a cross which was hung in an X shape instead of a T. So for this reason, an X-shaped cross is sometimes referred to as St. Andrew’s cross.

And according to the Acts of Andrew which is not canon, not scripture, but it’s written in history. It says this:

“Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls.”

“Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired and earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift.”

To the world, that cross, they despise and it’s a shame. But to Andrew, it is a gift from God. It is heavenly love. How can one say such a thing? Unless he’s truly transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus Christ in love to the living God.

James

James is one of the only two apostles whose death is recorded in the Bible. (The other one is Judas Iscariot.)

James was executed with the sword. As we see in Acts 12:1-2 it says

“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, and put to death with the sword.”

And in the fourth century, Eusebius, a Christian historian quoted Clement of Alexandria, which is also an early church father, and says this,

“It appears that the guard who brought James into court was so moved when he saw him testify that he confessed that he, too, was a Christian.”

So they were both taken away together, the guard who was holding James, he’s like, I’m going to become a Christian too. If you’re going to get killed, I’m going to get killed too.

And on the way, he asked James to forgive him. James thought for a moment, then he said, “I wish you peace.” and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time.

Wow, can you think about this? The guard who guards James says, I’m going to die with you. Why would someone do that knowing that he’s going to be killed? The only reason that you can think of is that he can see something in James that he cannot see in anybody else.

That is what the living Christ is supposed to do in our lives. So that when people see us by the power of the Holy Spirit, he says “I want what you have in my life, even if that means death.”

And today God, we pray that if we don’t live a life like that, I pray that You transform us so that our life is dedicated and committed to You. So that people see us that they too want to have You, Jesus. Not the way that the world sees it, ut the way that You have called us to live in Your word. Just like how the disciples live their lives even unto death. May it be so onto us in Jesus’ name.

John

Apostle John is traditionally regarded as the only apostle to die of old age. But even then, Tertullian, a Christian writer from the late second and early third century, wrote that before the Romans banished John. They brought him into a coliseum and dumped him in a vat of boiling oil.

Can you imagine that? A whole pot of oil there and dunked him in there and yet he didn’t die. The only thing that you can account that to is the gift of God, the protection of God, the power of the Holy Spirit protecting him from being killed.

This is the interesting thing about God. When the world wants to kill people, God protects them. When the world wants to cast someone away, exile them to Patmos, thinking that John will do nothing there for the church. Instead, God gives John the book of Revelation of Jesus Christ in the island of Patmos because what God wants to establish is no man, no one in this world can stop it.

Philip

This account is not as clear as the previous ones because early Christian history has Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist in the Book of Acts intertwined. They’re not sure who those accounts are made for. So they can’t ascertain how Philip actually died.

But according to the Acts of Philip, it provides the earliest, most detailed account of his martyrdom. Philip supposedly converted a proconsul’s wife, which angered the proconsul enough to have him and Bartholomew crucified upside down.

Just like Simon Peter, while hanging there, Philip preached and the crowd was moved to release them and he told them the free Bartholomew, but not to take himself down.

This is the account we have of the Apostle Philip.

Bartholomew

The apostle Bartholomew was probably martyred. This is also another account where people are not exactly sure how he died. But tradition has it, the most popular prolific tradition is that he was flayed and then beheaded.

This is why most of the art portraying how Bartholomew died shows him holding or wearing his own skin or associates him with flaying knives. This means being skinned alive, very graphic! But this is how some of the apostles died back in the days.

In another account, in the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, claims that in India, Bartholomew was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.

Now, whether he was crucified or skinned alive, we have no idea. But here’s one thing that we know, is that he was willing to die for the Lord Jesus Christ because the faith that is in him is so real that he’s willing to die for it.

Thomas

He was also known as the doubting Thomas. Tradition has it that he was actually speared to death in India. A very straightforward death although not easy.

Many Christians today like to say, “Oh don’t be a doubting Thomas.” as it was like a bad thing. Because in the gospel of John when Jesus was resurrected, he wasn’t there in the house of the disciples. So when the disciples told Thomas “We’ve seen the Lord.” he says, “Unless I’ve seen with my own eyes and unless I can touch my hand to where he was speared. I will not believe that he is alive.” (John 20:25)

And of course, we know that Jesus appeared to Thomas again and says, “Hey put your hand right here and touch me and feel me because I am alive.” (John 20:27)

And there goes the famous saying that Jesus says

“You have believed now because you’ve seen me but blessed are those who have not seen me, but yet still believe.” (John 20:29)

Isn’t it interesting as I’m thinking about this, Thomas where he had put his hand on Jesus where he was speared, he himself, Thomas was also speared for his martyr’s death. And don’t forget the same doubting Thomas is also the one that says, “Let’s go with Jesus and die with Him.” in the Gospel of John 11:16.

When Jesus says, “I am going to return to that place where they’re actually very hostile to Me.” And Thomas says “I’m going to go, and let us just go die with Him.”

And we start to see this theme echoing over and over and over again with the apostles and disciples of today that they are willing to die for the faith. Why? Because something that is in them is so drastically different with the things of this world that they’re willing to die for the faith and depart and be with the Lord.

May it be our prayer to God that our faith is genuine. So that even if that day calls for us that one day that we can do it.

Matthew

Some accounts have him dying of natural causes at old age. And other accounts, the early church father said that he was burned, stoned, stabbed, or beheaded.

In John Foxe’s is famous Book of Martyrs, which rounded up the most popular traditions known in the 16th century. The entry for Matthews says this

“The scene of his labors was Parthia and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah A. D 60.”

That’s how church tradition has The Apostle Matthew dying for his faith.

James, son of Alphaeus

According to Hyppolytus, a theologian who lived in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, allegedly recorded James’ death in On the Twelve Apostles of Christ and it says this:

James, the son of Alphaeus, when preaching in Jerusalem was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.

Jude

Jude is also known as Thaddeus. Tradition has him that he was martyred in Syria on his missionary journey with Simon the Zealot.

Simon the Zealot

According to church, tradition has him dying in different ways. One of them says in the Golden Legend that he was martyred in Persia in 65 A. D.

Another says that the Ethiopian Christians believed he was crucified in Samaria and in another account says that he was crucified 61 A. D. in Britain.

Yet another account in the 16th century by Justus Lipsius saying that he was sawed in half.

No matter which church tradition, it is likely that he was martyred for his faith as well.

Judas Iscariot

Judas is the one who betrayed Jesus and that’s why many times people think about and say, “Oh, we don’t want to count them as the apostles.” But you know Jesus called him. Judas Iscariot also went and preached the gospel. He healed the sick. He cast out demons.

And the bible says that not only the twelve, but the seventy came back saying, rejoicing that the demons are subject to us. (Luke 10:17) But Jesus says do not rejoice in the fact that you can cast out demons but rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life.

And isn’t it sad to know that Judas is scared. And even though he followed Jesus for three years of the ministry, he himself at the end did not receive eternal life because we read in Matthew 27:5 it says

“Judas threw the money into the temple and left and then he went away and hanged himself.”

That’s how he died. The 30 pieces of silver that he received for betraying Jesus, he threw it away in remorse. But he could not find repentance because he just went and hanged himself.

So the lesson for you and I is while we have time now and God has given us grace, repent today because there’s going to be a time that there’ll be no more grace to repent when Jesus comes back on a white horse and His judgment and His wrath is poured out on the earth.

May we repent now and not tomorrow.

Matthias

He was chosen after Judas Iscariot died and in the Book of Acts 1:12-26

“They cast their lots and it fell on Matthias and he became one of the apostles.”

And that’s pretty much it. Afterward, we haven’t really read about him. And the church tradition has it that he was stoned at the end of his ministry in Aethiopia (Georgia).

Tradition has it that he was stoned by Jews in Jerusalem and then beheaded.

Paul

We have to talk about Paul. Paul wasn’t one of the 12 apostles, but he’s one of the only other people who is universally accepted in the bible and interfaith as the apostle of Jesus Christ. As he writes in his letters too he says “an apostle of Jesus Christ” and it’s widely accepted.

And the apostle Paul’s death is not recorded in the bible, but it’s one of the more well documented martyrdom in the early church.

Numerous early church fathers wrote that he was beheaded by emperor Nero, which would mean that had to be some time before 68 A. D. As we read the accounts in the Book of Acts 21:10-11, it says that the prophet Agabus actually took the belt of Paul and bound himself, his hands and feet and saying “This is what the Holy Spirit says Paul, when you go into the city, you’re going to be bound just like this.”

And so the disciples says, “Oh Paul, don’t go.” But what did Paul say? He says, “What do you mean I shouldn’t go? I’m not only willing to be persecuted and beaten for the faith, I’m willing to even die for the Lord Jesus Christ” That’s written in the Book of Acts 21:13.

And we know in church history that he certainly did. That he was martyred for his faith and got beheaded.

Final Words

I don’t know about you, but when I read the list of all these apostles, of all who have died for the Lord Jesus Christ, I can’t help but think “God am I ready?”

The day if I have to stand for my faith, even in the midst of them saying killing me or even my family. If I have to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel, can I do it?

And I don’t think that anyone can emphatically say “Oh yes, on that day I’ll definitely be able to do it.” Just like Simon peter says, “Oh Lord, even if everybody else is going to deny you.” And yet he denied the Lord Jesus Christ three times.

And so, a better thing to do rather will be to pray God. I pray that every day I will live a genuine faith, living in repentance, drawing closer to You, thinking about the things of heaven and not things on earth. Because it’s only through that constant relationship, only constantly abiding in You and in Your love that I know no matter what happens in my life, I’ll be able to follow You and confess you as Lord.

And so right now in Jesus’ name, I release the spirit of courage and boldness into you and your family. May you and I, we stand up for the gospel of Jesus Christ in this end time hour. When the world is standing up for filth, is standing up for sin, all the things that are contrary to the word of God. We will stand up for the things of God and say no God, we stand for holiness! We stand for righteousness! and we stand for the Name that is above all names and the King above all kings and that is Jesus Christ.

Where our lives reflect that we live on this faith so that others can see us and also want to walk in the path of eternal life through knowing You, Jesus Christ. I bless you in that way.

Go ahead and share this with people who need to hear it.

Until next time.

God bless you!

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