This past week, I was doing some research for a small group Bible study that my wife and I host, when I ran across a website that made me really stop in my tracks. On this page was a list of the New Testament Apostles and how each one died. I have known for a long time that all the Apostles with the exception of John died brutal deaths, but for some reason, seeing the comprehensive list in front of me made me sick to my stomach. Crucifixions, beheadings, torture, stonings, you name it.
John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod.
Stephen was stoned to death
James, the brother of John was “put to death with the sword” by King Herod
Philip reportedly suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was severely flogged, imprisoned, and later crucified.
Matthew was killed with a halberd (a pike fitted with an ax head) in Nadabah.
James was stoned and clubbed to death in Jerusalem.
Matthias was stoned, and then beheaded at Jerusalem.
Andrew, the brother of Peter was crucified on an X-shaped cross, two ends of which were in the ground. Hence the origin of the term, “St. Andrew’s Cross”.
Mark was reportedly torn to pieces by a mob in Alexandria
Peter was reportedly crucified, upside down, during the reign of Emperor Nero.
Paul was beheaded, or torn to pieces by wild animals in the arena, during the time of Nero.
Jude the brother of James, was crucified at Edessa.
Bartholomew was tortured and crucified in India.
Thomas was reportedly killed with a spear in India.
Luke-One account states that he died of old age, while another says that he was hanged in an olive tree in Greece.
Simon the Zealot is believed to have been crucified in what is today Britain.
John took care of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ (not the mother of God), after the Crucifixion (John 19:26-27). He went on to write the Book of Revelation while a prisoner on Patmos. He may be the only apostle who escaped a violent death.
I was really disturbed this past week, mulling over the facts that those closest to Jesus himself were victims of such violent deaths. After all, didn’t Jesus promise us all the protection and life that comes from knowing him? I hear preachers on TV talking about how God wants us to be successful, live a long life, be rich, you pretty much name it. God wants the best for us, right? How am I supposed to witness to people and tell then God loves them when I know full well that those who actually followed the human man himself met a bitter end? Who wants this? What does this mean for my future?
OK, I know I am being a little dramatic. The times were much different back when the Apostles were alive. I would probably be the first crucifixion in modern day America if this were my pending fate. This is the least of my concerns. But what does lie in store?
It was at church Sunday that it hit me between the eyes. It is not about me and my future. It was not about the Apostles either. Jesus tells his followers in Matthew 5:45,
“In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” (NLT)
Jesus is telling his followers that we live in a physical world with physical rules. One of my favorite lines in the movie Fight Club states “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” We are all born, we all die. We all need food, and we all experience the natural laws of things like gravity. The thing that is different however is the pursuit of a spiritual mission that is much greater than anything on Earth. The Apostles made it their mission to spread the gospel around the World, and if you ask me, they did a pretty good job. Their words and experiences live on in each of us. The living Christ made such an impact that it literally sent a ripple through the natural World. Evil was conquered by Christ, and you can imagine what that did to the demons that once ruled. Trying to stop the truth from spreading, each Apostle was tracked down and killed. But this didn’t matter in the heavenly realms. God’s spirit was already on the move.
Back to my comment about God wanting the best for us.
Our full potential is HIS potential.
Think about this for a second. We are here for a breath. A split second in time. We will all leave this world at some point. We will leave our money, success, and material stuff behind. Why would God himself want us to value these temporary things? Ponder this next time you hear some preacher tell you God wants you to have lots of money. What is important is that we let God use us to change this world for him. Surrender our desires for wealth, earthly happiness, and power. He will bless us more than we could imagine- eternally. Our success in this feat will be determined by the mark we leave for Christ after we are gone. Will that mark on time live on another 2,000 years? Our reward awaits us in heaven.
So what really happened to the Apostles? Jesus told them their TRUE fate in Matthew 22:29-30
“And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Not bad huh? They knew their future…what is ours?