Friday, September 4, 2009

History - Fate of the Apostles

Not One of them Chose to Save His life if it Meant Denying their Faith

About 300 years after the death of Christ, historian Eusebius recorded events based on early sources such as were written by Philo and Josephus Flavius and also on writings of the first church fathers. He explained how the apostles expressed their factually-based faith, a faith which was borne and grew as a result of first-hand experience with their friend Jesus. History shows that even at the point of torture and sure death, each one of the apostles stood unshakeable in his conviction of the Truth. Not one of them chose to save his life if it meant denying their faith.

Paul was imprisoned, tortured, and finally beheaded by Emperor Nero in AD 67. While in prison, Paul focused on the task of spreading the gospel and teaching Christian doctrines. He sent letters of encouragement and instruction throughout the Roman Empire to the churches he had formed. These letters can be found in our New Testament of the Bible.

Around the same time that Paul was beheaded, Peter was placed upside down on a cross and crucified. His beloved wife had already been martyred years before.

Andrew had successfully established churches in parts of Russia and the Ukraine. In time, he was lashed by several soldiers and then crucified on a cross in Greece. He hung for two days, preaching while in agony. Rather than curse his circumstances, he said he felt privileged to die on the cross as it had been consecrated by the body of Christ. This was in AD 60 during the reign of Emperor Nero.

John somehow escaped death after being boiled in oil during one of the many Roman persecutions of Christians. Years later under the reign of Emperor Domitian, he was sent to the prison mines on the island of Patmos where he received astonishing prophetic visions which we still read and study today. He later died peacefully in Turkey as a very old man some time between AD 98-117 during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The apostle John became one of the first bishops, maintaining numerous churches throughout Asia including the seven churches named at the beginning of Revelation.

Matthew was killed with a sword as a result of his preaching in a land south of the Caspian Sea. Matthew had started out preaching the gospel throughout Israel. Before traveling to other lands, he wrote down in Hebrew an authoritative account of the miracles, sayings, and fulfilled prophecies of Jesus Christ in an effort to convince the Jews that Jesus was the one they were waiting for, the promised Messiah. There is evidence that Matthew's account was written within 20 years of the events he recorded. Bearing this in mind, it is obvious other people living at the time acquainted with Jesus would quickly have refuted or even laughed at his story if they knew in fact any of it was based on wistful imagination.

Mark, the first disciple to travel to Egypt, was dragged by horses throughout the streets of Alexandria until he was dead.

Luke was a Greek scholar born at Antioch in Syria. Talented as a painter and trained as a medical physician, his greatest accomplishment was in working with the apostles and recording the life of Christ. He also continued his genius in carefully recording what happened during the early growth of the church. As an untiring preacher, his brilliance and success in converting others offended the powerful Greek disbelievers who hanged him sometime between AD 75-100.

Jude was killed in Persia by pagans with arrows because his faith didn't match their superstitions.

James, brother of Jesus, became bishop of the Church in Jerusalem. Early church sources record that James was thrown by non-Christians over a hundred feet down from the Temple. When those enemies discovered that he survived the fall, they clubbed him to death.

James, son of Zebedee, was found guilty by the Romans after being put on trial to defend his Christian faith. The Roman officer who guarded James was so moved by the earnest and unwavering apostle that he became convinced that only the Truth could be within such an untiring heart. This same guard humbly walked with James to the place of execution, affirmed his new faith to the judge, and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.

Bartholomew became a missionary for Christ and was ultimately flayed to death in Russia. Philip also became a missionary and also died a martyr for his faith in Christ. Matthias, the apostle officially selected to replace Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.

Thomas was stabbed by pagans with a spear in India while forming another Christian church. The church he established has survived to this day.

The disciples were ordinary, everyday men chosen to follow Jesus for three years. Upon the tragic and seemingly hopeless death of their friend and Lord, they became disheartened and confused.

Is it possible that these disillusioned men decided to form a conspiracy? If so, if they had simply tried to make their leader something he was not by concocting miracles that never happened, what advantage did they achieve? Did they gain wealth or status? No. They were hated and their lives were continually threatened.

If they made up the inexplicable darkness that covered the earth after His crucifixion and the joy in miracles that He brought to others, wouldn't witnesses of the time denounce such untruths as absurdities? Would such fantastic stories, if untrue, have even survived within Jerusalem? Could a lie have inspired all the disciples to glorify His name, even at the point of torture and death?

The only explanation for their overwhelming transformation from ordinary men to extraordinary is that they were true to their eyewitness accounts which they recorded. These men clung to their testimonies, even to their brutal deaths at the hands of their persecutors, and despite being given every chance to recant their stories. Why would so many men knowingly die for a lie? They had nothing to gain for lying… and everything to lose.

Unbeknownst to them, their powerful testimonies were not forgotten or eradicated as intended by their tormentors. Their stories continue down through the centuries for anyone who honestly yearns for and seeks cogent Truth to mysteries we cannot otherwise know.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in our hearts: II Peter 1:16-19

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