jesus ascension

According to the Bible, the original 12 disciples of Jesus were Andrew, Peter, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James, Matthew, Simon, Thaddeus, and Judas. Judas eventually betrayed Jesus, initiating His arrest and trek to be crucified on the cross, and Matthias replaced Judas in Acts 1:21-26. The apostles weren’t the kind of group that people would expect Jesus to send forth on His mission to reach the world. There wasn’t anything truly spectacular or unique about them; they were just ordinary working men.

However, Jesus formed them into the foundation of the church and gave them an extraordinary task: calling the entire world, including the strongest empire known to man, to faith and repentance in Christ. You can be sure that any first-century, educated Roman citizen would’ve laughed at any likelihood that Christianity would be the empire’s official faith within three centuries.

The dispersion of the 12 disciples.

Many people wonder how the 12 apostles died, but the New Testament shares the fate of only two of the apostles: Judas, who hanged himself after betraying Jesus, and James, Zebedee’s son, whom Herod executed in Acts 12:2. Legends and reports abound, and they’re not always reliable, but it’s safe to say that the apostles went far and wide to share the message of the risen Christ. An early legend says they divided up the world to establish who would go where so everyone could hear about Jesus. They suffered immensely for their faith and, in most cases, met horrible deaths due to their faith and bold witness in Christ. Here’s what happened to the 12 disciples after Jesus’ ascension.


Peter’s life holds a special place in Christian history. Originally named Simon, Peter was a humble fisherman from Bethsaida whom Jesus chose to be one of His 12 apostles. Known for his genuine faith and leadership, Peter was typically at the forefront of the disciples, ready to serve the Lord. His journey with Christ was marked with significant moments of faith, like when he walked on water at Jesus’ lead, showing his willingness to obey and trust Jesus. His relationship with Jesus changed Peter’s life.

Despite his weakness, like denying Christ during the crucifixion, Peter’s story is one of grace and redemption. Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration of Peter after His resurrection shows the depth of God’s mercy and the power of repentance. Peter’s leadership in the early church is an inspiration for spiritual leadership and evangelism. His legacy continues to encourage Christians to live courageously and faithfully in their walk with Christ.


Paul’s missionary journeys took him throughout the Roman Empire, where he established several churches and wrote several letters, many of which are part of the New Testament. His epistles, including Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians, addressed theological issues, giving guidance for living a Christian life and encouraging unity within the early church. His teachings on salvation through faith in Jesus, the nature of the church as Christ’s body, and the Holy Spirit’s role have had a lasting impact on Christian theology.

Although facing imprisonment, persecution, and several hardships, Paul remained loyal to his mission. His legacy continues to inspire Christians worldwide, as his example of faithfulness and writings remain central to Christian practice and belief. Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome around 66 AD during the oppression under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded, and Peter was crucified upside down, as he didn’t feel worthy to die in the same way as Christ.


During his time with Jesus, Andrew was depicted as a dedicated and humble follower, typically seen in the background but always present in the critical moments of Jesus’ ministry. One notable example of his faith is recorded in John, where Andrew brings a boy with two fishes and five loaves of bread to Jesus, which Jesus miraculously multiplied to feed 5,000 people. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Andrew is thought to have started missionary journeys to spread the Gospel, with tradition saying he preached in regions like Asia Minor, Scythia, and Greece.

His martyrdom came in Patras, Greece, where he was crucified on an X-shaped cross known as Saint Andrew’s Cross. Andrew’s legacy lives on as the patron saint of numerous countries, including Russia, Scotland, and Greece. Andrew’s life continues to inspire Christians to share their faith.


Thomas is often remembered for his skepticism, earning the nickname “Doubting Thomas.” Still, there’s much more to his story than this single moment of doubt. He’s mentioned numerous times in the Gospels, where he’s shown as a curious and devoted follower of Christ. His most known doubt happened after Jesus’ resurrection when he declared that he wouldn’t believe in the risen Christ unless he could touch and see His wounds. Aside from this episode, Thomas’s life after Jesus’ resurrection is filled with legend and mystery. According to tradition, he traveled eastward to spread the Gospel, reaching as far as India. He’s believed to have established Christian communities and performed miracles in Jesus’ name. Thomas is believed to have been martyred for his faith, and his relics are respected in churches across the world.


Phillip’s ministry went beyond the events recorded in the Gospels. Tradition says that he preached in various regions, including Phrygia in Asia Minor, where he’s said to have performed miracles and converted several people to Christianity. His dedication to spreading God’s word emphasizes his dedication to his faith and his role as a missionary. Today, Phillip is remembered as a saint in numerous Christian denominations, and his life continues to inspire believers in their journeys of service and faith. He possibly had a ministry in Carthage in Asia Minor and North Africa, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation, the proconsul had Phillip arrested and put to death.


Matthew wrote the first Gospel in the New Testament. Before his call to be a disciple, he worked as a tax collector in Capernaum, a job that was typically hated by the Jewish community for its correlation with the Roman occupation and perceived as dishonest. After Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, Matthew continued to spread the Gospel, traveling to preach in areas like Persia, Ethiopia, and Parthia. His legacy remains through his Gospel, which continues to be a foundational text for Christians worldwide. Some of the oldest reports say Matthew wasn’t martyred, while others say he was stabbed in Ethiopia.


In some biblical accounts, Bartholomew is also known as Nathanael. The New Testament gives limited details about his life, but he’s often identified with Nathanel, who was introduced to Jesus by Phillip and is mentioned in John’s Gospel. Christian tradition says that after Jesus’ ascension, Bartholomew dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel. He’s believed to have traveled extensively to spread Christ’s teachings, with some accounts suggesting that he went as far as Armenia, India, Ethiopia, and Mesopotamia. In Armenia, he’s particularly revered for his missionary efforts and is considered one of the country’s patron saints. The circumstances of Bartholomew’s martyrdom aren’t definitively known, but numerous traditions suggest that he was either flayed alive or beheaded. His contributions to the church are remembered in his sainthood.

James, the Lesser.

James the Lesser is typically identified this way to differentiate him from James the Greater, another disciple of Jesus. He was the son of Alphaeus and is sometimes called James, the son of Alphaeus in the New Testament to differentiate him from the other James further. Little is known about his early life, but like the other disciples, James left everything to follow Jesus and become a devoted follower and witness to Jesus’ ministry. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, James became a renowned figure in the early Christian community in Jerusalem.

He’s often associated with James the Just, who was known for his piety and adherence to Jewish law. Though less documented than those of some other apostles, James’ contributions to the spread of Christianity were significant in the early church’s foundation. Tradition states that he suffered martyrdom for his faith, though his death details vary among sources. He’s venerated as a saint in various Christian denominations.

Simon, the Zealot.

Simon the Zealot is somewhat of a mysterious figure in the New Testament, with limited details available about his life. His background suggests that Simon was a passionate supporter of Jewish independence and was likely characterized by a robust zeal for his convictions and beliefs. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Simon continued to share the Gospel as part of the early Christian crusade. Tradition says that Simon preached in regions like North Africa, Egypt, and Persia, where he’s believed to have been martyred for his faith. The story goes that he ministered in Persia but was murdered after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.


Matthias has a special place among Jesus’ disciples, as he was chosen to replace Judas after he betrayed Christ and his subsequent death. He wasn’t originally one of the disciples but followed Jesus from the start of His ministry. The New Testament doesn’t give further details about Matthias’ ministry, but tradition says that he preached the Gospels in several regions, including the Caspian Sea area, Cappadocia, and Ethiopia. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew, where he was sentenced to death by burning.


John, also called the Beloved Disciple, is a key figure in the New Testament and all of Christian tradition. He was Zebedee’s son, and his brother James was also one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. He’s known for his close relationship with Jesus and was part of the inner circle of disciples. He’s typically depicted as leaning on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper, symbolizing his special relationship with Jesus. John’s contributions to Christianity are profound, as his writings highlight Christ’s divinity, the importance of love, and the promise of eternal life for all believers. After Jesus’ ascension, John played an important role in the early church, particularly in Ephesus, where he’s said to have lived and ministered until his death.

John is the only apostle thought to have died naturally from old age. He was the church leader in the Ephesus area and is said to have cared for Mary, Jesus’ mother, in his home. During Domitian’s persecution, John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation. An early Latin tradition had him escaping unharmed after being thrown into boiling oil.

James, the Greater.

James, also called James the Greater, was John’s brother, who was another one of Jesus’ disciples. The two were fishermen when Jesus called them to follow Him. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, his life took a dramatic turn. James became an influential leader in the early Christian community in Jerusalem, playing a significant role in spreading the Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles say that James was the first disciple to be killed for his faith. Around 44 AD, James was executed under the orders of King Herod Agrippa.

The disciples’ influence today.

The names of Jesus’ disciples have become the most common names for men in the Western world. How many men do you know named Tom, Andy, or Phil? At least four of them were fishermen, so could this be why one of the earliest Christian symbols was the fish? After the death of the disciples, we don’t find significant missionary figures of Paul’s stature, but the faith continued to spread, even though Christianity was proclaimed illegal until the 4th century under Emperor Constantine.

Jesus’ 12 disciples were ordinary men who were called to do something extraordinary. However, Jesus brought them together with the mission to spread His gospel throughout the world, which is precisely what they did. After Jesus' ascension, the disciples followed their instructions and spread the Gospel throughout the world. Unfortunately, some of them died for spreading their faith, but at that point, their job was done.

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