(above) Adriaen van de Venne’s Fishers of Men. Oil on panel, 1614
From the moment each one first met Him, and through their time together, and then His physical absence but spiritual presence each of the original Apostles had their world turned upside down, inside out, and recolored. The Apostle Paul could say the same, with the exception that Paul never walked with, had breakfast with, went fishing with, or just sat around a fire and talk with Yeshua (Jesus) like the others. None of them, not one, was ever the same from the moment they met Jesus. While their full transformation was not instant it was profoundly lasting. These disciples who became Apostles made mistakes, and God was patient. They stumbled, and God proved again His long-suffering character. They questioned, and He chose to answer rather than get angry. They struggled but He did not turn His back on them, as they had to Him. A bump in the road here or there, sure; learning to trust when evidence pointed otherwise, yes; wondering if they would ever stand firmly on the teachings of Jesus, you bet. Can you relate?
Well…these men plucked from virtual obscurity changed a world. And when the time came, each gave his life for the cause of Christ. Here’s how:
The Apostle Peter: He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. According to church tradition it was because Peter told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way Jesus Christ had died.
The Apostle Matthew: Died in Ethiopia, killed by a sword. The Apostle Mark: Died in Alexandria, Egypt after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead. The Apostle Luke: was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching. The Apostle John: Faced his death when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. He was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He is the author of the book of Revelation in The Bible. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos. Many years later the Apostle John was freed and served as Bishop of Edessa in modern day Turkey. John died a quite old man, the only apostle to die peacefully. The Apostle James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southwest pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When his enemies discovered he survived the fall, they beat James to death with a fuller’s club. **This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Yeshua (Jesus) during the Temptation.
The Apostle James “the Great”: Son of Zebedee, he was a fisherman by trade when Yeshua called him to a lifetime ministry “to fish for men.” A strong leader, James was ultimately beheaded in Jerusalem. The Roman officer assigned to guard James watched in amazement as James defended his faith at trial. Later, the same officer walked besides James to the place of execution. This Roman solider was overcome by conviction, and he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt besides James to accept beheading as a Christian. The Apostle Bartholomew: Also known as Nathaniel was a missionary to Asia. He preached and ministered through present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip. The Apostle Andrew: Peter’s younger brother, the first to accept Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus the anointed one, Christ) who then introduced Peter to Jesus. He was crucified on a x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being severely whipped by seven soldiers, they then tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led to the cross, Andrew embraced his situation with these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” Andrew continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died.
The Apostle Thomas: He was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the Sub-continent. The Apostle Jude: He was killed by arrows shot at him for refusing to deny his faith in Christ. The Apostle Matthias: This Apostle was chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot. Matthias was stoned brutally and then beheaded.
The Apostle Paul: Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write the many epistles (letters) to the churches he formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters were the foundational Doctrines of the Christian Faith, and form a large portion of the New Testament in the Bible. Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero in Rome in A.D. 67.
The sufferings we face today are minor compared to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the apostles and disciples during their times for the sake of the Faith. It was Jesus who said, “You will be dragged before the courts, and beaten in the synagogues, and accused before governors and kings of being my followers. This is your opportunity to tell them the Good News…and everyone will hate you because you are mine. But all who endure to the end without renouncing me shall be saved” (Mark 13:9-13). Allow me to say the Lord’s words this way: People will character assassinate you, bring charges against you, cause you to leave a church or some organization, political parties will mock you, elected officials will scorn you, and you will no longer be invited to the “A” list parties and socials if you publicly proclaim Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you pick and choose which parts of Jesus Christ’s teachings to share or support, you will endure a while longer but what will you become in the process? If you choose to fly under the public (and even church) radar, and not stand on Jesus Christ’s Gospel at all as you practice your stealth Christian walk then maybe you never really knew the Lord the above thirteen guys knew and gave their lives for without compromising.
Jesus Christ calls men to carry a cross; but the church and society calls them to simply have fun in His name. Jesus calls people to forsake the world; but the church and society says if you accept Jesus the world is at your feet. The Lord taught that you may indeed suffer for the cause of the Gospel; but that teaching is old guard in many circles, and Christians are wooed to enjoy all the depravity and self-edifying comforts modern society affords, especially here in America. Jesus called His disciples to holiness; but this has been replaced with a call for cheap happiness, “after-all, haven’t you been ‘saved'”? From present day pulpits and ministries comes the admonishment “You will not disagree, but conform and exhibit adherence of political correctness for a new and improved Gospel is at work.” This new teaching seducing the masses…Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything is part of the transforming America taking place in plain sight.
I briefly mentioned thirteen men who would strongly stand and publicly disagree. Heck, they did stand strong and in public, even before Kings and Governors, and they eloquently disagreed, and were killed for their allegiance to Jesus Christ, and Christ alone! Where do you stand? There is a day quickly coming where all men will learn where your stand. Far more importantly, there is a day quickly coming when God will judge your stand.
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