We are almost done with our 2 years of Sunday School lessons! We are closing in on Revelation, and I am so excited.
If you’ve been following along with our lessons as we worked our way through Acts, you probably noticed most of the 12 disciples aren’t mentioned much. Peter and John get a few stories early on, and we hear about James briefly, but most of the disciples? Nothing, not a word.
So, what happened to the 12 disciples of Jesus?
There’s a couple of different ways you can approach this lesson. If you are teaching older kids what happened to the 12 disciples of Jesus, then you can have them research the answer. I’ve included a printable that gives them room to write what happened and what church historian is credited with the news. Some of the 12 disciples our information goes like this, “And we believe they died here.”
But, here’s how I presented what happened to the 12 disciples of Jesus to my kids:
What happened to the 12 disciples of Jesus video lesson
And for those of you like me who don’t want to watch the video, here’s a quick update. I’ll do this in a slightly different order than I did in the video lesson, instead I’ll cover it geographically.
I taped up a bunch of our laminated wall maps I made. I wrote the names of the countries I vaguely remembered being important, and then got to it.
Peter and Paul both died in Rome under the Emperor Nero. The book of Acts ends with Paul’s journey to Rome, and Paul lived in relative comfort in Rome for two years. After that it’s believe he was in a high security prison (basically a hole in the ground) for around 6 months, before he had his final trial before Nero and was beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down, according to church historians Peter asked to be crucified upside down because “I am not worthy to be killed as my Lord was.” Pretty impressive.
Next, heading over to Greece, several of the disciples headed to this area. Philip and Andrew both headed over there, separately, and were martyred there. John also headed to that area, but he did not die a martyr’s death. After being boiled in oil John was exiled to Patmos. There he wrote 1, 2, and 3 John, and the gospel of John (all to counteract the heresy of Gnosticism), and then he had his vision of Revelation. Eventually he was released and moved back to Ephesus. There he died an old man, who according to church history would sit and tell everyone, “If you love one another, that is enough.” He was so weak, the believers had to carry him to the church.
Heading South and slightly East to Egypt. James headed to Egypt and ministered there until he was martyred.
Heading further South and a hair further East to Ethiopia. Matthew ministered in Israel for a while, where he probably wrote the book of Matthew to show the Israelites Jesus was the promised Messiah who fulfilled the prophecies. Then he headed down to Ethiopia where he was martyred, most likely. He’s one of the disciples the information is very muddy on.
Heading back North up to Israel. James, the brother of John was the very first martyr because he angered Herod Agrippa. Judas could not live with betraying Jesus, so he killed himself shortly after Jesus was crucified.
After Judas died the apostles got together and decided they needed another apostle, and picked a man named Matthais. And that’s all that’s said about him in the Bible. Church history does not know much about him either. It’s rumored he died before the fall of Jerusalem, but it’s not 100% sure. There’s also some debate among Christians if he really was an apostle, or if he was a placeholder for Paul, and others say he died before Paul was appointed an apostle. We honestly don’t know.
Continuing East and little more North to Persia, Simon headed there after a stop in Egypt. While there he refused to bow to the Persian gods and was killed.
Our final two disciples are Thomas and Bartholomew. Both of them headed to India (separately), and taught people about Jesus there.
This is not a happy lesson, all of these men had painful lives. This is one reason I tend to believe the Bible is true. If they all conspired together to hide Jesus’ body and say, “No really Jesus came back to life,” then it is highly unlikely they would go through this pain for a lie.
But what about me, what does all of this have to do with me?
I’m glad you asked. I take this as a reminder to pray for the persecuted church. There are thousands of Christians throughout the world in places as dangerous as the Roman empire was to the apostles. So, I take the time to pray for them. That’s what my Sunday School class will be doing this week. I’ve printed out a list of 50 countries with information on specific prayer needs for each country. We’ll be taking time to pray for those countries, and each kid will get a coin from one of those countries to remind them to pray.
What happened to the 12 disciples of Jesus resources
- What happened to the 12 disciples of Jesus lesson printable
- Why did Paul replace Mathais as an apostle
- Opendoors USA– website about Christians around the world
- How the apostles died website