Mysteries of the Kingdom

            in awe of scripture, viewing it through the lens of the kingship of Jesus


    Early Christians passed down to us ample records of the exploits of the apostles deep into Africa and Asia. Many scholars today deride the ancient records as legends, but history tells us of the chosen eleven:
     1.  James the son of Zebedee went as far as modern Spain.
     2.  John the Son of Zebedee went to Smyrna on the west coast of Modern Turkey.
     3.  Simon Peter preached into Asia Minor and then Rome.
     4.  His brother Andrew traveled far north in modern Russia almost to Finland.
     5.  Philip went to Ephesus on the West coast of modern Turkey near Smyrna.
     6.  Matthew, also called "Levi," preached in Cyprus, North Africa, and Ethiopia.
     7.  Bartholomew, also called "Nathaniel," traveled to India, Ethiopia, and Armenia.
     8.  James the son of Alphaeus preached north of modern Syria and down into Egypt.
     9.  Thomas Didymus labored in the Malabar region of southern India.
    10. Jude Thaddeus, preached in Lybia, Armenia, and Persia.
    11. Simon the Zealot, went West into modern Morocco, northeast into Georgia and into Persia.
    Paul (Saul of Tarsus), to whom Jesus appeared, went to modern Turkey, Greece, and Rome. Even if we counted Paul as a twelfth, only four of these twelve crossed over into Europe while the same number went East into Persia, Armenia, Georgia, and even India. Moreover, five of them journeyed into Africa. The gospel of the kingdom (which began in Asia) spread in every direction, not predominantly Europe. Not only these twelve, but many more Apostles went out into the nations. Ancient believers also told us the accomplishments of Barnabus, of Mark, and others of the seventy whom Jesus sent out in Luke 10:1. The records below offer more details on each of the eleven. I have not taken the time to provide sources, but those who are interested can find ample writings of the early church for free on websites like to investigate independently.

    James went as far as modern Spain before returning to Jerusalem where he became the first of the twelve to be martyred. Eusebius tells us the Herod (among several Herods) who persecuted the saints and sentenced to death James was also called "Agrippa."

    Herod Agrippa had Simon Peter arrested too, but the Lord delivered Simon Peter from prison (Acts 12:11). Peter had been the outspoken, natural leader of Jesus' twelve disciples (Acts 2:14, 4:8, 5:3), a leadership Jesus Himself condoned (Mat 16:18, Jhn 21:15-17, Mat 23:11, 1Cor 15:5). The disagreement by many Protestants (I too am Protestant) appears to be driven by a reaction to papacy rather than by historical record. Paul's letters set Peter apart from the rest of the twelve (1Cor 9:5), and early church writers affirmed Peter's leadership long before the idea of a Roman papacy was developed. He did not rule the early believers, but he did lead.
    Peter broke the ethnic barrier by preaching to Cornelius and welcoming him into the faith despite the shocking fact that Cornelius was neither of the Jewish race nor faith. Peter's wife died as a martyr. He traveled throughout Asia Minor, taking John Mark as his co-laborer. Simon Peter finished his life in Rome where the church fathers tell us both he and Paul established the community of faith. As Eusebius and others told it, the saints in Rome begged Mark to give them a written account of what Peter was teaching. Peter knew of Mark's writing, and Mark made no pretense of reporting the chronology of events or the chronology of teachings. Mark only ensured the truthfulness of their content. Mark later journeyed to Egypt where he founded the church of Alexandria which continues today as the "Coptic" Orthodox Church.
    Peter and Paul died in AD 67 and 68, both at the hands of Emperor Nero. Peter died by crucifixion upside-down (at his own request). Nero had been lenient toward the saints in his early years. Eusebius said Paul first appealed to Nero in Acts 25:11 who exonerated him in those early years.
    Joseph of Cyprus was renamed by the apostles as "Barnabas," meaning "son of encouragement." He and his cousin John Mark were among Jesus' seventy apostles in Luke 10:1 and 10:17. The Epistle of Barnabas was so highly esteemed that several bishops used it as holy scripture although such opinion did not stand the test of time. That epistle is still available to us today. The two other books which some early bishops called scripture (yet never attained universal recognition) were the Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians and the Shepherd of Hermas. For more information on the peaceful way in which the canon of scripture was decided, click here.

     John cared for Mary the Mother of King Jesus until her death in AD 54, then he traveled to Ephesus. Near the end of the first century, Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus persecuted the saints, including submerging John in boiling oil in the Roman coliseum. John emerged unhurt, and tradition holds the entire coliseum crowd converted to Christianity upon this miracle. The authorities banished him to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of the Revelation. Once freed from Patmos, John traveled to Smyrna in modern Turkey where he discipled Polycarp and installed him as bishop. Polycarp wrote an epistle to the Philippians which survives today, but not as holy scripture. Polycarp discipled Irenaeus who served as bishop of Lyons in modern France (then Gaul). Polycarp gained the "martyr's crown" (as Eusebius described it) by being burnt alive at the stake.

    Jesus' first follower Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter (Jn1:40), took the gospel into modern Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. He founded the bishopric of Byzantium (later called Constantinople and then Istanbul). Andrew preached as far South as Ethiopia, then was crucified in Greece with ropes rather than nails on an X shaped cross. Andrew requested the alternative form of crucifixion because (like Peter) he considered himself unworthy of dying in the same manner as his King.

    Eusebius tells us the Philip from among the chosen twelve was the same Philip as found in Acts chapter eight. His declaration of the kingdom (Acts 8:12) was quickly carried to Ethiopia which many considered one of the "uttermost parts of the earth" since travel via the Nile ended there. Philip also preached in Greece and Asia Minor. Upon his martyr's death, his body was buried in Ephesus. Notably, his two daughters were so famous for their gifts of prophecy that when the so-called "Paschal Controversy" brewed near the end of the second century, Bishop Polycrates of Ephesus included the location of the burial of the daughters of Philip (in Ephesus) as proof that Ephesus was at least as important as Rome and therefore need not obey Rome.
    The Paschal Controversy consisted of disagreement as to which day the death of King Jesus should be remembered each year, based on either the Jewish calendar (14th of Nisan) or the lunar calendar (to maintain the days of the week as Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday). When the Bishop of Rome advocated breaking fellowship with the Asiatic churches over this issue, Bishop Irenaeus of Lugdunum (modern Lyon, France) wrote to Bishop Victor reminding him of the peaceful agreement between Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna and Bishop Anicetus of Rome fifty years prior. Even though Irenaeus agreed with Victor about the proper date for Paschal, he implored Victor to agree-to-disagree after the manner of their predecessors. Rome deferred to Irenaeus, dropping the matter until the Council of Nicea.

    Matthew (also called "Levi") remained in Jerusalem for several years after the King's ascension, preaching the kingdom among the Jews, and writing the very first gospel in the Hebrew language (as confirmed by Origen, Jerome, and Augustine). Matthew later left the levant and preached the kingdom in Cyprus and North Africa before being martyred in Ethiopia.

    Bartholomew, also called Nathaniel (Jn1:45, 21:2) was a close friend of Philip in scripture, but apparently traveled without him to India where he left a copy of Matthew's gospel. Bartholomew traveled to Ethiopia and finally Armenia where he converted Polymius, the king of Armenia. In consequence, the king's brother Astyages had Bartholomew skinned alive.

    While several Apostles traveled into North India, Thomas Didymus preached in Northern India and then sailed to Muziris of Kerala (modern Malabar) on the southwestern coast of India in AD 52. Thomas labored at lenth in Kerala, establishing eight churches before being martyred by spearing there. Many "Saint Thomas Christians" today are part of the Church of the East as well as the Assyriac Orthodox Church.

    Eastern Orthodoxy records how James the son of Alphaeus preached the gospel in Jerusalem, then traveled as far North as Edessa (just North of modern Syria) and finally as far South as Egypt where he was crucified in the city of Ostrachina.

    Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox agree that Jude Thaddaeus was the brother of Jesus through Joseph's first wife. They also agree he wrote the canonical epistle of Jude. He is identified as one of those in John 7:5 who did not (at first) believe Jesus was sent from God (the topic immediately preceding John 7:5). Jude Thaddaeus later preached his own brother was the very Son of God, laboring as far West as Lybia plus Beirut, Armenia, and Persia. The location of Jude's martyrdom is unclear.

    Finally Simon the Zealot is reported to have been the groom of the wedding in Cana (in John chapter two) where the miracle of water-into-wine prompted his following Jesus. Simon went the farthest West of the eleven into Maritenia, the northern coast of modern Morocco. He preached as far northeast as Abkazia, Georgia and then into Persia where he was martyred by crucifixion in the city of Suanir.

    The King of Kings commanded His ambassadors to preach His gospel in all the world (Mk 16:15), make disciples of all the nations (Mt 28:19), and testify to what they had seen and heard unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8). According to early Christian records, His ambassadors did their best to obey Him.