A solemn black and white photograph captures an empty boat drifting on calm waters, symbolizing the mysterious fate of Jesus' disciples after his crucifixion and resurrection.

What Happened To Jesus’ Disciples?

The fate of Jesus Christ’s disciples after his crucifixion is a subject of much interest and debate. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The 12 disciples mostly spread out across the Roman Empire to share the gospel before nearly all were martyred for their faith, except John who died a natural death.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we will take a deep dive into what happened to each of the 12 disciples, as well as some other prominent followers like Mary Magdalene. From their activities in spreading the gospel message to the traditions around their deaths, we’ll explore the legacy left behind by these instrumental figures in early Christianity.

The Great Commission and the Spread of the Gospel

Jesus’ Instructions to the Disciples

After His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples and gave them the Great Commission – instructions to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20). This was an awe-inspiring yet daunting task, as the disciples were just a small group of ordinary men.

However, Jesus promised that He would be with them always, even to the end of the age. He told them to start by being His witnesses in Jerusalem, then expand to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the remote parts of the world.

The disciples took this charge seriously and it became their supreme purpose in life.

Jesus had trained the disciples for three years, equipping them with the message of salvation and demonstrations of miraculous power. After His ascension, these uneducated men became bold preachers and skilled debaters, standing up to religious authorities.

The Holy Spirit empowered and emboldened them, giving them supernatural courage. Persecution only served to spread the Gospel wider, as scattered believers preached wherever they went.

Where the Disciples Preached the Gospel

The book of Acts records how the disciples carried the Gospel from Jerusalem into the heart of the Roman Empire. Some key highlights:

  • Peter preached an amazing sermon at Pentecost, leading 3,000 people to salvation in Jerusalem (Acts 2).
  • The Gospel saturated Jerusalem and Judea, then expanded through Samaria (Acts 8).
  • Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the church, had a radical encounter with Jesus and became the Apostle Paul (Acts 9).
  • Peter saw a vision from God about preaching to Gentiles and led the Roman centurion Cornelius to faith (Acts 10).
  • Paul embarked on three missionary journeys to modern day Turkey, Greece, and Italy, planting many churches (Acts 13-28).
  • The Gospel reached the center of the Roman Empire, with Paul preaching at Rome for two years under house arrest (Acts 28).

Church historians estimate that within 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection, there were at least 40,000 Christians across the Roman Empire. That explosive growth continues today, with over 2 billion Christians worldwide. Truly the disciples fulfilled Jesus’ Great Commission in magnificent fashion!

Their courageous efforts changed the course of history.

Fates of the 12 Disciples


Peter, originally named Simon, was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. After Jesus’ death, Peter went on to become a leader of the early Christian church. According to tradition, he was crucified upside down in Rome around 64-68 AD under Emperor Nero.

Before his death, he wrote two epistles that became part of the New Testament.


Andrew, the brother of Peter, is said to have preached around the Black Sea and in Greece. He was crucified in Patras, Greece sometime between 60-70 AD on an x-shaped cross. This type of cross was later called Crux decussata, or the X-cross, after the shape in which Andrew was martyred.

James, Son of Zebedee

James was one of Jesus’ first disciples. The son of Zebedee and brother of John, James was part of Jesus’ inner circle. According to Acts 12:2, James was killed by Herod Agrippa I with the sword sometime around 44 AD, making him the first of the apostles to be martyred.


John was the beloved disciple of Jesus and author of the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation. He lived a long life and likely died a natural death in Ephesus around 100 AD as the last surviving apostle.

Early church tradition holds that John was the only one of the apostles who did not face martyrdom.


Philip evangelized in Phrygia, a region in the west of Asia Minor. There are varying accounts of how he died. Some traditions say he was crucified upside down in Hierapolis around 80 AD. Other accounts say he died a natural death in Tralles.


Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, preached in India and Armenia where some traditions say he was skinned alive and then beheaded. Other accounts say he was crucified upside down like Peter. He likely died as a martyr between 60-70 AD.


Thomas is most remembered for doubting Jesus’ resurrection until he saw Jesus’ wounds himself. After seeing Jesus alive, Thomas proclaimed “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Thomas later took the gospel message east, possibly as far as India.

He was martyred by being stabbed with spears around 70 AD according to tradition.


Matthew, the tax collector turned apostle, wrote the Gospel of Matthew. After preaching in Judea, Matthew likely went east and was martyred by being stabbed, burned, or beheaded. The exact area and manner of his martyrdom are uncertain but traditionally placed around 70 AD.

James, Son of Alphaeus

James son of Alphaeus is often identified as “James the Less” to differentiate him from James son of Zebedee. Not much is known about him except that he preached in Jerusalem and was probably martyred around 62 AD.


Thaddaeus, also known as Judas son of James, traditionally preached in Syria and Persia before he was clubbed to death around 70 AD. Some accounts say he was crucified.

Simon the Zealot

Simon the Zealot likely preached in North Africa and then the British Isles before being martyred by being sawn in half longitudinally by the Romans sometime after 63 AD.

Judas Iscariot

Judas Iscariot is infamous for betraying Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. According to the Gospel of Matthew, he hanged himself afterward (Matthew 27:5).

Other Notable Followers of Jesus

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ most prominent female followers. She traveled with Jesus and helped provide for him and the disciples financially (Luke 8:2-3). She witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial (Matthew 27:56, 61) and was the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection (John 20:1-18).

This led her to be known as the “apostle to the apostles” in recognition of her bringing the news of the Resurrection.

Joseph of Arimathea

Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy and influential member of the Sanhedrin who secretly followed Jesus (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-51). He offered his own unused tomb for Jesus’ burial after the crucifixion.

This was an incredibly courageous act since publicly showing allegiance to the condemned Jesus could have landed Joseph in serious trouble.


Nicodemus was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin who visited Jesus at night to ask him questions (John 3:1-21). Though too afraid at the time to publicly follow Jesus, after the crucifixion he joined Joseph of Arimathea in preparing Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:38-42).

According to apocryphal legends, Nicodemus was eventually martyred for proclaiming his Christian faith.


In conclusion, the disciples of Jesus devoted their lives to spreading his gospel across the Roman world in fulfillment of the Great Commission, despite facing immense persecution. Most would meet violent deaths as martyrs, cementing their status as saints and heroes in the early church.

Their courageous faith in the face of death showed just how deeply they believed Jesus’ message of salvation. The disciples’ ultimate sacrifices are a testament to the enormous historical impact of Christ’s brief ministry on earth.

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