After His resurrection, Jesus told His Apostles and disciples that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit to fulfill His command to them to spread the Gospel from Jerusalem to the remotest parts of the Gentile world (Acts 1:4-8). Initially, their evangelistic efforts focused on their fellow Jews. Peter was the recognized leader of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 1:15) until his final imprisonment in Jerusalem and dramatic escape from prison around AD 42- 44. Thereafter, James (the Lord’s brother) became the acknowledged leader of the Jerusalem Church (Acts 15:13-33, 21:18).
The story of the first 12 to 14 years of the Jerusalem Church is provided in the Book of Acts. Luke was the narrator; Peter was the principal actor, and Peter’s words explained the purposes of God to the audience.
Initially, the Jerusalem Church numbered only 120 souls (Acts 1:15), but the number of converts grew rapidly. On the Day of Pentecost following Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Apostles and disciples received the enhanced ministry of God, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13). It should be noted that both Jews and Gentile proselytes received the enlightened message from the Apostles and disciples of Christ (Acts 2:10). Thereafter, Peter explained the significance of Christ’s death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Jews and proselytes who were visiting Jerusalem (at the time of Pentecost) from all over the known world (Acts 2:14-47). Peter preached about the Old Testament Prophets who foretold of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Peter quoted from the Psalms, telling the crowd that God, the Father said to God, the Son: “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET” (Acts 2:34-35). Peter also spoke of the enhanced ministry of God, the Holy Spirit, which would be the key to the promised Spiritual Life, together with the evangelization and subjugation of all of mankind. (To clarify, the promised Holy Spirit would be the means for believers to live the Spiritual Life and subdue all things.) On the Day of Pentecost, 3000 thousand souls were added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:41). In return, many of those hearers took the Gospel across the Roman Empire and even to Rome, itself.
Most importantly, Peter explained that the Jerusalemites had rejected and put to death the Holy One of God (Acts 3:14). They had put to death the Prince of Life, whom God had raised from the dead (Acts 3:15). Peter acknowledged that the people and leadership of Jerusalem had acted in ignorance (Acts 3:17). He told them to repent and turn to God (Acts 3:19), and if they repented, God would send them times of refreshing from the presence of God (Acts 3:20). Peter explained that Heaven must receive Christ until the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Luke used the Greek word apokastatasis, which means “the restitution or restoration.” This is referring to God’s intent and purpose to restore humanity to an Edenic state. In other words, it has been God’s intent all along to restore a state of existence wherein men live in perfect harmony with God and each other in a world of fantastic fruitfulness and blessing. Some have been anxiously waiting for such a restoration for almost 2000 years. This can happen only through the efficacious prayers of God’s faithful servants. In fact, Jesus taught His followers to pray for this very thing: “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10).
Peter’s miracles grabbed the people’s attention (Acts 3), but it was his messages that provided illumination and understanding. For example, Peter explained that those (from Jesus’ people) who did not obey or listen to Jesus would be destroyed (Acts 3:23). The Greek word exolethreou means to “extirpate or destroy.” This promise remains for today. If we believers do not listen and obey, we will go through a process of destruction here on Earth, which will have ramifications for eternity, even if we go to Heaven after death. We are called to a life of obedience. Speaking to the Jerusalemites, Peter warned: “God raised up His servant for you first, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26). Unfortunately, this warning was not heeded by the vast majority, and Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. In a similar way, our nation is also under a threatened destruction. As previously discussed in earlier blogs, God prefers to bless us, but there is always the threat of cursing or destruction as a consequence for disobedience.
With each miracle and sermon from Peter, thousands more believed (Acts 4:4). In response to Peter’s influence over the people, the Jerusalemite leadership threatened Peter. Peter was warned “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). He refused to comply. Peter (along with John) answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, make your own judgment; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
Increasingly, large numbers of Jews were added to the Christians (Acts 5:14). Many sick, lame, and demonically tormented were healed. Even Peter’s shadow had healing powers (Acts 5:15). Many came from the towns and villages surrounding Jerusalem to see and hear the message of the Apostles. As the numbers grew, the Jerusalem leadership grew more envious and jealous of the Jesus movement (Acts 5:17). Once again, Peter and several other apostles were arrested and imprisoned. By angelic assistance, they escaped this first imprisonment to once again address the public in the Temple. The angel told Peter and the other apostles to “[g]o, stand and speak to the people in the temple area the whole message of this Life” (Acts 5:20). The NASB and several other translations rightly capitalized the word “Life.” The New Covenant is a new way of living. This new way of living is critical to our understanding of what it means to live the Christian Spiritual Life. Peter and the Apostles taught about our new way of living.
After they continued to preach and teach in the name of Jesus, Peter and some other apostles were once again brought before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was worried about being blamed for the death of Jesus, but Peter was worried about being obedient to God. Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Then Peter added that the Holy Spirit was the key component to living the obedient life (Acts 5:32). Thereafter, they were flogged and released, but Peter and the Apostles continued teaching in the Temple and from house church to house church the Gospel message that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 5:42).
The stoning of Stephen (a man full of the Spirit) marked a dramatic shift in the persecution of Jewish Christians (Acts 6,7). Saul (a/k/a Paul) played a major role in the reactionary movement to stamp out the advance of Christianity. After the death of Stephen, a great persecution arose against the burgeoning Church, and the Jerusalem Christians were scattered to places like Samaria, Galilee, Antioch, Cyprus, and Phoenicia (Acts 8:1, 11:19). However, Jerusalem remained the headquarters for Peter and the Apostles.
As believers were scattered outside of Jerusalem, the Mission to the Gentiles gained traction. First, Luke noted the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch who was a court official for Queen Candace of Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-40). Then, Luke noted the famous conversion of Saul (a/k/a Paul) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). As Luke explained, God had selected Saul to be His chosen instrument to spread the Gospel to the Gentile world. After the conversion of Saul, there was a period of less persecution. The Church grew in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Of particular importance, Luke noted that Peter was also participating in the Mission to the Gentiles. Peter’s evangelization of Cornelius (the Centurion) in the coastal town of Caesarea Maritima marked the beginning of Peter’s ever greater focus on the Gentile world (Acts 10:1-48). Interestingly, God had used the Jewish food laws as a means to separate His people (the Jews) from the Gentiles. Now, God was breaking down the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile. Peter had a vision wherein God lowered to Peter a sheet full of both clean and unclean animals. God ordered Peter to “kill and eat” (Acts 10:13). This vision was repeated three times for emphasis, and Peter was told by God, “Don’t call unclean what I call clean” (Acts 10: 15, paraphrase). Peter understood the bigger message. The Gentiles were to be included in the spread of the Gospel message. Thereafter, contrary to normal protocol, Peter took the Gospel message to the Gentile Centurion named Cornelius. Immediately, some Jewish Christians in Jerusalem reacted to Peter’s active proselytizing of Gentiles (Acts 11:2-3), but Peter clearly understood God’s will to evangelize the Gentiles.
Because of his friendship with the Roman Emperors Caligula and Claudius, King Herod Agrippa I ruled over much of Palestine and Jerusalem during this time. It was also critical for him to please the Jewish leadership. In order to please the Jewish leadership, Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Church. Herod Agrippa I had the Apostle James executed around AD 42-44. When he saw how this pleased the Jewish leadership, Herod imprisoned Peter (Acts 12:1-19). An attachment of four soldiers was assigned to guard Peter around the clock. His death seemed inevitable. He was bound with two chains and slept between two guards (Acts 12:1-19). However, once again, Peter escaped with the assistance of the Angel of the Lord. Thereafter, the guards were interrogated and executed. Herod Agrippa died shortly thereafter in AD 44.
After Peter’s last escape from prison in Jerusalem, Luke wrote, “then he left and went to another place” (Acts 12:17). It seems very clear that James, the brother of Jesus, assumed leadership of the Jerusalem Church until his death in AD 62 (Acts 15:13-33, 21:18). It is somewhat of a mystery of where Peter went to live and continue his ministry. We know that he was present for the Jerusalem Conference around AD 48-49, but it seems clear that James was the principal leader in Jerusalem. Peter also briefly surfaced in Antioch (Gal. 2:11). Additionally, we know that Peter had some influence in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12, 3:22). However, Peter’s letters provide the best insight of the whereabouts of Peter until he resurfaced in Rome around AD 60, where he was martyred a few years later. Peter’s two letters were sent to the same group of Christians, who were located in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (all located in modern day Turkey) (1 Pet. 1:1; 2 Pet. 3:1). This is a big area. As a result, although there is some overlap of the area with Paul, much of the area where Peter ministered would have been distinct from Paul’s ministry. It is interesting to note that the Holy Spirit told Paul to turn away from parts of Asia, Myisa and Bithynia (Acts 16:6-8). It is also interesting to note that Peter was married and known to travel with his wife on his missionary journeys (1 Cor. 9:5).
Jesus’s last words to Peter were “feed my sheep” (John 21:17, CSB, ESV, NKJV). Seven times in his two letters, Peter called his sheep agapetos, which means “beloved, dear, esteemed, or favorite.” In the same way, God, the Father referred to Jesus as His “beloved” (Matt. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:17). Peter had a warmth and true affection for those entrusted to his care. In his second letter, Peter told his sheep that he would soon die (2 Pet. 1:12-15). Peter noted that his sheep were well established in his teaching (2 Peter 1:12). In other words, Peter had done a good job in teaching his sheep the truth, and they learned his lessons well. He wrote his two letters to make sure that his sheep could clearly recall (after his death) his teaching for years to come (2 Peter 2:12-15, 3:1-2). His letters are a good summary of what Peter was teaching between AD 44-64. This is the best evidence of what Peter was doing and where he was living until he showed up in Rome at the end of his life.
 “G605 – apokatastasis – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 May, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G605&t=NASB20>.
 “G1842 – exolethreuō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 May, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1842&t=NASB20>.
 “G27 – agapētos – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (NASB20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 10 May, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org//lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G27&t=NASB20>.