The final years of the apostles Peter and John were spent traveling extensively and establishing churches throughout the region. Compared to the apostle Paul, it is more difficult to identify their exact locations. There are clues, however, to their whereabouts in letters and documentation written by other apostles. Luke notes that after Peter’s miraculous escape from prison in Jerusalem, he was forced to leave the city. He did eventually return and spent most of his final years ministering in different locations (Acts 12:17). Based on the letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians (2:11), it is assumed that Peter was in Antioch in approximately 49 A.D. In Peter’s own letters, he addresses Jews and Gentiles who lived throughout Asian Minor and he may have traveled to some of these locations (I Peter 1:1).
In addition to locations such as Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asian and Bithynia, Peter also traveled to Rome (I Peter 5:13). The closing of I Peter indicates that Peter was in Babylon at the time that the letter was written. There are several interpretations of the use of the name Babylon, but given Peter’s traditional connection to Rome in the later years of his life, it is assumed that I Peter was written in Rome. The last verse of I Peter also indicates that Peter was not alone in Babylon (Rome) and that his ‘son’ Mark was with him. This is interpreted to mean the apostle Mark, but Peter regards him with such affection that he refers to him as a son (Niswonger, 1992).
In Peter’s first letter from Rome, he addresses Christian life and duties and explains how Christians should conduct themselves, especially when they are facing suffering and persecution (Niswonger, 1992). During Nero’s reign, persecution of Christians was at unprecedented levels. Another problem faced by the church at that time was false teachers. Some scholars debate as to whether Peter was really the author of the second letter attributed to him, but it dealt mainly with the problems of persecution and false teachers (Johnson and Penner, 2002).
According to Luke, the apostle John was probably in Jerusalem from about 49 A.D., leaving at the beginning of the Jewish Revolt in 66 A.D. (Niswonger, 1992). It is possible that during his later years, John was the only apostle still alive. John’s first letter dates somewhere between 85 and 95 A.D. and addresses the issues his readers were facing because of the introduction of an early form of Gnosticism. One of John’s main themes in his letters was to expose false teachers (Gnostic teachers) who did not believe that Jesus was the son of God. John combated these Gnostic teachers by attacking their lack of morality (I John 3:8-10) and by relating his personal knowledge of Jesus’ divinity. John’s second letter was very short and was only to serve as a warning to his readers about traveling teachers who were not really Christian missionaries but were Gnostic teachers instead. The third letter written by John was a personal letter to commend Gaius for supporting the messengers that John had sent (Johnson and Penner, 2002) and to serve as a warning to Diotrephes for not accepting John’s missionaries or letters.
The apocalyptic Book of Revelation is also attributed to the apostle John and was written during of time when Christians were being severely persecuted. The Book of Revelation encourages the Christians to resist the any emperor’s demands. Like most of the other apostles, John believed that Jesus would be returning very soon and the wicked would be punished while the faithful would be rewarded. Until the second coming occurred, John warned that the persecution of the Christians would increase and some would pay for their faith with their lives.
Though Peter and John were not prolific writers like Paul, the letters written by these two apostles illustrate the challenges that the Christians of this time faced with persecution and false teachers.
Johnson, L. and Penner, T., (2002). The Writings of the New Testament. Minneapolis:
Niswonger, R., (1992). New Testament History. Grand Rapids: Zondervan
NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.