Definition: An apostle was one of Jesus Christ's 12 closest disciples, chosen by him early in his ministry to spread the gospel after his death and resurrection. In the Bible, they are called Jesus' disciples until the Lord's ascension into heaven, then they are referred to as apostles.
"These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." (Matthew 10:2-4, NIV)
Judas Iscariot hanged himself, and was later replaced by Matthias, who was chosen by lot (Acts 1:15-26).
The term apostle was used in a second way in Scripture, as one who was commissioned and sent by a community to preach the gospel. Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians who was converted when he had a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, is also called an apostle. We know him as the Apostle Paul.
Few details are given in the Bible of the apostles' evangelistic work, but tradition holds that all of them, except John, died martyrs' deaths for their faith.
The word apostle is derived from the Greek apostolos, meaning "one who is sent." A modern-day apostle would typically function as a church planter—one who is sent out by the body of Christ to spread the gospel and establish new communities of believers.
Pronunciation: uh POS ull
Also Known As: The Twelve, messenger.
The Apostle Paul spread the gospel to the gentiles throughout the Mediterranean.
(Information in this article is compiled and summarized from The New Compact Bible Dictionary, edited by T. Alton Bryant, and the Moody Handbook of Theology, by Paul Enns.)