Persecution of the newly named Christians continues. Here in Acts 12 we have King Herod Agrippa, the nephew of Herod Antipas, who tried Jesus briefly, and grandson of Herod the Great. The latter Herod was the one who wanted to kill Baby Jesus after the 3 Kings came to visit, because Jesus was said to be the new King of the Jews. This new Herod is not any nicer than his predecessors. And, he comes to a rather gruesome demise. Let’s dig in…
James Is Killed and Peter Is Imprisoned
About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. 3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 4 Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison
6 The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. 7 Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
9 So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. 10 They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
11 Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!”
12 When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. 13 He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!”
15 “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.”
16 Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. 17 He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers what happened,” he said. And then he went to another place.
18 At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 19 Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.
The Death of Herod Agrippa
20 Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, 21 and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. 22 The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!”
23 Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.
24 Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers.
25 When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.Acts 12 NLT
Points to Ponder
- Here we have our 2nd martyr. James was one of the first apostles, one of the fishermen that Jesus recruited along with his brother John (the writer of one of the Gospels, 3 epistles and the Book of Revelation). Peter and his brother, Andrew were partners in the fishing business. James and John were the “Sons of Zebedee” and Jesus fondly called them the “Sons of Thunder”.
- Herod also captures and imprisons Peter. He had him well guarded. However, all the guards, chains, and prison gates couldn’t hold the power of God’s angel and the power of prayer. God had more work for Peter to do.
- John Mark is the author of another Gospel. He was a good friend of Peter’s. In fact, it is said that Mark’s Gospel is basically Peter’s account of Jesus’ life.
- The James mentioned in verse 17 is Jesus’ brother, James the author of the epistle.
- God doesn’t like idolatry at all. That’s proven by King Herod’s ugly death.
What “Prison” can God Save You From?
We can easily make our own prisons. Addiction is a prison. A toxic relationship is a prison. Religion could be a prison. (You’re not free if you’re a slave to religion!)
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, feel His Shalom, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…