King Herod Agrippa of Judah turns on the church. He needs to find favor with the Jews. By turning his vial temper and disposition toward The Way (early Christians) he saw that it pleased the Jewish leadership. Why he did this other than to gain favor with his half-relatives, the Jews, history does not say. Herod Agripps was the grandson of Herod the Great. Herod the Great was an Idumean; i.e. descendant in the line of Esau…brother of Jacob. He married a daughter of Ishmael (his uncle) making his offspring half Israeli and half Arab. In order to legitimize his hold on the Judean throne he married a Hasmonaean Princes. Hasmonaeans were a long line of Jewish Priests.
Herod the Great is also of Bethlehem fame. He met the Maji of Persia and tried to have this “future king of the Jews” slain.
Herod Agrippa in Acts 12 had the Apostle James killed then had Peter arrested with the intent of the same fate as James. This is about 11 years after the stoning of Stephen. Acts 12:4 tells us that Peter was arrested and confined to prison by alternating Roman centurion soldiers. There were four groups of four centurions guarding him; two chained to him and two at the prison door.
JIV: We should note a small but important word in Acts 12:1. Depending on the translation used, Agrippa intended to “put his hands on CERTAIN or SOME” of the Christians. This does not suggest he declared all-out war on The Way.
Since it was the time of Jewish Feast of the Passover (unleavened bread and what we identify as Easter today) Herod knew it was against Jewish custom and law to “cause a death” during this feast. This is why Peter was not sent to the head chopping block. Instead he was put under very heavy guard.
We do not know if Peter was in prison under guard for one day or through the 7 day celebration of unleavened bread. What we do know is what happened to him JUST BEFORE he was to be brought before Herod and sentenced to the same fate as was James. This had to be a time or Prayer meetings above all other Prayer meetings. The believers had gathered together and prayed “earnestly” (NLV); “without ceasing” (KJV); “fervently” (YLT). No,…they did not get together to say the Lord’s Prayer. They prayed from the heart like Daniel did multiple times while a captive in Babylon.
Acts 12:7 states in the KJV that an angel (small “a”) of the Lord appeared and “smote PETER ON THE SIDE.” There is no other record in scripture where an angel is sent to strike a person then give him a message of release. This reminds me of the times God had to figuratively strike me between the eyes or along the side of my head to simply, as the angel did to Peter, get his or my attention.
Now I return to something I have stated so many times I have no count. All promises in the bible have the premise of “if you ____, then I _____.” Peter is told to stand up. When he did the bondage chains fell off. The guards at the other ends of these chains slept through it all. “Get dressed” said the angel and follow me. A pastor friend of mine once said in a message, this is the first electric doors because the locked gates opened before them as they proceeded to leave the cell block. Of course he was joking but the point is well made. If we move forward with our mission for Christ, the doors will open but only as we walk toward them J.I.T. (a marketing term for Just In Time delivery).
Verse 9 tells us how incredible this was to Peter. As they walked out of the prison and away from the four duty guards, Peter thought he was having a dream (vision). It was so smooth and without bumps Peter could not jolt his senses enough to realize the actuality. Verse 10 states that the “Iron Gates” simply opened in front of them. Why did my pastor friend call these iron gates electronic gates? Simple! The word used in this passage to “open” is “automatos;” automatic in English.
Acts 12:11 says that it took this long before Peter came to his senses realizing he was free and without taking evasive actions. He immediately heads to the house of where the prayer meeting of all prayer meetings was on going; the house of Mary the mother of John (John Mark).
Sometimes when we pray we actually don’t believe it will be answered. Doubt, uncertainty, Satan feeding us deceptive thoughts… This is what happened when Peter gets to the gates of the house of Mary. A woman named Rhoda goes to the gate where Peter is standing and knocking. She is so shocked and thinking it probably a ghost or spirit of Peter, she runs back to the prayer meeting. Even those in the prayer meeting thought her “to be mad” [KJV] as in nuts. /even though they were praying assumedly for Peter they couldn’t bring themselves to accept the answer had come from God.
JIV: This reminds me of a man who once asked for prayer per an issue in his life. As we prayed he suddenly stopped the praying and said, “Never mind praying anymore. I just had a thought and figured it out myself.” He obviously did not acknowledge the “thought’ came from prayer and God.
This is similar to what happened in Acts 12. Even though praying they could not justify in their own hearts that it had been answered BY GOD.
In 12:18, 19 we find the shock and awe of Herod and the 12 guards responsible for Peter. Verse 18 states that “there was no small stir among the soldiers” and certainly with Herod. He ordered the guards executed then “got out of Dodge” by immediately going to Caesarea. He went there to take his anger out on his subjects in Tyre and Sidon. These people who were in total subject to Agrippa realized his anger, brutality, and merciless attitude. They listen to a speech from him and flatter him with “this is not the voice of a man but a voice of a god” (12:22). It was not because of what the people said but because Herod accepted their “voice of a god” as literal that the angel IMMEDIATELY struck him with consuming worms and he died.
This too is why we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18… continually give thanks to God. Do you????? Does the so-called church???? Do we????