The Great Escape

Posted: November 18, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 12:1-24, “The Great Escape”

The Great Escape.” It is one of the greatest World War II movies ever made, although not a single battle in either Europe on the Pacific is shown. Ultimately, it is about a prison break from a POW camp, loosely based on a true story. Other movies have depicted escapes from prison (The Shawshank Redemption, for example), but there’s something special about a jailbreak that is actually true (or at least as true as 1963 Hollywood would allow it to be at the time!).

Yet there are far greater escapes in history – some of which are included in the pages of the Bible! These accounts are not only 100% true, but they’re also 100% independent of men. They didn’t need the combination of careful planning and “good luck”; they needed only the Lord God. When God plans an escape, it’s always successful & it is always “great.” His rescues are awesome!

One of these rescues is recorded in Acts 12, as Luke’s account of Peter basically comes to a close. Peter will be seen again in Chapter 15, but for the most part, Luke is transitioning to the life & ministry of Paul (Saul). Before he does, he wraps a bow on Peter’s ministry in Judea, showing God’s hand of blessing and protection on him, just as God was blessing and protecting His church-at-large.

When we had last seen Peter, he was shown on a mini-mission trip of his own, traveling throughout Judea, visiting churches, working miracles, and teaching the word of God. Eventually, he arrived in the seaport town of Joppa, where he received a miraculous vision foreshadowing what God was about to do by giving the gospel to the Gentiles & bring people who were previously “unclean” into the church, having cleansed them by the grace of Jesus. This all came to fruition when Peter met with the Roman centurion Cornelius in Caesarea, shared the gospel with him, and saw & heard the visible & audible evidence of Cornelius’ baptism with the Holy Spirit. Peter & the others with him baptized Cornelius & the other Romans who had placed their faith in Christ…an act he soon had to defend to the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem.

At that point, Luke turned his attention to a different church congregation & city: Antioch of Syria. This soon became a thriving church with all kinds of people serving in all kinds of ways, including Barnabas and Saul. It was in Antioch that the two men starting ministering together, as they co-pastored the rapidly growing church.

With Antioch established, Luke turns again to Peter, giving the first conclusion to his ministry. It wasn’t that Peter stopped serving Jesus…far from the case! Rather, Luke simply stopped writing about it, being led by the Holy Spirit to record the ministry of Saul/Paul. As for Peter, God was still using him in powerful ways! God had a plan for Peter, and no man (no matter how powerful) would be able to stand in God’s way. God cannot be stopped, nor can His gospel be silenced. What God wants done, will be done, because He is the One to build His church & not even the gates of Hell can get in the way!

It doesn’t mean things will always be easy; it means that God is always in control. Persecution is real, but so is God’s power to deliver. So also is God’s judgment, which all men & women must face – even those who don’t believe in God and persecute the people of God.

This ought to give us hope! We so often get discouraged at obstacles and persecutions, but these things are no problem for Jesus. God is in control, and His grace gets us through all things. God rescues, and God wins!

Acts 12:1–24

  • Herod’s persecution of the church (1-4). Persecution is real. Do you expect it?

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2 Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

  1. About what time? Remember that Acts 11 ended with the church at Antioch receiving a prophecy that the world surrounding Jerusalem was about to be hit with a massive famine during the reign of Claudius Caesar, so they collected a financial offering and sent it to Jerusalem by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:27-30). The famine likely hit around 45-46AD, with the collection being sent sooner (as a result of predictive prophecy), which made this time around 44AD. Historically, this fits perfectly with the life & death of “Herod the king.
  2. This particular Herod was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great & nephew of Herod Antipas. The 1st Herod was the driving force behind the renovation of the Jerusalem temple, and the monster who ordered the death of all of the toddlers in Bethlehem out of fear of the newborn Christ. Herod Antipas was the one who beheaded John the Baptist & taunted the Lord Jesus during His pre-crucifixion trial. Antipas lost his power when Agrippa I accused him of conspiracy against the Caesar, and Agrippa was later given the throne (and expanded rule) in 41AD. Unlike his uncles (of which Antipas was only one), Agrippa was granted authority by Caesar to rule over the full extent of his grandfather’s kingdom, rather than just one of the four pieces into which it had been split. Agrippa was a keen politician with an ego to match, and he used it to his full advantage (and his downfall!).
  3. One of the acts taken by Agrippa was his persecution of church leadership, something that allowed him to curry favor with the Jewish leadership. Although we don’t know all of the Christians he harassed, we know of at least one he put to death: “James the brother of John.” This James was one of the original 12 apostles of Jesus (and one of the inner three), the brother of the beloved John, both of whom were sons of Zebedee (a fisherman) who were later nicknamed “the sons of thunder” by Jesus. James wasn’t the only Christian persecuted unto death (that was Stephen), but he was the first apostle to die a martyr. He wouldn’t be the last. Although Scripture does not record it, historical tradition tells us that all twelve (except John) were killed for their faith, and even John survived an attempt to have him killed.
  4. Question: If God was about to deliver Peter (and Luke spent much time describing it), why didn’t God deliver James? God could have delivered/rescued each of the men; at the time He chose to rescue one. Why? We don’t know, apart from one thing: God had continued earthly plans for Peter. It wasn’t that God loved Peter more or that God blessed Peter more; it was simply because in the overall plan of God, it was time for James to go home to Jesus while Jesus still had more for Peter to do on earth. Both men were blessed, because both were in the will of God. After all, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8) – physical death for a Christian is a blessing because we are with Jesus! It is sad for those we leave behind, but it is glorious for the born-again believer because that person is now in the forever presence of our Lord & Savior.

3 And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4 So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

  1. The reaction of the Jewish leadership to James’ execution encouraged Herod Agrippa to continue the pattern with Peter. History shows that Agrippa attempted to actively win the favor of the Jewish people in many ways, and the persecution of the Christian leadership was one of them. Thus, Peter was arrested, and placed under heavy guard. Each of the “four squads of soldiers” had four men (“squads” = τετράδιον ~ tetrad ~ four). Two men were constantly by his side, and two stood at the door, with the changing of the guard taking place every several hours. Why such much security? Apparently Peter’s reputation was well-known by Agrippa, and he wasn’t taking any chances with him.
    1. Remember this wasn’t the first time Peter had been arrested in Jerusalem, and it wasn’t even the first time he would experience a supernatural escape. Acts 5 describes a time when all kinds of miracles were taking place in Jerusalem through the ministry of the apostles, to the point where the high priest & Sanhedrin had them all arrested & put in prison. The night they were arrested, an angel appeared in the prison, opened the doors, and told the apostles to go back to the temple to keep preaching the gospel (the very place where they were arrested)…and they did (Acts 5:17-21).
    2. What makes it funny is that if indeed Herod Agrippa had known this history, he believed that 16 soldiers would have better success guarding Peter than simply the normal prison guard. If God sent an angel to rescue Peter (and others), then it didn’t matter how many guards were present! A single angel can kill an army of thousands overnight (2 Kings 18); a dozen-plus soldiers don’t stand a chance!
  2. When did it all take place? Passover, with the Feast of Unleavened Bread following. Because it was uncommon to conduct executions during the actual holiday (something ignored when it came to Jesus), Agrippa’s intent was to hold off on Peter’s execution until the weeklong festival was over. What does this tell us? Agrippa’s desire to execute Peter was purely political. Theology had nothing to do with it. Whatever Agrippa’s motivation, the hardship was real. James was killed, Christians were persecuted, and Peter was imprisoned. 
  3. Was this the wonderful plan that God had for their lives? Yes! Faith in Christ doesn’t guarantee anyone an easy life. Not once does the Bible claim that Christians instantly have all of their problems solved, that we will never again experience a sickness, or that we’ll all be rich and wearing $1000 suits. That may be a worldly definition of “wonderful,” but it isn’t real – it’s all superficial. After all, who cares how much money you have in your bank account if you aren’t forgiven by God? God’s wonderful plan is for us to be made His children, to be forever reconciled to Him through Jesus. That’s wonderful! As for persecution, persecution is to be expected. This is something we’ve seen several times in the book of Acts, and it’s going to be repeated many times again. When Christians are persecuted for their faith, it doesn’t mean that they’ve done something wrong; it means that they’ve done something right. Paul later wrote to Timothy: 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” It doesn’t mean that persecution is to be sought out, and it doesn’t mean that every time a Christian is arrested is because he/she is being persecuted. (Sometimes Christians break the law, or get others angry at us because we’re being boneheads!) But true persecution is a reality, and one that ought to be expected. What should be our reaction to these things? Joy! Matthew 5:11–12, “(11) “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It’s not that we pretend suffering is anything less than suffering; it’s that we know we’ve been faithful to our Jesus!

So James was dead, Peter was in prison, and Herod Agrippa believed he had the upper hand. The Christian leadership in Jerusalem were going to be crushed one-by-one, which the Jewish leadership hoped would strangle out the local church & perhaps the church all over Judea. Not so fast! God had other plans in mind…

  • Peter’s miraculous escape (5-19). Deliverance is real. Do you believe it?
    • Angelic rescue (5-11)

5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

  1. When Luke wrote of “constant prayer,” he wrote of urgent, consistent prayer that was “offered to God” on Peter’s behalf. The church knew well what was at stake. Time was of the essence! The days of the feast were almost over & Herod was potentially going to execute Peter the next day. What else would the church do other than pray?
    1. Did this mean things were hopeless? Absolutely not! Prayer was not being treated as a last-resort by the Jerusalem Christians; it was used as their primary tool. God had not called them to mobilize a stealth-escape party – they weren’t going to storm the Fortress of Antonia by night. Physical strategies were useless, because this was a spiritual battle. Physically speaking, the untrained men & women of the church faced the might of the Roman-trained army of Herod Agrippa. Spiritually speaking, the miniscule Agrippa faced the Almighty God. The battle was spiritual, and it was to be waged through spiritual means – primarily, prayer.
    2. We so often underestimate the value and effectiveness of prayer! Prayer is how we fight the battle – prayer is how we stand firm in our faith. Don’t misunderstand: prayer does not somehow give any strength to God; God does not need our prayers in order to accomplish His work. He is fully sufficient and effective on His own. Prayer is what we need to keep ourselves focused on Him! Besides that, God chooses to respond to prayer. It’s not that He needs it; it that He desires it. There are some things we don’t have because we haven’t prayed for them (“you do not have because you do not ask,” Jas 4:2). Jesus specifically instructed people to ask in believing prayer, in order that we might receive (Mt 7:8, 21:22). The problem is we don’t ask! We relegate prayer to the back, thinking that it’s what we do when all else fails. It is what we do because everything else does fail. For the born-again Christian, prayer is the most effective strategy we can possibly employ!
  2. All of this is seen at work in Peter’s situation. Herod Agrippa had Peter his plan; God had His own. The people of the church were praying, and God was working. Peter was completely guarded, chained to two men (one for each hand?), with guards at the door, iron gates locked, deep in the heart of the Fortress of Antonia. This was maximum security just prior to Peter’s execution. What was Peter doing? What else? Why stay up all night stressing about the situation? Peter understood the Lord was in control. Jesus had told Peter that he would grow old prior to his execution (Jn 21:18-19), and Peter didn’t consider himself old yet. But even if Peter believed he’d die the next day, he still had his assurance of eternity with Jesus. Why worry when we have Christ? Everything else pales in comparison!

7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

  1. The description is almost humorous. Peter was so soundly asleep that not even the appearance of a heavenly angel woke him up. The angel had to basically kick him in the side to get him to stir. (Sounds like some people I’ve roomed with!) The angel didn’t need to pick the locks or find the keys to Peter’s handcuffs as the chains simply “fell off.” (So much for security!) Peter’s standing there, free…but not moving. He’s just enjoying the time, thinking “he was seeing a vision.” The angel has to prompt Peter through every single step. “OK Peter, get up, tie on your belt, put on your shoes, put on your cloak, get moving.” (Almost sounds like a parent trying to get the kids out the door for school!) All the while, Peter simply followed step-by-step.
  2. Among everything going on, not once did the four guards stir. If nothing else, it was a miracle that no one else was awakened! So much for security! Doubtless, this was part of God’s plan as well. It would have been illegal for the guards to fall asleep, yet apparently not only one, but all four of them had passed out. If their eyes were indeed open, they were supernaturally blinded and deafened to what was going on.

10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”

  1. Not only had Peter’s chains fell off by themselves, the iron gate swung open all its own as well. The angel walked Peter down the all, out the door, through the courtyard, into the street, led Peter to safety, then vanished. The entire time, Peter was basically clueless as to what was happening to him. That being said, give Peter some credit. The fact that Peter didn’t know what was going on isn’t unusual, given his ecstatic vision from Acts 10. When he sat on the rooftop in Joppa, God gave him the vision of a sheet lowered from heaven full of unclean animals he was told to eat. None of that had happened in reality; Peter didn’t really have a reason to believe this was any different. With his earlier angelic escape from Acts 5, all the other apostles were with him as witnesses; here, he was by himself.
  2. Once Peter came to his senses, he had no doubt of what happened. This was the Lord’s work, and God had “delivered” him. God sent His angel to rescue Peter from an impossible situation, and Peter was truly rescued.
    1. God delivers! This is proven over & over again throughout the Bible. God rescued Abraham and Isaac from the foolish lies about their wives’ identities. God rescued Joseph from the Egyptian prison. God rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. God rescued David from the hand of Saul. God rescued Daniel from the mouths of the lions. God rescued the Jews from Babylonian captivity. Be it large or small, our God rescues! He can deliver anyone from anything at any time. He is a rescuer!
    2. And we need rescuing! Among everything else that happens in our lives, we need rescuing from ourselves. Our sins left us in a place where we had far more than chains on each hand, locked in dirty prison cell; it left us square in the sights of the wrath of God. Peter didn’t deserve the execution Herod wanted to give him, but we have each earned our own. Yet Jesus rescues us! He delivers us from death & brings us into life & relationship with God!
    3. That’s the spiritual side of things, but can God rescue us from other stuff, too? Yes! We have the promise of eternal heaven, but it isn’t as if God abandons us in the here & now. The key is to trust God’s plan. Sometimes He delivers us from trials; other times He delivers us through Peter was delivered from the sword (though it came later in life); James was delivered through it. We don’t always know God’s short-term plans for us, but we can trust Him. Pray fervently, pray constantly, and trust God to do what He deems best.
  3. With Peter out of prison, what next? Now people have to be told that their prayers had been answered. The problem was whether they’d believe it!
  • Peter at the door (12-17)

12 So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

  1. We’re introduced to John Mark, a relative of Barnabas who would soon accompany him & Saul on their first mission trip. Mark also had a terrific relationship with Peter, and solid historical tradition holds him to be the one who recorded Peter’s preaching in the Gospel of Mark. Potentially, John Mark was present in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, portrayed as the young man who panicked at Jesus’ arrest & left his garment behind (Mk 14:51-52). At this point, it was his mother that was more prominent within the church, and she apparently hosted Christians at her home who were among those praying all night for Peter.
  2. God was answering their prayers! Too bad they didn’t expect Him to do so…

13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. 15 But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”

  1. The event with young Rhoda is rather funny, but understandable. With everyone else praying, she went to answer the door, “recognized Peter’s voice” from other times she had met him, and was so excited that she ran to report the news without unlocking the gate. Excitement will do that to anyone – kudos to Rhoda for her joy & faith!
  2. What is less understandable is the reaction of the others! They accused her of being out of her mind. μαίνομαι (~mania/maniac) = to be mad/insane. They basically accused her of being a lunatic, imagining things at the door.
  3. And it got worse. When she insisted, they explained it away with poor theology. It wasn’t so much that they believed Peter’s “ghost” was at the gate (which definitely would have been impossible – as when Christians are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord); they seemed to imagine that Peter’s so-called guardian angel was knocking on the door in his place. (1) An angel wouldn’t need to knock, nor can locked doors stop one! (2) Scripture doesn’t teach of guardian angels. Angels can (and are) sent by God to watch over us as ministering spirits (Heb 1:14), but the Bible never says that we have specific angels assigned to us. Although it may be a common belief among Christians, it doesn’t make it a correct belief. We need to ensure that our beliefs are based solely on the written word of God found in the Scripture.
  4. The bottom line for these particular Christians was that they simply found it impossible to believe that Peter might actually be standing at the door. They may have been praying for Peter’s release, but they didn’t believe that God would do the work. — Why is it so difficult to believe God works miracles? Why is it so hard to believe that God answers prayers? Christians might go through the motions of prayer because we know we’re supposed to pray, but we don’t believe God answers them. Why wouldn’t He? Is not our God alive? Is He not Almighty? Does He not love us? The Scripture is filled with examples of God answering prayer. Has He changed? Heaven forbid! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is just as capable of answering prayers today as He was in the 1st century!
    1. One of the problems of having so little faith in prayer is that we lose confidence on any After all, if we don’t believe God truly responds to prayer, how do we know God answered our prayer for forgiveness and salvation? What confidence do we have in God at all? God answers prayer! Ask, seek, find! Luke 11:11–13, “(11) If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? (12) Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? (13) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Believe that God answers prayer, because He does! (And the best prayer to be asked and answered is to be forgiven of our sins through Jesus Christ!)
  5. What was the result of their unbelief? Not only did the Christians inside miss out on the joy of knowing what God had done, poor Peter is left outside knocking at the door hoping that he doesn’t get discovered by some wandering guard!

16 Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.

  1. Peter’s persistence was the only thing that brought the people to the door, and they discovered that Rhoda had been right all along. This time, they were the ones beside themselves! “Astonished” = out of one’s senses, in a state of confusion. Peter didn’t have time to wait for them to get a grip. He told them the news, commanded them to pass it on to James & the other Christians in town (remember there were several thousand in Jerusalem – they couldn’t all be praying at Mary’s house!), and then got out of Jerusalem quickly. Just as Saul had to flee Damascus & Jerusalem, so did Peter. Peter had been rescued by the Lord, but he didn’t take his rescue for granted. He didn’t stay in Jerusalem waiting to be re-arrested. If God had commanded him to stay, he would have stayed (as he did in Acts 5). As it was, God had other plans for Peter, and Peter had the wisdom to keep moving.
  2. BTW – Don’t get confused on the “James” in verse 17. James, the brother of John & the son of Zebedee had been killed by Herod Agrippa I; James the half-brother of Jesus was still alive and an essential leader in the Jerusalem church.
  3. Don’t miss the key bit of Peter’s story: “the Lord had brought him out of the prison.” God had worked! The Lord Jesus rescued him! — Jesus rescues us! Again, we might not be rescued from all our hardships, trials, and persecutions – that’s not what Scripture promises. James the brother of John was not delivered from his execution, nor was Stephen from his stoning. But did they still belong to Jesus? Were they still rescued? Yes. In the things that really mattered, yes, they were certainly rescued! They were delivered from the judgment of their sin – they were rescued from eternal death – they were rescued from slavery to temptations and sinful desires, from being the men they used to be without Christ. They were rescued in the most important ways possible!
    1. It’s all about perspective. We have a tendency of seeing only what’s right in front of us, and unless God delivers us out of that situation, we think God has let us down. “I asked for healing, but God didn’t give it… I asked for a new job, but God didn’t bring it…” But that misses the bigger picture. To a toddler, the world is tiny. All he/she knows is what mommy or daddy brings: food, toys, blankets. But the world is a much bigger place! The toddler never sees what mommy and daddy have to do to ensure there’s food on the table, or a bed in which to take a nap. Beloved, life is far bigger than the things we can see! Life isn’t about the clothes we wear, the food we eat, or even 70-80-90 years put together; life is about eternity. We need a bigger perspective, and when we have it, we see how Jesus truly does rescue us in every way!
  • Aftermath (18-19)

18 Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19 But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.

  1. We can easily imagine the reaction of the soldiers the next day…particularly the ones to whom Peter had been chained! They had quite the surprise in the morning, and no doubt it was all-hands-on-deck to try to find Peter. The search came up fruitless, and they were doomed. Herod wasn’t happy, and the soldiers were executed in Peter’s place.
  2. So what happened to Herod Agrippa afterwards?
  • Herod’s death (20-24). Judgment is real. Are you ready for it?

20 Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.

  1. As to what happened to make Herod “angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon,” we do not know. Although Herod Agrippa had a large kingdom, Tyre & Sidon (along with most of Phoenicia, ~ modern Lebanon) was outside his borders. Whatever had happened, he was intensely angry with them, and the people wanted a political reconciliation with the king. They needed to be in the good graces of Herod Agrippa if they were going to be financially prosperous (and eat!), so they allied themselves with the personal assistant of Agrippa, getting Blastus him to put in a good word for them.

21 So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. 22 And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

  1. The Jewish historian Josephus notes the grandeur of Herod’s clothing, as having a robe made of silver (silver thread or plating?). As it caught the light of the sun, he had a radiant appearance, which combined with his impressive speech caused the people to go overboard in their flattery. No doubt, they were ready to shower him with praises no matter what he said (considering they were trying to get on his good side), but they cranked up the volume to 11 on their praise. They shouted that he spoke with “the voice of a god,” and kept shouting it over & over again. Whether they actually believed that he was divine was irrelevant; Herod ate it up. The people called him a god, and he was happy to receive the compliment. He basked in the glory of the people, doing nothing to “give glory to God.” Back in Chapter 10, Peter was quick to deflect the potential worship of Cornelius & the others, telling them to stand for he was only a man (Acts 10:26). Not so with Herod Agrippa. If people wanted to call him a god & worship him, it was no problem from his perspective.
  2. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He had already earned his judgment from God; this was the final act that confirmed it. Josephus backs up the account. Antiquities343-348 – Herod received the compliment, and saw an owl which he considered to be a bad omen. “A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner,” (Ant 19.346). Five days later, he was dead. An angel of God immediately struck Herod in the moment, and the worms in his belly consumed him over the next week.
  3. There is no escaping the judgment of God! Herod Agrippa was a rich man, but his wealth did not buy him eternity. Agrippa was politically powerful, but he not powerful enough. It didn’t matter how friendly Agrippa may have been with the Roman Caesar when he was an enemy of Almighty God. Herod Agrippa led a life of wickedness, he had persecuted the church, ordered the murder of James (and others) and finally adopted the full pride of Satan as he stole the glory of God for himself. At that moment, there was no time to repent; his time was up.
    1. Scripture is clear: we will be judged. Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” Every man/woman dies, and every person stands before the judgment seat of God. There comes a moment of reckoning for each and every human being, during which every single sin ever committed must be answered. Herod Agrippa had no answer; what’s yours? We can either face the judgment of God naked, with our sins fully exposed to the all-seeing eyes of God, or we can face it clothed in the righteous of Jesus Christ & be welcomed into eternity as His children. The invitation is wide & open to all, but the window of opportunity is limited. 

24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

  1. Herod Agrippa was judged, but the church was blessed. Neither Herod nor the Jewish leadership could stop the gospel! The persecution had been intended to slow down or shut down the church; the opposite happened. Herod was killed while the church grew, and the gospel continued to spread to more & more areas. (A little taste of what was to come with Barnabas and Saul). The word of God can never be stopped!

Conclusion:

Things had looked bleak for the church in Jerusalem: James was dead, persecution was spreading, Peter was in prison, and Herod Agrippa kept growing in his power. Yet that was all on the surface. God had His own plan in motion, and sovereignly turned everything on its head! He rescued Peter from prison, answered the prayers of the church, and judged its persecutor in His holy wrath. God protected His church, and His gospel could not be stopped!

God still protects His church! Not even the gates of hell can prevail against what it is Jesus has built (and continues building)! Persecution may be real (and should be expected), but it does not stop the gospel. The good news of Jesus continues, no matter how violently and vehemently the world opposes it. God still answers prayers of rescue – sometimes through physical deliverance; always through spiritual eternal deliverance. God still judges the wicked – all men will give account to God, and He knows exactly who has brought harm to His people. What God did among Peter and the Jerusalem church, God still does today…God has not changed!

What is it that you believe is too difficult for God to do? What obstacle in your life do you think is too hard for God to overcome? God is sovereign over all things. If not the full power of the empire of ancient Rome can stop His work (or Persia, or Babylon, or Egypt, etc.) what else can do it? We need to trust the sovereign power of God, as well as the sovereign plan of God. We don’t always know why He allows the things He allows, but we can be sure that His purposes will not be thwarted in the end. In the grand scheme of things, God wins. Say it again: God wins.

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