Biblical Commentary        
The persecution of
Herod
Acts 12:1-24
The persecution of Herod

The church has faced persecution from various sources over the centuries. From the Jews to
the Romans to Roman Catholicism to Nazi Germany to Islamic regimes, Christians have
faced persecution from various sources and come out of the crucible like the proverbial
Phoenix arising from the ashes to become stronger and more numerous. Paul promised
Timothy, "And all who live godly shall suffer persecution." Some have tried to picture the life of
Christians as being without its difficulties and opposition. But, remember, "Be serious, be
watchful; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he
may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are
accomplished in your brethren who are in the world." (I Peter 5:8,9). But, what happens to
those who persecute God's people?

Acts 12:1-24

When Barnabas and Saul came to Jerusalem with the relief sent from the church at Antioch,
Herod decided to persecute certain members of the church. He began with the apostle James,
the brother of John, whom he killed with the sword, an euphemism for cutting off his head.
When Herod saw that the Jews were pleased with his execution of James, he decided to
execute Peter as well.

Having arrested Peter, Herod put him in prison because it was at the beginning of Passover.
After Passover was through, Herod intended to deliver Peter to his execution before the people,
just as he had James. Peter was guarded by four units of four soldiers. They probably worked
in six hour shifts, four to a shift, to guard him to make sure he did not escape.

While Peter was in prison, the church gathered to pray for him. They prayed without ceasing in
his behalf.

The night Herod was preparing to bring Peter to his execution, Peter was sleeping between
two soldiers, bound with two chains, probably being chained to each of the soldiers he slept
between. The other two soldiers were stationed at the door of the prison. An angel came, hit
Peter on the side, woke him up, and told him to get up quickly, and get his clothes and shoes
on. As he did this, the chains fell off of Peter's hands. The angel told
him to put his coat on and follow him. As Peter did what he was told, he didn't realize what was
really happening. He thought that he was dreaming. When they were past the other guards and
the iron gate at the front of the prison opened by itself, Peter and the angel left and when they
had gone down one street the angel left.

Now Peter comes to himself and realizes that he is not dreaming. He realizes that God really
sent an angel to rescue him from the fate Herod and the Jews had prepared for him. Thinking
about what had happened Peter goes to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where the
church had gathered to pray.

When Peter knocks on the outer door, a young girl named Rhoda heard him and came to
answer the door. When she heard and recognized Peter's voice, rather than opening the door,
she runs in to tell everyone that Peter is knocking at the door. Their reaction is that they tell her
she is crazy. Peter is in prison. But she continues to say Peter is at the door. They now say, it is
his angel. They still do not believe that it is Peter. All this time, Peter is still knocking at the door.
And when they open it, and see Peter, they are amazed.

Motioning to them to keep quiet, he tells them how God has delivered him from prison. He then
tells them to go tell James (the other James) and the rest of the church what has happened.
Then Peter left, and went someplace else.

When it became daylight, the soldiers were excited. What happened to Peter? They knew the
penalty for losing a prisoner. They were very upset about Peter's escape. When Herod came to
get Peter, he wanted to know what happened. He grilled the soldiers, and finding that the
prisoner had escaped, commanded that the soldiers be executed. This was the common
penalty for losing a prisoner.

Herod then traveled to the sea coast, and stayed at Caesarea.

Herod was upset with the sea coast towns of Tyre and Sidon, and was considering waging
war against them. However, Tyre and Sidon had become friendly with Herod valet, and
petitioned for peace, because they were fed by Judea. Tyre and Sidon were prosperous sea
ports, but they needed the agriculture of Judea to eat.

Following this peace accord, Herod sat on his throne in all his royal paraphernalia, and waxed
eloquent. His speech was so impressive that the people shouted out that it was "the voice of a
god, and not of a man." And immediately Herod was smitten with an affliction, was eaten by
worms and died. The angel of the Lord did this "because he gave not God the glory." Herold
definitely thought way too much of himself.

However, the word of God grew and multiplied. Contrasted to the end of Herod, the end of that
which he sought to destroy was better. The message and the meaning are clear and plain, you
cannot fight against God. You will lose in the end.

God has not promised to deliver us from all persecution, even if it calls for martyrdom. He did
not deliver John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen or James. However, we do have the promise that
God will be with us whatever our difficulties. He may deliver us from our troubles, as he did
Peter. Or, he may allow us to become the victim of our difficulties, as he did James. But,
regardless of our outcome, whether it be to continue in this world, or to go home to be closer to
the Lord, God will be with us.

Romans 8:28, 31-39
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the
called according to His purpose...What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who
can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how
shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God's
elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore
is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Who
shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written: For Your stake we are killed all day
long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Yet in all these things we are more than
conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor
depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord."

II Corinthians 4:8-5:11
"We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken; stuck down, but not destroyed -- always carrying about in the
body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  
For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be
manifested in our mortal flesh.  So then death is working in us, but life in you.  And since we
have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, I believed and therefore I spoke, we
also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise
us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.  For all things are for your sakes, that grace,
having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.  
Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man
is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for
us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,while we do not look at the things which are
seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but
the things which are not seen are eternal.  For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is
destroyed, we have a building from God, a should not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if
indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.  For we who are in this tent groan,
being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may
be swallowed up by life.  Now He who has prepared us for this very things is God, who also
have given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always confident, knowing that while we are
at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  We are
confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.  
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we
must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done
in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  Knowing therefore the terror
of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in
your consciences."
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