Summary: God works a miracle opening physical doors for Peter. The miracle you need may not be physical doors, but God can open all doors according to His will.
We continue our study of doors in the Bible. We have studied:
• God shutting the door of the Ark
• The figurative open door of opportunity to the church of Philadelphia
• Jesus symbolically being the Door to Salvation
• We are to choose to enter the door to the narrow road to Heaven
• Today we study about God miraculously opening a literal door of Peter’s prison cell
Please turn to Acts 12.
1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.
There are several King Herod’s in the NT. Herod the Great was King in Galilee when he had the children in Bethlehem murdered. Herod Antipas was King when John the Baptist was beheaded. This is the grandson Herod Agrippa.
King Herod Agrippa was a Jew, but he didn’t subscribe to the Jewish faith. He was all about power, politics and pride. He decided to persecute Christians, not because of theology, but political expediency. Notice the phrase in verses 2 and 3.
2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews,
King Herod v3 “saw that this met with approval among the Jews”. What met the approval of the Jews? Killing the Apostle James. This James is the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee also called the sons of thunder. He was part of the inner circle of 3 Apostles Jesus carried up on the Mount of Transfiguration and into the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Jews it refers to here are the Jewish leaders, rather than general population.
Notice the wording of verse 1
• NIV - Arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them
• KJV - Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
• ESV – About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.
• Holman - About that time King Herod cruelly attacked some who belonged to the church,
King Herod arrested, cruelly attacked and violently laid hands on Christian leaders to persecute and mistreat them.
V3B Herod proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
Since things went so well with killing the Apostle James, now King Herod arrested Peter. Arresting Peter, the leader of the Christian movement at that time, was a bold move that he hoped would disperse all Christians from the city and region.
4 After arresting Peter, Herod put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
King Herod used all available means to guard and secure Peter for his trial after Passover. 4 squads of 4 soldiers each guarded him. Historians believe rather than all 16 being around him at once, they rotated shifts every 3 hours. Two soldiers would be chained to him, one of each side, and two guard the door to his cell. Peter is not a violate criminal! Yet, they are using such extreme means to secure him. No matter what King Herod does, it will never be enough to stop the Lord God from liberating Peter.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
I love this verse! The church was praying! How were they praying?
• NIV, ESV and Holman – earnestly praying
• KJV – praying without ceasing
• NAS – fervently praying
The Greek word used here is a medical term which describes “stretching a muscle to its limit”. It describes total effort. Praying without ceasing sounds like an emphasis about time to me, but this word is really about intensity of effort. It is not a halfhearted, casual or blasé prayer. It is prayer that pours forth from a burdened heart. That kind of prayer reaches heaven and moves the hand of God.
Evangelist Alan Carr observed, “The church did not cower in fear before those who threatened them. The church lifted its collective voice and rang the prayer bells of Heaven! God heard their prayers and moved in mighty power to bring them His answer!”
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
When did this miracle occur? The night before Peter was to stand trial the next day and be executed.