Online Bible Commentary
Unforgiven Sin Results in Guilt
Acts 12:5 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. 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. 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." (NKJV)
King Herod Agrippa I ruled over Judea and Galilee from A.D. 37 to 44. Herod, a Jewish sympathizer, took it upon himself to persecute the church as a favor to the Jews. Herod executed James, the older brother of John, by the sword in A.D. 44.
When Herod saw that the Jews were pleased with James’ execution he later also arrested Peter. However, now was the time during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So when he had arrested Peter, he put him in prison instead of executing him immediately.
If it had not been for these religious holidays Herod would have attempted to execute Peter at this time. However, he recognized that an execution during the religious holidays might not be appropriate. Not to mention, Herod likely did not want to share his spotlight with the religious holidays.
While Peter was in prison, “constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (v. 5). Peter was well guarded. Four groups of four guards each traded off shifts. One night, “when Herod was about to bring him out”, while Peter slept two guards were shackled to him, one on each side, and the other two guards guarded the door of the prison (v. 6).
Next, an angel stood by Peter and a light shined in the cell. The angel nudged Peter in the side, waking him up, and the shackles fell off his hands (v. 7). The angel instructed Peter to get dressed, put on his sandals, and follow him (v. 8).
Peter followed instructions, although he thought this was a dream and not real (v. 9). The angel led him past two guard posts without being seen, and the gate of the prison magically opened when they approached it (v. 10a). They went out of the prison and down a street, before the angel disappeared (v. 10b).
Peter then came to himself and 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" (v. 11). Of course “the expectation of the Jewish people” was that he would be executed.
It was not Peter’s time. Neither was it Peter’s time the first time he had been rescued by an angel (Acts 5: 19-20). God had already told Peter that he would live a long life (Jn. 21:18). God had more work for Peter. Peter would live to be in his seventies before he would be crucified by Nero in A. D. 67 or 68.
Just as God protected the baby Jesus through an angelic visit He also protected Peter in the same manner. He protected Peter from Herod Agrippa I, just as He had protected the baby Jesus from his grandfather, Herod the Great, some 48 years earlier.
Herod Agrippa I died suddenly within days after executing James. He died shortly after Passover, the time he had scheduled for Peter’s execution. Herod the Great had the same symptoms and died within months, maybe days, after ordering the death of the baby Jesus. Josephus said that Herod the Great had attempted suicide and others said that he died by suicide.
Pontius Pilate committed suicide out of remorse for crucifying Jesus. Nero wanted to commit suicide but could not muster the courage so he had others do it in A.D. 68, shortly after executing Peter and Paul.
So, you see it does not bode well for rulers who persecute God’s people. Then again, some may call it coincidence. All I know is that unforgiven sin results in guilt.