Acts 11:27 - 12:25 The First Apostle Goes Home
In reading Acts it is easy to get the idea that things are happening in fairly rapid succession. But this simply isn't the case. We have already covered seven years of church history. Acts covers roughly thirty-five years.
Think about it --- If the apostles were about the same age as Jesus, and the Lord was crucified at age thirty-three, this means the apostles are now forty years old. When we complete Acts, the apostles will be over sixty years old.
Let's continue ...
In our last study of Acts we found that the name 'Christian' had been given to new covenant believers. We also saw where the Old Testament prophet said that God's people would be given a new name. However the name Christian took awhile to complete its rounds. The early Jewish believers in Judea were generally known as 'the sect of the Nazarenes.'
Where are we now in the history of the early Church? Cornelius came to the Lord about seven years after Pentecost. A great movement has taken hold in Antioch. Barnabas brings Saul to Antioch, and they teach in the Church there for a year. The beginning of this study will put us at about eight years after Pentecost. It will extend itself to about eleven years after Pentecost.
This is Act026 - Acts 11:27 thru 12:25 The First Apostle Goes Home.
Acts 11:27-30: " Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders."
... The role of the early church prophet was not only to expound on the prophetic mysteries of the former testament, they were also gifted to foretell future events. They were forthtellers with an additional gift of foretelling. It is known that the prophets during that time were relatively itinerant in that they traveled from place to place. Some historians seem to think that Agabus was one of the seventy disciples that Jesus had sent out.
.... Agabus speaks of a famine about to descend on all the world. A number of ancient secular writers speak of this famine, including Josephus. Josephus said that it was especially hard on Judea. It is quite possible that this famine was a judgment from God. But the believers were to the be prepared beforehand. The church in Antioch sent contributions to Jerusalem by Barnabas and Saul.
Acts 12:1,2: "Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword."
.... This statement fixes our time frame in the early part of 44 a.d., which is the date of Herod's death. (About eleven years after Pentecost.) Once again we see spaces of time in the book of Acts.
.... Troublesome times were on the Church. About the time Barnabas and Saul brought the contribution to Jerusalem, Herod put the apostle James to death with a sword. Herod was taking over the wishes of the Sanhedrin.
.... Death by the sword was one of the most disgraceful of capital punishments allowed by the Jews. It was usually reserved for those considered to be deceivers of the people. In later Talmudic writings, Jesus is spoken of as 'the deceiver in Israel.' If you recall, after the burial of Jesus, the chief priests and Pharisees said to Pilate, "Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ' After three days I am to rise again.' Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, 'He has risen from the dead,' and the last deception will be worse than the first." (Matt27:63,64)
Vss3-5: "When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God."
.... Herod took advantage of this feast to give the Jewish leadership a special present. The leadership was especially happy to see Peter placed in prison. Of course Peter was familiar with the prison. He had been there before. So he settles for a night's sleep. The man Peter doesn't seem to be worried for the future.
.... This took place during Passover. Four quads would be sixteen soldiers. Seems everyone remembered that this man Peter had been delivered out of prison before. Four soldiers were assigned to Peter on each watch. He would be chained to two soldiers, and the other two kept watch outside the cell.
.... God's peoples throughout the city were praying fervently for Peter. This was a moment of crisis for the church. One apostle had been beheaded. Another was waiting the same judgment.
Vss6-17: Rather than comment on each verse, let me give a brief synopsis on Peter's deliverance by an angel. An angel of the God appears and light fills Peter's cell. What is Peter doing? He is sleeping. The angel strikes Peter on the side to awaken him. He is told to gird himself and put on his sandals. Peter thought he was dreaming. The chains fall off. They walked out of the prison, past the guards, and then out of the city gate. The huge iron gate opens by itself. Peter then goes to the house of John Mark's mother, Mary. After some astonishment, Peter motions for them to be silent. He says, "Report these things to James and the Brethren." Peter then leaves for another place.
Vss18,19: "Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there."
.... Here we see the severity of Herod. Herod would kill anyone who got in his way, or who questioned him. He was of a vile temper. Herod actually murdered his own wife, Mariamne. In addition he murdered Mariamne's mother and his own three sons. There was a common saying that it was better to be Herod's pig than Herod's son.
.... It should also be noted that the rule of Rome for soldiers was, if you let a prisoner escape, you forfeit your life for his. In this case it wasn't only Herod's vile temper, but also the following of the rule of Rome.
Vss20-23: "Now he was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; and with one accord they came to him, and having won over Blastus the king's chamberlain, they were asking for peace, because their country was fed by the king's country. On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!' And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died."
.... The Jewish historian Josephus says that Herod's apparel was of silver, and when the early morning sun hit it, it sent out brilliant rays. This was one reason for their outcry in saying Herod was a god. But there was another reason -- Herod struck fear into anyone he was around. The cry was a desperate at flattery. Of course Herod took it to himself.
.... Josephus records this incident and says that the angel appeared in the form of an owl. But the Christian historian Eusebuis, says Herod looked up and saw an angel sitting over his head. The angel smote him with a disease. What was the cause? Herod took to himself the glory that belonged to God alone. But it was also time to avenge God's servants of whom Herod had dared to touch.
Vss24,25: "But the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied. And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, taking along with them John, who was also called Mark."
.... This is where we can see the truth in what the prophet said; "'No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,' declares the LORD." (Isaiah 54:17)
.... After the death of Herod, believers became even more vocal in their declaration of Jesus as Messiah, and many more converts were added to the faith. The opposition was losing ground.
.... Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch. They take John Mark with them. From here we are about to enter into another chapter of history.
This study was originally part of a series on the book of Acts given to members of Hebraic Foundations from July 10, 2002 through January 19, 2003. They were written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added October 22, 2004
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