THE BOOK OF ACTS
ACTS chapter Twelve and Thirteen
DEATH OF JAMES
It was around this same time of the great draught upon the
land of Judea especially, that the then Herod decided to vex the
Church of God. It was the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of
Unleavened Bread, what is March or April on our calendar.
The Roman's were always very touchy and somewhat high-strung at
this time, because so many uprisings had taken place by the Jews
at this spring Feast time.
We are not given the details as to the WHY, but Herod took
James the brother of John the apostle and had him killed by the
sword. He saw that this pleased the Jews who did not like this
"new Jewish faith" that had sprung up among them. And so he
proceeded to take the apostle Peter. He had him brought in and
thrown into prison. Herod thought that after the days of the
Passover and unleavened bread was over, he would bring Peter
out and present him to the Jews and would then see what they
wanted to do with him, maybe he thought they would want him
crucified as they did with Jesus.
The word "Easter" in the old KJV was a blatant
mistranslation from the Greek. The Greek word used here is
Pascha, which means Passover.
Peter was in prison but the Church of God people prayed for
him, prayed without ceasing (Acts 12:1-5).
PETER'S MIRACULOUS DELIVERANCE
Herod was going to bring forth Peter from prison, but the
night before a great miracle took place. Peter was bound by two
chains between two guards, and the door keeper of the prison was
at the door guarding as usual. Then a mighty angel from God
came and shone brightly in the prison. The angel shook Peter
awake and said to him, "Arise, get up quickly." The chains
binding Peter's hands fell to the ground. The angel said further,
"Gird up your clothes and put your sandals on. Put your tunic on
and come follow me."
Peter obeyed and went with the angel, but he was so dazed
and still somewhat sleepy that he thought all that was happening
was a kind of dream. They passed the first enclosure and then the
second enclosure of the prison and finally came to the prison's
court-yard gate, that led out into the city. The gate just opened
up as if magically all by itself. They went out and passed on
through one street, and then the angel just disappeared from
He finally was fully awake enough to realize it was not all
just a dream, but it was indeed very real what had all taken
place, and he knew then that God had sent an angel to deliver him
from Herod and from what the Jews may have wanted to do to him.
Peter moved on to the house of Mary, the mother of John,
whose surname was Mark, and many of the brethren were gathered at
her house; they were there praying together for Peter. He knocked
at the gate, and a woman by the name of Rhoda came to answer his
knocking. She heard Peter's voice and was so overjoyed she forgot
to open the gate and let him in. She ran off to tell the others
that Peter was at the gate. Well, the brethren did not want to
believe her, and thought she was a little bit out of her mind,
but she kept insisting what she said was true. They then said to
her that she had maybe seen Peter's angel. We do have certain
angels assigned to us at times, from God, to help us in various
Peter continued knocking at the gate. Finally all the
brethren coming close to the gate thought well someone is
certainly out there knocking, so they opened up the door
(which was obviously more like a door than a see-through gate).
Wow....what a surprise for them, they were astonished to say the
least, for there right in front of them stood Peter. They began
to shout out with joy and praise. Peter motioned with his hands
and had them quiet down, then related to them how God had
delivered him from prison by an angel that He had sent. He then
told them to go and tell James (probably James, the Lord Jesus'
brother, the same James as we shall read about in Acts 15, when
we get there) and other disciples and apostles.
Peter then departed from them and went to another place,
which we are not told where it was, or to whom he went (Acts 12:
When it was daybreak the soldiers soon found that Peter was
not in the prison. It naturally caused quite a commotion. Herod
was told the situation. He was as mad as a wild bull. He called
for the prison wardens, examined what they had to say about why
Peter was not in the prison. He was not satisfied at all with
what they had to say, and commanded that the wardens be put to
death. Then he left Jerusalem and went to Ceasarea for a while.
While there some political scheming went on between him and
the officials at the cities of Tyre and Sidon (which are up the
coast about 60 and 70 miles from Ceasarea). The officials at
those two cities had made friends with one of Herod's right hand
men, called Blastus. They came to him all in a nice cosy fashion,
desiring that peace would be between them and Herod, for Herod's
country that he ruled over provided many physical things for the
well-being and comfort of their country. Herod told them to come
before him on a certain day and they willingly obeyed. When that
day came Herod gave them what we might call a "Presidential
speech." The people that heard this eloquent speech all
shouted out, "Oh, this is the voice of god, not of a human man."
Herod was thinking to himself that it was indeed so, just as they
said, that he was some kind of a god. Immediately as he was
agreeing with their shouts of adoration for him, an angel of the
Lord smote him. We are told that he was not giving the true God
glory, but obviously taking it all for himself.
He did not die instantly, but he was smitten with some kind
of sickness that worms were eating away at him, and then he
finally died. It must have been a terrible death, maybe slow and
agonizing (Acts 12: 18-23).
The word of God grew and multiplied more and more after
Herod's death. Barnabas and Paul, who had been somewhere in the
land of Judea handing out the goods they had brought with them
from Antioch to help the draught stricken brethren of Judea,
returned to Antioch and took with then John, whose surname was
Mark. They must have thought he would be a good servant for their
work in the ministry in Antioch (Acts 12: 24-25).
As we look back on what we have just seen happen in Acts 12,
we must wonder why one man is killed for his faith in God and
another is delivered from what probably would have been death, if
the unbelieving Jews had had their way. There is no specific
answer to our question. You may remember in the Gospels where
Jesus told Peter that he would one day be led away to a place he
did not want to go, which was telling him he would die by being
led captive and executed. Peter turned to Jesus and said, "Well
what about this man here, what will happen to him, how will he
die?" This was the man John, one of the apostles, that Peter was
looking at and asking Jesus about. Jesus told Peter to never mind
about what he would do or how his life would end. He told him
what did it matter to Peter if this man were to live until Jesus
returned again from heaven. Christ told Peter to mind his own
business as we say, yes, literally to mind his own business of
doing God's work, and not be concerned about how God would work
with another man (John 21: 15-25).
We find that history tells us Peter was taken captive and
was executed for his faith eventually, while John the apostle
lived to an old age and died as far as we know from natural
causes of old age.
It is not possible to know all the ways and the reasons as
to why God works this way with one person and another way with
another person. Some things are hidden from us in this life time.
We must all simply be concerned with OUR life with God and what
we can do for Him, for as long as God gives us this physical
life, be it long or short, be it a natural death for us or an
execution death for our Christian faith.
BARNABAS AND PAUL START THEIR
FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY
We now move back to Antioch where Barnabas and Paul had once
more returned to.
Antioch in Syria, on the left bank of the Orontes, sixteen
miles from the Mediterranean and three hundred miles from
Jerusalem, between the Lebanon and Taurus mountain ranges. It was
founded about 300 B.C. The city was destroyed several times by
earthquakes. It was luxurious. Its main street, four miles in
length, was lined with magnificent mansions. It was highly
cultural, but its social life was debase, sensual, and shocking.
Jews formed a large portion of its population. It became the
third city in the Roman Empire, having a population of 500,000.
We have seen that it was there that the name "Christian" was
applied to followers of Jesus. All three of Paul's missionary
journeys began from Antioch (see a Bible Dictionary for this and
more details on the city of Antioch in Syria).
In the Church of God in Antioch there were prophets and
teachers. The names of maybe the most prominent are given to us
as: Barnabas, Simeon that was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene,
Manaen, and Paul.
As they served the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit told
them to separate Barnabas and Paul for a work that God had chosen
them to do for Him. They all prayed and fasted more, then laid
their hands on those two and sent them out.
The Holy Spirit led them to go to Seleucia and from there to
Cyprus. At this point you may want to get out a good Bible map of
this first missionary journey of Barnabas and Paul, to see
exactly where they travelled to. John Mark was with them, and the
first time we are told they preached the word of God in the
synagogues of the Jews was at the town of Salamis.
They then went through the isle unto Paphos, and came across
a certain "witch" or "sorcerer" - a false prophet - a Jew by the
name of Barjesus. This fellow often hung around with the high
official of the country named Serius Paulus. He was a prudent man
and called for Barnabas and Paul, desiring to hear what they had
to say concerning the word of God. But Barjesus stood up against
Barnabas and Paul wanting to turn Paulus away from the truth of
Then Paul filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, looked
with piecing eyes upon this false prophet and said, "You, who are
so full of all cunningness and wickedness, you who are a son of
the Devil, you who are an enemy of all true righteousness, when
is it that you will cease to pervert the ways of the Lord? And
now, look, but you will not see, for the hand of the Lord is upon
you. You shall not be able to see the sun, you will be blind for
a season." And immediately a kind of mist and a darkness fell
upon his eyes and he had to seek people to lead him about by the
When Paulus saw what had happened to this false prophet he
believed, for he was then astonished at the word and teachings of
the Lord (Acts 13: 1-12).
PAUL PREACHES IN ANTIOCH IN PISIDIA
Paul and company went from Paphos and came to Perga in
Pamphylia, and it was there that John Mark departed from them and
returned to Jerusalem. We are not told as to why John Mark left
them, only that he did. It was to Paul not a good reason for him
to leave them, as we see from Acts 15:38. To Paul he abandoned
the work of God.
Paul and company continued on from Perga to Antioch in
Pisidia, a different Antioch than the one in Syria from whence
they started their journey. They went into the synagogue on the
weekly Sabbath day, and sat down. After the reading of the law
and the prophets, the leaders of the synagogue said to all
present, "You men and brethren, if you have any word of
exhortation for the people, then speak up and we shall listen."
That was all that Paul needed to hear. He straightaway stood up
and preached to them
this little sermon:
"Men of Israel, and all you that respectfully fear God,
please listen to me. The God of the people of Israel chose
our fathers, and exalted the people, when they lived as
strangers in the land of Egypt, and with a mighty high hand
brought them out of Egypt.
He endured with them for about forty years in the
wilderness. After destroying seven nations of peoples in the
land of Canaan, He divided the land up and gave a portion to
each tribe. There were judges over Israel for about
four-hundred and fifty years, until Samuel the prophet. Then
the people desired to have a king over them like other
He gave them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of
Benjamin, who reigned about forty years. When God finally
removed him as king, He gave them David to be their king.
And God gave testimony of David saying, 'I have found David
the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall
fulfil all my will.'
And from this man's descendants God has according to His
promise, raised up to Israel a Savior, by the name of Jesus.
But before He came, John fulfilled his calling by preaching
baptism of repentance to all the peoples of Israel that came
to him. While John was doing his work for God he said, 'Who
do you think that I am? The Messiah? No, I am not. But there
will come a man after me, whose sandals I'm not worthy to
Men and brethren, children from the line of Abraham, and all
among you that respectfully fear God, it is to you, that
this word of salvation is sent. For those who dwell at
Jerusalem, and their leaders, because they did not wish to
know Him the Messiah, nor the voice of the prophets which
are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled the very
prophecies contained in the prophets by condemning the
Messiah Jesus. Yet they could find no cause of anything to
deserve death, but they still wanted Pilate to kill Him. And
when all that was written concerning this man, they took Him
down from the tree and put Him in a tomb. But death could
not hold Him, for God raised Him up from death, and He
was seen alive for many days by those who followed Him from
Galilee to Jerusalem, who bear witness to this fact to all
the people. And we are here to declare to you the good
news about the one great promise made to our fathers. God
has fulfilled that very promise to us the children of our
fathers, in that He has raised Jesus from death, just as
it is written in the psalm: 'You are my Son, this day I have
begotten you' (Ps.2:7).
And as concerning the point that he raised Him to life from
the dead, no more to ever experience physical corruption, He
said it this way: 'I will give you the sure mercies of
David' (Isa.55:3), and in another place in the psalms, 'You
shall not allow your holy one to see decay and corruption'
(Ps.16:10). David himself served the will of God in his
generation, but fell asleep in death, was buried, and did
see corruption. David was not writing about himself, but
about Him that God raised from death, about him that did not
see corruption of the physical body.
Be it known unto you men and brethren that through the name
of this man Jesus, is the preaching of the forgiveness of
sins. And by Him all that believe can be justified or
forgiven from all their sins, which you simply could not be
from trying to observe the laws of Moses.
Beware, take close heed to what I'm saying, lest it come
upon you what is spoken in the prophets: 'Behold you that
despise, and doubt, and continue on to perish because you
will not believe. I will work a work in your days, a work
that you may reject and not believe, even though I send men
to tell you about it' (Habakkuk 1:5)"
Though in context the prophecy in Habakkuk was about the
Chaldeans coming upon Judah to punish and destroy because of
unrepentant sin - the type example was fitting for the truth of
the Gospel and personally finding salvation from sin, being
rejected by many, though preached to them.
When the Jews had departed out of the synagogue, the
Gentiles stayed behind and asked the two apostles to preach more
of those words to them again the next Sabbath.
We can not here that the Gentiles did not ask Paul and
Barnabas to preach to them on Sunday, as being the Lord's day. Of
course they were new to the "new faith" being taught, so we can
say that Paul or Barnabas did not answer them by saying they
could teach and preach to them "tomorrow" - it being the Lord's
day or new Sabbath day under the New Covenant. Here was the two
apostles great opportunity to explain to them and to us today,
that the fourth commandment of the great ten had been "changed"
to "the first day of the week" or to what we call Sunday. If
Sunday had become under the New Testament the new Lord's day,
then Paul and Barnabas could have told them they could meet with
them the very next day as they would be observing the first day
of the week as Jesus' resurrection day and as the now New
Covenant Sabbath day. But as we see, no such thought or idea or
teaching like this came from either of them.
Outside the synagogue many of the Jews and those who had
been converted to the Jewish faith, followed Paul and Barnabas to
hear more about the Gospel. And after expounding more of the word
of God to them, many did believe and the two apostles encouraged
them to continue in the grace of God now given to them (Acts
THE NEXT SABBATH - JEWISH OPPOSITION
During the week word got around Antioch in Pisidia, about
what had happened the Sabbath before in the synagogue, and nearly
the whole city came out to hear the word of God as preached by
Paul and Barnabas. The Gentiles were out by the droves, a
multitude of them, hungry to hear more from those two preachers
that had arrived among them.
But the Jews became filled with envy. They did not like what
it was all perhaps leading to. The Jews did not have the same
attitude of mind as the Gentiles were exhibiting. They started to
speak against the things Paul and Barnabas were saying. They
started to argue, contradict, and ended up even blaspheming. It
was a mind-set that was as if they did not believe in a God or
His inspired word. All this just made Paul and Barnabas get
stronger and stronger in preaching and teaching. Then they both
came to a revelation, they said to the Jews, "It was right and
proper that we first preach the word of God to you, but because
you have thrown it to one side, thrown it away as far as the
east is from the west, and have condemned yourself not worthy of
everlasting life, well, behold, we shall go to the Gentiles. For
we now see that God has called us for that commission, for it is
written, 'I have sent you to be a light to the Gentiles, that you
should proclaim salvation to the very ends of the earth'" (Isa.
42:6 and 49:6).
When the Gentiles heard these words form the two apostles
they were exceedingly happy and glorified the word of the Lord.
And as many as were being called of God to eternal life, they
believed. The word of God went forth throughout the whole region.
The Jews were some upset, upset as possibly as much as they
could be without getting violent. Many of them went to other
religious Jewish women, women of high status in the community,
many men in high-ranking official governance of the city, and
managed to get all those people to persecute in various ways the
apostles Paul and Barnabas. It all led to having them expelled
from the city.
The two apostles shook off the dust from off their feet as
they left the city, as Jesus had told His disciples to do, if a
town or city rejected them, and they moved on to Iconium.
The overall good done and fruits of preaching God's word was
getting large results for the positive, and so the disciples were
filled with joy and with more of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:44-52).
TO BE CONTINUED