Bible Study with Jairus

Acts 12 (Part 2)

Why Did God Save Peter and Let Worms Kill Herod?

 

During my recent reading of Acts 12, I received new inspiration about why Herod wanted to arrest Peter, why God wanted to save Peter, and why God allowed worms to eat Herod. The Holy Spirit showed me that Herod was a tool of Satan, trying to hinder Peter’s efforts to spread Christ’s gospel to the Gentiles, and trying to cut off the flow of the Holy Spirit so that the Gospel could not be spread among the Gentiles. This story is almost the last time Peter is mentioned in the book of Acts. The last mention of Peter in Acts is his testimony at the Jerusalem council. At that time, as Paul and Barnabas were preaching the gospel among the Gentiles, some men came down from Judea and taught the believers that unless they were circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). As a result, there was a disagreement among the believers. Finally, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and the elders and discuss this matter. During this meeting, Peter testified, confirming that God had chosen the Gentiles. This shows that Satan was also using a legalistic spirit in Jerusalem to attempt to hinder the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles. This is the last mention of Peter in Acts.

In other words, Herod, as a tool of Satan, wanted to not kill only Peter, but also to extinguish the flow of the Holy Spirit that brought the gospel to the Gentiles which Peter represented. Peter ran the last leg of his race and successfully handed the baton to Paul. From then on, Paul became the primary leader of God’s work among the Gentiles in the new era.

Peter walked in God’s will and thus experienced God’s protection. We must know God’s will and live in God’s will in order to experience God’s protection. Peter was delivered by God, and in the end fulfilled his responsibility of spreading the gospel to the Gentiles. His role in the new era was to support Paul, who had not yet been fully accepted by the believers, and to help prove that it was God’s will for the gospel to be spread to the Gentiles. Peter’s testimony laid the foundation for Paul to step to the forefront and become the representative of God’s new generation of apostles. Therefore, after chapter 15, Peter was not mentioned again in Acts.

Read The Spiritual Warfare Behind the Words

 

The Bible reveals the goodness of God, the value of man, and the tricks of Satan. When we read the Bible, we must understand these three things, and even more so when we read the Acts of the Apostles. We must realize that the essence of the Acts of the Apostles is the Acts of the Holy Spirit. In this book, we see human activity in the foreground. But behind each of them is the presence and empowerment of either God or Satan. Man either stands on God’s side and walks in God’s will or stands on Satan’s side and becomes a tool in Satan’s hands. There are no other options. Therefore, when we read about people’s actions in the Bible, we must perceive the invisible battle between God and Satan. This will help us better understand the actions and behaviors of these individuals.

At the beginning of Acts 12, we read that Herod persecuted several people in the church and killed James, the brother of John, with a sword. Why did God choose to save Peter, while allowing James to be martyred? James’ race was over. He testified for Christ through his death and entered into his heavenly ministry. It was not his job to continue the work of the Holy Spirit on earth. That was Peter’s job, and Peter was soon to hand the baton to Paul.

The first part of Acts records the work of the first generation of apostles led by Peter; the latter part of Acts records the work of the second generation of apostles led by Paul. Peter represents the acts of the apostles during and shortly after Christ’s earthly ministry; Paul represents the acts of the apostles sustained by Christ’s heavenly ministry. These two very important segments of Acts are distinct, yet connected. The work of God and the flow of the Holy Spirit were passed from one era to the next through men like Peter and Paul. So behind Herod’s desire to kill Peter was Satan’s desire to break the continuity of God’s work. Satan was trying to cut off the flow of the Holy Spirit between Peter’s ministry to the Jews and Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. Though he was primarily an apostle to the Jews, Peter did preach to some Gentiles according to the will of God. But the work that Peter began was about to be passed on to Paul to finish. He was going to successfully hand over the baton to Paul. Satan wanted to use Herod to kill Peter to prevent Peter from successfully passing the baton to Paul. It was as if Peter was approaching Paul in a relay race, preparing to hand off the baton, when Satan sent a sniper to shoot Peter. Satan wanted to hinder the flow of the Holy Spirit and prevent the gospel from spreading from the Jews to the Gentiles.

The first thing Satan did was to use the religious power of Judaism to persecute the church. Judaism and legalism were extremely strong in Jerusalem. The Jews rejected Christ and were pleased when Herod persecuted several people in the church and killed James. This is why the Bible says of Herod, “When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread” (12:3). Satan used Judaism, legalism, and evil political forces to persecute believers.

Not only did Jews persecute Christians, but many legalistic, Judaism-focused Christians also opposed the grace of Christ. These believers were trying to force Gentile Christians to be circumcised, telling them it was the only way they could be saved. Perhaps there were also Jewish Christians who were opposed to preaching the gospel among the Gentiles, since Jesus had taught his disciples to preach only to Israelites, not Gentiles (Matthew 10:5). At first, in the previous era, Jesus sent his word only to the Jews. But he later included the Gentiles as well. Jesus’ command for the new age was to spread the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Satan often uses people’s fixed concepts and religious bigotry to hinder God’s work. Jerusalem had degenerated into a cesspool of fixed ideas and religious bigotry which was hindering believers from preaching the gospel of God to the Gentiles. God allowed persecution so that the disciples would break out of their territorial religious concepts based in Jerusalem and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. To escape persecution, the disciples scattered to different places and spread the gospel more widely. Persecution helped the believers break out of their fixed religious mindsets and preach the gospel in Gentile lands such as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch. Instead of staying in a tight-knit circle of believers in Jerusalem, they would now bring the gospel to the big stage of the Gentile world.

But the forces of legalistic Judaism not only wanted to control Jerusalem but also extend their control to the Gentile believers. Legalistic Jewish believers came down from Judea to teach the Gentile believers that they must be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15). Paul and Barnabas opposed this teaching, but because Paul had not yet risen to a position of authority in the church, the dispute was eventually taken to the apostles in Jerusalem. During the meeting in Jerusalem, Peter played an active role in defending the Gentile believers. He testified that it was indeed God’s will for the gospel to be spread to the Gentiles. James also spoke up in agreement, saying that God had chosen the Gentiles.

There was a reason that Satan targeted Peter. If Peter had been killed by Herod, there would have been no one to back up Paul and Barnabus and defend the Gentile believers. Furthermore, if Peter had caved to legalism (as he did in the book of Galatians, when he and Barnabas stopped eating with the Gentiles because of the strong influence of the legalistic believers who came to Galatia), James might not have been convinced to support salvation through faith. In this case, the religious Jews in Judaism might even have had Paul and Barnabas arrested. Satan wanted to use the Jewish religious forces to prevent Paul from becoming a representative of the apostles of God’s new age and the foreman of God’s construction. But God saved Peter’s life so he could support Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, so that Paul could successfully take up the mantle as the leader of the second generation of apostles.

Herod’s Death Broke the Power of Jewish Religious Leaders and Evil Political Leaders

Satan not only used Jewish religious forces to attempt to destroy Peter’s influence, but he also tried to use evil political forces like Herod to unite with the Jewish religious forces. Herod had killed James and persecuted several other believers, and Herod saw that what he did “pleased the Jews.” He wanted to please the Jews for the sake of his rule, so he went on to arrest Peter (verse 3). Peter understood that the Jewish religious powers were collaborating with Herod. After the angel rescued him from prison, Peter said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting” (Acts 12:11). Peter specifically mentions that God saved him not only from Herod, but also from “all that the Jewish people were expecting.” The Jewish people clearly supported the persecution of Christians. When the evil forces of empty religion and politics are combined, they will bring greater harm to the church.

The Bible says that after arresting Peter, Herod waited until after the Passover to bring him out to the people (12:4). If Peter had been handed over to the people, Peter might have been killed, and Satan likely would not have stopped with Peter’s death. He might have continued to use the evil religious power of the Jews combined with the evil political power of Herod to continue to persecute, arrest, and even kill people in the church. The next victim might have been Paul. Satan’s plans were not limited to killing Peter; he also may have attempted to kill Paul and Barnabas. This would have completely defeated God’s plan to spread the gospel from Judea to the Gentiles through the apostles. Satan is very insidious! God had to intervene, so He sent worms to kill Herod, thereby defeating Satan’s plot.

God struck Herod down in order to break the powerful collaboration between the evil forces of religion and the evil forces of politics. If God had not intervened, the evil forces of religion and politics would have united to kill Peter and thwart God’s plan to spread the gospel from the Jews to the Gentiles through Peter.

Many evildoers throughout the ages were not treated like Herod, who was directly judged by God. God is merciful and often gives people the opportunity to repent. But if a person is like Herod and is being used by Satan to try to hinder God’s work and will, he will be severely judged by God. Herod was eaten by worms and died.

Herod’s death by worms was not the first time God had attempted to break the collaboration between evil political forces and evil religious forces. After Peter was saved by an angel, “Herod searched for him and did not find him.” He then “examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there” (verse 19). The angel’s rescue ruined Herod’s efforts to unite with the evil religious forces in Jerusalem. He had failed, so he left Judea and went down to Caesarea to live. This event set the foundation for Herod losing his life. God did not allow Herod to join forces with the evil religious forces. He would not allow Herod to continue to be a tool of Satan, preventing Peter from fulfilling God’s will.

God’s Word Is Spreading

 

God’s will is for His word to spread to more and more people. He wanted the disciples not only to preach Jesus Christ as the Savior among the Jews, but also among the Gentiles. Therefore, after Herod was struck with worms and died, the Bible immediately goes on to say, “But the word of God increased and multiplied” (verse 24). This verse confirms that Herod’s death was God’s will. When people walk in God’s will, the Holy Spirit will confirm that they are on the right path. So when God’s word spreads to more people, God confirms that his will is being done.

God’s will today is the same: to spread his word to more people. This never changes. We cannot hinder God’s will. The safest and most protected place is in the center of God’s will. We must know God’s will and live in God’s will.

Paul and Barnabas Leave Jerusalem

At this time, after Paul and Barnabas finished providing financial relief to the believers in the church in Jerusalem, they left and returned to Gentile areas to continue to preach the gospel. This event is recorded at the end of chapter 11. Paul and Barnabas are hardly mentioned in this chapter, but the last verse mentions that they left Jerusalem and took John, who was called Mark, with them (verse 25). This is definitely not an accident, but a clever arrangement by the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Pride

How did the Jews, who were God’s people to whom he revealed the entire Old Testament, become a tool of Satan to hinder the spread of the gospel? Why did the Jewish people support persecution and encourage the murder of Christ’s apostles? Why could a political figure like Herod become a tool in the hands of Satan to hinder the work of God? One of the reasons is none other than human pride. The pride of the Jews made them want to control the interpretation of the Bible and God; Herod’s pride made him compare himself to God. Just as Satan fell because of pride, when we are proud we open the door to Satan and become his tools.

 

Conclusion

In this chapter, we see that God and Satan are engaged in a spiritual war over the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the Gentiles. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and others are the tools used by God to accomplish God’s will. Herod, the people of Judea, and the Jewish religion became tools in the hands of Satan to attempt to persecute the servants of God and hinder or extinguish the spread of the gospel. When God killed Herod, he broke Satan’s attempt to combine evil political forces with Jewish religious forces. This not only saved the lives of Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and others, but also allowed the Holy Spirit to reach the Gentiles.