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“The Three Angels of Acts 12” (Acts 12)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Listen, church: God’s mission cannot be stopped.

I want to tell you the story of a man named Min-jae, a man from North Korea.

Min-jae became a follower of Jesus during a lengthy business trip to China in 2004.

Five months later, after being baptized and receiving his own small Korean Bible, Min-jae returned to North Korea. As he prepared to leave China, someone from the church made a bold request: Would he accept a shipment that included ten hidden Bibles once he returned to North Korea?

At first, he declined. He was already nervous about bringing his own small Bible into the country. If border guards caught him, he could be tortured or killed, or end up in one of North Korea’s notorious concentration camps.

As he agonized over the decision, he remembered that he had given his life to Christ, and it was no longer his own. He decided to trust his Lord.

“Now I believe in God, and in God, everything is possible,” he thought.

The shipment arrived a few months after Min-jae’s return to North Korea. At 1 a.m. on a morning in November 2005, he approached a boat along the bank of the river, praying for God’s protection and guidance with every step.

After retrieving three large vinyl duffle bags, he hoisted them onto his back and ran toward his home in the dark. Once inside the relative safety of his home, he opened the bags to find them tightly packed with pants. But wrapped randomly within the clothing were 10 small Bibles. Min-jae decided to keep the dangerous books hidden until God led him to the right people.

Then, as he walked through his village one day, he heard a man whistling a Christian hymn. Min-jae made note of where the man lived and decided to deliver some Bibles to him that night under cover of darkness.

After midnight, Min-jae rewrapped eight of the 10 Bibles in the pants and left them at the man’s front door. He didn’t leave a note for fear that it could be traced back to him.

Months later, Min-jae returned to China with the intent of defecting, but in November 2006 he was arrested and extradited to North Korea.

In prison, he met a former friend who had been arrested because of his Christian faith. And as they talked, Min-jae came to realize that the man he gave the Bibles to was his friend’s uncle. That man had also been arrested and was being held in a different cell in the same prison.

Min-jae’s friend told him that his uncle had given the eight Bibles to relatives, who had then committed their lives to Christ. The entire family of 27 people began to gather secretly at night to worship God and to read and discuss the Scriptures. But one night, a neighbor overheard the believers singing hymns and reported them to authorities. The secret police raided their home and arrested everyone, including his friend and his friend’s uncle, and sent them all to a concentration camp.

Min-jae was released after seven months in prison, and in 2014, he successfully defected to South Korea.

He remains concerned — even feeling a bit guilty — about the Christian family suffering in a concentration camp. After all, he supplied the Bibles that helped lead to their imprisonment. Still, he knows that God ultimately provided the Bibles and that he is with them as they suffer in His name.

“I just want for North Korean people to hear the gospel and share the gospel,” he said. “That is my only prayer.” (this true story was taken from the ministry called “Voice of the Martyrs”)

Church, God’s mission cannot be stopped.

God’s mission could not be stopped in the Book of Acts, and it cannot be stopped today.

As we continue our study in the Book of Acts, let us read about some of the difficulties of the early Church, and how God’s mission pressed on.

In our study of Acts 12 today, we’re actually going to hear about three different angels, so I’ve entitled today’s sermon “The Three Angels of Acts 12.”

Let’s start off our study by looking at Acts 12:1-3. These verses will set us up for what’s happening in this chapter.

1 About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, 2 and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. 3 When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

Let’s stop here for now and ask God to guide us through this sermon.


Ok, remember that we’re going to see three mentions of angels in this passage. So, let’s start off with . . .

‌I. The angel that rescued Peter.

So, don’t forget what we just read before we prayed.

We learn that King Herod is attacking the church. By the way, this is not Herod the Great from the time of Jesus; this is his grandson, Herod Agrippa I.

This Herod executed James.

This particular James is James the brother of John, the son of Zebedee.

This James is one of the apostles who was in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. We frequently hear “Peter, James, and John” mentioned in the Gospels; this is that James.

So, James is put to death, and Herod thinks it wise to try and do the same to Peter.

One reason Herod may have wanted to persecute Peter was to make himself look more powerful. Peter was a popular figure, so if Herod overpowered him, perhaps people would fear and respect him more.

Also, Herod probably thought he could earn some points with the powerful Jewish leaders because they didn’t like Peter.

Finally, Herod probably wanted to squash this surging growth of Christianity. Peter was their most popular figure. If he could take down Peter, perhaps he could take down Christianity.

However, remember this church: God’s mission cannot be stopped.

Well, let’s look at the next few verses and see what we learn.

4 After the arrest, he put him in prison and assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was praying fervently to God for him.

6 When Herod was about to bring him out for trial, that very night Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while the sentries in front of the door guarded the prison. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell. Striking Peter on the side, he woke him up and said, “Quick, get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. 8 “Get dressed,” the angel told him, “and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Wrap your cloak around you,” he told him, “and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed, and he did not know that what the angel did was really happening, but he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 After they passed the first and second guards, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened to them by itself. They went outside and passed one street, and suddenly the angel left him.

11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s grasp and from all that the Jewish people expected.”

So, we learn about this angel that rescued Peter.

Peter was in prison, heavily guarded, yet God, through His angel, was easily able to set Peter free.

Notice some of the details of this section:

Verse 5 indicates that while Peter was in prison, the church was praying fervently for him.

Verse 6 indicates that Peter had guards on both sides of him while he slept, as well as guards watching the door to the prison. There were sixteen guards in total. The plan was to leave Peter no means of escape.

Verses 7-11 say that an angel woke him up and miraculously snuck him out of the prison cell and out of the entire prison complex into the city.

Notice also in verse 7 that the angel struck Peter on the side.

I imagine Peter was thinking, “Take it easy.”

However, don’t forget that Peter was sleeping. Sometimes, we men really need to have someone slap us pretty hard to wake us up.

In fact, Peter was sleeping so hard that it took him a while to realize that he wasn’t simply having a vision, even after he got struck in the side, got dressed, and walked out of prison.

So, Peter escapes prison and death with the help of an angel of God.

Church, God’s mission cannot be stopped.

Next, we learn about . . .

‌II. The angel that wasn’t Peter.

Let’s learn about this second angel. Look at verses 12-17:

12 As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was called John Mark, where many had assembled and were praying. 13 He knocked at the door of the outer gate, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. 14 She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the outer gate.

15 “You’re out of your mind!” they told her. But she kept insisting that it was true, and they said, “It’s his angel.” 16 Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.

17 Motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. “Tell these things to James and the brothers,” he said, and he left and went to another place.

Ok, there are a lot of things going on in these verses, including a few strange things.

First, we notice that Peter goes to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark.

This guy, Mark or John, is also known as John Mark. He is the author of the Gospel of Mark in the Bible.

We’ll learn later that he was a companion of Saul and Barnabas as well.

This house is where a lot of the disciples gathered and prayed for Peter.

Second, notice that Peter knocked, Rhoda saw Peter, then went to tell everyone that he was there, while Peter was left hanging at the outer gate.

Third, notice that those praying for Peter did not think that Peter could have been there.

They were praying for Peter’s release, and Peter was released, but they couldn’t believe it. Dr. Chuck Lawless points out in his course on prayer (which we’re studying on Wednesday nights) that the disciples who were gathered here couldn’t believe that God had actually answered their prayer.

In fact, we learn that the disciples think it’s more likely that Peter is dead and what Rhoda sees is actually Peter’s angel.

By the way, there’s no evidence to suggest that people actually have angels. This was an ancient belief held by some, which doesn’t actually fit the Bible’s teaching on true angels. After all, this is the angel that was not Peter, not the angel that was Peter.

Fourth, notice that they finally let Peter in, and he explains the whole story to them.

Peter tells them how the Lord brought him out of prison, then he tells them to notify James and the brothers.

Of course, the brothers would be other apostles who were not present.

This James is obviously not James the son of Zebedee, because this chapter starts off with that James being killed.

Rather, this James is James the literal half-brother of Jesus.

This James is one that we will hear about more in the New Testament, including in the New Testament book that he wrote.

This was no angel; this was Peter! God had rescued Peter.

Church, God’s mission cannot be stopped!

Finally, we see . . .

‌III. The angel that struck Herod.

Let’s look at the final few verses. Look at verses 18-25:

18 At daylight, there was a great commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had searched and did not find him, he interrogated the guards and ordered their execution. Then Herod went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there.

20 Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. Together they presented themselves before him. After winning over Blastus, who was in charge of the king’s bedroom, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food from the king’s country. 21 On an appointed day, dressed in royal robes and seated on the throne, Herod delivered a speech to them. 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died.

24 But the word of God flourished and multiplied. 25 After they had completed their relief mission, Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem, taking along John who was called Mark.

Herod had lots of issues, didn’t he?

He put James to death, he tried to put Peter to death, he put the sixteen soldiers to death who were guarding Peter, and now we see that he was mad at the people of Tyre and Sidon.

You see, it appears that Herod thought he could use his influence, power, and wealth to get his way in whatever he did.

Others even praised him as someone great, including the people in this story.

However, we learn quite clearly from this passage that there is only one who is truly great, truly powerful, and truly wealthy. There is only one who is worthy of glory. There is only one who can get His way in all things, and that is the Lord God.

So, we learn in this passage that Herod is struck down by an angel of the Lord, and he was eaten by worms and died.

Herod was not fit to receive glory; only God is fit to receive glory. Herod’s mission would not succeed; only God’s mission will succeed.

That takes us to our bottom line, something you’ve already heard several times today:

‌Bottom Line: God’s mission cannot be stopped.

Listen, church: Nothing can stand in the way of God’s mission. People cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Problems cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Politicians cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. The powerful cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Princes cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Principalities cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Pastors cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Presidents cannot stand in the way of God’s mission. Pandemics cannot stand in the way of God’s mission.

God’s mission cannot be stopped! He’s all-powerful! He’s all-wise! He’s all knowing! He’s all-loving! He’s all-going! He’s all-giving! He’s ever-present! He’s everlasting! He’s full of grace! He’s full of joy! He’s full of light! He’s full of life! He cannot be stopped! He cannot be tricked! He cannot be overcome! He cannot be overpowered!

Herod the Great could not stop Him! Herod Agrippa could not stop Him! Hell cannot stop Him!

God’s mission will stand! His church will prevail! His name will be praised! He will receive glory! And, His will will be done!

Do you believe it, church? I hope you do.

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

‌Weekly Challenge #1 – Identify one way you can accomplish God’s mission this week.

You can be used by God to accomplish His mission. Isn’t that incredible?

What is one way you can accomplish God’s mission this week?

Just think of one step you can take towards greater faithfulness to the mission of God.

‌Weekly Challenge #2 – Pray for God’s mission to be done in our church.

Will you pray for our church? Oh, how desperately we need to cry out to God in prayer. Pray for our pastors, pray for other leaders in our church, pray for our church body.

Pray this week for God’s mission to be done in our church.

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)


COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.