The Review and Herald


April 27, 1911

The Deliverance of Peter


“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.” RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 1

At this time the government of Judea was in the hands of Herod Agrippa, subject to Claudius, the Roman emperor. Herod also held the position of tetrarch of Galilee. He was professedly a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and apparently very zealous in carrying out the ceremonies of the law. He was desirous of obtaining the favor of the Jews, hoping thus to make secure his offices and honors. He therefore proceeded to carry out the desires of the Jews by persecuting the church of Christ, spoiling the houses and goods of the believers. He then began to imprison the leading members of the church. He cast James into prison, and sent an executioner to kill him with the sword, as another Herod had caused the prophet John to be beheaded. Seeing that the Jews were well pleased with his acts, he imprisoned Peter. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 2

It was during the Passover that these cruelties were performed. While the Jews were celebrating their deliverance from Egypt, and pretending great zeal for the law of God, they were at the same time transgressing every principle of that law by persecuting and murdering the believers in Christ. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 3

James was one of the three disciples who had been brought into the closest relationship with Christ. With Peter and John he had witnessed the transfiguration of the Saviour, and had been with him in Gethsemane during the night of his agony. It was to James and John that Jesus had put the question, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” When James was brought to prison and to death, he understood more fully than ever before these words of the Saviour. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 4

The death of James caused great grief and consternation among the believers. When Peter also was imprisoned, the entire church engaged in fasting and prayer. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 5

Herod's act in putting James to death was applauded by the Jews, though some complained of the private manner in which it was accomplished, maintaining that a public execution would have more thoroughly intimidated the believers and those sympathizing with them. Herod therefore held Peter in custody, meaning still further to gratify the Jews by the public spectacle of his death. But it was suggested that it would not be safe to bring the veteran apostle out for execution before all the people then assembled in Jerusalem. It was feared that the sight of him being led out to die might excite the pity of the multitude. The priests and elders also dreaded lest Peter, when brought out for execution, might make one of those powerful appeals which had frequently aroused the people to investigate the life and character of Jesus,—appeals which they, with all their arguments, had been totally unable to controvert. The Jews feared that, should Peter make such an appeal, his release would be demanded at the hands of the king. Peter's zeal in advocating the cause of Christ had led many of the Jews to take their stand for the gospel, and the rulers stood in great dread of his having an opportunity to defend his faith in the presence of the multitude who had come to the city to worship. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 6

To guard against all chance of his release, the apostle was placed under the charge of sixteen soldiers, who, in different watches, guarded him day and night. But it was in vain that the puny arm of man was lifted against the Lord. By the putting forth of his might, God was about to save the precious life that the Jews were plotting to destroy. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 7

While, upon various pretexts, the execution of Peter was being delayed until after the Passover, the members of the church had time for deep searching of heart and earnest prayer. They prayed without ceasing for Peter; for they felt that he could not be spared from the cause. They realized that they had reached a place where, without the special help of God, the church of Christ would be destroyed. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 8

Meanwhile worshipers from every nation sought the temple which had been dedicated to the worship of God, and which to all appearance remained the same as when the Shekinah had glorified it. Glittering with gold and precious stones, it was a vision of beauty and grandeur. But God was no longer to be found in that palace of loveliness. Israel as a nation had divorced herself from God. When Christ, near the close of his earthly ministry, looked for the last time upon the interior of the temple, he said, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Hitherto he had called the temple his Father's house; but as the Son of God passed out from those walls, God's presence was withdrawn forever from the temple built to his glory. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 9

The day of Peter's execution was at last appointed, but still the prayers of the believers ascended to heaven; and while all their energies and sympathies were called out in fervent appeals for help, angels of God were guarding the imprisoned apostle. In the prison Peter was placed between two soldiers, and was bound by two chains, each chain being fastened to the wrist of one of the guards. He was therefore unable to move without their knowledge. The prison doors were securely fastened, and a strong guard was placed before them. All chance of rescue or escape by human means was thus cut off. But man's extremity is God's opportunity. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 10

The apostle was not intimidated by the situation. Since his reinstatement after his denial of Christ, he had unflinchingly braved danger, and had shown a noble courage and boldness in preaching a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour. As he lay in his cell, he called to mind the words that Christ had spoken to him: “Verily, verily I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” Peter believed that the time had come for him to yield up his life for Christ's sake. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 11

The night before the day set for the execution, Peter, bound with chains, slept as usual between two soldiers. Remembering Peter's former escape from prison, Herod on this occasion took double precautions. In order to secure extra vigilance, the soldiers on guard were made answerable for the safekeeping of the prisoner. Peter was confined in a rock-hewn cell, the doors of which were strongly bolted and barred. But the bolts and bars and the Roman guard, which effectually cut off from the prisoner all possibility of human aid, were but to make more complete the triumph of God in the deliverance of Peter from prison. Herod was lifting his hand against Omnipotence, but he was to be utterly humiliated and defeated in his attempt upon the life of God's servant. RH April 27, 1911, Art. A, par. 12

(Concluded next week.)