About that time King Herod began to harass some who belonged to the church.
He had James, John's brother, killed with a sword.
When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter as well. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
He put Peter in prison, handing him over to four squads of soldiers, sixteen in all, who guarded him. He planned to charge him publicly after the Passover.
While Peter was held in prison, the church offered earnest prayer to God for him.
The night before Herod was going to bring Peter's case forward, Peter was asleep between two soldiers and bound with two chains, with soldiers guarding the prison entrance.
Suddenly an angel from the Lord appeared and a light shone in the prison cell. After nudging Peter on his side to awaken him, the angel raised him up and said, "Quick! Get up!" The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel continued, "Get dressed. Put on your sandals." Peter did as he was told. The angel said, "Put on your coat and follow me."
Following the angel, Peter left the prison. However, he didn't realize the angel had actually done all this. He thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself. After leaving the prison, they proceeded the length of one street, when abruptly the angel was gone.
At that, Peter came to his senses and remarked, "Now I'm certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod and from everything the Jewish people expected."
Realizing this, he made his way to Mary's house. (Mary was John's mother; he was also known as Mark.) Many believers had gathered there and were praying.
When Peter knocked at the outer gate, a female servant named Rhoda went to answer.
She was so overcome with joy when she recognized Peter's voice that she didn't open the gate. Instead, she ran back in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate.
"You've lost your mind!" they responded. She stuck by her story with such determination that they began to say, "It must be his guardian angel."
Meanwhile, Peter remained outside, knocking at the gate. They finally opened the gate and saw him there, and they were astounded.
He gestured with his hand to quiet them down, then recounted how the Lord led him out of prison. He said, "Tell this to James and the brothers and sisters." Then he left for another place.
The next morning the soldiers were flustered about what had happened to Peter.
Herod called for a thorough search. When Peter didn't turn up, Herod interrogated the guards and had them executed. Afterward, Herod left Judea in order to spend some time in Caesarea.
Herod had been furious with the people of Tyre and Sidon for some time. They made a pact to approach him together, since their region depended on the king's realm for its food supply. They persuaded Blastus, the king's personal attendant, to join their cause, then appealed for an end to hostilities.
On the scheduled day Herod dressed himself in royal attire, seated himself on the throne, and gave a speech to the people.
Those assembled kept shouting, over and over, "This is a god's voice, not the voice of a mere human!"
Immediately an angel from the Lord struck Herod down, because he didn't give the honor to God. He was eaten by worms and died.
God's word continued to grow and increase.
Barnabas and Saul returned to Antioch from Jerusalem after completing their mission, bringing with them John, who was also known as Mark.