About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church.
He had the apostle James (John's brother) killed with a sword.
When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter during the Passover celebration
and imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod's intention was to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover.
But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.
The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, chained between two soldiers, with others standing guard at the prison gate.
Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel tapped him on the side to awaken him and said, "Quick! Get up!" And the chains fell off his wrists.
Then the angel told him, "Get dressed and put on your sandals." And he did. "Now put on your coat and follow me," the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn't realize it was really happening.
They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate to the street, and this opened to them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him.
Peter finally realized what had happened. "It's really true!" he said to himself. "The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jews were hoping to do to me!"
After a little thought, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.
He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it.
When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, "Peter is standing at the door!"
"You're out of your mind," they said. When she insisted, they decided, "It must be his angel."
Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally went out and opened the door, they were amazed.
He motioned for them to quiet down and told them what had happened and how the Lord had led him out of jail. "Tell James and the other brothers what happened," he said. And then he went to another place.
At dawn, there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter.
Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn't be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while.
Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod's country for their food. They made friends with Blastus, Herod's personal assistant,
and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them.
The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, "It is the voice of a god, not of a man!"
Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people's worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died.
But God's Good News was spreading rapidly, and there were many new believers.
When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission in Jerusalem, they returned to Antioch, taking John Mark with them.