The Imprisonment of Peter and his Deliverance by an Angel
The tale of Apostle Peter being rescued by an angel originates in the persecution of the early church in Palestine. King Herod strived to please the religious establishment of the time by persecuting the Church. King Herod had been appointed to his position by the leaders of Rome. King Herod first had James, the brother of John, executed.
Next, he imprisoned Peter with the intent of executing him as soon as the Feast of Unleavened Bread had passed. The community prayed for Peter’s deliverance, as they were aware of his impending doom. Peter’s imprisonment and deliverance by an angel are described in the following passage from the Acts of the Apostles:
Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church. The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.”- Acts 12:5-7
The Angel Leading Peter to Escape
The angel who appeared to Peter is a being of light, indicating the celestial, solar origin of such beings. Next, the angel directs Peter to dress and follow him out of the prison. Peter, who is half asleep, thinks he is in a dream. The next passage describes the escape:
Peter and the angel leave the cell, and when they have passed the second guard, they come to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him.- Acts 12:9
Although the angel directs Peter at each stage in the rescue, the angel does not force Peter to obey. This demonstrates how the angel respects Peter’s free will, by directing him rather than forcing him.
After Peter escapes, he finds his way to the house of Mary, the Mother of John, where the local Christian community was gathered. This is described in Acts 12:13-16:
And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are mad.” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel!” But Peter continued knocking; and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
Another Instance of Angel Intervention in Human Affairs
In the same chapter of Acts, following the story of Peter, there is another instance of an angel’s direct intervention in human affairs:
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and made an oration to them. And the people shouted, “ The voice of a God, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord smote him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. – Acts 12:21-23