Acts 12


James is Killed, Peter is in Prison

Acts 12:1–5 ESV
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Now this is not Herod of Jesus’ day. He’s already dead. This is Herod Agrippa and not the previous Herod the Great.
Now the rest of the story you probably know. Peter’s in prison and he's going to get released, rescued by an Angel, so let’s just read a few verses of that
Acts 12:6–11 ESV
Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, 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 stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
So then what does he do? You remember the story?
Acts 12:12–15 ESV
When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”
And we know the rest of the story, where Peter keeps knocking. They finally go out and look and it’s him. What is this line about, it's his angel? Well, it's kind of interesting but there are a few references in rabbinic texts. There's an account in the book of Tobit, in the Apocrypha. There’s something in the Shepherd of Hermas, which is an early Church writing about certain beliefs connected to this passage. And specifically, Judaism believed in protecting and guiding angels, the guardian angel thing. We get this from places like Psalm 91:11
Psalm 91:11 ESV
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
Now that’s the passage that is brought up to Jesus during his temptation by Satan. If you actually look in the passage, it's not totally restricted to the Messiah. It's broader than that, and so there was this belief within Judaism because of this verse, that there were Guardian Angels assigned to people. Matthew 18:10
Matthew 18:10 ESV
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Again, it’s a guardian angel concept. Hebrews 1:14
Hebrews 1:14 ESV
Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
So in both Testaments, there's this sense of guardian angelships, so that could be the referent to what the people at Mary's house are saying. Look, it's not really Peter. It's his guardian angel, which raises the question, wouldn’t you want to see that? They don’t really think they’re going to see it. They think it's a disembodied voice and making sounds, that kind of thing, which sort of begins to sound like what we think of as ghosts and whatnot, and that is actually come into play in a little bit here in a moment. One of the views could be that this is what's going on in their heads. They think it's not really Peter. It's his guardian angel. It's this angel assigned to him. Now there are other texts. There were rabbinic texts based on their interpretation of certain passages in the Old Testament where you have the notion that a spirit being assigned to a person is for all practical purposes a double, like a heavenly double, a celestial double. So it's the idea that you have out there, your guardian angel, it looks like you or is your double. This is the way certain things were interpreted and the text I'm thinking of is something called Genesis Rabbah, which is a commentary on Genesis 33:10 in the Hebrew Bible, that's one of the Jacob incidents and I’ll read you verse 10, Genesis 33:10
Genesis 33:10 ESV
Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.
face of elohim so there may be options
Now this is what Jacob says to Esau. And so certain rabbis looked at this verse and presumed on the basis of this verse that there is an idea lurking behind this. When Jacob says to Esau, it was like looking in the face of God or the face of an Elohim, they gather from that that you can say, that you can teach, that for each person, the physical you saw there was also a celestial, a spiritual, a heavenly Esau, a double in effect, this is angel assigned to this person kind of thing. And the rabbis would wax eloquent on this idea based on certain texts. There are other references to the idea. I’m just sort of bring it up right now, but that could also be lurking behind this reference in Acts 12. In other words, instead of when they said, hey, it's his angel, it’s not really him, it's his angel. It could mean that it's his guardian angel. It could also mean that not only is it his guardian angel, but it’s in effect a double. Now that presumes that she had seen something, but she hasn't yet because she has an open the door, but it's part of this idea that the guardian angel looks like you. It's essentially your double or, again, this is typically the way we think of as ghosts, it could be that they believe Peter’s dead, that he's been killed, and the fact that this double, this guardian angel is showing up at the door means that he has died. And so that his spirit, his double, his ghost, and whatnot, the spiritual being that corresponds to him has now come to the door and this is essentially what they're supposed to think, the message they’re supposed to take away. Now eventually, they go out because she's persistent. It's almost like they don't want look because they don't want Peter to be dead. They don't want to know what they think has happened to have actually been the case. But she keeps it up. The little girl will not let them go, and, probably a teenager, preteen, something like that, and eventually they go out to look and it’s him. So they were wrong, but it's just a real interesting insight into how first century Jews and take note folks, these are believers. These are not cultists. These are not people who are into esoteric practices. These are not the ghost hunters. They’re believers. They're serious about their faith. But this is part of their worldview. Ghosts, in effect, are part of this worldview. Now I've blogged a good bit about the Old Testament distinction between evil spirits, they can be contacted by mediums, and the spirits of the departed dead. Now either way, you're not supposed to contact beings on the other side, whether they’re evil spirits or they just happen to be the disembodied human dead. You’re not supposed to do that. But a whole paper on the Old Testament response to pagan divination. And the paper’s about the fact that there some things that are condemned. In Deuteronomy 18, the prophets actually do and they're not condemned for it. There are other things, of course, that they don't do. This is actually in that list. They are forbidden and they never attempt to contact the dead.
Deuteronomy 18:9–10 ESV
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.
And the rationale is that you don't do that because it works. You can be deceived by what you contact. You can be deceived by what communicates with you. You could potentially even be harmed. So God wants to control the flow of information. If you want that paper, you could e-mail me. I can send it. I’ll probably just end up sending it to Trey now that I’ve mentioned it so that you can download it there. But again, this part of their worldview and so going back to 1 Samuel 28 when we actually see this happen in the Old Testament, when Saul approaches the medium at Endor and says, hey I need to talk to Samuel. And she gets freaked out either because she’d been faking it before or it never really worked before. We don’t really know. We’re not told, but when she calls up Samuel, and she says, I see an Elohim coming up out of the earth, and Saul says, well, what does he look like, and she describes him, yup that’s him. And then they have a conversation, Saul and the disembodied Samuel, and the content of that conversation was something only Samuel would know because it contains information from God for Saul that’s going to be a bad news for him or really repeat it again. But the point is that this kind of thing is part of both the Old Testament and the New Testament worldview. It has a place in the supernatural worldview of Orthodox faithful worshipers of Yahweh and believers, Christians. Nobody stands up here in Acts 11 and the writer doesn't make any editorial comment like, well, you should have asked questions like that, or that's forbidden to talk about that. We don't talk about ghosts here. We don’t do any of this. They don't do that. It's just part of their worldview. It’s based upon certain things in the Testaments, certain things in intertestamental writings and, of course, later literature, the rabbinic literature, is going to get into this, too.. It was part of the worldview of the biblical times by people who are theologically serious, not nut cases. They're not doing occult stuff. It's just normal to them. It's not something that they have no category for. They do have a category for it. I think we can just learn something from that. And so if you or maybe somebody you trust, that you believe has high integrity, tells you one of these stories, don't just say, you were contacted by an evil spirit. You have to listen to the story to be able to rule that out or whatever, even in your own case or someone else's case but don't just go there because your tradition doesn't have a category for this. There is a category for this in Scripture.
SUV wreck … women with mother .....

so.... what happened?

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