Peter, Angels, and King Herod ~ Acts 12

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  • To explain that prayer is powerful
  • To list events of Peter’s escape and Herod’s death
  • To discuss angels and how we perceive them versus what the Bible says about them

Acts 12Materials: Inductive Bible Study Form, different angels, or pictures or angels, you might have around the house

Time Needed: 30-45 minutes

Geography: Israel; Antioch; Jerusalem; Caesarea; Tyre; Sidon

Background: Saul, the great persecutor, had been converted and accepted by the leaders of the new church movement, but gentiles were still not seen as people who needed Jesus. After a vision, Peter had been brought to Caesarea by Cornelius, the Centurion, where Peter learned the truth that gentiles can be filled with the same Holy Spirit as Jews. When Peter returned to Jerusalem, he informed the church leaders what had happened and they welcomed the new converts to the early church.

Men who had been dispersed because of the persecution found themselves in Antioch preaching the gospel. Many people turned to the Lord and Barnabas was sent up to investigate and teach. He went to Tarsus, got Saul, and they both stayed in Antioch to teach the people. People began to be called “Christians” in Antioch. After a year, Saul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to take money to the believers there because there was a famine.

church in Antioch
St. Peter’s Church in Antioch from the 4th or 5th century. Christians still worship here. Image courtesy of

**If you are doing the MAP activity as we go through Acts, please move Paul from Tarsus to Antioch and Peter from Caesarea back to Jerusalem.

Main Events of Acts 12:

What facts do you know about angels? (Show the angels you collected. Have the children list everything the know. Discuss fact versus opinion, or tradition, or artists’ rendering. Be sure to talk about who angels have appeared to, what they said, and what they did. You will probably find that many perceptions are skewed and worldly.)

DSC_0119In Acts 12, an angel appears two times and does two very different actions.

King Herod, in Jerusalem, decided to “mistreat” those in the early church. He seized James, the brother of John, and had him killed by the sword. When he saw that the Jews were pleased by his actions, he seized Peter and put him in jail to await the same fate. However, Passover was about to take place, so the death of Peter would have to wait. Peter sat in jail with 16 guards around him.

The church began to pray for Peter….fervently!

The night before Peter was to go before Herod came. He was asleep in his jail cell, bound to two soldiers. Guards were outside his door. Suddenly, an angel appeared in the jail cell. He struck Peter by knocking him on his side. The chains fell off of Peter, and the angel told him to get his shoes on, put on his cloak, and follow him. Peter obeyed thinking he was having  vision.

They passed by the first set of guards. and then another set. They reached the city and the gate opened by itself. They walked down the street and the angel left.

Peter finally realized that this was for real! He said, “Now I know that the Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod and what the Jews are expecting.”

Peter went to the house where all of the people were praying. The house belonged to Mary, the mother of John Mark (who wrote the gospel of Mark!). He knocked on the door and Rhoda, a servant girl answered it. She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her excitement, she left the gate closed and ran back to the praying Christians. She announced who was at the gate and no one believed her. They said it was probably Peter’s angel.

**It is interesting that this term was used, but it is not the same reference used for the angel who let Peter out of jail. This term is referring to a resurrected body and was used when Jesus appeared after rising from the dead. A person does not turn into an angel when he dies, but he is given a resurrected body through Jesus Christ.**

Peter continued to knock and they let him in, amazed at who they saw. He asked the to be quiet, after all, he’d just escaped from jail! He told them about the angel and his escape and asked them to tell James and the others. Peter then left to go to another place.

**If you recall, James is dead, James the brother of John. Remember though, that there was also James, the brother of Jesus. (He wrote the book of James!)

Morning came and quite the commotion took place! Herod searched for Peter and could not find him. He interrogated the guards and ordered their execution. Herod, in his anger, left town and went to his palace by the sea in Caesarea.

Acts 12
Herod’s palace in Caesarea. Image by Carole Raddato. Wikicommons

Herod was angry. And he was angry with the people of the cities of Tyre and Sidon. The people didn’t want Herod to be angry with them. So on an appointed day, Herod dressed up in fine clothes and gave speeches to the people. While he spoke, the people called out, “The voice of a god and not of man!”

Immediately, an angel struck him. Herod was not giving glory to God, but to himself when he allowed the people to exclaim those words. Herod was eaten by worms and died.

Then Saul, Barnabas, and John Mark returned to Antioch.

Application of Acts 12:

{Show the angels again.} Have learned anything new about angels from this chapter in Acts? (Angels have power. Angels can cause death. Angels bring glory to God.)

Did you notice that the angel (maybe it was the same one? maybe not? Nothing in scripture alludes to both sightings being the same angel, only the same type of being.) struck Peter and Herod was “struck” as well? One person was bringing glory to God, the other to himself.

We do not need to read this story and ponder information about angels, but the truth is, that angels aren’t “cute”. Angels stand for God. They are the Lord’s. They are real.

What we *should* ponder is the amount of prayer that took place during this amazing jail break. The Christians were praying with fervor. “Fervor” means an intense and passionate feeling. Those people were on their faces before God and He heard them.

God moves when people pray. Not just simple “Now I lay me down to sleep” prayers, or prayers before meals. No. The prayers that God hears are filled with fervor.

How do you pray? Try praying with more fervor and watch God work.

Modification for Older Children:

This story can be an introduction for teaching children how to pray.

Discuss “canned” prayers versus conversational prayers. Discuss what the word “fervently” means and how we can use that term when we pray.

Here are some great resources:

Praying with Kids

When They See Us Pray

Fasting for the New Year

Teaching Children to Pray

Teaching Kids to Pray

10 Ways to Teach Your Child to Pray (free printable!)

Teaching Your Child to Pray

Pray With Your Children

Five Finger Prayer for Children

Craft: How to Make a Prayer Cube for Kids

Stop Now And Pray

Praying the Scriptures with Your Children

20 Ways to Leave a Legacy of Prayer in Your Home

Other Resources for Acts 12:

Peter Escapes from Prison

Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison (includes crafts)

Lesson: Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison

Activities for Peter’s Escape

Biblical Storytelling of Acts 12 Video

Thoughts? Questions? Please leave a comment below.

** Clip art used by permission from


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