During the lifetime of Jesus and during the growth of the early church, the Herods ruled the areas in and around Jerusalem. Herod the Great killed the male children after the birth of Jesus. His son, Herod Antipas ruled during the ministry of Jesus and examined Him during His trial in Jerusalem.
Herod Agrippa I came into power about AD 41 and during his reign, he began to persecute the church. He killed James, the brother of John with the sword. When he saw that the Jews were pleased with his actions, he arrested Peter and put him in prison.
Since it was time for the Passover, Herod delayed any action with Peter until later. He placed four squads of guards over him to make sure he did not escape as he and the other apostles had done before.
During the time that Peter was in prison, the church was in constant prayer for him.
The night before Herod was to bring him out, Peter thought that he was having a vision. While he was sleeping bound by two chains between two guards, two other guards were at the door keeping their prisoner secure. A bright light and an angel appeared, woke him up and instructed him to get up quickly, get dressed and to follow him.
With his hands free of the chains, Peter did as he was told. The doors and gates opened on their own accord and as they left the main prison gate, they went down one street and the angel disappeared. He realized at this point that he was not seeing a vision, but that these things were real and that God had delivered him from a certain death.
After considering what had just taken place, Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark where they were praying for him. When he knocked on the door, a young lady named Rhoda went to the door and recognizing His voice, she ran back to tell them that Peter was at the door.
As Peter continued knocking, Rhoda managed to get the others to go to the door. They had seen miracles performed, but were surprised to see him.
Peter related the details of his release and instructed the people to notify James and the other brethren. He then left for another location.
The next morning when the guards woke up, there was a great uproar about what had become of Peter. Herod should have known that God had released him, as had happened earlier with Peter and John and then all twelve of the apostles. Instead of using logic, his anger caused him to have all of the sixteen guards put to death.
Herod then returned to Caesarea. After relations between himself and the people of Tyre and Sidon had been mended, He gave a great oration to them.
Herod made such an impression on the people, that they elevated him to the level of a god. This pleased his ego after having been defeated by God in Jerusalem. They continued to shout, “The voice of a god and not of a man!”
God was so displeased because of Herod’s arrogance and pride that he caused worms to invade his body and eat him until he died.
After the death of Herod, the church enjoyed another period of relative calm and continued to grow and multiply.
Barnabas and Saul had completed their relief mission to Jerusalem and returned to Antioch. John Mark, a cousin of Barnabas went with them.