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Action, Reaction, and Counteraction!

Copyright © 20241

by
Percy Gutteridge

Scripture Reading: Acts 12 nkjv

Title tile for 'Action, Reaction, Counteraction!'Learn this simple, yet profound,
spiritual principle.2

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. 2Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. 4So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

5Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

7Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”

Prayer

Come, Holy Ghost, for moved by Thee
The prophets wrote and spoke;
Unlock the truth, Thyself the key,
Unseal the sacred book.3

A Great Principle

It’s time to share about a profound, underlying spiritual principle of God, a spiritual law revealed in Scripture and confirmed in personal experience. This principle is one of the great factors that underlie His dealings with the universe. If you learn it, you will find it to be a tremendous blessing to you in the future; it will be a great comfort and consolation, and it will act as a bulwark of your faith.

I’m going to call this great spiritual principle Action, Reaction and Counteraction. It is so simple to learn and so wonderful to apply! Let me illustrate it this way.

  • Action is always from the Creator God.
  • Reaction always comes from that malicious being who has set himself to oppose everything that God does, the destroying Satan.
  • Counteraction, then, is the further action of the restoring God that lifts the situation even higher than it originally was.

So when you think of action, you’ll think of God producing a great cause, and a mighty effect. Then you will think of Satan seeking to destroy that and appearing to succeed. Now wait, because the counteraction will come, when the great restoring God will only use the reaction, which He foreknew, in order to establish His great principle in a way that’s firmer, higher, and more solid — forever.

The Principle on a Grand Scale

This great principle is illustrated in myriad ways; it runs right through the Bible. Let me give you an example:

  • Action: God created the universe.
  • Reaction: Satan caused the fall, which would mean the disruption of the whole universe.
  • Counteraction: God immediately promised Messiah, the coming Deliverer Who would crush the serpent’s head, although in doing so He’d have his own heel bruised.

So there is the principle of God — action, reaction, counteraction — on a grand scale.

The Principle in the End Times

Let me give you another illustration. (You yourself will find many more.)

  • Action: God sends revival. Consider our present situation. What are we looking for now? Spiritually minded people see they have great need, that the only hope of the church is true spiritual revival. We haven’t got it yet. When the Lord God, the Holy Ghost, comes in the center of His people, and sovereignly rules — that’s not obtained yet. Individual revival, of course, is when we receive the Holy Spirit and walk in Him. Praise God, yes, we want that, but we want something much more than that — one of those great spiritual tides that can sweep whole towns, whole countries.
  • But the Holy Ghost begins amongst a few praying people whom He has foreknown and chosen. That is going to happen. I think it will be the last great revival before Jesus comes, and that revival has great signs of showing itself. There is a moving, a desire, an uneasiness, a praying amongst God’s people, and the first stage of revival is always intercession. God always stirs up in his saints a desire for that which He intends to do. He never ever stirs up a desire or permits a general desire amongst his saints that He’s not going to satisfy. He’s the God who satisfies.4
  • Reaction: What will the devil do about that? I think he’ll bring a tremendous reaction; perhaps that’s what the Bible calls tribulation, all over the earth, “distress of nations, with perplexity,”5 “men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth.”6 “As it was in the days of Noah,”7 “the earth was filled with violence.”8 In the last days “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”9 They will be lawbreakers, “disobedient to parents,”10 and so on. All that the devil will bring a hundredfold more than it is in the present day. That’s reaction.
  • Counteraction: Jesus will come.

Isn’t that simple? It always works like that!

The Principle in the Millennium

All right, let’s look at another example.

  • Action: Jesus is going to set up, according to Scripture, His millennial reign on the earth. You see, if God merely destroyed the earth and made a new one, it would be a great failure. God never allows His purposes to be frustrated. He made the earth for a divine purpose and that will be perfectly fulfilled in detail, despite whatever the devil and his assistants have done. Always and always God has His original will. So God intended His Son should make the earth His footstool. God intended His Son should rule on the earth. God intended that
  • the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    As the waters cover the sea.11
  • God intended there should be a great multitude of people on the earth. God intended that they should be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it. God’s intention will be perfectly done. So Jesus will set all of this right when He comes here to reign on the earth in what we call the Millennium.
  • Reaction: But the Bible says that at the end of His time of reigning, the devil’s going to be let loose for a season and deceive the nations. That’s reaction.
  • Counteraction: God's counteraction is the final judgment day, when He is going to destroy this earth, having completed His purpose in it, and create “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”12 Old things are going to pass away and all things become new.13 “ ‘There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ ”14 That’s counteraction.

And there’s no more reaction after that, for the devil is locked in the lake of fire forever and ever. So God wins in the end. That’s on the cosmic scale.

The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection

Now let’s bring it down to the personal level, looking to Jesus.

  • Action: God sent Jesus, the son of God, the Logos, the Divine One, the visible “image of the invisible God.”15 God came down on earth. God took flesh. God was manifest as a human being. This is the most amazing miracle the world has ever known, for the heaven of heavens cannot contain the living God.16 The universe is in God, not God in the universe. God is not somewhere in space; space is somewhere in God! Despite the vastness of the expanding universe, it is finite, unable to hold the Infinite One who created it. “ ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24c). Yes, He takes up everything in the hollow of His hands.17 God is greater than the universe He created!
  • So we should stand in awe of that great miracle of the Incarnation. Charles Wesley captures some of the wonder of it:
  • …Our God contracted to a span,
    Incomprehensibly made Man.
  • He laid His glory by,
    He wrapped Him in our clay;
    Unmarked by human eye,
    The latent Godhead lay;
    Infant of days He here became,
    And bore the mild Immanuel’s Name.18
  • That’s our God and His action!
  • Reaction: The Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Life, was put to death. And being fully human (as well as fully Divine), He went to Sheol, the place of departed spirits, as all human beings had to do.
  • Counteraction: But Jesus rose from the dead! That’s God’s counteraction. And He always lives to make intercession for us!19 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”20 That’s God’s counteraction!

When We Encounter the Holy Spirit

I want you to learn this great principle of God. Indeed, I don’t think you’re ever going to forget it. For when God brings in a great blessing in your life, a great action, there is sure to be a reaction. Then you say, “I never expected this! They told me if I would receive the Holy Spirit, if I’d allow Jesus to baptize me in His Spirit, everything was going to be wonderful, I’d be full of power. But now look at how I am. I’ve never been so tempted in all my life! I never knew the devil existed until I received the Holy Spirit as I received Him now! I knew about the enemy. I knew he tempted you and all that, and I had my temptations; but he seems to me like a physical foe now!”

That’s right. You’re aware of the enemy. He’s very mad against you. That’s reaction. Will you hold on, please, until God’s counteraction? It’s sure to come. It’s inevitable. Consider Jesus’ life in this regard:

  • Action: The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at the Jordan.
  • Reaction: Jesus was driven into the wilderness, where He was tempted of the devil, and was amongst the wild beasts, and He fasted for forty days and forty nights and was hungry.
  • Counteraction: Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit… He went into the synagogue… He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
  • The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives…
    21
  • He announced his Messiahship! For the word Messiah and the word Christ simply mean the Anointed One.

Do you see now? Action, reaction, counteraction. And how wonderful it’s going to be when you realize the counteraction always leaves the position very much higher than it was before ever the reaction came in.

The Principle Plays Out after Pentecost

We can see this great principle in the first Pentecost.

  • Action: Here is a new action of God — the descent of the Holy Spirit, something God had never done before. No one had ever received the Person of the living God to dwell in them. Under the old covenant, some men and women — a number limited to God’s divine purposes — had experienced the Holy Spirit upon them, using them, speaking through their lips, enabling them to do wonderful things, with the Spirit empowering them.
  • But never before had God the Holy Spirit come down from heaven to indwell people. It could only happen when the King, the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, had come down, had given His life a ransom for many, and had returned in mighty power and triumph to the Father, leading captivity captive.22 And God had given him a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order that He could give the Spirit to all His brethren. In anticipation of this, the Lord Jesus had promised His disciples, saying, “So far He has been with you, this Holy One; but now He is going to be in you.”23
  • That had never ever happened before. Some of you might ask, “But wasn’t John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb?” Indeed he was! Yet Jesus said of John the Baptist, although there’s none greater than John, yet anyone who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.24 How is this possible? You see, John, though full of the Holy Spirit and empowered by Him, was not born of the Spirit.
  • Sonship — that’s the difference. After Calvary and Pentecost, God’s purpose has been to produce sons and daughters of the Most High — those born of the Spirit.
  • Before the coming of the Holy Spirit, good people, men and women, could serve the Lord with the mighty power of the Spirit assisting them. But since the Holy Spirit was poured out to indwell people, producing sons, the very least in the kingdom of heaven is going to be greater than the greatest of all God’s servants who came before.
  • That’s why the least amongst us is greater than the old-covenant servants, because we are partakers of the divine nature that could not happen under the old covenant of the blood of bulls and goats. It could only happen when God Himself came down and took our nature, that He might give us His nature — that we might be partakers of divine nature.25 That’s why our true emphasis must always be on the glory of true new birth, receiving the Holy Spirit, that we might be like Him and change from glory to glory in the Lord.26 Such is the blessing of this descent of the Holy Spirit, this action of God which we call Pentecost.
  • Reaction: You must expect a reaction to this descent and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And the reaction from the evil one did come. A great persecution arose against the disciples, and they were even scattered abroad. Beginning in Acts 4 we see it — “For the priests and captains of the temple and Sadducees came upon them” (Acts 4:1). By the end of Acts 7, Stephen has been martyred. All this is the reaction of the devil, showing you what you may be up against now.
  • “All right, you’ve received the Holy Spirit. Now I will show you what goes with it: dreadful persecution from me!” says the devil. We see the tragedy that happened to the believers of the young church in Acts, and how people must have been heartbroken. They never expected it. The church scattered. And that martyr, Stephen, that man of God, was put to death for Jesus’ sake.
  • Counteraction: Well, let’s hold on for the counteraction, shall we? In the wake of Stephen’s martyrdom, what happens in Acts 9? Saul is converted! Can you see God’s wonderful counteraction? When Stephen was martyred they laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (Acts 7:58). And God deliberately, as an act of sovereign will, in His divine grace said, “This man is a chosen vessel of Mine.”27
  • God has his elect ones. There are “whosoevers,” and there are the elect. That’s too great of a subject to address here. I’d love to show you from the Bible that there are two parallel streams that only merge in eternity. One represents God’s elect, like Paul, chosen by Him before they were born, brought into existence in order that they might do a sovereign work of grace. Paul makes that clear later on, that God had His hand upon him even from his mother’s womb.28 There are others who were chosen even before they were born, like Jeremiah and John the Baptist. These are God’s elect to do a great work, so the gospel may go out in order that the whosoever might hear and believe; otherwise, they’d never hear.
  • What a most mighty, wonderful counteraction by God: to save that prince amongst the apostles! I don’t mean Peter. I mean Paul, God’s wonderful apostle to the Gentiles, to whom God eventually sent him.

So we see the action, reaction, and counteraction of God’s mighty coming in at Pentecost. Now, the stage is going to be set for an even greater move of God, and a greater reaction from the devil. Acts 9 was God’s wonderful, glorious counteraction in saving the apostle Paul. And that’s only getting the stage ready for an even mightier work! So Acts 10 comes, and Acts 10 records the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles!

Keys and Consequences

Do you remember that the Lord Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the apostle Peter? “I will give you, Peter, the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). How did Peter use them?

It was Peter that stood up when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, and announced what had just happened. He opened the door to the Jews, and 3,000 Jews came through the open door on that glorious occasion. That’s one key given to Peter by Jesus.

But recall that Jesus said “keys,” plural. Peter was directed by God to use the other key to open the door to the Gentiles. Thus it was that Peter was sent to Caesarea — to Cornelius, a Gentile, and his many friends who were Gentiles too. And Peter was used of God, although he didn’t fully realize what he was doing in going and preaching the gospel to Cornelius. With God’s “key man” present, down came the Holy Ghost in sovereign power upon Cornelius and the Gentiles!

In a way, that’s even more important than the first Pentecost. I do not come into the Kingdom under the first Pentecost; that was for the Jews. I come in under the second Pentecost, because I’m a Gentile. Oh, the wonder of it all! The Jews were one of the smallest people groups on earth, under subjugation to Rome, living in a very narrow land, which we call the Holy Land — the land of Canaan, Palestine, now called Eretz Israel.29 But the Gentiles are everybody else over the whole world, and the Holy Ghost has come that the Gentiles might receive and believe. That was Peter using the other key, opening the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles.

What did Peter do with the keys once he’d unlocked the doors? He left the doors open and handed the keys back to the Lord Jesus. He did not pass them on to the pope of Rome.

  • Action: The Holy Spirit has come upon the Gentiles! If there was a reaction from the evil one against the Spirit coming upon the Jews only, what do you think would happen in response to God’s action of the Holy Ghost coming upon the Gentiles?
  • Reaction: Satan mobilized his greatest weapon, the power of the mighty Roman Empire. How mighty was it? Just see how God chooses to depict it in a prophetic vision to Daniel (Daniel 7:2-7):
    • 7:2-3 — 2Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. 4The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings.” (That’s the Babylonish Empire.)
    • 7:5 — “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side….” (That’s the Medo-Persian Empire, an imbalanced arrangement of the Medes and the Persians, with the Persians eventually dominating.)
    • 7:6 — “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.” (Here we see the swiftness, the cunning of the Grecian kingdom, originally under Philip II of Macedon, and passed on to his brilliant son Alexander the Great. After his conquest of the Persian Empire, Alexander died, and his empire was split up into four parts.)
    • Ah, but what about verse seven?
    • 7:7 —“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” (That’s God’s prophetic description of the Roman Empire, the most dreadful beast of the four. It lasted the longest, and stamped out all the residue of the others, bringing everything under its control.)
  • And that dreadful, kingdom-trampling beast is what Satan had at his disposal to use against the infant Church. We’ve seen how annoyed and enraged the devil became when the Holy Spirit came upon the Jews; he responded with a terrible reaction. But now, imagine how much worse his response will be when the Holy Spirit comes to the Gentiles. Expect a great reaction!
  • So Satan mustered his greatest force — the Roman Empire, represented in Peter’s part of the world by the local king whom the Romans had appointed, Herod Agrippa I.30 Thus Agrippa, wielding the power of Rome, had the Apostle James executed, and Peter imprisoned. Agrippa’s intention for Peter, who was looked upon as one of the ringleaders of the Christians, was to wait until just after Passover, and then to bring him out for a public execution.31

  • Counteraction: Well, what is God’s counteraction to the immediate crisis? An angel was sent from God and Peter was miraculously brought out of prison. And things get even better in the next chapter. We can read the beginning of it in Acts 13:1-3 —
  • 1Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
  • Glorious counteraction! God sends forth His wonderful apostle, Paul, to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) and begin to win a lost world of men to God.

Have you grasped the principle now? Action, reaction and counteraction.

The Impossibility of Peter’s Deliverance

Let’s return to Peter in prison and the impossible conditions for his deliverance. The devil must have thought that he had devised the perfect, unassailable reaction; but he was merely setting the stage for God’s glorious counteraction.

Guards

First, let’s think about the guards assigned to Peter — Roman guards. Why does it matter that they were Roman? Do you remember how a watch, that is, a group of guards, was set around the tomb of Jesus? And do you remember that an angel came down, and how terrified the men of that watch were that first Easter morning? Recall now how they fled to the chief priests…

    • 11…some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ 14And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” 15So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
    • Matthew 28:11-15

What kind of watch was that? Not a Roman one, but a Jewish one. Do you remember what the Jewish leaders said to Pilate?

    • 62…the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”
    • Matthew 27:62-64

And Pilate said with an aristocratic sneer on his patrician lips, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:65). Pilate was referring to the Temple guard, which protected and policed the Temple precincts. He did not intend to supply a Roman guard unit, in order that a little imposter (from his view) should not rise from the dead.32 He didn’t care two straws whether the disciples stole away the body or not. And he was certainly not going to supply a Roman guard for such ridiculous nonsense. “YOU have a guard.” Pilate was giving the Jewish leaders permission to use these guards outside of the Temple, in this instance.

So it was a detachment of Jewish Temple watchmen who guarded Jesus’ tomb. That is why they could succeed in telling the lie that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. That’s why they could accept the bribe offered to them.

This is all the proof needed that Roman soldiers were not involved in guarding Jesus’ tomb! Everything that we know of Roman military discipline tells us that no Roman soldier could accept a bribe for a prisoner. If a Roman soldier took a prisoner in battle, he could do as he liked with him. But if a Roman soldier was given a prisoner from the state to look after, and if that prisoner escaped, the Roman soldier responsible was summarily executed. There were no excuses and no exceptions.33

Apply this knowledge to the narrative of Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 27. When Paul was traveling in the Alexandrian grain ship to Rome, and the ship ran aground on the rocks at Melita (Malta), the counsel of the soldiers was that they should kill the prisoners, lest any escape (Acts 27:42). But why? Because for any prisoners who escaped, an equal number of Roman soldiers would have been put to death! That was the law of Rome, absolutely inexorable, and every Roman soldier knew it. Yet such was Roman mettle that another military discipline overrode that fear, for the penalty of death was also upon those who disobeyed the direct orders of their superiors. Thus Luke records for us that “the centurion, wanting to save Paul, kept them [that is, the soldiers under his command] from their purpose [of executing the prisoners], and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land” (Acts 27:43).

So, returning our focus to Peter’s imprisonment, it’s a very different matter that Roman soldiers were looking after Peter, rather then Jewish Temple guards. Do you see how carefully they guarded Peter? Acts 12:4 uses a military technical term, saying that Peter was delivered unto four tetradíois,34 four groups of four soldiers each, who had the job of guarding him. That’s 16 soldiers in all!

Now at any given time, four of those soldiers were on duty guarding Peter. As the Bible says (Acts 12:6), two of these men were chained to Peter, one soldier with his left wrist chained to Peter’s right hand and the soldier on his left with his right wrist chained to Peter’s left wrist. Outside the cell door, which was locked, there were the two other soldiers of the squad of four. And every three hours, one squad would be relieved by the next.

There’s no room for nonsense here. These aren’t Jewish guards who can be bribed. You’re dealing with the inflexible iron discipline of Rome, which can’t be altered. These are professional, veteran soldiers. They’re cold, hard, callous, unfeeling, and they know they guard their prisoner at the cost of their own lives — and they’re very keen on keeping their own lives. Better the prisoner’s life than theirs!

Doors and Gates

That’s the devil and his clever, thoroughly planned reaction. How could Peter possibly escape guards who are so numerous and motivated? In fact, the devil’s reaction was even more thorough than that; he thought he had added another layer of impossibility! Notice the doors and gates in the passage. There’s the thick cell door (Acts 12:5). Then there are “the first and second guard posts” (v. 10). These are encountered going down a passage; at each point there’s a locked door guarded by another Roman soldier. He won’t open the door he guards to anyone who doesn’t know the current night’s password. Further down the passage and there’s a second locked door and another guard who requires a password. Anyone who successfully made it through that second door would find themselves in the great yard of the prison, facing great iron gates — locked gates — and someone has to unlock those for anyone leaving the compound. Peter’s deliverance looked impossible, didn’t it? And yet…

    • 18Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter. 19But when Herod had searched for him and not found him, he examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death. And he went down from Judea to Caesarea, and stayed there.
    • Acts 12:18-19

The devil’s reaction failed, in spite of all his efforts to thwart God’s action. Sending His angel, the Lord miraculously delivered Peter, and hid him from those soldiers who sought him after daybreak.

And so what was the fate of those Roman soldiers who were guarding Peter? Herod “examined the guards and commanded that they should be put to death” (Acts 12:19). As we have mentioned, in Roman military discipline there was only ever one result:

“Where is the prisoner?”

“We don’t know. An angel came, we were put to sleep, the doors were miraculously opened!”

“Take these guards away and execute them!”

“With God all things are possible.” No matter how “perfect” Satan’s reaction seemed to be, no matter how many obstacles he put in place, it was undone in a few minutes by God’s counteraction, by His miraculous, superseding deliverance through His angel. Nothing mattered — not chains, nor cells, nor highly trained and disciplined soldiers, nor doors, nor passwords, nor iron gates, nor the will of a powerful client king of Rome. All of those “impossibilities” enhanced the glory of God’s counteracting intervention.

Some Practical Applications

Being in God’s Perfect Will

There is something wonderful to learn in God’s counteraction. I want you to see why Peter was delivered. It was because his work wasn’t finished yet! And if you are in the perfect will of God, you cannot “go home” before your time, before your work is finished. Otherwise God’s purposes could be frustrated, which is a sheer impossibility. Let the reaction of the devil be what it will, God will surely deliver you. Take that for your comfort.

Do you remember what Jesus said to the apostle Peter? It’s recorded in John 21:18—

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

So why did Peter have soul rest there in his cell between the guards? Because he believed God. Jesus had told Peter that his time would come when he was old; and he wasn’t old yet! Isn’t it wonderful to have a word from the Lord? Isn’t it marvelous to exercise faith in the word of the Lord that He gives you?

This sent Peter to sleep: He was in the will of God. He looked around his small cell. “I’m not old,” he thought. “And I can gird myself.35 Therefore, I’m not going to die at this time because Jesus said I’m not going to die until those things are true. I don’t know how He’s going to do it, but praise God, He’s going to do it! Thank you, Lord Jesus. I think I’ll go to sleep. Good night.”

So Peter went right off to sleep. This is what the Bible calls the rest of faith, because we believe God. Fancy, Peter is going to be executed the next morning, but he sleeps because he knows he is perfectly safe. As the hymn says,

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on his loving breast.
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.36

And do you see then the consequences of being in God’s will? If you are in God’s perfect will, your chains will fall off! Have you any chains? Are you bound by anything? Is there anything you want deliverance from? You won’t get it by quoting texts of Scripture or by having us pray over you. You won’t get it by people coming and so-called casting things out of you. I’m not saying there isn’t anything to cast out. I’m only saying you won’t get it that way.

How will you get it? Only by being in the will of God, only by yielding up your will to God, only by saying, “Yes, Lord, yes” to Him with a full heart, only by wanting to do His will. That’s why Peter’s chains fell off, for he was in the will of God; and every chain will fall off when you’re yielded completely to the Lord.

See another result of Peter’s yieldedness to the will of God: “The iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord” (Acts 12:10). Do you have to push the gate open? Do you have to try and climb through a window? Oh, the work of God that’s spoiled today by people forcing their way through! And they’re even instructed on how to push on God’s gates. Another consequence of being in the will of God is that the gates will open to you of their own accord.

Are you wondering about what God’s will is for you? Are you a bit puzzled? Do you feel you’re not yet in the right job? Are you looking for God to open other doors? Are you trying here, there and everywhere, and the doors all seem closed, and you’re frustrated and blocked? Stop it! First of all, ask the Lord to bring you into His perfect will. And then you will find Jesus to be the “ ‘One who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens… I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it’ ” (Revelation 3:7-8). Gates will begin to open of their own accord. Oh, the wonder of being in God’s perfect, holy will!

Balance, Not Fanaticism

And there will be a perfect balance. Notice the balance in Peter’s deliverance story. Do you see what the angel could have done when he came in?

    • 7Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
    • Acts 12:7-8

Why didn’t the angel dress Peter and put his belt on him? He could easily have done it; but he didn’t. Why didn’t the angel bend down and put Peter’s sandals on for him? He could have done it. Why didn’t the angel come and hold his coat for him and put it around him? Because God will only do what you cannot do; and He will only do what you cannot do when you have done what you can do.

When will we learn that balance? John Wesley says, “Fanaticism is trying to obtain the ends without applying the means.”37 God will not do what you can do, and what is your duty to do.

Oh, the difference between fanaticism and a God-balanced ministry! If only you will come into God’s perfect will, having received the indwelling Holy Spirit and listening to Him, God will show you many wonderful things; you will see supernatural signs and wonders. That may be so, but you shouldn’t try to substitute the supernatural signs and wonders for something that is downright ordinary and honest that you are well able to do.

Think about the story of Jairus’ daughter. What does the Lord Jesus say to the parents the very first thing after He brings her back from the dead? He commanded that something should be given her to eat (Luke 8:55). Jesus had the power to bring her back from the dead and reunite soul and body. Why didn’t He also marvelously arrange that her body be perfectly nourished? Because she was quite capable of feeding herself, and there were others there quite capable of providing her with food. Thus we see that the Lord will not do what we can do; He will certainly do what we can’t do.

Take the raising of Lazarus. When Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, there was that great stone before the door. Jesus said, “Take away the stone” (John 11:39). Then He said, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43) This is the Lord Jesus, who can roll the stars along their courses by speaking a word; who can say, “Peace, be still” to the storm; who can say to a mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the midst of the sea,” and it obeys Him. Don’t you see He could have spoken one word and the stone would have rolled away? But He would not do what they could do; He would only do what they couldn’t do. They couldn’t call Lazarus from the dead, but they could roll the stone away. Then He did what they couldn’t do, and commanded Lazarus to come forth.

Ah, but what about a different stone, sealing another tomb, on Easter morning? The women went to see the Lord Jesus in His sepulcher, thinking that His body was lying there. They were greatly concerned, for on the way they said, “Well, look, we’re all going there to see Him and to put more spices on His dear body, but who will roll away that very large stone?”38 However, when they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone was already rolled away! God had sent an angel who touched it and rolled it away. Why? Because the women couldn’t do it!

Now do you see the difference between fanaticism, which demands that God should do things that we can do, and the glory of God’s miraculous, wonder-working power, which He is perfectly willing to exercise when the need arises? Oh, it’s wonderful to believe that God is the God of the miraculous, that God is the God of the supernatural, that God is the God of revival. But it means I must be a completely balanced individual, as God taught Peter through the angel who delivered him from prison.

The Full Cup of the Guilty

Now finally, God is a just God, who will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7). There can come a time when someone’s cup is full. There can come a time when God’s mercy no longer extends to them, where God in His perfect wisdom sees that all His mercy bestowed upon them will never be accepted. The time can come, when they’re past redemption, when they have sinned away their opportunity. John Bunyan relates a vignette in The Pilgrim’s Progress about a man in the iron cage, someone who had sinned away his opportunity and could no longer repent;39 for no one can repent unless God gives them repentance; it’s a gift of God.40 Only God can give repentance. We can tell that person to ask God to give them repentance. God alone grants repentance.

As we come to the final verses of Acts 12, we find that God no longer has repentance for King Agrippa; the Lord waited until his cup was full. And very soon the last drop was put into his cup.

    • Now Herod had been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon; but they came to him with one accord, and having made Blastus the king’s personal aide their friend, they asked for peace, because their country was supplied with food by the king’s country.
    • Acts 12:20

Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. But at last, through Blastus, Herod’s aide and confidant (who apparently received a bribe), Herod was made willing to make friends with the people of Tyre and Sidon again.

Just before we proceed, let me ask you a question: Did you notice that the angel sent from God to set Peter free was a great delivering angel, and that he was a smiting or striking angel? He struck41 Peter on the side and said, “Get up!” (Acts 12:7) That’s important to keep in mind as our story continues, because apparently the angel didn’t immediately return to heaven, since he hadn’t yet finished his assignment. He was still around, waiting.…

    • So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them.
    • Acts 12:21

Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that Herod went into the great amphitheater, dressed in a garment of silver. And he spoke to the gathered throng as the sun rose in the morning, just as the first rays of the sun came beaming into the amphitheater. (He wouldn’t have spoken later because of the heat of the day.) Those beams of sunlight shone on Herod as he stood on that great forum before the people. The sunlight reflected and dazzled off the silver fabric, shining back with a radiance as if he himself were a god.42 Combine Herod Agrippa’s gifted oratory, his shining, god-like appearance, and the crowd’s purpose of flattering their benefactor, and the stage is now set for God’s judgment.

  • And the people kept shouting, “The voice of a god and not of a man!”
  • Acts 12:22

Their flattery was elevated to praise which should only be offered to God; and Herod accepted it! Immediately his cup was full, and the smiting angel was still around:

  • Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck43 him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.
  • Acts 12:23

It is quite one thing to be “smitten” by an angel to rouse you up and deliver you, as happened with Peter in the prison cell. It’s another thing, if you’re intentionally wicked and resist God, for that smiting angel to put you to death. Such are God’s counteractions that He has reserved a special and awful end for great persecutors of the saints.44 Normally, people die, are buried, and then are “eaten by worms.” But Herod Agrippa I was eaten by worms even while he was alive.45

In considering Herod Agrippa’s horrible death, let’s not lose sight of how God’s victory in this action-reaction-counteraction cycle ended up:

    • 24But the word of God grew and multiplied. 25And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their ministry, and they also took with them John whose surname was Mark.
    • Acts 12:24-25

With these words, Luke segues to Barnabas and Saul in the next verse, immediately following which Luke relates their call and sending to the Gentiles (13:1-4). Isn’t this a most glorious counteraction? The counteraction isn’t merely Peter being delivered from prison. It’s also Barnabas and Paul being sent forth as apostles by God. That tremendous work has brought you and me into the kingdom through the message spread throughout the world. Wherever the Gentiles are, the gospel has been preached because Paul and Barnabas released it in God’s glorious counteraction.

In order to grow in maturity and settled faith, please remember God’s glorious principle of action, reaction and counteraction. In every blessing, every action God brings you, hold on for the inevitable reaction of the devil. In the midst of that reaction, remember that God only permitted it in order to bring in a much more wonderful counteraction, to raise things onto a greater plane than ever. And that cycle will continue on until the last counteraction when, after death, the Lord takes you to be with Him in everlasting glory.

Amen!




Endnotes:

  1. Copyright held by Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship, Inc. Edited by Denise & Jim Kerwin. Annotated by Jim Kerwin.

    Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture is taken from the New King James Version® nkjv. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

  2. Image created by Jim Kerwin.
  3. From Charles Wesley’s hymn, Come Holy Ghost, Our Hearts Inspire
  4. Pastor Gutteridge shares some interesting thoughts on the subject of “I will satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Psalm 145:16) in “The Certainties of Faith”, a chapter in his book Faith Is Substance. One section of that same chapter sketches out the principle of Action, Reaction, and Counteraction.
  5. Luke 21:25
  6. Luke 21:26
  7. Luke 17:26
  8. Genesis 6:11; cf., Genesis 6:13
  9. 2 Timothy 3:13
  10. 2 Timothy 3:2; cf., Romans 1:30
  11. Isaiah 11:9. And don’t forget Habakkuk’s glorious “amen” to Isaiah:

    For the earth will be filled
    With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
    As the waters cover the sea.
    – Habakkuk 2:14 –

  12. 2 Peter 3:13b
  13. An allusion to 2 Corinthians 5:17
  14. Revelation 21:4
  15. Colossians 1:15
  16. So Solomon, when he was still wise, declared. See 1 Kings 8:27 and its parallel, 2 Chronicles 6:18.
  17. The allusion is to Isaiah 40:12—

    Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
    Measured heaven with a span
    And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?
    Weighed the mountains in scales
    And the hills in a balance?

  18. From Charles Wesley’s Let Earth and Heaven Combine
  19. Hebrews 7:25
  20. Philippians 2:9-10a
  21. Luke 4:14, 16-18
  22. These are Paul’s words from Ephesians 4:8, echoing Psalm 68:18.
  23. The allusion is to John 14:17e.
  24. Matthew 11:11 ∥ Luke 7:28
  25. 2 Peter 1:4
  26. 2 Corinthians 3:18
  27. Acts 9:15
  28. Galatians 1:15
  29. Pastor Gutteridge had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Old Testament Tabernacle, the sacrifices, and the annual Jewish festivals. Thus, from the time when Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948, he had a keen interest in all things related to Eretz Israel (אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל / ʾereṣ yiśrāʾēl), that is, the “Land of Israel.”
  30. We are focusing on King Herod Agrippa I in our Acts 12 passage about Peter. But since the name “Herod” describes four rulers mentioned in the New Testament, it might help to quickly sort them out.
    1. Herod the Great ruled until shortly after Jesus’ birth.
    2. Herod Antipas the Tetrarch (a son of Herod the Great) was the ruler whose adultery was censured publicly by John the Baptist. He imprisoned John and later had him executed.
    3. Herod Agrippa I (a grandson of Herod the Great) is the ruler who had the Apostle James, brother of the Apostle John, executed; and he planned the same fate for the Apostle Peter (Acts 12).

      This Agrippa was appointed king by the Emperor Caligula, who governed the Empire from a.d. 37 to 41. Agrippa was both a grandson of King Herod “the Great” (through Aristobulus) and a nephew of Herod Antipas, the ruler who had John the Baptist beheaded. Caligula originally awarded Agrippa the authority over Iturea, Trachonitis, Abilene, with Gaulonitis, Batanaea, and Penias. But the next emperor, Claudius (who ruled a.d. 41 to 54) added Samaria and Judea to Agrippa’s domain before the events recorded in Acts 12.

    4. Herod Agrippa II (son of Herod Agrippa I and great-grandson of Herod the Great) was the man before whom Paul made his final defense before being shipped off to Rome (Acts 25:13–26:32).

    In the New Testament there are these four, no more. Just to be clear, it is “Herod Number 3,” King Herod Agrippa I, who is the royal figure throughout our story in Acts 12.

  31. As the Church expanded over the next three centuries, Satan would time and again employ this powerful Roman “beast” (from Daniel’s vision) against the Lord’s people, who would experience far worse than anything the Church had faced during the events described in Acts.

    But that continued cycle of action-reaction-counteraction is outside the scope of this present article, other than to make note of this: Satan and his minions must have been certain that he had won when Jesus’ lifeblood stained the ground and ceased to flow. Of their colossal, miscalculated blunder, Paul says this: if they had known the end-result of their reaction, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8)! In a similar way, one of the enshrined sayings of the early Church described in micro and macro terms an aspect of God’s counteraction during that period: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

  32. The reader will recall that concerning Jesus’ execution, Pilate had “washed his hands” of the matter (Matthew 27:24). This was both a literal and figurative act. (In fact, it is from this Bible passage that we derive our English phrase, “I have washed my hands of the matter,” that is, I want nothing more to do with it.) By this dramatic, public handwashing, Pilate demonstrated his determination to distance and disassociate himself from this distasteful and disagreeable affair.

    And Pilate seems to have been a man whose mind, once made up, could not be changed. See, for instance, his peremptory, adamant refusal to change the placard over Jesus’ cross, an incident John describes in John 19:20-22 — “What I have written I have written.”

    Thus in Matthew 24:62-66, when “the chief priests and Pharisees” besought Pilate to assign a Roman guard for Jesus’ tomb, since he wanted nothing more to do with the matter, he flat out refused their request. But then he offered a compromise: “You have a guard; go your way, {you} make it as secure as you know how” (v. 65), granting these religious leaders special permission this one time to allow the temple guards to operate outside of the sanctuary precincts.

  33. This is no doubt the reason for the comment made by the Jewish elders to the guards who had been terrified by the angel at Jesus’ tomb:

    • “And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.”
    • Matthew 28:14

    The point was that Roman military jurisprudence (in this case death, both for losing their “prisoner,” and for deserting their guard post!) could not be applied to the Temple guard. They were neither Roman soldiers, nor under the immediate authority of the Roman military system, being part of the Temple police force, answerable only to the Jewish leaders.

  34. Tetradíois (τετραδίοις) is the Greek dative plural of tetrádion (τετράδιον). This word appears only here in the Greek New Testament, although a four-man squad (i.e., a tetrádion) of Roman soldiers guarding Jesus at the cross seems implicit in John 19:23 —

      • Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part

  35. The use of gird (Greek: zōnnumi / ζώννυμι) can’t be just a coincidence. Zōnnumi only appears three times in the New Testament, and each time the word is used specifically of Peter.

    The Apostle John uses the word twice in recording Jesus’ prophetic promise to Peter — “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird (ezōnnues / ἐζώννυες, an imperfect form of zōnnumi) yourself… {but later} someone else will gird (zōsei / ζώσει, a future form of zōnnumi) you…” John 21:18).

    The only other appearance of zōnnumi is — surprise! — in the angel’s first words to Peter in the cell: “Gird (zōsai / ζῶσαι, an imperative form of zōnnumi) yourself” (Acts 12:8).

  36. This is from Fanny Crosby’s hymn by the same name, Safe in the Arms of Jesus.
  37. This is a paraphrase of Wesley’s teaching in his sermon entitled “The Nature of Enthusiasm.” (The meaning of the word enthusiasm in Wesley’s day was much closer to our word fanaticism today.) We reproduce here part of Wesley’s concluding paragraph in this message on fanaticism. Note the first sentence of the following quotation (from whence comes Pastor’s Gutteridge’s paraphrase) in its context:

    Finally, take care that you do not try to obtain the end without using the natural means to it. If He so pleases, God can give the end without any means at all; but you have no reason to think He will. Therefore constantly and carefully use all those means which He has appointed to be the ordinary channels of His grace. Use every means which either reason or Scripture recommends as beneficial (through the free love of God in Christ) either for obtaining or increasing any of the gifts of God.

  38. Mark 16:3
  39. Too few Christian readers nowadays are acquainted with John Bunyan’s classic work about the Christian life, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Almost 450 years after its first publication, it is still the most famous allegory in the whole of English literature.

    Here is the quotation from that book to which Pastor Gutteridge alludes (sections 84-88). The scene is set in the House of the Interpreter (a representation of the Holy Spirit), where Christian has been resting and learning while preparing for another segment of his long journey. We’ll follow the quaint formatting of the original:

    §84: “Now,” said Christian, “let me go hence.”

    “Nay, stay,” said the Interpreter, “till I have shewed thee a little more, and after that thou shalt go on thy way.” So he took him by the hand again, and led him into a very dark room, where there sat a man in an iron cage.

    Now the man, to look on, seemed very sad; he sat with his eyes looking down to the ground, his hands folded together, and he sighed as if he would break his heart. Then said Christian, “What means this?” At which the Interpreter bid him talk with the man.

    Then said Christian to the man, “What art thou?”

    The man answered, “I am what I was not once.”

    §85: CHRISTIAN: “What wast thou once?”

    MAN: The man said, “I was once a fair and flourishing professor, both in mine own eyes, and also in the eyes of others; I once was, as I thought, fair for the Celestial City, and had then even joy at the thoughts that I should get thither.” (Luke 8:13)

    CHRISTIAN: “Well, but what art thou now?”

    MAN: “I am now a man of despair, and am shut up in it, as in this iron cage. I cannot get out. Oh, now I cannot!”

    CHRISTIAN: “But how camest thou in this condition?”

    MAN: “I left off to watch and be sober. I laid the reins, upon the neck of my lusts; I sinned against the light of the Word and the goodness of God; I have grieved the Spirit, and He is gone; I tempted the devil, and he is come to me; I have provoked God to anger, and He has left me: I have so hardened my heart, that I cannot repent.”

    §86 Then said Christian to the Interpreter, “But is there no hope for such a man as this?”

    “Ask him,” said the Interpreter.

    “Nay,” said Christian, “pray, Sir, do you.”

    INTERPRETER: Then said the Interpreter, “Is there no hope, but you must be kept in the iron cage of despair?”

    MAN: “No, none at all.”

    INTERPRETER: “Why, the Son of the Blessed is very pitiful.”

    MAN: “I have crucified Him to myself afresh (Heb. 6:6); I have despised His person (Luke 19:14); I have despised His righteousness; I have “counted His blood an unholy thing”; I have “done despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:28-29). Therefore I have shut myself out of all the promises, and there now remains to me nothing but threatenings, dreadful threatenings, fearful threatenings, of certain judgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour me as an adversary.”

    §87 INTERPRETER: “For what did you bring yourself into this condition?”

    MAN: “For the lusts, pleasures, and profits of this world; in the enjoyment of which I did then promise myself much delight; but now every one of those things also bite me, and gnaw me like a burning worm.”

    INTERPRETER: “But canst thou not now repent and turn?”

    §88 MAN: “God hath denied me repentance. His Word gives me no encouragement to believe; yea, Himself hath shut me up in this iron cage; nor can all the men in the world let me out. O eternity, eternity! how shall I grapple with the misery that I must meet with in eternity!”

    INTERPRETER: Then said the Interpreter to Christian, “Let this man’s misery be remembered by thee, and be an everlasting caution to thee.”

    CHRISTIAN: “Well,” said Christian, “this is fearful! God help me to watch and be sober, and to pray that I may shun the cause of this man’s misery!”

  40. We don’t often hear about God granting repentance, and yet this is clearly taught in the New Testament:

      • “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
      • Acts 5:31
      • When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
      • Acts 11:18
      • …in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…
      • 2 Timothy 2:25

    We look more at God’s granting of repentance in Jim Kerwin’s Repentance: The Love-Gift from Above, a chapter from The Extraordinary Message (book #2 of The John the Baptist Experience series).

  41. Strike or smite is the English translation of the Greek verb patássō (πατάσσω). In the New Testament it appears a total of ten times, eight occurrences of which are outside of this chapter. We hear patássō in Jesus’ quotation of Zechariah 13:7 (in Matthew 26:31 ∥ Mark 14:27); and it describes the attack of the disciples on the servant of the high priest in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:31 ∥ Luke 22:49 and 50). Patássō is also used of Moses striking the Egyptian (Acts 7:24), of the two prophets striking the earth (Revelation 11:6), and of the triumphant, returning Lord Jesus striking down the nations (Revelation 19:15).

    That accounts for the eight times patássō appears outside of Acts 12, the chapter we have under consideration. We will count the sharp, hasty awakening of Peter in Acts 12:7 as the ninth appearance of the verb. And, as we shall soon see in the text, we are about to encounter the tenth and final appearance in the climax of this chapter.

  42. Here is Flavius Josephus’ account of the incident (in his Antiquities of the Jews, XIX.8.2):

    …he {Agrippa} put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun’s rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him.

  43. Here is our tenth and final encounter with that striking / smiting verb patássō (πατάσσω). See this prior endnote.
  44. Pastor Gutteridge noted as an aside that “Herod the Great {grandfather of Agrippa I} died of an awful disease… his body was in such a corrupt and putrid condition in his living death that even his attendants fled. They couldn’t be with him.” Here is Josephus’ account:

      • But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him after a severe manner, and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins; for a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety…
      • Antiquities XVII.6.5

  45. Pastor Gutteridge noted a strikingly similar death of another persecutor of the Church, almost three hundred years later. He said, in part:

    “Galerius was promoted to be Emperor of the East. And he chose as his caesar, his assistant, a man of his like kidney. Galerius was a hater of Christians. His wife influenced him that way. He chose Maximinius Daza, who was one of the worst persecutors of Christians who ever lived. He invented diabolical means of torture for the Christians. He died in the same way that Herod Agrippa I died… being eaten by worms before he died.”

    “A man of his like kidney” is one of those quaint British phrases one sometimes encounters. In his 1828 dictionary, Noah Webster mentions this peculiar use of the word kidney as meaning sort or kind. (And he sniffs, “A ludicrous use of the word”!) We would probably say nowadays “a man after his own heart,” or “a man of like mind and heart.” But we leave this phrase in because of its interesting parallel with the Biblical use of kidney (for which see Jim Kerwin’s study “Heart, Mind… and Kidneys?!”).

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