The Iron Gate

“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed fames the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quarternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter [the Passover] to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.

“And behold, the angel of the LORD came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the LORD hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.

“And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished. But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the LORD had brought him out of the prison. And he said, Go skew these things unto fames, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went into another place. Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that they should be put to death: And he went down from Judea and Caesarea, and there abode.” —Acts 12:1-19

THERE is a wealth of meaning connected with this statement of scripture. We rejoice in the fact that the Lord in his loving providence sent his angel and delivered the Apostle Peter from the power of King Herod and his soldiers. The Apostle James had been apprehended and put to death. The Apostle Peter was in prison, bound with two chains and guarded by sixteen soldiers. It is reasonable to believe that Peter was informed that on the morrow he would be led forth to be executed. Perhaps the soldiers who were guarding him, understanding that he was a good man, sought to comfort him on what they believed was the last night of his earthly life, by offering to watch with him through the night. Peter doubtless answered them something like this: “My God, whom I serve, is able to deliver me from King Herod and his power, but whether or not he will do so, I do not know. I do know, however, that his will for me is best. My conscience is clear; I suggest that we lie down and take our rest as usual.”

While Peter and the soldiers were asleep, a light shone in the prison and the angel of the Lord awakened Peter, saying, “Arise up quickly,” and his chains fell off from his hands, as the record shows. Then the angel led him forth, past the first and second ward, and when they came to the iron gate that led into the city, it opened to them of its own accord! Straightway the angel departed from him. Peter knew his way about the city, and immediately went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where a number of brethren were gathered together praying for him. Peter knocked at the gate leading to this home. This gate did not open to him of its own accord. No angel was there to lead him through that gate and to bring him into the home of his friends. The practical lesson we may draw from this is there are certain things we must do for ourselves, and that our friends can do for us. The Lord does not work miracles on behalf of his people unless it is necessary. The astonishment and joy of the brethren at the miraculous deliverance of Peter was great.

More Service for the Apostle

We can understand the reason why it was the Lord’s will that Peter should be delivered when we remember that on a certain occasion, Jesus said to him, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32) Peter had borne witness to the truth with great power on the day of Pentecost, and at the time of the healing of the lame man who had been lying at the gate of the Temple, which was called Beautiful. (Acts 3:1-16) Up to this time, he had surely been a source of great strength and encouragement to the brethren, but the Lord had still more work for Peter here upon earth. A part of that work was to write the two wonderful epistles which bear his name.

The lesson of this text has an application to every true believer in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Every child of God at some time has had, figuratively speaking, an experience that corresponds to being confined within prison wails and shut in by an iron gate. Figuratively speaking, they have been bound with two chains and guarded by sixteen soldiers. They all have needed the help of the angel of the Lord to make deliverance possible by commanding the iron gate to open so they might be led forth to fields of greater service and usefulness.

It is not difficult to give names to some of these iron gates. There is the iron gate of poverty; the iron gate of sickness and physical weakness; the iron gate of sin and selfishness; the iron gate of intolerance and opposition from those near and dear to us; there is also the iron gate that is mentioned by the Apostle Paul when he says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12) The Apostle John names our enemies and the forces that would hinder spiritual progress as the world, the flesh, and the devil. (I John 2:15-18; 5:19) In our battle with these, we also need the angel of the Lord to lead us forth to victory.

Prayer, Submission, Loyalty

The brethren prayed for Peter’s deliverance; likewise we may be certain that Peter also prayed to the Lord, and along with prayer he had faith and hope. There was also submission to the will of the Lord and a steadfast loyalty to the truth. Likewise, we see that these are the requirements for all who would walk in the way which the Lord has appointed. It is not the portion of many to have a spectacular deliverance, as did Peter. Nevertheless, their experiences may be equally vivid and their deliverances equally real, only in a different manner. The portions of scripture which record remarkable deliverances of the Lord’s people are a source of both inspiration and encouragement. Abraham, the friend of God, did not falter in his loyalty and devotion when told to offer his beloved son, Isaac, as a burnt offering on Mount Moriah. It was necessary for the angel of the Lord to stay the arm of the devoted father from slaying his only son of promise. That was a happy day for Abraham and for his son, Isaac. The iron gate opened to them of its own accord!

When the children of Israel stood before the Red Sea with the army of the Egyptians behind them, they realized that they were confronted by a mighty and terrifying iron gate. In their distress, they complained to Moses and he, in turn, cried to the Lord on their behalf. The Lord answered Moses, saying, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” When they were obedient to that commandment, the iron gate opened to them of its own accord! Let us note well that when the haughty Egyptian monarch with his chariots and mighty men of war sought to follow the path through the Red Sea which the angel of the Lord had made for the children of Israel, the iron gate did not remain open. The enemies of God’s people, on the contrary, were overwhelmed and destroyed in the surging sea.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego steadfastly refused to bow down and worship the golden image which the great King Nebuchadnezzar had caused to be made. They were resolved that they would be faithful to their God. The anger of the king, because of their refusal, was great, and his commandment concerning the three Hebrew children was very urgent. They were cast alive into the fiery furnace; its heat had been increased seven-fold. Because of their faithfulness, the Lord gave then a wonderful deliverance. That was a great and notable day for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The iron gate opened to them of its own accord!

King Darius labored without avail until the going down of the sun to deliver his faithful servant, Daniel, from the result of the conspiracy which the enemies of Daniel had prepared for him. Evidently, more as a hopeful wish than as a conviction, the king said to Daniel, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” (Dan. 6:16) After a sleepless night, the king came early in the morning to the den of lions, and when he came, he cried with a voice of sadness to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God whom thou servest continually able to deliver thee from the lions?” Then Daniel gave the king this wonderful answer, “O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” (Dan. 6:19-23) That was a happy morning for King Darius and for Daniel. The iron gate had opened of its own accord!

Jesus Also Suffered

Among all those who have suffered in the cause of righteousness, no one has had greater difficulties to overcome than did our Lord Jesus. To fulfill his mission of being the savior of mankind, it was necessary that he die the cruel death of the cross. He cried out in the anguish of his spirit, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Mark 14:34) The day of his death ended in darkness and sorrow for his faithful disciples, but very early in the morning on the third day, they had a rebirth of faith and hope, when they understood that Jehovah had commanded that the bonds of death which held his beloved Son, be loosed. That was a wonderful and glorious resurrection morning. The iron gate opened to them of its own accord!

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever—he changeth not. Today, as in the olden time, he answers prayer. However, we must remember sometimes the Lord’s answer to our prayer is the same as that which he gave to the Apostle Paul; he said, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Happy are we, if, like the beloved apostle, we can answer as he did: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”—II Cor. 12:9

Can we give personal testimony that these things are so? Doubtless all of us, upon reflection, can bear witness that the iron gate has been opened for us, that the Lord has given deliverance when there was no human arm that could save.

No consecrated child of God should ever feel that severe trials or difficulties are an indication he is being forsaken by the Lord. On the contrary, we have the statement of the Scriptures, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” (Heb. 12:6) Concerning our Lord Jesus it is written, “Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.”—Heb. 5:8

All those who journey soon or late,
       Must pass within the garden’s gate.
Must grapple there some fierce despair;
       God pity those who cannot say,
“Not mine, but Thine.”
       Who only pray, “Let this cup pass.”
And cannot see the purpose in Gethsemane.

Divine Plan Gives the Answer

There is a beautiful painting entitled, “Too Late.” The Bohemian composer, Smetana, is pictured lying on his bed amidst surroundings indicating poverty. In the background of the picture is a figure representing death. In front of the dead man there stands a young man and a young woman clad in beautiful garments; another young woman is kneeling at the bedside, weeping. The two young women are bearing garlands of flowers, and the young man is holding out to the dead composer a laurel wreath, the emblem of victory and success. To Smetana, the iron gate of poverty did not open; during his lifetime, his genius went unrewarded. Because of the many failures in connection with our present existence, there are those who feel that life is in vain. However, in the light of the knowledge of God’s glorious truth, we find the answer to man’s most difficult problem.

The Lord’s provision for a future life and for eternal joy and happiness to all the willing and obedient of mankind, is the answer to man’s greatest need, and most difficult problem. The most formidable iron gate that confronts the children of men is, figuratively speaking, the iron gate of sin and death. Many people speak of death as a friend who comes to bring release from the sorrows and hardships of life; but that is not the language of the Scriptures. Sin and death are therein represented as strong enemies against which no human power can prevail. How thankful we are our Heavenly Father, in his great love and mercy, sent down from heaven a strong angel to open the iron gate of sin and death so all who truly believe in him may be enabled to say with the Apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—I Cor. 15:57

The Iron Gate

They put him in prison and kept him there,
       But he gained release by the voice of prayer.
And Peter went forth in the strength of the Lord,
       When the iron gate opened of its own accord.

“Thou, Daniel, must call on none else than me,
       On pain of death,” was the king’s decree,
Daniel praised God while the lions roared,
       And the iron gate opened of its own accord!

Three loyal Hebrews kept their vow
       And before an idol refused to bow.
Great, fierce flames from the furnace soared,
       But the iron gate opened of its own accord.

Jesus came down from the heavenly light
       To dwell for a time in earth’s dark night.
Vials of anguish were on him poured,
       But the iron gates opened of their own accord.

And so ‘twill be in the age to come,
       When men find the path to their future home,
When truth on error shall draw the sword,
       Death’s gates shall open of their own accord.

Be true, be loyal, fair comrades, all:
       When you’ve done your best, on the Lord then call;
Great power’s on hand when he’s implored
       And the gate shall open of its own accord!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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