The fact is, God did save Peter from death! In Acts 12:1-4 we read, “Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. So 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” (NKJV). An intense persecution of the church broke out at this time and King Herod, in order to please the Jews, killed James the brother of John. He had every intention of killing Peter too but it wasn’t God’s will for Peter to die yet. Let’s read on in verses 5-6: “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. And 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.” How wonderful to see the concern of the church at Jerusalem for Peter! They prayed “without ceasing” for him and God was about to answer their prayers. Inside the prison Peter was heavily guarded and yet was saw that “Peter was sleeping.” How precious! At one time the fear of man gripped Peter’s heart and as a result he denied the Lord three times, but here the “peace of God, that passes all understanding” was guarding Peter’s heart (see Philippians 4:7) and thus he was sound asleep even though he was facing a cruel death at any moment. In verses 7-10 we read of how God saved Peter from death: “Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and 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. Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your garment and follow me.’ So 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. When 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.”

We may very well ask, “Why did God save Peter from death, but not James?” We simply don’t know the answer to that. God is in sovereign control of all of our lives and sometimes it is His will to rescue His servants from death, and at other times it is His will to have a servant lay down their lives as a faithful witness. I would encourage you to read Acts 7 where we have the account of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. We know that God gave Stephen grace to show the love of Christ to his enemies, even while they were, in anger, stoning him to death. Shortly before he died, he prayed for them with these words, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (verse 60). Like His Master before him, he prayed they would be forgiven! What a testimony he was and his faithfulness will be rewarded in that coming day when he stands before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Lord has promised all who are called upon to die a martyr’s death, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Before we close, we should note that Peter did eventually die a martyr’s death. In John 21:18-19 Jesus announced his martyrdom: “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. This He spoke, SIGNIFYING BY WHAT DEATH HE WOULD GLORIFY GOD.” The “death” being described here was “crucifixion.” Scripture did not record Peter’s death, but historians have written that Peter, in his old age, was carried out and crucified. They go on to say that he did not think himself worthy to be crucified in the same way as his Master and asked his executors to crucify him upside down. So, like James, Stephen, and a great number of other believers (see Hebrews 11:36-37), Peter was privileged to seal his testimony with his blood.  (210.7)  (DO)