Opening the Last Gate

Opening the Last Gate

Acts 12:1-17

At this time, thousands in Jerusalem were getting saved through the mighty works of God. Of course, whenever God moves supernaturally through His people, we can expect a counter attack from Satan. In this case, Satan inspired Herod to kill James, the brother John.

And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread, meaning the Passover. So, it was at least the first anniversary of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

By executing the leader of the believers during the church’s most sacred observance, Herod thought he could destroy this new Christian faith and increase his popularity with the Jews. So, Herod sent soldiers to capture and guard Peter. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.

Peter wasn’t just under the arrest of a governmental principality. Herod was motivated by demonic principalities. Therefore, Peter was also imprisoned by a spiritual power that intended to destroy him.

Are you familiar with this kind of spiritual prison? Maybe you’re in one now. You think, “Lord, I’ve prayed a thousand times, but nothing ever changes. How will I ever get free?” Or maybe you’re praying for a loved one who’s in the grip of a powerful bondage or addiction. Maybe they’re in an emotional or relational prison, locked down by wounds, depression, or bitterness.

What we read next changes everything. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. That one little word — “but” — transforms the whole picture. It says, “You think about this situation in one way. But God is up to something different.”

A small band of humble men and women were holding a prayer meeting. It doesn’t matter if the prison is man-made or spiritual, the strongest prison walls and chains don’t stand a chance against the earnest prayers of God’s people who are motivated by the Holy Spirit and praying according to His will.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Unseen by us, the prayers of God’s people aid the angels of God in their war with the principalities of Satan.

Daniel 10:12-13 Then he [the angel] said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia

What happened next is truly amazing. It exceeds anything we could imagine or pray for. The earnest prayers of the saints made a way for an angel to rescue Peter.

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Peter passed through two guarded gates and a third one made of iron. As we move toward freedom, Satan often throws in our way even more difficult obstacles and gates that can seem impenetrable. But nothing is too hard for the Lord. Think of all the chains, guards, and obstacles this angel overcame for Peter in order to free him. He led him past all the guards, through every passageway, and out the front gate of the prison. Then, after the iron gate to the city opened, the angel left Peter, as if to say, “The Lord has freed you. Walk in faith the rest of the way.”

Many Christians never get as far as Peter did here. Once they’re delivered from their bondage, they get intimidated by all the barred gates they see in front of them. They grow discouraged and say, “As soon as I get through one gate, there’s another to take its place. Is there no end to my struggle?” They’re tempted to give up again.

Do you see this happening with your bound-up loved ones? God removes all the chains from their lives, but they can’t seem to get through the first closed gate they face. They become convinced, “I’m not going to make it, so they give in to temptation again.”

Here is the key: One by one, every gate that Peter came to was opened for him supernaturally by the angel. Peter didn’t open any gates. Peter’s job was to keep moving in faith. And he did. As a result, he was set free! But there was one more gate ahead—the last gate.

Once Peter was freed, he went to the house of prayer to tell those who had been interceding for him how the Lord had delivered him. There was a gate in front of the door. Peter knocked while the group was still praying fervently for him inside. They had no idea how effective their prayers for Peter had been.

But an interesting thing happened when these believers learned that their prayers had been answered. They didn’t believe it!

Rhoda heard the knocking and recognized it was Peter at the gate. In her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!”

Apparently, they believed Herod had already killed Peter. It makes me wonder about the nature of their prayers. Nevertheless, it also shows me what God will do if we just have a “mustard seed” size of faith and pray earnestly.

The problem with many of us Christians today is we don’t pray earnestly at all. Satan is not bothered by our meetings, as long as we don’t pray earnestly. Why don’t we pray like that?

Either we don’t care enough to fast and pray, or we don’t have faith to pray earnestly until the demonic principalities are defeated. Besides, much of the Church doesn’t believe Satan and demons exist. Whatever the reason, the result is the Church doesn’t see the kind of miracles that was evident in the Bible. Rather than blame ourselves for not praying like the early Church did, we just declare the age miracles is past and hold another feast instead of a fast. (But I digress—back to the story)

Outside, Peter was standing at the last gate, waiting for it to open. He could not open it. It had to be opened from the inside. What was preventing it from opening was the unbelief of those who knew him and were praying for him.

God is in the delivering business. And when He sets His people free, they are free indeed. But maybe you’ve noticed something in your own life that happens when you struggle with a problem. That is, God opens the first few gates for you, setting you free, and those who were praying for you don’t believe you are truly delivered. That is the last gate to open and it remains closed until it is opened by those who were praying.

God supernaturally opened gates for Peter, but now this last one required the faith and the action of those who were praying. They had to open the gate and let Peter in.

Yes, fervent effectual prayer moves God to open gates and set captives free. Peter’s story makes that clear. But this story also shows that if those praying don’t act in faith to open that last gate and let those God has set free into our house of prayer, they will remain outside, in danger of being captured again.

Therefore, the last part of fervent prayer is faithful action. Prayer doesn’t end when we say “Amen”. Prayer leads to acts of faith.

Even though these people were faithful to pray, they weren’t expecting God to deliver. But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.

When they finally did open the gate, those praying saints were “amazed.” However, they would have never seen the answer to their prayers; they would have never been amazed at God’s glorious deliverance, if Peter had not continued knocking.

Peter didn’t go away just because those inside did not respond immediately and were doubtful of his deliverance. He understood their doubts. So he gave them time to realize God had truly delivered him, and they were in no danger. That is important to do when people don’t believe what God has done in our lives.

The Lord is moving as a result of our prayers. In our church and community, He is setting captives free from every kind of prison, and they are seeking a faithful church that acts on its belief that God delivers people.

Jesus is ready to amaze us with His saving, delivering, and transforming power. Now He needs us to open the last gate in faith so He can use us to continue to transform people’s lives by His Word and His love. Will we let Him use us, or will we leave them outside because we are afraid and don’t believe God has really delivered them?

I believe, as a church, we will let them in. However, the hardest test of faith is letting a family member in, who has disappointed us many times. In those cases, let us remember how many times we have disappointed Jesus and how many times He has forgiven us when we knocked and asked Him to let us back into fellowship with Him.

Now, I want to call your attention to the knocking at the “gate” of your heart today. It is Jesus who is knocking. He wants to come in and deliver you from your bondage to sin and set you free. Will you let Him in and surrender your life to Him completely?

If you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross, then publicly profess your faith. Make Jesus the Lord of your life by repenting of your sin and following Him in death to yourself through water baptism. Your sin will be forgiven and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will lead you past all the bondages of sin that have imprisoned you. Will you let Him in?