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Who was the angel who enabled Peter to get out of prison (Acts 12.7-15)? Those who were praying for him seemed to believe in individual guardian angels (v.15).

We do not know the name or rank of this angel. In the book of Acts we find a sevenfold reference to angelic intervention. It is wonderful to see that an angel opened the prison doors in Jerusalem in Acts 5 and miraculously released the apostles. The amazing thing is that the Sadducees who put them in prison did not believe in angels, but God used one of these very beings to deliver the apostles. What a triumph! In Acts 12 God used an angel again. We assume a different angel from the one in ch.5.

There are only two angels, high ranking heavenly servants of God, who are expressly named. They are Gabriel and Michael the archangel. All the rest of angels, created by God in their various orders, remain anonymous. They are by no means redundant beings, but even today work behind the scenes and carry on their special ministry. Angels are happy to serve God whatever task He gives them. Obedience, anonymity, modesty, reverence and contentment mark these holy beings. We have much to learn from them. Would we be content to accomplish a work for God and remain anonymous?

Notice that in ch.12 of Acts we have a twofold ministry of angels. One was used in blessing and the other in judgment (vv.7 & 22).

That the believers referred to "his (Peter’s) angel" in v.15 does appear to reflect on their belief at that time. The Psalmist in Psalm 91.11 writes, "He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways". I am not so sure that we can claim that this has changed and does not take place today in this dispensation. Are we to rob ourselves and all the saints of God from the great comfort that this statement can give? We delight in the previous verses of the Psalm concerning God’s care and protection and apply it quite rightly to our own lives. Why then should we dismiss v.11 as not applicable for today?

Some brethren I know do not subscribe to the view of guardian angels, but for myself I am happy to accept it in the light of the teaching in Matthew 18.10 and Hebrews 1.14.

John J Stubbs

Matthew tells us that when the earthquake took place when the Lord was upon the cross and "yielded up the ghost", "the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints...arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city" (Mt 27.52-53). What was the purpose of this, since Luke 16.31 teaches that, if one rose from the dead, the people would not believe?

The death of Christ provided tremendous upheavals in nature, as if there were empathy between inanimate creation and its Creator. The rending of the rocks was consequent upon the earthquake. That was a kingdom which could be shaken; however, hanging on the tree was one who was King of a realm that could not be shaken, "a kingdom which cannot be moved" (Heb 12.28).

The Lord Jesus has "the keys of death and of Hades" (Rev 1.18, RV). The very graves were unlocked when He died, the opened tombs declaring the wonderful news that Christ’s death had broken the bands of death for ever. Although the graves were opened when He "yielded up the ghost", it is evident that "many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves" after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Christ is the firstfruits in resurrection (1 Cor 15.23) and those "many bodies" of the sleeping saints could not come out of the graves until He was risen on the third day.

These risen saints actually entered into the "holy city", i.e. Jerusalem, "and appeared unto many". Several questions arise in our minds. Who were these saints? All that can be said is that, since they had died prior to the death and resurrection of Christ and, of course, Pentecost, they did not, when they died, form part of the Church. To whom did they appear and for what purpose? What became of them? Where are they now? Did they subsequently die again or were they transported to heaven? These questions are unanswerable. We are told no more about them and speculation is somewhat futile.

The questioner makes reference to the story of the rich man and Lazarus. We hear the words of father Abraham spoken to the rich man in Hades: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Lk 16.31). This is well illustrated by the fact that when the other Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was restored to life, rather than the chief priests believing on the Lord Jesus, they "consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death" (Jn 12.10).

David E West


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