What does Acts 12:16 mean?
ESV: But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.
NIV: But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
NASB: But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.
CSB: Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
NLT: Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
KJV: But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened the door, and saw him, they were astonished.
NKJV: Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.
Verse Commentary:
A group of Jesus-followers had been meeting at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark. This is possibly in the upper room where Jesus held the Last Supper. They are praying Peter would be released from prison. After arresting and beheading the apostle James, Agrippa planned the same fate for Peter. But moments before Peter's "trial," an angel appeared and rescued him (Acts 12:1–11).

Once freed of the prison, Peter made his way to Mary's house to let his friends know he was safe. Mary's servant girl, Rhoda, was so excited to see Peter she left him outside the gate and rushed to tell the prayer warriors. Instead of believing their "earnest prayer" (Acts 12:5) for Peter had worked, they assumed Rhoda was mistaken; it must be Peter's guardian angel (Acts 12:12–15).

Several times the Bible states that belief is an essential step in receiving a positive answer to prayer. Jesus told the disciples, "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith" (Matthew 21:22). This doesn't mean we can receive anything we want if only we have enough faith. We must also pray according to God's will (1 John 5:14). In this case, Peter's release is in God's plan. But the church members won't learn this until they go to the gate and look! Even when they see the evidence with their own eyes, it's still a shock.
Verse Context:
Acts 12:12–19 records Peter quickly telling the story of his escape from a Roman prison before fleeing. Herod Agrippa I had arrested and beheaded James and found the Sanhedrin greatly impressed. He arrested Peter, as well, and planned to execute him after the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Acts 12:1–5), but an angel arrived first and led Peter out of prison (Acts 12:6–11). Once Peter realized he wasn't dreaming he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12–19). Peter will reappear briefly in Acts 15:6–11, but this is the last significant mention of any of the apostles in the book of Acts.
Chapter Summary:
Acts 12 starts with the first death of an apostle and ends with the death of a king. Herod Agrippa I beheads James and imprisons Peter. An angel rescues Peter and he quickly lets the church in Jerusalem know before he goes into hiding. Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great and friend to the Pharisees, accepts glory due only to God and dies, likely a few days later, of internal worms. Meanwhile, the church continues to grow, and Barnabas and Saul return to Syrian Antioch. The scene is set for Paul's extensive ministry to the Gentiles.
Chapter Context:
When Acts 12 opens, at least some of the apostles are in Jerusalem, and Barnabas and Saul are in Syrian Antioch, collecting support so the church in Jerusalem can survive the coming famine (Acts 11:27–30). The church is established in Jerusalem and growing in the regions on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. When the chapter closes, Barnabas and Saul are poised for their missionary trip in modern-day Asia Minor. Saul will take on the Greek version of his name, Paul, and the story of Jesus will spread to Rome and beyond.
Book Summary:
The summary of the book of Acts is provided in Jesus' words in Acts 1:8: ''But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'' In Acts 2:1–13, the Christ-followers receive the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14—7:60 describes the rapid growth of the church in Jerusalem. Chapters 8—12 find Jewish persecution inadvertently spreading the gospel throughout Judea and Samaria. And in chapters 13—28, Paul and his companions spread the good news throughout the Roman Empire.
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