Whenever God moves we should not flinch at the opposition that often accompanies it by His enemies. The purpose for why rulers oppose the disciples is because they really hate Jesus and his message. The text says:
“Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.” (V.1)
The king’s purpose was nothing less than to mistreat his captives such that he had James the brother of John put to death by the sword (V.2). Peter is then incarcerated but an angel of the Lord rescues him from his chains (Vv.4-11) and those praying for Peter’s release doubt he’s been rescued (Vv.12-17). O men of little faith! Can’t we relate?!
So persecution came because of the word and it’s that same word which will judge and end Herod’s life. Not only does Herod have the guards executed because of Peter’s escape but (Vv.18-19) he’s eaten by worms in Caesarea after the angel of the Lord struck him. This death took place because the people cried to Herod “the voice of a god and not of a man!”, as he was delivering a speech in royal garb (Vv.21-23). Somehow it seems that the king’s appearance and voice so captivated the hearers that they were moved to adore him.
Nevertheless, the word of God the king tried to squash continued to grow and multiply (Vv.23-24). Herod reminds of king Nebuchadnezzar who also did not glory God—he did not acknowledge from where his might and pomp came—and was as a beast for seven years grazing with the cows.
Luke is however making the point that the church has angelic help even when persecution erupts. These angels both rescue God’s people and kill the church’s enemies. The word preached caused all this unrest!
Today the word of the Cross, Christ’s exclusivity and many other things are bringing persecution to the church through a totalitarian system increasingly being unleashed in the West. Yet believers should not forget that there are more with us than those who oppose us (E.g., Elisha angelic vision). God’s word can’t be chained if those who belong to Him will proclaim and live the message. Maranatha!