Before leaving Acts 12, I feel compelled to share what I believe concerning Herod Agrippa and his place in Biblical history. Most folks today who believe in Christ follow after the prophetic view that many things in the Bible have yet to be fulfilled, and this is especially so for the book of Revelation. So many Christians today try to understand who the “beast” of Revelation 13 is or what his mark might be etc. While this chapter does, indeed, have something to say to us today, it says it in the backdrop of church history within the 1st century CE.
Did you know that Jerusalem was conquered by a foreign power only 7 times in its history? These are the 7 heads of the beast of Revelation 13. These kings are:
1. Shishak – King of Egypt – who was the first to take Jerusalem after the death of Solomon. He plundered the Temple, leaving nothing precious behind. He did this without having to fight to gain access to Jerusalem (1Kings 14:25-27); compare Josephus: “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book VIII, chapter 10, paragraph 3
2. Neubchadnezzar – King of Babylon – who plundered and destroyed both the city and the Temple (2Chronicles 36:5-20), leveling everything to the ground in the month of Ab on the 10th day (Josephus: “Antiquities of the Jews;” Book X, chapter 8, paragraph 5).
3. Ptolemy I (Soter-“savior”– the Great) – took Jerusalem by deceit, pretending to desire to make a sacrifice to God. Thus, he entered in peace and plundered the Temple (the King of the South of Daniel 11:5); see Josephus: “Antiquities of the Jews;” Book XII, chapter 1, paragraph 1
4. Antiochus IV (Epiphanes – “god manifest”; the King of the North in Daniel 11:21-35); took Jerusalem without a fight by pretending peace, then pillaged and desecrated the Temple; Josephus: “Antiquities of the Jews;” Book XII, chapter 5, paragraph 4
5. Pompey the Great (representing and later the leader of the Republic of Rome) fought very little and gained access to the Temple trough treachery, plundered it and took much from the treasury. He noted the devotion of the Jews to God and set up a priesthood friendly to Rome, thus taking away its (i.e. the priesthood’s) former dignity and gave it away for a price. – Josephus; “Antiquities of the Jews;” Book XIV, chapter 4, paragraphs 1 through 5.
6. Herod the Great besieged Jerusalem and took it but did not allow the Temple to be plundered. Josephus; “Antiquities of the Jews;” Book XV, chapter 1, paragraphs 1 & 2; “Wars of the Jews;” Book I, chapter 18, paragraphs 1 through 3.
7. Titus (general and son of the Emperor of Rome) took Jerusalem and though he tried to stop it, could not keep the soldiers from destroying the Temple on the 10th day of the month of Ab, 70 CE, two days after taking the lower city.— Josephus: “Wars of the Jews;” Book VI, chapter 4, paragraphs 1 through 8; & chapter x, paragraph 1.
These are the mysterious 7 heads of the ‘beast’ of Revelation 13. It also should be noted that one of the heads of the “beast” had 10 horns. This head symbolized the Empire of Rome. Since the time of Christ 10 Roman procurators ruled Jerusalem they are:
There is a 3 ½ year space of time between the procurators, Marullus and Fadus (numbers 3 & 4 above). This is where Herod Agrippa the Great of Acts 12 belongs. He ruled Jerusalem from the winter of 41 CE to late summer of 44 CE.
Revelation 13 has similarities with Daniel 7. In Daniel 7 we find a beast with 10 horns and a “little horn” coming up between the first three and the remaining seven. This “little horn” was King Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great. He was made king over all the lands of his grandfather by Claudius Caesar, Emperor of Rome. Agrippa ruled most of Palestine as king for 7-years, but reigned over Jerusalem for only 3½ years (41-44 CE) – and God killed him. He met his end by the same terrible disease that inflicted his grandfather (Acts 12:21-23; compare Josephus, “Antiquities of the Jews,” Book IXX, chapter 8, paragraph 2).
Notice in the book of Daniel that God sat in judgment over the enemies of his people (Daniel 7:9). Fire (streams of fire, lightening etc.) is associated with the presence of God. In Exodus 3:1-6 he appeared to Moses out of the burning bush. In Exodus 19 God gave the people his ‘fiery law’ (Deuteronomy 33:2) and the people trembled (Exodus 19:16-18). The figure of fire is an element used to describe his judgment upon the enemies of his people (Psalms 50:3; 97:2-3).
In Acts 12:21-23 Herod Agrippa I (also called Agrippa the Great) met a premature death at the hand of God, specifically by an angel he sent. Daniel 7:9-11 describes God sitting in judgment over the deeds of the little horn. The little horn is also described as a “beast” in verse-11, just as this word is used to also describe the other horns (cp. Daniel 7:12). The ten horns or “beasts” (Daniel 7:12) had their dominion taken away, but not until they served out their (divinely) allotted season. They were removed from office but lived their lives until their appointed end, i.e. a natural death, or a death at the hand of man, but not at the hand and directive of God as was the case of the little horn or Agrippa I (cp. Acts 12:21-23). In the case of Festus, the Roman procurator of Judea who died in office, he lived out his natural life, and his death coincided with his divinely appointed time as ruler of God’s people. He was not killed by the command of God, as was the case of Herod.
When we look at the book of Revelation in the New Testament we find many similarities with the book of Daniel. Specifically, in Revelation 13 we are shown a beast with 7 heads and upon one head is 10 horns. Instead of a little horn, however, this beast is given a mouth. The mouth and the little horn are the same. The time of his authority is 42 months (Revelation 13:5; cp. Daniel 7:25-26) or 3 ½ years. Such was the reign of Herod Agrippa over Judea and Jerusalem. He received this authority because of a speech he made before the Roman senate where he defended Claudius. It was because of this speech that Claudius was appointed emperor. In gratitude, Claudius gave the province of Judea to Herod Agrippa as part of his realm of authority. This made his kingdom as large as that of his grandfather, Herod the Great, which was also roughly the size of the kingdom of Israel under the reigns of David and Solomon.
Both Daniel and Revelation claim that the ten horns are ten kings (Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12). Indeed the governors of Judea and Jerusalem, with the exception of Herod Agrippa, were called proconsuls. However, they had all the power of Herod and perhaps more. The proconsul possessed the authority of imperium. What this means is: they were autonomous in their authority and could govern as they saw fit. They were under no obligation to consult higher authorities, including the emperor, before making decisions within their provincial command. The only condition was that the emperor received his taxes from the province and that the procurator was able enough to put down any insurrection that may develop. In all things he exercised the authority of a king.
You may believe Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 were fulfilled in the 1st century or not. That is entirely your call, but the fact remains the specific details of the prophecies were met in the 1st century CE by the men mentioned above. There is absolutely no authority given in the Bible whereby these things MUST be fulfilled a second time. They may be fulfilled again, of course, but that would be God’s call not ours. The point is we need to humble ourselves before the word of God and stop clinging to the doctrines of men who claim their version of prophecy is the Gospel. It is not. May God quicken his word to the hearts of his people, and may all of us give all our devotion to God alone. This is our reasonable service.