Agabus, New Testament Prophet


References: Acts 11:27-30; Acts 21: 10-12.

Heart of the Story: Agabus was a first century Christian prophet. He was so well-regarded that knowledgeable hearers immediately accepted his prophetic words.

Storyline: Very likely Agabus was an elder in the Jerusalem church. In Acts Luke recorded two incidents in which Agabus foretold events. Both occurred outside Jerusalem, the first in Antioch (modern Antakya) in the Roman province of Syria and the second in Caesarea Maritime (Caesarea by the sea).

In the first incident, Barnabas and Paul were teaching in Antioch where the largest Gentile church of that day was located. During this time, Agabus and some other prophets traveled from Jerusalem to Antioch. Agabus stood up in a church assembly and through the Holy Spirit predicted a severe famine that would spread over the entire Roman world.

Agabus’ prophecy came true in the reign of Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) when four famines occurred in the Roman Empire. Jerusalem was hit hardest in the second famine, 45-47 AD. Despite the future timeframe of the prediction, the assembled Christians didn’t doubt that Agabus’ prophecy would happen. They determined to help for the brothers in Jerusalem. Each gave according to his ability. Barnabas and Saul carried their gifts to the Jerusalem elders.

The second time, Luke recorded a prophecy from Agabus was about 15 years later. By this time Paul was the chief missionary in the Christian church. Again, Agabus traveled from his home in Judea to give his prediction. This time, Agabus went to Paul and untied and took Paul’s belt. Using the belt, he bound his own hands and feet. Then Agabus said, “The Holy Spirit says ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bin the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’ “

Again, no one in the place doubted Agabus’s words. Instead they immediately pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Despite Agabus’ dire warning, Paul traveled to Jerusalem. There, the Jews accosted Paul in the temple and he was turned over to the Romans (see Commander Claudius under Captains and Commanders).

Relationships of Agabus: Agabus prophecy of a famine in the Roman Empire in Acts 11 was the first mention of the gift of prophecy in Acts. In this first prophecy, Luke didn’t record Agabus’ exact words; however, Agabus second prophecy began with the words, “the Holy Spirit says.” Old Testament prophets identified that God was speaking, while New Testament prophets acknowledge that prophecy came from the Holy Spirit, the third aspect of the Triune God.

The Bible provides no additional information on this well-regarded New Testament prophet; however, Coptic Church tradition teaches that he was has one of the 72 disciples Christ selected to go before him to preach the gospel (Luke 10:1) ( He was in the upper room during Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) where he received the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy.

Supposedly Agabus died a martyr’s death. Jews in Jerusalem arrested and beat him severely. After putting a rope around his neck, they dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. Catholic and Eastern Christian Churches consider Agabus a saint and dedicate feast days to him.

Conclusion: In the 21st century, the Christian church has prophets. It is the job of knowledgeable Christians to recognize them.

Prophets spoke God’s message to Old and New Testament peoples. If you want to read about six relatively obscure Bible prophets, please check my website, Carolyn Roth Ministry (

Copyright: Carolyn Roth Ministry, August 7, 2004; all rights reserved.


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