After Paul was delivered to Felix at Caesarea, it was about five days before the high priest and religious elders followed from Jerusalem to make their case against Paul.
But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:22-25)
Felix spent the next two years procrastinating on the official case against Paul. That’s right – two years! During this time, we know that Felix would occasionally meet with Paul to hear more about the Gospel.
We can’t be sure where these meetings took place, but it’s likely they met in the promontory palace, or praetorium, at Caesarea, originally built by King Herod. The praetorium was, in the setting of a city, the designation for the governor’s official residence.
The remains of the praetorium have been excavated on the southern shoreline of Caesarea. Archaeologists have determined that this governor’s palace featured at least two floors, gardens, huge stonewalls, a swimming pool, a Roman bath, colorful geometric mosaic floors, and decorative columns. Archaeologists have also discovered official Latin inscriptions mentioning legati, or governors. In the years prior to Felix, this palace structure was home to many historical figures in the Bible – from Herod the Great to Pontius Pilate.
In the end, Paul was under house arrest at Caesarea for two full years. The Book of Acts tells us that Felix kept Paul so long, because he was trying to earn some favor with the Jews and he thought he might be able to work a bribe for his freedom.
Roman historian Josephus records that in 60 AD, Nero removed Felix from office because of local complaints against him. Porcius Festus was then appointed the new Roman procurator in Judea Province, serving at Caesarea until his death two years later. Both Felix and Festus are well attested in writings outside the Bible.
Almost immediately, Festus dealt with the two-year custody of Paul, ordering him to answer the charges against him.
Paul answered: “I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!”
After Festus had conferred with his council, he declared: “You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!” (Acts 25:10-12)