Throughout the Gospels, the contrast between the “Kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of man” can be seen in the teachings of Jesus. In the kingdom of man, the main authorities during the life of Jesus were Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilatus, Herod Antipas, and Joseph Caiaphas. Although they exercised control over the economy, military, civil law, and the religious establishment, their power faded and their influence was only temporary. Following the life of Jesus, these major leaders in Judaea Province and the Roman Empire remained for a short time as the Church was established and grew, but the Kingdom of God ultimately outlasted all of these figures and their impact on the world. Tiberius, the emperor of Rome, continued to rule for another 4 years. Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judaea, stayed in power for about 3 more years. Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, retained his position for 6 years. Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest, remained in his position until a replacement was mandated 3 years later. These leaders who had been so powerful and influential in the past, opposing the Kingdom of God, witnessed or heard about the founding of the Church in the next few years, but then faded into history due to exile, death, and disgrace.
Emperor Tiberius, who ruled until 37 AD, was an old man of about 74 when the Church began meeting in Jerusalem (Luke 3:1; Acts 1:12-15). By this time, Tiberius had almost completely withdrawn from Roman politics, had become paranoid, and probably knew little if anything about the emergence of the Church (Suetonius, Tiberius). When Tiberius died as a result of Caligula smothering him, many of the Romans rejoiced, the Senate refused to deify him, and his ashes were placed in the Mausoleum of Augustus (Suetonius, Tiberius; Tacitus, Annals, Cassius Dio, Roman History; Josephus, Antiquities). Although he had been the most powerful person in the world, Tiberius was disdained by many of the elites, and his death was welcomed by the leaders of Rome. Tiberius was soon remembered only as a former emperor who had not lived up to expectations or carried out his duties in his final years.
Herod Antipas, the tetrarch, returned to Galilee where he continued to enjoy his wealth and power for a few more years (Matthew 14:1; Luke 3:1). However, in 39 AD Antipas was banished by Emperor Caligula after Herod Agrippa I had brought charges before the emperor that Antipas was conspiring against Caligula with Artabanus of Parthia (Josephus, Antiquities). Antipas was sent to Lugdunum Covenarum in the province of Hispania Tarraconensis, along with his wife Herodias. Antipas died in exile, although nothing else is known about the end of his life.
Joseph Caiaphas, the acting high priest of Judaism in Jerusalem during the trial of Jesus, held the honored position until 36 AD when Vitellius the legate of Syria Province replaced him with Jonathan Ananus (Matthew 26:3; Luke 3:2; John 11:49; Josephus, Antiquities). Little is known of Caiaphas after his time as high priest, although he lived on and retained a measure of power and influence for at least another year when he and the other leaders of Judaism were opposing and persecuting the Church (Acts 4:6). Caiaphas apparently died in Jerusalem prior to the revolt against the Romans which began in 66 AD, since his inscribed ossuary was found in a tomb outside the city walls, and some of the bones found in the ossuary were those of a 60 year old man (Greenhut, “Caiaphas Tomb”). While Caiaphas attempted to destroy the Church, he witnessed his failure in the years after Jesus, as the Church grew and expanded far beyond Jerusalem.
Pontius Pilatus was plagued with riots and uprisings during his tenure as prefect due to the clash between Roman and Judean ideology. Eventually, one of those insurrections and his response to it ended his time as governor of the province. Three years after the trial of Jesus, the last recorded conflict resulted in Pilate being recalled to Rome in 36 AD. A Samaritan Messiah claimant had led his followers to Mount Gerizim, promising to show them sacred vessels hidden by Moses on the mountain, but with military force Pilate stopped this rebel group (Josephus, Antiquities). As the battle resulted in many Samaritan deaths, the Samaritan leadership sent complaints to the legate of Syria, who ordered Pilate to go to Rome to answer these accusations before the Emperor. While Pilate was on his way to Rome, Emperor Tiberius died, and it seems Pilate was cleared of the charges by Caligula, who probably could not be bothered with trivial complaints from provincial inhabitants (Maier, “The Fate of Pontius Pilate”; Suetonius, Gaius Caligula). After returning to Italy and apparently leaving public service, Pilate and his wife Procula probably went home to the village of Bisenti. Although a 4th century source claims that Pilate was exiled to Gaul and eventually committed suicide in Vienne because of his depression, earlier accounts suggest a different fate for Pilate (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiae, 2.7; cf. Orosius, Historiarum Adversus Paganos). According to 2nd and 3rd century material, Pilate suffered no consequences, and in fact both he and his wife became Christians (Celsus, The True Word; Tertullian, Apology; Origen, Homilies on Matthew). Pilate may have been the only leader in the “kingdom of men” who did not end his life in shame, and the only leader who became a Christian.