With Contributions from Cayce Talbott and David Duncan.
It’s taught and believed by many Christians that God struck a couple named Ananias and Sapphira dead because they lied to God about a piece of land that they gave to the Church, even though they were “assumed” followers of Jesus Christ. Many preachers use this example in the book of Acts to demonstrate God’s wrath and punishment towards those Christians who commit sins so they can scare the Church into living a sinless lifestyle. But the truth is that this story has been misunderstood and taught wrong by the Church for many years.
Let’s examine what the Bible says about it and see what really happened…. (Look at Acts 5:1-10)
FIRST… Notice that the Bible NEVER says that Ananias and Sapphira were ever BORN AGAIN. As a matter of fact, there is strong evidence to show that they were not saved since they tried to trick the Church and Peter the apostle, as well as lying to the Holy Spirit about giving a certain amount of money to the Church, when in fact they did not. It would even appear that the two of them concocted this lie together in advance before submitting their so called gift to the Church in order to get their stories straight…. The truth is that they were not required to give anything to the Church, but for whatever reason, seemingly did so to gain a higher status among the Church. Basically, they were trying to BUY their way into the Kingdom of God.
Here’s another piece of evidence to show that they were not really followers of Jesus… If you’ll notice that in all the New Testament epistles from the book of Acts to Revelation, whenever the Bible mentions the name of a follower of Jesus for the first time, it ALWAYS calls them by a title to identify them as part of the Church; such as, apostle, deacon, brother, sister, the righteous, follower of Christ, or Saint…. And we can see that when it talks about Ananias and Sapphira, that the Bible gives them NO title, and makes NO reference to them as being followers of Jesus Christ, or part of His Church. It only says that they GAVE money to the Church, or even mingled together with the Church.
Now remember in Matthew 13:24-30 that Jesus warned us about TARES (unbelievers) mingling with the WHEAT (believers), and how the Tares would take on the appearance of the Wheat until they were gathered up at the end and then separated by God, Himself as He cast the Tares into the fire (Hell), and put the Wheat into HIS barns (Heaven) …. So it is very doubtful that Ananias and Sapphira were truly born again, but actually only pretending to be to as a way to secretly slip into the Kingdom of God with those who were truly saved without God being able to notice them. But nothing escapes they eyes of God.
SECOND… The Bible does NOT say that it was God (Holy Spirit) that killed them, but ONLY that Peter prophesied their deaths. We have to be careful not to assume and “read into” Scripture what is not actually there. Scripture does NOT say that God struck them dead, but rather, that when they lied to the Holy Spirit that they opened up a door to the devil and were NOT UNDER GOD’S COVENANT PROTECTION because they were not really saved. So it makes much more sense that it was SATAN that jumped in and struck them dead because they gave the appearance of believers, but had no covenant protection. The very fact that Peter said to Ananias that Satan had filled his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit is evidence that this entire event was manufactured by the devil, and Ananias and his wife were his unfortunate pawns by allowing themselves to be led around by him.
“There is no truth in him (Satan). When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
LASTLY… We know that the Bible often uses names, numbers, colors and various objects to show a symbolic representation of a deeper meaning of the Word of God. With that being said, in the Bible, the name “Ananias” in Hebrew actually means “God’s Grace”, while the name “Sapphira” is a reference to a type of polished STONE (or sapphire), which is exactly what it is believed that the TEN COMMANDMENTS were made of. In Exodus, the Bible tells us that when God came onto Mount Sinai to carve His commandments out of stone, that He came as FIRE of a great furnace which caused the mountain top to be blackened and filled with smoke. That’s exactly how the precious stone of Sapphire is made–by intense heat onto rock. To this very day, the mountain top of the actual Mount Sinai in Arabia is still blackened from God’s intense fire from 3,500 years ago when He met Moses there at the top.
“Sapphira” is a type of STONE, and any time you see the word STONE used in the Word, it is a symbolic representation to the LAW, because the TEN COMMANDMENTS of the LAW were carved into STONE… into SAPPHIRE to be exact.
So “Sapphira” represents the LAW, while “Ananias” represents GRACE. The New Testament teaches us that when you mix LAW & GRACE together, you lose them both, resulting in DEATH (the Law being a “ministry of death”). This whole story shows how Ananias and Sapphira were perfect representations of what happens when we start mixing LAW with GRACE. We may take on the appearance at first of being righteous, but when God examines us, He sees the truth and has no choice but to reject us, and the end result is that of one which leads to DEATH, just like Ananias and Sapphira, since they both came PRETENDING to be Christians, and DIED as the result. MIXING Law and Grace is a toxic combination, and one God NEVER intended! We are now married to Christ (He IS Grace; the New Covenant), and cannot be faithful to Him while still embracing the Old “husband” (the Law).
BOTTOM LINE: God did NOT strike down or punish those of His OWN who were made RIGHTEOUS THROUGH FAITH simply because they sinned. (After all, each one of us today have lied and sinned against God, but He does not strike down His own believing ones.) There was NO Judgment involved on God’s part; but rather just a deception by Satan himself, and by two unsuspecting persons who fell prey to his schemes and allowed the devil to devour them up unto death because they believed a lie rather than believing that all of their dead works of giving came to no avail since it was never done in FAITH, because their faith was never actually directed towards the one true Savior who was waiting redeem them–the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some thoughts I added a few weeks later:
There has been much debate for years about this account of Ananias and Sapphira. Was it God that actually smote them, or did they simply die from heart failure when they knew they had been found out? If God killed them, how does that harmonize with God’s punishment not coming on His covenant CHILDREN? We have to ask, were they born-again believers, or were they some of the “tares” that Jesus spoke of (Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43)? Not everyone who was “part” of the early Church was a true born-again believer.
FIRST, this does appear to be a direct judgment of God upon them, BUT as NON-believers who were not in covenant with God and therefore not under His protection. They did not just die of natural causes, as that is very clear. Some might think they died from fear if they look at the death of Ananias only, but when Sapphira came in, Peter pronounced God’s judgment upon her. Also, the reaction of everyone who heard of this would lead us to believe this was a direct act of God. The people greatly feared God as a result of this (Acts 5:11).
NEXT, given this action of judgment, we further have to ask, how can we reconcile God bringing such punishment on HIS OWN CHILDREN who have already had their sins paid for in full? No one argues that God deals with sin in the lives of believers (Hebrews 12:5-8), but His chastisement is always corrective, NOT punitive. So…what happened here?
Therefore it is most likely that Ananias and Sapphira were NOT truly born again (therefore not in covenant with God, and had God’s judgment still on them. (Look at John 3:18 – “He who believes in Him is NOT CONDEMNED; but he who does NOT BELIEVE is CONDEMNED ALREADY, because he has NOT BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”) Jesus taught in the parable of the tares that some of Satan’s children were mixed among His true believers. If that were the case, then God’s wrath falling on Ananias and Sapphira would be no different than Old Testament examples of God’s punishment. They DIDN’T have a covenant with God, so God was completely just in calling their accounts due.
I am so amazed (and have to shake my head) when I hear that believers think God would KILL His own children (true believers) for lying, greed, deception, etc. After all, there are Christians today who lie (both to God and man) and cheat, and we don’t see them falling over dead. Haven’t we all at one time or another lied to God? He did not strike US dead, did He? He does not kill believers or even unbelievers…SATAN is the one who kills, steals, and destroys…God gives LIFE. Even when we sin against Him, He does not hold our sins against us (that’s Scripture), but Satan WILL. The cross of Jesus was the Great Divide of all time, and changed everything in how God relates to man–believer and unbeliever alike. Not only does God NO LONGER impute our sins to us, but He REMOVES and FORGETS them. To say otherwise, is to call Him a liar. He is NOT the killer, Satan is, yet sadly, we all too often blame God for what the enemy does.
As to those who argue about the “fear coming upon the church and ALL who heard about the events”… Consider this: First of all, it wasn’t just believers that were in fear, but also ALL who heard about it. Secondly, I think it IS reasonable that the church was in fear, because since Ananias and his wife had INFILTRATED the church masquerading as believers, I think they had many fooled into thinking they were just that–believers, yet they weren’t. So now they both drop dead, and many in the church have been led to believe they are born again believers and see what’s just happened to them….if I were back then myself, I would’ve been afraid, too, since I would’ve thought they were believers, as well.
David Duncan gives some great added info as to the timing:
When Ananias and Sapphira died, that was the period of time between the cross and the destruction of the temple [between AD 30 and AD 70]. It was a time period called “covenant transition” [between ‘this age’–the Mosaic Covenant age, and ‘the age to come’–the New Covenant age that we are in right now]. The New Covenant had been established but the law covenant was still active, though it was “fading away” as Paul tells his readers. Wrath is tied to the law, so Ananias and Sapphira, as unbelievers coming into the church (seems it was a scam of sorts), suffered the wrath of God, immediate judgment. I know they were unbelievers because the book of Acts calls Ananias ‘a certain man’. If he was a believer, it would have called him ‘a certain disciple.’ If they were believers, they would not have died. Plus it tells us that Satan filled their heart. Satan does not fill the heart of a believer, in my opinion.”