Who Killed Ananias and Sapphira?
Ananias and Sapphira are often referred to as evidence that God actually kills people directly. But did God actually kill them? It is a serious thing to falsely charge someone with taking the life of another. Let’s take a look – a careful look – at the account and consider the possibilities:
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” (Acts 5:1-11)
The setting was that of the early church soon after Pentecost when many people were joining. Some were suffering economically because of their commitment to truth. Others were being very generous with their means to help those in need to the point that they considered their property to be possessions of the entire church (Acts 4:32). Evidently, Ananias and Sapphira had sold a piece of property for a certain sum and agreed between them to say they had sold it for a lesser sum while keeping the difference for their own use. However, they pledged an amount representing it as the total sale price of the property. They could have just given a portion (“after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” v4) – they were free to pledge whatever portion they wanted. Perhaps they wanted to look good in the eyes of the church by appearing so generous. Scripture, in the verses just before, held up, as an example, the generosity of another individual in a similar circumstance:
“And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36-37)
Likely, Ananias and Sapphira’s decision would have (it certainly should have) troubled their consciences but they went ahead with the deception anyway.
When Ananias brought the money to the apostles, Peter confronted him about the deception and Ananias immediately dropped dead. It looks like very swift and well-deserved justice and that is how it is usually explained and understood.
But let’s first examine the facts about the incident – what we know and don’t know:
- Satan had filled Ananias’ heart.
- We don’t know how Peter knew their secret.
- Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit.
- It doesn’t specify who, if anyone, killed Ananias or Sapphira.
- It doesn’t state the cause of death except to say that they “gave up the ghost.”
- There is no indication that Peter knew what would happen to Ananias or that Peter condemned Ananias to a particular fate.
- Peter (or scripture) never said God would kill Ananias or made Him responsible in any way.
- Ananias and Sapphira had failed to follow through on fulfilling their vow or promise to pay what they had pledged as scripture says they should have done ( Deut 23:21-23).
On top of all of that, remember that Satan is actively looking for opportunities to destroy, discredit the church and malign God’s character:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Pet 5:8)
Ananias and Sapphira – Giving Up the Ghost
The term “gave up the ghost” is interesting. It is used 10 times in scripture (KJV) and 18 times when variations such as “yielded up the ghost” or “giveth up the ghost are included. With a few notable exceptions, the deaths were not violent deaths at the hands of others inflicting death. Those exceptions are Herod, Jesus and Ananias and Sapphira. We might learn something by taking a look at what “giving up the ghost” means.
The case of King Herod (Acts 12:21-23) is dealt with here. Properly understood, he did not die as a direct result of an angelic blow. Scripture does not say how long after “the angel of the Lord smote him” he died and, in fact, history records that he died several days later.
In the case of Jesus, who killed Him? Notice the same wording used in this verse:
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46)
“Gave up” (here and in the cases of Ananias and Sapphira and Herod) in the Greek is in the active voice which represents the subject as the doer or performer of the action. Jesus had said:
“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17-18)
Both Jesus and Ananias and Sapphira yielded/gave up the ghost. They did it; it was not done to them.
What would cause Ananias to essentially give up his life? Note that Satan had filled his heart (or mind)” which is very much like:
“And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him;” (John 13:2)
Not only was Ananias’ mind determined to do wrong, to lie but it was “filled” by Satan. When his sin was exposed, the revelation of what He had done in contrast to the giving spirit of the other disciples and the guilt of allowing his mind to be filled by Satan was overwhelming. The feelings of guilt and shame in the presence of the leadership of the church and in his situation could have essentially caused him to give up on life. Perhaps something like a heart attack was involved and, in fact, there is a condition known popularly as broken-heart syndrome and medically as stress-induced cardiomyopathy:
“Stress cardiomyopathy is now a well-recognized cause of acute heart failure.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takotsubo_cardiomyopathy, accessed 170528)
Here is a description of broken heart syndrome from the famed Mayo clinic:
“Broken heart syndrome is often preceded by an intense physical or emotional event. Some potential triggers of broken heart syndrome are … News of an unexpected death of a loved one … Losing — or even winning — a lot of money” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/broken-heart-syndrome/symptoms-causes/dxc-20264170, accessed 170528)
This University of Iowa source gives a little more detail:
“Severe physical and emotional stressors—the death of a loved one, a catastrophic event, financial loss, a serious medical condition, a car accident, or an emotional memory or anniversary—have been well known to cause transient heart stunning. The connection between emotion and cardiac death has long been documented in the medical literature, and there have been many reports of seemingly healthy people who have dropped and even died during a natural disaster or traumatic event.” (https://uihc.org/health-library/ask-expert-what-broken-heart-syndrome, accessed 170528)
Why would anyone blame God for the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira when there is no actual evidence He did it and there is another, perfectly-logical explanation? We need to be careful what we charge God with.
If God Killed Ananias and Sapphira, We Have a Problem
If God personally and directly took Ananias’ life, we have another problem. Think of Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery. What was His reaction? How did He treat her?
“… he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11)
There was complete forgiveness there. We need to judge God and His actions – what we attribute to Him or not – by His character and not the other way around. The greatest revelation of His character and what we need to focus on and even sometimes interpret scripture by is the example of His Son who came for a specific reason:
“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
Jesus stated that He came to help us know what the Father is like. Jesus’ statements that His character was a reflection of His Father’s character and the character Jesus showed as recorded in the gospels must outweigh (or at least make suspect) the description of a single incident where we think God executed justice by killing someone. That is especially true when the account does not even directly say that. We need to carefully examine the scriptural account and go by the weight of evidence. Anyone who will not do that “can’t see the forest for the trees” as the expression goes.
So let’s see if there might be evidence that God was not responsible for killing Ananias and Sapphira. We have already seen the possibility that the trauma of having their sin exposed may have led to the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira. Ultimately, they were to blame. But was anyone else responsible to any degree?
Ananias and Sapphira – Was Peter Acting Correctly?
Why did Peter act so differently than the example of Jesus? We tend to automatically think that Peter was in the right here and he was acting as God’s representative. Perhaps that is because Ananias and Sapphira were so wrong or because Peter was an apostle. But let’s ask some questions about Peter’s actions:
- Did Peter have a record of speaking or acting impulsively and not considering the effect of his actions? Yes, and here are a few examples:
“Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matt 16:22-23)
“Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. … Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.” (Matt 26:33-34,74)
“Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:10-11)
- Did Peter act blamelessly in all situations? No, Paul had to rebuke him openly for his attitude towards the Gentiles:
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (Gal 2:11)
- Did Peter act as an accuser of the brethren, in this case?
Peter openly exposed and accused Ananias before the apostles (“laid it at the apostles’ feet” – Acts 5:2) Jesus, when he replied to those who brought the woman caught in adultery did not openly expose them (John 8:8-9). He did the same in the case of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:40-43) and probably others.
- Did Peter even try to cast out Satan? Peter perceived that Ananias was very much under the influence of Satan (Acts 5:3) yet he did not follow the injunction to cast out demons:”Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:8)
- Did Peter follow the advice of how to deal with a man overtaken in a fault?
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal 6:1)
Granted, that was written by Paul later but the principle should have been followed in the church before that. Peter did not have a record of acting in the spirit of meekness.
Matthew 18:15-17 gives the instructions to first deal privately with one caught in a trespass, then to involve other witnesses if the private correction is not received and only as a last resort to make a public confrontation if the person remains unrepentant. And even then, the worst punishment was to be excommunication, not execution.
- Did Peter urge Ananias to repent?
In the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba, having her husband killed and trying to cover up the whole affair he was finally brought face to face with what he had done. But it was all done in a very non-condemning way – considering the circumstances – by Nathan telling a story which prompted David (who did not realize that the story was to illustrate his past own actions) to condemn himself:
“… As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:” (2 Sam 12:5)
David’s reaction to “being caught” was repentance and turning to the Lord. It is interesting that David apparently had a high enough regard for Nathan the prophet to later name one of his sons Nathan:
“And these be the names of those that were born unto him in Jerusalem; Shammua, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon,” (2 Sam 5:14)
In contrast to Nathan’s approach, Peter was very forceful in his dealing with Ananias, accusing him directly of lying to God. His actions do not seem to be in accord the will of God:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
It is interesting that Peter wrote that verse. Perhaps, by later in his life, he had learned the importance of giving opportunity for and urging repentance.
- What was the result of Peter’s action?
The immediate effect was to produce a spirit of fear:
“And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” (Acts 5:11)
This is not the sort of attitude towards His newly-founded church that God would want to produce:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7)
God does not favor the use of fear (in the sense of being afraid) to control the actions of people and would far rather have people give willingly and cheerfully (not fearfully) with no coercion:
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7)
- Did Peter Say God Killed Them?
One point to Peter’s credit was that he (or the commentary in the book of Acts) never attributed the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira to God; Peter never threatened to kill them or suggested that God or angels would. On the contrary, Peter stated shortly after this incident that healing was from God and that sickness and oppression were from the devil:
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)
Insights from Other Cases
Simon the Sorcerer
This is a very interesting incident involving Peter and from just a short time after the story of Ananias and Sapphira:
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” (Acts 8:18-24)
The story was similar in that an individual had a financial temptation and wrong motives. Peter’s reaction was somewhat similar and he actually went further than when he confronted Ananias in that he said to Simon “thy money perish with thee” suggesting he might have expected a similar fate for Simon as that which happened to Ananias. At least Peter here urged repentance. The difference was in the reaction of Simon compared to Ananias. Simon repented and asked for prayer and he may have reacted differently because of his different perception of the love and forgiveness of God. Or, he may have heard of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.
Paul’s Reaction When He was Smitten
Paul, then called Saul, was also “smitten” (in quite dramatic fashion) to get his attention:
“And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:1-5)
“The pricks,” in other translations, are rendered as “goads” and refer to cattle prods. It is here used in reference to the calling of Paul’s conscience to convict him that the direction he had taken against the church was wrong. Later, Paul was relating his experience to king Agrippa and said:
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:” (Acts 26:19)
Saul could have reacted like Ananias, instead he repented, followed God’s instructions and became Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles.
What About the Sin Against the Holy Spirit?
Didn’t Ananias lie to the Holy Spirit? Isn’t that the unforgiveable sin and therefore worthy to be punishable by death?
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven (apheimi) unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven (apheimi) unto men.” (Matt 12:31)
If one keeps ignoring the Holy Ghost, the voice of God calling for repentance, it will eventually be silenced or, better, not recognized. A person thus cannot receive forgiveness. It is important to know that the word “forgiven” is from the Greek word “apheimi” and is referring to forgiveness being received, not to forgiveness being granted. (Download a PDF file of an e-book looking at this in detail.) God, from His side of the two-part forgiveness transaction, always grants forgiveness.
Ananias and Sapphira – Can’t Accept It?
I recognize that some people will not accept the explanation given above. It may come down to how we want to see God. Some might actually want Him to execute swift vengeance and, in some cases, that may be something they desire to see for someone else in their lives.
Some will not take the time to look into this in so much detail but will just say “But it plainly says God killed him.” Well, no, it does not say that – just read it. We must compare to the wider picture and ask questions like:
- Can you see Jesus doing that?
- How does this fit the overall message of scripture?
- Did Peter’s actions represent God’s character?
- What was the state of Ananias’ mind?
- Is there a reasonably-plausible natural cause of death?
- Does the Bible actually say who killed them?
It is a serious thing to charge someone with killing another. We should be careful about so charging God without direct evidence.
You can watch the video version on this page here:
June 10, 2017 @ 1:17 pm
Your insights here are compelling! Thanks for such excellent food for thought!
September 3, 2019 @ 5:56 pm
I don’t believe it was Peter or God that killed them. I believe because they lied to the Holy Ghost and their hearts were filled by Satan (sin) that gave Satan entrance to kill and destroy them. It says in scripture that the enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. It also says Satan seeks whom he can devour. They died by the sin (greed) that was in their hearts and gave up the ghost. In other Words, God’s hedge of protection was no longer surrounding them due to their sin and rebellion and it gave the enemy entrance to kill and destroy them.
June 12, 2017 @ 12:02 pm
Thank you Ray for another example of what a great and loving Father we have.
June 17, 2017 @ 1:49 pm
Good article, Ray. I have never considered if Peter was acting in righteousness or not. Perhaps not. However, there is the part where it appears as though revelation came to Peter that Sapphira would suffer the same fate, when she came in three hours later with the same story. Would the Holy Ghost participate in unrighteous behaviour that, as you point out, would tend to obtain a spirit of fear in the early church? Or was Peter just running to conclusions based upon what he just saw and making an educated guess? Interesting problem.
I am of the opinion that Satan had much to do with this, not just in tempting them to sin and entering into their heart, but in physically striking them. I get the principle from this statement:
“Satan has control of all whom God does not especially guard. He will favor and prosper some, in order to further his own designs; and he will bring trouble upon others and lead men to believe that it is God who is afflicting them” (GC 589.2).
July 2, 2017 @ 7:30 am
How did Peter know, before the fact, that Sapphira would suffer the same fate as her husband in this tragic event? Perhaps God or an angel revealed it to him. Many jump to the conclusion that this constitutes evidence that God killed them both. But is it possible that we have confused God’s foreknowledge with His active participation in this incident? Many times God gets blamed for facts that He knows (foreknowledge) but in which He had no involvement.
Another incident that comes to mind is that of Jacob and Rachel deceiving Esau out of his inheritance. God knew before the fact that Jacob would steal this from Esau but had no participation in it, as Rachel so fervently believed. Just because God knows something will happen does not mean that He participated in it. We should always look to Jesus and the broad range of Scripture’s teaching on a subject before arriving at a conclusion.
Good job, Ray and Kevin!
L. D. McCartney
June 20, 2017 @ 6:12 am
You said; “It may come down to how we want to see God.” This appears to be your central guiding hermeneutic. But how is this any more credible than those who want to see God in a different way?
Your algorithm of thought seems to begin with a refusal to see God as someone who would kill anyone. Therefore, any Bible story which seems to violate your wishes is somehow explained away. Yet, truth must stand independent of our wishes. We should be very careful regarding this. Also, we should avoid simplistic dichotomies and inappropriate assertions of general rules in places where subtleties and nuances might better explain things that are difficult to understand.
Instead of starting with the issue of death, maybe we could gain insight by evaluating the concept of fear. Do you believe that God has been directly responsible for the use of fear to further His agenda, in the Old Testament, the New Testament or both? And if so, what was, or is, God’s rationale? Deuteronomy 19:20 gives us an important clue: “And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.” It would appear that God’s use of fearsome things, including notable cases of death, however infrequent they may be, has the purpose of protecting others from making choices which would be harmful to themselves, to others and/or disastrous for God’s agenda of salvation for mankind.
“God is love” does not mean that God is a Santa Clause or a Genie in a bottle. It does not mean that God refuses to take personal responsibility for ending the life of an evildoer, at a time which only He can see as most appropriate. When thinking about difficult areas of the Bible, like the story mentioned, instead of trying to impose our perspectives and wishes upon God, it might be more helpful to attempt to gain an understanding of God’s perspective. Why did He allow Peter and Jude to include references to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the New Testament? Perhaps the answer is in verses 22-23 of Jude: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others SAVE WITH FEAR, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”
It would appear that in God’s agenda, fear has a role to play. Even the loving, meek and mild Jesus spoke many fearful things regarding hell. Perhaps instead of trying to mold these things to our will, we should learn to understand them in the context of God’s will and agenda. I suggest that fearful things have been “set forth for an example” (Jude 7) for hard-hearted people whom the message of love cannot reach (yet). Isn’t it amazing that God would use diverse methods in attempts to reach all different peoples? Let’s avoid subverting His designs by imposing our own myopic wishful perspectives. Wisdom is often guided by balance yet balance seems to be the hardest thing to achieve sometimes.
August 9, 2017 @ 7:30 am
The central truth I use as a guide is that God is love. Somehow, the threat of God killing me if I don’t line up (whatever that means) doesn’t do much to promote my love for Him. The concept of fear is certainly one that needs to be considered and I will. However, in the end, true agape love will always be a more powerful motivator.
In this study, I have attempted to simply examine the facts of the case. I don’t believe I have imposed my own preferred paradigm.
May 12, 2018 @ 6:12 am
Ray’s note: I have responded within the following comment – my responses are in bold.
Yes Ray!!! God is love but He is also Just. Please read (1 Samuel 15). (Vanessa, please read the gospels and think about the life of Jesus who came to show us what the Father is like. Incidents such as 1 Samuel 15 will be addressed as I get to them – or others have explained them.) Also, what Jesus did for all of us should be more than enough to promote our love for God not a self promotion as if we don’t love God It will stop God from being God.
Ironically, for you Ray while trying to establish that a loving God is a threat to your well-being if you do not line-up. (Don’t know how you get that – I promote the exact opposite. God does not threaten us like He will harm us. Rather, He warns about the dangers of sin. See this page on my site with over 20 passages supporting that.) You manage to refer to yourself five time just like satan did when he was saying what he was going to do to overthrow God from being God.
Ray’s note: below each of the two lists of five items below I have inserted the paragraphs Vanessa referred to and have italicized the five terms she referred to.
PULLED FROM YOUR REPLY FIRST PARAGRAPH:
(1) 1 use
(3) I don’t
(4) my love
(5) I will
The central truth I use as a guide is that God is love. Somehow, the threat of God killing me if I don’t line up (whatever that means) doesn’t do much to promote my love for Him. The concept of fear is certainly one that needs to be considered and I will. However, in the end, true agape love will always be a more powerful motivator.
(1) I have
(3) I don’t
(4) I have
(5) My own
In this study, I have attempted to simply examine the facts of the case. I don’t believe I have imposed my own preferred paradigm.
Ray: what are the chances that in both paragraph in attempting to prove “your point” you had manage to respond by addressing yourself in the similar five ways as did satan in Isaiah 14:13-14. “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Wow, that is some stretch you make to compare what I wrote to what Satan said! I don’t believe I was attempting to exalt myself at all. I was attempting to exonerate God of false charges made against Him. I will not comment further on your charge – any readers can compare for themselves. I don’t want to take part in anything that could be seen as being an “accuser of the brethren” (Rev 12:10). In fact, if you examine my site carefully, I doubt you will find any obvious examples of that and, if you do, please let me know.
Iniquity was found in satan which is “pride” – five letter with “I” being the middle letter. Satan’s response to Eve was also a five word response “Ye shall not surely die.” We must be very careful of our motives when we are trying to prove/disprove something from the word of God. Agreed Dear Ray, please consider the following questions: Did your examination fulfill the great commission? What soul did you win to Jesus by doing it? Eternity will answer those two questions. Do you believe that Angels in heaven are rejoicing? Let’s us stop blindly believing that we know God’s thought and remember that His ways and thoughts or higher than our own. I have a study in the works which will be titled something like My Ways are Higher Than Your Ways – watch for it. May God help us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling; so that one day “whosoever believeth shall have everlasting life” (John 3:16) and hear these words from Jesus our saviour “Well done thou good and faithful servant”(Matthew 25:21). In Jesus Name Amen. I can add my “Amen” to the last part of your comment.
May 27, 2018 @ 7:44 am
Reading through some of the comments – my heart goes out to you. Knowing that you are putting forth a blessed work to show the TRUE character of God, yet hearts are stone cold and cry for MORE blood as many refuse to take the bible as a whole and dig deeply for the treasures of truth. We know that the Lord does not kill ANYONE. Surface readers can find 155 references in the Old Testament and point and exclaim with joy “LOOK HERE!, God killed all these!” Daily, Christ is pierced and is suffering with the hatred humanity has towards Him. Those today who continue to believe that God kills does not understand the cross. Bless you in your work Ray, there are many who have come out of the darkness and are moving forth in Great light with you. As the world rejected Jesus and sought it best to crucify him, we can expect no better. Blessings dear brother 🙂
May 15, 2018 @ 8:22 am
In Him we move…we have our being in Him. Seems to me nothing happens without God. Our days are numbered. No one goes home unless it is His time. Mene mene. His time, His timing.
May 16, 2018 @ 7:29 am
We need to be careful about putting too much on God as though He predetermines our destiny or controls everything. He is the Great Source of everything of course, but He has also given mankind complete free will. Most often, we, through our own (often foolish) actions, determine our “time.” The law of sowing and reaping is a principle of heaven.
May 8, 2019 @ 10:49 pm
In reading Ray’s article I didn’t perceive that Ray was imposing his own will as in L.D. McCartney’s “it may come down to how we want to see God” comment (June 20, 2017). Enlightening article to a difficult passage of scripture to interpret.
July 2, 2017 @ 7:26 pm
Many good points. I would add that the need to call in God denies Peter spiritual power that Jesus allows him in Matthew 16 and he demonstrates by performing miracles of healing during his time as leader of the Jerusalem church. The power to heal is the power to do harm, as all physicians know. It is absurd to think that God strikes down disciples for fudging on their tithes … Jesus was never about money.
I think your number 5 is very telling. It is interesting to note that following Jesus teaching on correct procedure in Mathew 18 there comes the parable of the unforgiving servant, which is introduced thusly: “Then Peter came up and said to him …” So this is a continuation of the same conversation about church discipline, of which the basis is to be: forgive seventy times seven times. The parable, which is spoken directly to Peter, maps rather easily onto the situation in Acts 5: “… When that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe!’” A hundred denarii cash money!! And his master judged him “You wicked servant!”
It is totally astonishing that nobody from the Church Fathers on has been willing to examine Peter’s conduct.
July 2, 2017 @ 9:27 pm
Yes, interesting that Peter was so involved in that discussion in Matthew 18. He should have understood about forgiveness. When the original words are correctly understood it is apparent that God, from His heart, forgives every sin. The question is: do we receive that forgiveness or not?
July 3, 2017 @ 2:47 pm
Good question yes, and not so much about Peter … he received Jesus’ forgiveness in the episode described in John 23 … as everybody since Origen, all complicit in the coverup. Slander God to defend Peter? Doesn’t make sense to me.
February 7, 2018 @ 9:46 pm
It appears that Ananias and his wife were into “playing” church. God had enough of it and wanted to make them an example. We fall into similar traps by not enough self examination, reviewing our motives before we act.
February 15, 2018 @ 3:53 pm
Yes indeed, they seemed to be playing church. But did God really make an example of them? Did God kill them for lying? If we are doing the same then shouldn’t God be justly killing us as well? If you are charging God with killing in this example you had better have more evidence than what the word reveals.
March 7, 2018 @ 4:34 am
Not only is the word of God made plain, but the Spirit of Prophecy reafirms that they both met the swift Righteous judgement of God. This the Lord did in order to preserve the church from being demoralize. We should be very careful not to judge by our own feelings less we find ourselves falling on the seducing side of Satan’s false interpretation. This article was not moved by the Spirit of God, but demonic forces twisting the word of God in order to bring even more confusion that already exists in the world.
March 7, 2018 @ 8:53 am
Thank you for your comment. I don’t believe my article twists the word of God at all. Which verse is twisted? The confusion exists because people think that God is a killer as is commonly promoted in Christianity. That, to me, would be demoralizing.
April 18, 2018 @ 9:55 pm
It is quite the opposite here … when the passage is twisted to assume that God killed them, that serves as a stumbling block to others by misrepresenting God and pushing them away from accepting Him.
Thank you Ray for diligently seeking the truth here.
March 20, 2018 @ 11:02 am
Was wondering why this account happened just when the church was established, which is based on the finished work of Christ. Why would God want to strike them down – it did not make sense. Thank you so much for this article!
April 10, 2018 @ 8:44 am
I infer death here to mean a separation from God, a literal giving up on listening to the Holy Spirit, essentially becoming something contrary to what God intended us to be. We see this in Paul’s life before his experience in Acts 9. There he encounters a man named Ananias, who, though he knows what Paul has been and done, heals Paul. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that the two mentions of men named Ananias both occur in the same book of the Bible, only four chapters apart. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that the man who would heal Paul and welcome him to the faith is someone who himself would have needed healing in his faith. But maybe, just maybe, God is willing to make use of all of us, even those of us who are broken, who have sinned against him, and who earnestly desire to repent of our evil selves.
April 28, 2018 @ 12:23 pm
Isn’t it entirely possible that Peter killed them both?
April 29, 2018 @ 9:10 pm
It is always worthwhile to consider all the options. That Peter would have killed Ananias and Sapphira seems rather unlikely to me:
• There is nothing in the account to suggest he did just as there is no suggestion or evidence that God killed them. Any fair system of law requires evidence before laying charges.
• Peter had previously been reprimanded for using violence when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant (John 18:10).
• Ananias is described as falling down dead in reaction to understanding that his deception was known (Acts 5:5).
• Peter would have been subject to investigation by Roman authorities for an action that Rome did not allow.
May 12, 2018 @ 6:25 am
Let’s prayerfully hope that your motivation for examining the biblical account of Ananias and Sapphira was God-birth; otherwise you will be responsible for any souls you led astray by your examination of this story.
May 12, 2018 @ 8:48 pm
Vanessa, if you see anything incorrect in my examination of the account of Ananias and Sapphira – the verses I have quoted or the reasoning used – please let me know.
May 12, 2018 @ 1:02 pm
In pretending that they had given all, Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit, and, as a result, they lost this life and the life that is to come. AA, p. 75.
I will tell you what I believe God showed to me in vision concerning what killed Ananias and Sapphira. I was shown that by lying to the Holy Spirit, Ananias and Sapphira so thoroughly separated themselves from the only Spirit that sustains every atom of all life, that they perished. In other words, God so thoroughly recoiled from their sin, that His life-sustaining Spirit presence was totally withdrawn, and they perished. This demonstrated the repugnance with which God regarded that particular sin at that specific time.
May 12, 2018 @ 8:57 pm
That is a scary God you are describing – He kills people for lying! Seems to me that wouldn’t attract many non-believers to follow Him. The important thing is not what we think has been revealed to us but what the Word actually says. There is no evidence there to pin the guilt on God.
They lost their lives as a result of their deception, yes, but isn’t it possible (as pointed out in the article) that they were overwhelmed by their guilt as opposed to God directly killing them? It can’t be ruled out.
Brian at coopers.
June 23, 2018 @ 1:43 am
The moral of the story is simple, despite whatever angle you take on the event, and that is, keep a clean and honest walk with Jesus, and don’t take Him for granted. Amen!
June 24, 2018 @ 7:33 am
Wow! The true Nature of God. Heb 1:3 – whatever you believe about God and cannot find in the life of Jesus you will have to rethink – Bill… The new covenant from God (Heb 8 and 10) is also with Ananias. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) There is more than just an empty page between the old covenant (old testament) and the new testament. If God killed Ananias He will have to send His Son again to die for that sin. IT IS FINISHED!! Now we are under grace that teaches us godliness (Tit 2:11-12)
Robert A REISWIG
June 29, 2018 @ 6:58 pm
It is so comforting that Christ forgave the paralytic lowered from the roof in spite of the fact that the paralytic did not even ask for forgiveness. Christ forgave others that way as well. But many think that the Father cannot forgive unless there is a blood sacrifice in which case Christ did not give an example of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Zacchaeus was forgiven in spite of many lies and for cheating so why would Christ not have forgiven Ananias and Sapphira when they were confronted and if they owned up to it? There is record in medical histories of many people who have died when they experienced severe stressful news.
July 15, 2018 @ 9:14 am
I love this deep look into the history and meaning behind Acts 5. I do have a question that wasn’t addressed above, however. It has always perplexed me.
Peter seemed to know the condition of Ananias’ heart, or we’re assuming that. Do we think that was divine revelation or just observation of a multitude of transgressions? (That’s not my real question)
When his wife comes in, he seems to know she too, will die. He speaks as someone who has control or foreknowledge of her pending death. In the reality that we are presupposing, where Ananias is killed by guilt/sin/brokenness…it seems like peter (though seemingly acting harshly) could accuse him but not know that he would perish. Additionally, how could he speak directly of his wife’s demise? Would she not have opportunity for repentance?
In considering your answer…
IF these things were revealed to him by Holy Spirit, then wasn’t he acting in accordance with HS in his actions/speech? If, for instance, he was given foresight by HS that Sapphira would die after he brought the charge before her, wouldn’t HS also tell peter to handle this differently if that’s not what he wanted?
So if we conclude it wasn’t knowledge given by the HS, how do we explain Peter’s direct words about Sapphira’s impending death? We cannot say that sinful betrayal and immediate death go hand in hand. On the contrary, that was what Christ preached against.
August 19, 2018 @ 11:12 am
I seem to continually get comments where people are assuming things. We get our best understanding by sticking to just what the Word says, by comparing with other scripture and by using sound Biblical principles as we seek to understand a passage.
Commenting on your questions, Peter seemed to know that Ananias’ offering was not the full sale price of the land and that could have been by divine revelation or some other source. We are not told; we don’t even know if Peter had ever met Ananias before.
Peter’s words to Sapphira might have just been an off-hand remark. He may have seen her as equally guilty and therefore equally likely to have the same reaction. You’re right that Peter may not have known that Ananias would die. It would be an assumption to say that Sapphira (or Ananias) did not have opportunity for repentance. They each “gave up the ghost” Peter did not execute them. They could have repented and confessed had they chosen to do so. We know that Peter did not always act in accordance with Godly methods.
I would say that a Biblical principle is that God is ever merciful (Psa 37:26). Either He is or He isn’t. God does not cut off people’s opportunity to turn to Him. People cut themselves off.
August 4, 2018 @ 10:25 pm
I know God is Love-John 3:16! Saying God is a killer is a harsh statement. God is slow to anger and yet the wrath can come down. Numbers 16:32 when he open the earth and swallowed up some men! Nahum 1:5 God is jealous, not to bow down to no other gods. Look at the story of Job 1:21 the Lord, gave, and the Lord hath taken away. The list goes on. But as to be afraid? Would you want your kids to be scared of you? I know I wouldn’t!! But we should have a godly fear that we wouldn’t want to hurt Christ. Knowing that the Salvation belongs to the Lord. I know I have been bought by his precious blood. And since I don’t own myself I’m trusting Jesus. However he takes me! Rather by the air or the grave! No matter what or how, God is always good. Do I believe God kill them? Hezekiah’s gotten 15 more years added to his life. He had to get right first. Lord told him or he would die. I believe were in the protection hedges. Nothing can get to me unless God allows it to. Just like Ananias, and Sapphire. Being disobedience is always a price. I for one know that. If I don’t surrender my life back to God. I don’t know how long suffering he’ll be with me. If anyone sees this?! Please I’m begging you say a prayer for me! I know Christ has been waiting for me. Just I need the strength! I’ve been letting the cares of this ole life bring me down. I can try to give you an excuse. But in reality!! There’s none!
Sister in Christ!
August 5, 2018 @ 8:20 am
Thank you Stacy for your comments. I sense a desire on your part to truly trust in God. For each of us that is a growth process. It really helps the process to resolve some of the contradictions. You say you wouldn’t want your kids to be scared of you. Well, neither would God. (2 Tim 1:7) Many people are scared of God because of the things they read in scripture – they do not see God as loving at all. You profess that God is love in spite of seeming to believe that He has killed on occasion. I would encourage you to investigate carefully some of the stories you have mentioned and hope this website will help you with that. A careful reading of the account of Ananias and Sapphira will show that there is really no evidence that God was responsible for their death. When Ananias was confronted with his sin he could have chosen to confess and repent of his sin.
God is seeking to protect each one of us from Satan, the destroyer (https://characterofgod.org/satan-the-destroyer/). But He does respect our free-will choices and when we remove ourselves from His hedge of protection Satan has access to attack us. You are right – there is always a price for disobedience. In a sense, disobedience is simply ignoring God’s warning not to do things that will hurt us or others. He is constantly trying to protect us and bless us; we just so often make it hard for Him to do that.
March 6, 2020 @ 12:19 pm
We can’t ignore the obvious fact that the Holy Spirit told Peter that Ananias and Sapphira were lying. Assuming we can all agree on that then we have to also believe Peter telling Sapphira that the men who carried out her husband’s body were at the door waiting to carry her body out as well means due to her unrepentant heart God had passed judgement on her. Also if they died of natural causes why were all of the other believers all the sudden in great fear? Sometimes we just have to accept that God is sovereign and take the scriptures literally. I believe God took them out of the early Church to establish purity as well as Peter’s authority.
March 6, 2020 @ 1:31 pm
Thank you Marty for your comment. But you immediately have a problem because the scriptures say (literally) that Jesus said:
So it does not make sense to say that “God had passed judgment on her.” You would also have a problem with:
There are many cases where we cannot take the scriptures literally. What we have to do is to take all of scripture and find how it can make sense. The apparent discrepancies can all be resolved with careful study.
Please see the definition of judgment in the glossary.
Hope that helps.
Leang Hak Chou
August 15, 2018 @ 6:23 am
Today is Wednesday August 15, 2018. So I google and struggle to find answers about the couple’s death. And I find none that I can see a good logical point of view. Perhaps I don’ t read much of long confusing explanation.
The writes fail to simplify their explanation. To me, it seems cruel, illogical, and unfair. If the couple were NOT involved in assisting God’s work financially, a little or a lot, they would NOT have died and left behind their children and other loved ones. It’s quite unfair. Since when did the couple have an “absolute obligation” to suffer themselves – to the max – financially and emotionally just so God’s work could go on? This act is more like a robbery – don’t lie to me – give me all or die! What about those who don’t give a penny to the church? What would have happened to them?
This outrageous story is not just sad. It’s outrageous and it is quite contrary to Jesus daily work. Jesus went about and healed the sick and raised the dead. But here a good couple, accused of lying to the Holy Spirit, got killed instantly without a chance to understand their guilt. His wife did NOT lie – she says “yes!, for so much”. Outrageous. For me I would ONLY listen to Jesus’, or any of His angels’, explanation on the matter. People can complicate the problem. If you got a fair point of view please help. I’ll listen.
August 15, 2018 @ 7:52 am
Thank you Leang for your comment. It is a difficult story. And, you’re right, that if God was responsible for their deaths, it would be outrageous and inconsistent with the example of Jesus’ life. Most explanations do not address the inconsistency and are thus confusing. That is why we have to analyze it carefully and not put our own assumptions into the story. I think my article offers a plausible explanation of what may have happened without putting the responsibility on God.
Just a clarification on one point. Sapphira did lie if we understand Peter to have asked her whether they sold the property for the amount Ananias had stated. There is no indication that Peter knew the true sale price and, if he didn’t, he could not have asked her that.
Leang Hak Chou
August 15, 2018 @ 7:22 pm
Thank you, Ray, for additional thought on this controversy. Here at this point I’m still confused when you assure that Sapphira “did actually lie” about the amount of money they made from the sale of their property. I don’t see her frank response that way, however, when she quickly replied; “yea, for so much”. Her reply seemingly was prompt and sincere, honest, and genuine even though this was about her own property and the decision also was hers to make. Apparently the good couple were not at liberty to even keep a portion of their money to comfort their own feeling. Quite puzzling, and I know I can’t never understand the intention or the true meaning of this story in God’s word.
To my mind, she apparently “did not” make an attempt to lie and deny the truth. And the Bible even tells us that Sapphira was not aware of any thing that could go wrong after she made a decision how much she wanted to give and to help God’s work.
Later on she came and joined the group. At that moment I imagine that she approached the apostles with smile on her face and with a happy heart but wondered why her husband was missing for so long. Here at this point and time, my good Lord, she didn’t realize her husband had died 3 hours ago and no one even bothered to tell her that horrible outcome. She too dropped dead seconds later after she heard what Peter had to say about her husband. What a story, really.
I can hardly believe this story is from the word of God, the Bible. And I thirst for the truth why the loving Spirt of forgiveness, God’s true nature, was absent at the time and a vicious spirit was there to kill a good hearted couple? How did the Holy Spirit interpret an act of lie? A lie with evil intention to do evil thing? Or just any lie in any shape or form at all to the Holy Spirit – and you’re dead and hopeless? It’s mind boggling. Shake head in disbelief.
August 16, 2018 @ 5:37 pm
Leang, I’m glad you are still working to understand this story. Peter asked if it was sold for “so much” (it seems he must have named an amount but the exact amount is not relevant to the story and Luke omitted it.) and she said yes. He would have known the amount that was presented as an offering but would not have known the real amount of the sale. If Sapphira’s response was “sincere, honest, and genuine” (I don’t know where you got that from) then Peter was very wrong in saying to her what he did.
The couple was absolutely at liberty to give any amount or none at all. “… God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7). The problem was their deception – presenting their offering as though it was the sale price of the land but keeping some back.
This story can seem out of place in the Bible if we interpret it the wrong way. Be assured, God’s true nature (“He is ever merciful …” -Psa 37:26) was not absent. He forgives every sin. Ananias and Sapphira chose not to accept that forgiveness. I would suggest you request a free copy of the book Light on the Dark Side of God from my website. It will help you to see a beautiful picture of God and His loving forgiveness.
August 18, 2018 @ 12:49 pm
I am wondering how you read and interpret the chapter in the book, the acts of the apostles chapter 7? It seems Ellen White sees this as a judgment/punishment, though seen from the larger perspective of the cosmic warfare against Satan, this happened for the sake of protecting the church from apostasy.
What are your thoughts?
September 6, 2018 @ 2:25 am
Just a single thought.
I note that, later in the Book of Acts, Peter is given greater revelation of God’s character. I read in Acts 10 how Peter is given a vision that leads to him seeing that God accepts, not just those who follow Jewish law, but everyone who “fears him and does what is right.” (from a later writer, we learn that God is love and that he who still fears is not yet made perfect in love because perfect love casts out fear – 1 John 4:18).
My point is that Peter is clearly on a journey. At the point of the incident with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), Peter is at a less-mature stage than he is led to in Acts 10 (and certainly at a less-mature stage than the writer of 1 John). It would therefore not be unreasonable to draw the conclusion that he did not necessarily act in the most mature way in the situation with Ananias and Sapphira.
Thank you for all you’re doing on this site.
September 6, 2018 @ 6:28 am
Thanks Stephen. Good point. All the prophets and Bible writers were on a journey, as we are, to mature and understand God better. They made mistakes along the way but God used them and He is willing to use us as well.
September 17, 2018 @ 3:03 pm
If God killed Ananias and Sapphira then God is Satan. Isn’t it clear that Peter’s cult was communism and Ananias and Sapphira believed in private property?
September 17, 2018 @ 3:21 pm
It could be reasoned that if God killed Ananias and Sapphira then He was operating by Satanic principles. God is the author of life, not death. Scripture refers to death as an enemy.
I understand that there was a degree of communal sharing among the early Christians somewhat out of necessity because of the persecution they were under for their change of faith. Ananias and Sapphira had every right to hold private property and that was not a problem. What condemned them was the guilt they felt from their deception of representing their offering as the full price of the land they had sold when it was only a portion.
October 15, 2018 @ 8:56 am
How do you interpret Matthew 25:41,
“The King will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Or Luke 13:26-28, where evildoers are thrown out (actively) of heaven by ‘the houseowner’.
Or Luke 19:27, again in a parable about the King’s return, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – being them here and kill them in front of me.”
Or Luke 12:46, another parable with death as judgement when the King returns.
Or Romans 1:16, God’s wrath is being revealed.
Or Romans 1:6-8, wrath and anger comes to self-seeking evil-followers.
Or Jude 5-7, which says God has destroyed those who didn’t believe in the past and will do it with eternal fire in the time to come.
Or Thessalonians 4:6, “The Lord will punish all who commit such sins.”
Or 2 Timothy 4:1 “of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead”
Or Revelation 20:13-15, where each is judged according to what he has done.
Or Matthew 7:23, Jesus will say “Away from me, you evildoers”
Or Matthew 10:28, “Be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”
Or Hebrews 12:28-29, “Let us be thankful and serve God with both reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
It seems quite clear to me that it is in God’s character, and in Jesus’ character, to inflict punishment for sin. And fear/reverance/awe is an appropriate response even as we trust that we are safe in Jesus.
I don’t think Gid being perfectly loving means that He is always merciful.
October 22, 2018 @ 9:49 am
Thank you for all your questions. They are obvious ones aren’t they? The correct understanding of those verses very much depends on our viewpoint. Through which lens are we understanding the law (imposed or natural/consequential)? Are we using our understanding of justice or God’s? Are we using the Bible’s definitions of words or man’s? Are we carefully comparing scripture with scripture?
Considering your last points first (then I’ll get to the verses you question), you said you “don’t think God … is always merciful” yet the Bible identifies mercy as one of the primary qualities of God’s character:
Notice that “merciful” is first in the list. The Word says “He is ever merciful” (Psa 37:26) which would seem to mean that He does not stop being merciful and there are 41 verses which say “his mercy endureth for ever.” The Bible seems to clearly say that God is ever merciful. But you are right in that it does not always seem so when we read certain passages. That should give us a clue and make us think something like: “God says He is ever merciful yet this passage doesn’t look like He is – there must be something else going on. I had better look more in-depth.”
Here is an interesting verse:
While God is always merciful, to some (who are not merciful themselves) He does not appear that way because of their interpretation of His character. This connects with “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged …” (Matt 7:2) but that is another topic.
I really sounds to me like you are saying that we are only safe from His punishment if we hold Him in sufficient “fear/reverence/awe.” This reminds me of the picture where Jesus is standing knocking at the door:
It is easy to see how atheists can see Christianity as nothing more than a protection racquet.
There is punishment for sin but, again, how does the Bible define it?
Punishment is God allowing us to receive the consequences of our own actions. He hands them over, gives them up (see Romans 1) to their choices.
Now to the specific verses you question and how I interpret them in light of the character of God. I have bolded the verses you mentioned:
This is not so much God rejecting the lost as it is describing the action of the lost. The lost are lost by their choices not God’s who is not willing that any should perish (2 Pet 3:9) Notice this verse:
And I hope you understand that the fire is not unending as defined by several scriptures such as Jude 7. But that is another topic. And the fire that those who reject God will endure, properly understood, is not a case of physical torture by fire. See my e-book on the Lake of Fire.
This is similar to Matt 25:41
This is a more difficult verse to resolve but it must be remembered that it is a parable. Many parables were spoken to make a particular point but they were given in the understanding of the people of that time. In a case like this, we must look to the life of Jesus and what He actually did (or didn’t do) in reaction to those who spoke against Him and mistreated Him. The end result of those who reject the savior will be eternal death.
This is similar to the verse already discussed.
The wrath of God is revealed (v18) … because they rejected God (v19-23) … wherefore (or therefore) God did what? – He “gave them up.” Because of their rejection, God’s “wrath” was revealed. How? By Him allowing them to have the consequences of their choices (to reap what they had sown).
Romans chapter 1 goes on to further clarify the meaning of God’s wrath in the same way:
• v24 “God also gave them up to …
• v26 “God have them up unto …
• v28 “God gave them over to…
There is a pattern in scripture which I have termed the SALT formula in which:
• When man Sins
• then God in Anger/wrath
• in reluctance Leaves (removes His protection) and then
• in His absence Trouble comes.
This is a pattern of which I have found over 70 examples in scripture. God’s ways are not man’s ways.
Or Romans 1:6-8, wrath and anger comes to self-seeking evil-followers.
I think you were looking at another passage?
Mitchell, I want to answer all your questions but can only devote so much time to this, so, from this point on, am going to answer some by referring to other sources. I like to give detailed explanations where I can but that takes a lot of time. More answers to specific questions will be added to my site as time goes on.
Verse 5 “Them that believed not” could be referring to:
Did God destroy them? Not directly. He gave them what they wanted:
In response to their complaining:
It is a principle in scripture that God is often said to do what He merely permitted or allowed. This has been well understood in the past but many people have forgotten.
Also see this page about Divine Accommodation.
And study re destroy/destroyer. Satan is the destroyer. In Exo 12:23 God was not protecting the Israelites from Himself.
Verse 6 “Left their own habitation” Notice the angels left indicating a willingness on their part.
Verse 7 “Suffering the vengeance” – see the article “Vengeance” by Floyd Phillips on my site.
See what I have included already regarding vengeance.
See what I have in the glossary about judgement.
Please see my ebook on the Second Death and the Lake of Fire
Note that they depart from Him. It is a result of their choices. It is somewhat like Jude 6 that you quoted. Jesus is just stating the reality of the situation.
People tend to assume this is referring to God as the destroyer but:
• Satan is consistently called the destroyer in scripture
• In Him (God) is life
• Satan has the power of death (Heb 2:14)
• “Him” is a mistranslation – check the original
• It is more like sin that unremedied destroys
I will just refer you to and ask you to think about this passage:
This is referred to in my e-book mentioned above.
I hope that helps.
December 31, 2019 @ 5:46 pm
You haven’t dealt with the strong possibility that Peter murdered them for the money. Confiscation of all private property is the essence of communism and so is terrorism.
If you were the coroner wouldn’t you wish to examine the bodies for foul play? Peter is the only witness for the strange death of Sapphira, so his version is suspect and has to be corroborated by other evidence. Contrary to Jewish burial customs at the time, a body could be prepared for burial for up to four days. This poor couple were immediately buried after their deaths, obviously that is suspicious and smacks of a cover up. Ananias and Sapphira are the first Christian martyrs. Otherwise your analysis was excellent.
January 1, 2020 @ 6:45 am
You’re right; I did not consider the possibility of murder. What I did was to analyze the account in detail to determine the most likely scenario. What is required is a careful reading and taking all the known facts which I attempted to do. One important fact which I did not mention as it seemed so obvious is that the offerings were received by the apostles (plural) as confirmed in 25 versions I looked at. Now it is not specifically mentioned that there were multiple apostles present when Sapphira came in but I see no reason to doubt that her death was different than that of her husband. I chose to believe the word of God in this account written by Luke. As I also said, Peter was not without fault in this incident but that does not excuse the deceitful actions of the couple.
Documentation shows Jewish burial customs included prompt burial:
October 19, 2018 @ 6:02 am
When I read this story in Acts, it does not seem to be in any way pointing to the faults of Peter. In fact, in the next few verses it talks about people being healed just by Peter’s shadow. It is obvious that God did kill people in Scripture, as hard as it is for us to accept.
In chapter 13, we read that Paul rebukes a sorcerer “the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind.”
Matthew 10:28, ” And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both would and body in hell.” That was Jesus speaking. It isn’t an easy verse, but it is truth.
You’re right about it is how we see God. We cannot make God to be what we want Him to be. We must believe Him for Whom He is. As C.S Lewis said, “I want God, not my idea of God.”
October 22, 2018 @ 7:20 am
Thank you for your comment. It stimulated me to do an in-depth study of the story of Elymas the Sorcerer which I have posted at https://characterofgod.org/elymas-sorcerer/
Many of the points I made about Peter are not substantiated from the story of Ananias and Sapphira alone, you are right about that. However, a point I keep making is that we need to take all of scripture not just isolated texts (Matt 4:4).
Regarding Matthew 10:28, take note that the word “Him” is not in the original. It is sin that kills – see https://characterofgod.org/2016/03/sin-destruction/ for texts that say this.
You rightly point out that the problem most people have is that they have a wrong idea of God. Perhaps that is why He said “neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” (Isa 55:8)
June 29, 2020 @ 7:05 pm
The Law of Moses is quite clear on dealing with dead bodies and places where they died: they were unclean for seven days and need ritual cleansing. Numbers 19:11-22. The story of their deaths does not mention any cleansing. Murder can’t be ruled out.
June 29, 2020 @ 8:23 pm
Actually, the dead bodies were permanently unclean. It was anyone who touched a dead body who then became unclean for seven days.
On the basis of what we are told in the account in Acts, in a sense, we cannot rule out murder because it does not explicitly say they were not murdered and we do not know what details were not reported. On the other hand, there is no direct evidence reported that could convict Peter or anyone else of murder.
However, I believe murder can be ruled out on the basis of the character of a God who tells us to love even our enemies. To believe that God is One who would kill someone for telling a lie would seem to make Him into a very scary God. It would also seem to make God unfair – why didn’t He kill those who committed the far worse crime of killing His Son?
November 21, 2018 @ 1:09 pm
I find it interesting we all have read the same scriptures and come up to many different, sometimes subtle, understandings of what was written. One thing that comes up in my mind is that many find it difficult to believe a God of love would actually kill.
I remember going through a study which approached that issue. I think about it like this…if God is a loving father, then chastisement (correction) is part of our relationship with him. Doesn’t scripture teach us that God is sovereign, life and death are in his hands, we are more than our physical bodies? If that is the case, then God can take us off this earth whenever he decides to, and he would because he does love us.
For example, if I am continually being destructive to myself or to others around me, wouldn’t a loving Father God, take me out of the situation, the place, for my good and the good of those around me? So, the idea is plausible that God (Holy Spirit) actually did kill them.
So, either understanding is plausible for me. Although, for Ananias and Sapphira to die because they were so distraught by being caught in a lie seems a bit much. Unless, in their minds, their belief and understanding of God was that anyone who sinned against God would physically die.
Another short thought is the idea of Satan actually being a real entity that can inhabit people and make them do bad things. I have changed my belief on this. I believe that satan means adversary and it is our own thoughts and deeds which can become adversarial to God and his desires for us.
Ray, I want to say I deeply appreciate your non adversarial responses to those on this blog of yours.
November 21, 2018 @ 5:20 pm
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would like to respond with a few thoughts, of course, in a non-adversarial way.
You are right that there are so many different understandings of scripture – we come from many different backgrounds, traditions etc.
God may discipline at times, yes; as it is appropriate for us to do with our children. However, discipline means to disciple, to teach, to turn a person in the right direction. There is no such benefit if “discipline” goes as far as death. God is life, the source of life; it is Satan that brings death (also nature gone out of control and man whom Satan has influenced). To God, death is an enemy (1 Cor 15:26). The pattern showing how God deals with those being destructive or otherwise persisting in sin is shown in many examples on this page.
If God started “taking out” anyone being destructive, the earth’s population would dwindle very quickly. That would be using force, which Jesus’ example shows He would not do.
Either understanding could be plausible at first read but when you compare carefully and think about, it there are lots of problems. The threat of God taking me out when I become a little too destructive makes Him into my enemy (at least potentially) and not my friend.
Satan – the word – does mean adversary but he is a real, physical, living adversary. Read all that the Bible says of him and it is quite clear.
May 24, 2019 @ 7:35 am
Yes, of course, that is my understanding. Obviously, people “read between the lines” and “divide the word of God differently.” Perhaps I can clarify a few points in answer to yours.
If their guilt killed them, then “the hands of Peter” had nothing to do with it. Paul (Acts 9:5-6) and Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:22-24) each made the better choice and repented of their actions.
The bodies of Ananias and Sapphira were immediately buried as that was the custom in that day. It was not a case of hiding anything. There is nothing to indicate the young men who buried them were “thugs.” Where do you get that from? They were doing a necessary service.
Ananias and Sapphira were indeed free to do whatever they wished with the proceeds of their land. The Bible refers to “freewill offerings” (Psa 119:108). It was only when Ananias brought the money to the apostles representing it as the full price of the land that they were bound to give the full price. That they did not is shown by Sapphira confirming that the land was sold for “so much” (Acts 5:8) when they had, in fact, kept part for themselves (Acts 5:2-3). As pointed out in my description, Peter was not faultless in this situation but there was certainly no evidence to convict him of killing them.
The rest of your comments seem to me to be more speculation than rightly dividing the word of God.
July 20, 2019 @ 3:53 am
Ray, welldone for your patience in reacting to all people have written on this rather touchy topic. It shows how eager we all are to know the truth.
However I will want you to examine Roman’s 10 verses 26 to 31. What do you say about this passage?
Also Paul wrote at one instance saying “… Seeing that it is good for God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble us”….
November 23, 2019 @ 3:38 am
I’ve wondered for a while whether this was the New Testament equivalent of Moses striking the rock. The church isn’t founded on fear and retribution, but grace and mercy and while the Apostle Peter had moments of insight and devotion, he also had a rash and violent streak and I believe this is why, although he ushered the church into existence, it was Paul’s epistles that shaped it.
November 23, 2019 @ 6:42 am
Good thought Lorraine. The comparison to Moses’ fault is more evidence for those who believe Peter, being an apostle, could have done no wrong.
May 8, 2020 @ 3:58 am
GOD DID NOT DO IT!!! If so every person who calls themselves a Christian who has ever lied and held back or deceived the Church should fall dead. Once all the greedy televangelists and pedophile priests start falling dead then maybe you can take that point. Peter and apostles were given power over sins and forgiveness but I believe this story speaks as much to Peter’s early rigidness and unforgiveness that led to old covenant ‘fear’ and rule of law instead of new covenant love. Luckily he had Paul to help rebuke and mature Peter on his journey as well as future experiences with the Holy Spirit. I find the more a self-proclaimed Christian wants the old testament judgement that they themselves have much to be judged for so prefer to judge others instead.
Thanks Ray. This was my bible reading this morning and left me with a lot of questions. Read several different responses online and your’s seems among the best and most holistic insight and responses. As you can see my interpretation still differs a little from yours but I still appreciate your insight. May God continue to bless you and your ministry and the work you are doing for the kingdom.
May 8, 2020 @ 7:06 am
Good point. God, in fairness, was not treating Ananias and Sapphira any differently than He treats people today.
M. B. A. Fadeyi
January 6, 2021 @ 2:53 am
I bless God for what you’re doing here, Ray. This is, without doubt, a controversial issue in the bible to many Christians. I love the way you respond to all who commented.
A quick one here, it is strange that many people haven’t ever considered Jesus’s manner of approach to Judas Iscariot.
He stole from the purse, and was never condemned by Christ. So much that, even when he commented on the alabaster box that Mary used on Jesus’s feet, even the Bible noted it that, all he said wasn’t because he loved the people, but because he often helped himself with the funds.
I will love to read more of your articles.
January 6, 2021 @ 9:16 am
Jesus never condemned anyone. Condemnation and accusation is the work of the enemy. For more on condemnation in the Bible see the page: https://characterofgod.org/condemnation-definition/
August 7, 2021 @ 2:17 am
This is quite clearly an apologia. Peter specifically condemns them to a terrible fate and was an apostle guided by Jesus. He quite clearly knew what would happen and doesn’t get shocked when they die.
August 7, 2021 @ 4:20 pm
Thanks Aaron for commenting but I would ask you to carefully consider your understanding. Which verse mentions Peter specifically condemning them to any fate?
Was Peter guided by Jesus? I like to think yes, generally. But there certainly were times when he wasn’t. Did Jesus guide Peter when Peter denied his Lord? Did Jesus guide Peter to say what he did in Matthew 16:22 and then instantly rebuke him for what he said? That makes no sense at all.
What is there in scripture to indicate that Peter knew what would happen to Ananias? He did, from what he had seen with Ananias, successfully predict what would happen with Sapphira.
There is nothing to indicate Peter was shocked or not at what transpired.
Sorry Aaron but your comment seems to be an apologia as well and one quite full of assumptions. But thanks for commenting.
March 18, 2022 @ 5:51 pm
Keep up with the good work and may God divinely increase you in the knowledge of Him; continue being a blessing to many of us.
September 27, 2022 @ 10:57 am
Is Revelation 22:18-19 forgivable if one repents and believes and turns away from that sin?
September 27, 2022 @ 2:34 pm
Yes, of course, every sin is forgivable if you are open to receiving forgiveness. For clarification on that question see my e-book Biblical Forgiveness: Are There Two Types at: https://characterofgod.org/resources#biblical-forgiveness
December 22, 2022 @ 7:28 pm
Very good job Ray,
I believe ‘all’ your responses are very logical and well thought out, especially when you are replying to questions you previously answered. It seems like the rebuttals reflect a lack of understanding about exactly what you were saying. From my standpoint, you demonstrated an enormous amount of patience and I commend you for it. There are many scenarios one can theorize from all Bible verses, even more when taken out of context. As you mentioned, you have to look at the rest of the Word. We have enough fallacies in Christendom because of people who have not spent time studying the Word or don’t have a fundamental understanding of basic truths of the Word, of cultures, of meaning of words, of the character of the 3 in 1… …the list goes on.
I haven’t seen any other topical deliberations of yours but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.