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Acts 5:1-11 (NIV)

1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

This is the only passage that I know of in the New Testament that tells us of Christians being put to death. As far as I understand, it was God that put them to death for lying to the Holy Spirit.

My question is what might have happened to them after their sudden death. Did they go directly to hell, or did they go to heaven? Was their death a kind of instant judgement that sent them away from God and directly to hell?

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While this is an interesting question, the Bible doesn't say. Any answer we might give will be based on speculation, colored by our own views. Those that believe you can lose your salvation will say they went to Hell. Those that believe you can't lose it will debate whether they were saved in the first place - the "Yes" crowd will think they went to Heaven, the rest will think they went to Hell. As interesting as the question is, I'm voting to close it as "not constructive." –  David Stratton Dec 28 '11 at 19:40
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I think that it's not necessarily an unreasonable question. If the Bible doesn't say, then "The Bible doesn't say" is the answer. It may not be immediately obvious to everyone that Ananias and Sapphira aren't discussed elsewhere. –  Eric Dec 28 '11 at 20:01
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I read the title and thought "they were buried" :) –  Benjol Mar 20 '12 at 9:20

10 Answers 10

up vote 18 down vote accepted

We don't know

The Bible doesn't tell us. The only answer I can give is a tautology - if they were saved, then they went to heaven. But the Bible doesn't tell us whether they were saved.

However, it should be noted that the nature of their punishment does not rule out the possibility of their salvation. Consider 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NASB):

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Although the meaning of "destruction of his flesh" is debated, one possible interpretation is that this person was being sentenced to death. Yet it is made clear that, despite the severity of the punishment, the man himself was saved.

But the question remains of whether Ananias and Sapphira were saved in the first place, as nothing in the text rules out their salvation, or indicates their possession of it.

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I think I would end this with "nothing in the text seems to completely rule it out ... or indicate that they were.", just to show that the doubt works both ways and there really isn't a favorable position here, but +1 because I think you've generally hit the right angle here ... the canonical answer to this question is "we don't know". –  Caleb Dec 28 '11 at 20:22
    
@Caleb, thanks - fixed –  Eric Dec 28 '11 at 20:34

In Mark 3:28 Jesus stated that those who lie to the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven and their punishment will be eternal condemnation. It states in Acts that both Ananias and Sapphira both lied to the Holy Spirit. If scripture is our guide, then they are both condemned.

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Technically, they lied to the Church, not to the Holy Spirit. And more critically, Mark 3:28-9 is referring to people who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. So I don't think this interpretation really flies. –  Jon Ericson Nov 5 '12 at 18:38
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Peter said in Acts 5:7 (one of the quoted verse) “You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” In verse 9 he says (to the wife): “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord?” So they did lie to both the Church and the Holy Spirit. –  Shathur Aug 13 '13 at 14:10

I think we must take Ananias and Sapphira to have been believers. We are told in Acts 4:32-34 that the believers who had lands or houses sold them. Then we have two instances of specific individuals who did so. We know that Barnabas was a believer, but he is introduced as a Levite and Cypriot, neither of which designation carries any connotation of faith in Christ. So I don't see why the introduction of Ananias as Ἀνὴρ τις, 'a certain man', should make us think that he is not a believer, since believers are often referred to as 'men' in Acts, using the same Greek word ἀνὴρ. We must take him as the second example given of the believers who were selling possessions.

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I think you are correct, they were both believers, but they lied in the face of God and were both killed, so the question is what happened to them after they died, or rather: are their names still written in the Book of Life so that they will inherit life at the resurrection? –  Shathur Aug 13 '13 at 14:13

The two were believers and i presumed they were saved.

  1. They belong to the church with right doctrine
  2. They sold their property
  3. They will not be disciplined if they were unbelievers nothing to lose.
  4. They lied and not blasphemed as contemplated in Mark 3:28-29
  5. The filing of the heart in Acts 5:3 is nothing but similar to the heart of peter in Mark 8:33 when Peter was called "Get thee behind me, satan...
  6. Death is just a mean to be transported to the next life and it doesn't invalidates salvation. Romans 8:38/I Cor. 15:15-16
  7. We all know that there are sins that leads to death I Cor 11:30 and James 1:15
  8. This is just a case similar in the old testament of sudden death in the wilderness during Moses' timeline.
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Welcome to C.SE! When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is actually a very good answer - with one exception. Could you please state the denominational perspective from which this comes. You are presuming eternal security, and while God knows you and I are both correct on this bit of doctrine :) there are other Christian groups who sadly wouldn't see that as accurate. As such, in order to avoid voting contests, by labeling the perspective, you make the answer objectively right. –  Affable Geek Oct 30 '13 at 14:49

I really appreciate all the comments above on this subject. There are only 2 answers - either Ananias/Sapphira were believers, or they were non-believers. If there were believers, then even though they suffered sudden death, they were saved. If they were non-believers, they were not saved.
Personally, I know of many sincere christians who lied, who failed to give their great wealth to the church, who played church politics, and did harm to the church. But they were sincere believers. They were also not perfect. They gave in to temptations and sinned now and then. Christ had died for their sins. I believe they will go to heaven despite being sinners. Ananias and Sapphira were sinners. I am too.

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Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? –  David Stratton Dec 29 '13 at 4:20

In chapter 4 it talks about believers selling property and giving the money to the Apostles. Starting in chapter 5 it says there was a man. When the Bible refers to fellow Christians, it usually calls them fellow believers, brothers, friends. Here it states a man which leads me to believe they were not Christians

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I think user5412 is correct: they were both believers. Why else would they lay the money at the apostles' feet in the first place? –  Shathur Aug 13 '13 at 14:14

No real believer is or will be happy to hear that a fellow believer is in hell. But note Acts 5:3 "But Peter said, Ananias, Satan has filled your heart..." Dont know if Heaven has room for a Satan filled heart that died without the opportunity to REPENT.

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Welcome to the site! As this is your first post, I'd invite you to read the help page and How we are different than other sites?. Those posts are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes", and I hope that they'll be helpful for you. –  David Stratton Aug 26 '13 at 2:48

What's key is that they 'gave up the Ghost and died'. That's a slam dunk for me. The scripture 'you cannot serve both God & mammon' - Matt 6:24 - also rings true here. They loved money more than The Lord and so served their true master.

I'm inclined to say that they are lost. It seems Sapphira had the chance to repent when asked if she had 'sold it for so much' (as the implication is that it was her husband's idea 'and she was privy to it'). She lied and so she received the same fate as her husband and so was buried in the ground next to him...

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welcome to the site. If you take a look at other answer with a lot of votes you will see that this one is lacking. There is not enough here to really answer the question. –  fredsbend Dec 17 '13 at 1:08
    
Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites?, and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Dec 17 '13 at 1:15

They were both Spirit-filled believers (Acts 4:31). Peter declared war on all forms of Judaism (Acts 3:11-26), declaring at the entrance to the temple that only Messianic Judaism had the true interpretation of the OT scrolls with Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. He declared Jesus was the only NAME by which people can be saved. To the Jewish leaders (Sanhedrin), Yahweh YHVH was the only NAME. So Peter is attributing divinity to Jesus (blasphemy in their minds). This is reminiscent of Jn 10 where on Chanukah (Feast of Dedication) Jesus declares the same thing. Peter further promised to disobey them about preaching what they considered to be blasphemy and heresy. The early group of believers now had targets on their backs and had to group together in survival mode and pool their resources. Ananias and Sapphira would not have joined this rebel resistance group if they were not believers. However, Satan put doubts and fear in their hearts so they kept some money aside for plan B, just in case the trouble became too much to bear. But they had already said they were committed to pooling all their resources (Acts 4:32). So, by withholding they were lying about their full commitment. God showed all He wanted only fully committed believers, not double-minded, lukewarm believers so he took them home. So a little leaven wouldn't spoil the whole lump with the severe persecution to follow by the hands of the Apostle Paul and others until Acts 9. God also took believers home in 1Cor 11 for unworthy practice of the Lords Supper. The slaying showed God's hand was truly on this Messianic Jewish resistance movement and after Acts 10 the Gentiles even became partakers of the rich olive tree (Rom 11).

By the way, adding to my previous comment, the reason they had to join together was not to start a new economic system (communism). It was because under the Roman occupation, Judaism had great freedom as long as there were no revolts or public riots. So as long as the Messianic Jewish resistance movement kept together in a large group, the soldiers of the Sanhedrin had to be careful not to cause a riot. So it was a tactical move. And because of the Holy Spirit they had great love for God and one another and pooled and shared their resources to survive. Later they became a charity case and Paul (now a believer instead of a persecutor) and others kept having to take up collections for them (2Cor 9 for example).

Sadly, virtually every Christian commentary ignores the seriousness of this early resistance movement to all other forms of Judaism. They also ignore the fact these were all Jews, so it was becoming like a civil war of brother against brother (Lk 14:26) and a rebellion against the God-ordained religious authorities (see Mt 23:2). The early Jewish believers were sacrificing all for the sake of their beliefs that their rabbis are wrong about Jesus. So, because of the sad commentaries, I give much grace and understanding to those who differ with me.

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This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I believe it means..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Feb 13 at 22:04
    
The answer can be greatly improved if you can list the sources with which you used to derive your answer or conclusion. If you happen to speak for your own denomination, please list your denomination here. Thank you for your consideration. –  Anonymous Feb 14 at 2:05

I wonder if they were Malformed Christians. Remember this is the time of evangelistic explosion upon the Earth when all souls were of salvation interest. I do not believe God would have instantly condemned struggling weak or nonbelievers wanting to join the church but afraid to give their all..., if that was the case with them. it is more consistent that the apostles would have sought to straighten them out for the sake of their redemption. However, if they were compromised believers, and the ultimate recognition of their sin in the manifest presence of God struck their conscience and killed them, likely that was the penalty paid: death! To go to hell also would have been a double penalty. This could have happened with them, but somehow i think their death was the payment required at that moment. Lying to the Holy Spirit is not the same as blasphemy which is to attribute evil to the Spirit, saying bad things ABOUT Him rather than lying TO Him.

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Well, the thing is that they didn't just lack the motivation to give their everything, the problem is that they lied about it. This is truly a serious crime. But the question is, as with other people that God has stricken: Was their punishment only the first death or was it the second death too? Are their names still written in the Book of Life or are they not? –  Shathur Aug 13 '13 at 14:18

protected by Caleb Feb 14 at 9:08

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