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Acts 5:1-11 (ESV):

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

In Peter's words, Ananias and Sapphira agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord (v9), which appears to be a terrible sin in the eyes of God, so terrible that it even warranted having the couple killed on the spot, without even being given the chance to confess and repent.

Questions:

  1. Why were Ananias and Sapphira not given a second chance? Why weren't they simply confronted and led to confession and repentance? Why such a radical and drastic punishment on the spot?
  2. Can we infer anything about the ultimate eternal fate of Ananias and Sapphira? Is it possible that Ananias and Sapphira were still saved despite the exemplary punishment they received?
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  • You are assuming Ananias/Sapphira were saved. You seem? to be assuming God killed them - (punished them?). This Q is opening up an ages old [unresolved] debate - (some might say a ’can of worms’)
    – Dave
    May 2 at 2:43
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    This question assumes that were not given a chance to repent. Perhaps they had previously - the whole story is not recorded. In any case, lying or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is one sin that cannot be forgiven.
    – Dottard
    May 2 at 9:10
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Peter tells the guilty party :

How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? [Acts 5:9 KJV]

Sins against the Holy Spirit are extremely grievous.

Jesus makes it clear that there is no forgiveness for the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in this life or the next, Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28-29. Whereas, other blasphemies may be forgiven.

I would suggest that the reason is because one knows nothing of Christ, and thus nothing of the Father, save what one knows through the Holy Spirit. Thus, to sin against the Holy Spirit in such a manner as to negate His Person, leaves one with no means of access to Deity at all.

Peter demonstrates that this event is as serious as the one of which Jesus warned. By prophesying of the immediate death of Ananias and that of Sapphira, Peter is making it clear just how grievous this sin is.

Suppositions as to the eternal state of the two guilty persons are just that : suppositions. Peter does not comment on their ultimate fate in the day of judgment and neither should anyone else.

Paul tells the Corinthians that because of their behaviour :

... For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. [1 Corinthians 11:30]

So, judgment by the Lord, within the congregation, may result in weakness, illness or death, as appropriate. Thereafter, remains the final judgment upon resurrection.

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Why were Ananias and Sapphira not given a second chance?

We don't know if they were given a second chance.

Why weren't they simply confronted and led to confession and repentance? Why such a radical and drastic punishment on the spot?

So that verse 11:

great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Their punishments served as an example to the nascent church. The church needs to be strict at that critical time of beginning and growth. It was a special time for the church.

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.

Can we infer anything about the ultimate eternal fate of Ananias and Sapphira?

I cannot.

Is it possible that Ananias and Sapphira were still saved despite the exemplary punishment they received?

I think so but I don't really know. Will God extend his mercy on them?

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Based on Bible scripture, we can infer/deduce that God is forgiving, gracious and compassionate but when a certain God-defined "threshold" has been reached when it comes to a person sinning then God responds with His anger to uphold Justice.

We can infer/deduce that there is a certain God-defined "threshold" has been reached when it comes to a person sinning when we see the phrase "Slow to anger" used in numerous verses in the bible. "Slow to anger" does Not mean God never becomes angry. "Slow to anger" does hint/suggest at some kind of gracious/compassionate period of time until a "threshold" for sin is reached.

(Psalm 103:8)

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

(James 1:19) This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

(Proverbs 16:32)

32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Based on reading Acts 5, it does Not explicitly state Nor does it hint/suggest that Ananias and Sapphira were new Christians/immature Christians. Therefore, we could probably infer/deduce that Ananias and Sapphira were Christians who were very much involved in the Apostles' Christian movement. If Ananias and Sapphira were new Christians/immature Christians then we might have asked why they did Not have a chance to repent( i.e., some kind of gracious period of time to repent).

Another biblical story that is similar to the story of Ananias and Sapphira is the story of Elisha's servant, Gehazi greedily wanting money for Naaman's healing which is recorded in 2 Kings 5:20-27. Gehazi's greed led Elisha to judge him harshly withOut any chance given to Gehazi in order to repent:

2 Kings 5:20-27

Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your [d]descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

We can probably deduce/infer that Gehazi being a servant to a Godly prophet should have known better because Gehazi is someone who is part of God's ministry. The bible verse James 3:1 gives support for Gehazi's disciplining:

(James 3:1)

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a [a]stricter judgment.

To conclude, God has a certain God-defined "threshold" for every situation involving a person's sin, and once she/he crosses that threshold then consequences of God's Anger to uphold justice will be brought forth.

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A) Why were Ananias and Sapphira [of Acts 5:1-11] not given a second chance?

Perhaps we might wish to contemplate the end of the previous chapter (Acts 4). The profound charity among the believers seemed especially reverential. The entire fledgling congregation was fully devoted to sharing all they had. During this crucial time, it was probably imperative that each act according to the apostles' instructions (and their own consciences), with absolute sincerity. It will be remembered that each was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31ff):

Acts 4:31-32, 34, 35: And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them... For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostle's feet..."

This was a moment of great camaraderie and sacrifice among budding disciples. Perhaps we should recall how God once reacted to two very foolish young men, Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu as they offered "strange fire":

Leviticus 10:1-2: "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD."

Following this occasion the text reads:

Leviticus 10:9: “Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die"

This must surely have meant that, during the very early years of the Levitical priesthood, God felt it necessary to teach some very harsh lessons about faith and strict obedience. It is quite possible that in this case, Nadab and Abihu had been intoxicated as they offered their sacrifices. Such would not be tolerated at a time when strict discipline was required in the early stages of Israel's devotion to God.

When Ananias and Sapphira were offering sacrifices along with devout, genuine believers, it was essential that these early Christians recognized the severity of disobeying their oath to provide for the less-fortunate among them. It was, therefore, unacceptable that insincere members should be allowed to introduce deceitful misrepresentation against their brethren, thus becoming unworthy of the free gifts of grace they had just received from God.

Ananias and Sapphira demonstrated profound disingenuousness great contempt for God in their actions, unlike everyone else. And why did they do so? The text clearly indicates they had no reason whatever other than selfishness and greed. They seemed blind to the malfeasance they were ushering into the young church. Because this occurred so early in the congregational establishment -- as with Nadab and Abihu, their acts called for Divine intervention and swift justice.

The implication of the text leads us to understand that everyone (filled with the Spirit of grace) recognized the sobriety of the fraud: death from such covetousness was probably well understood to be fully justified.

B. "Can we infer anything about the ultimate eternal fate of Ananias and Sapphira? Is it possible that [they] were still saved despite the exemplary punishment they received?"

I would suggest that we may never know of their ultimate circumstances. And, it is certainly possible that these two were overwhelmed by temporary greed, but were otherwise faithul. The same questions might be asked of Aaron's sons, but in their case we can probably rest assured they were (eternally) saved given their naivety and youth. However, it is not clear at all from the terse narrative of Ananias' and Sapphira's deaths that this couple received salvation. Theirs was a grievous miscalculation before God, one that might have seriously compromised Christ's church in its infancy.

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Who's to say that their deaths were punishments?

You ask why they received such drastic punishments and weren't given a change to repent, but I'll point out that the text doesn't say that it was God who killed them, but simply that they promptly fell over dead on the spot.

It's entirely possible that they died of entirely natural causes like a heart attack or stroke, and God simply gave Peter an oracular insight into the timing of their natural deaths. We don't know how old they were, or what their general health condition was like.

Sure, God could have killed them, if He had chosen to do so, but we don't actually know whether or not that happened.

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I think Sapphira did have a second chance. She was given an opportunity to back out in Acts 5:8b, but doubled-down on the lie that they offered the full amount; which itself was not required. Acts 5:4 indicates that they could have sold the land and offered a portion of the proceeds to the apostles, and not present it as the full amount; which was the sin of lying.

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