Acts 24:1 And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul.
This is but one of the two verses in which this man is listed in the entire Scriptures. The other is in Acts 23:2, where he is identified as giving the command to have the Apostle Paul smitten on the mouth.
He is not that Ananias, who with his wife Sapphira, agreed to keep back part of the selling price of their land in Acts chapter five. For both of them were stricken of God and died for lying to the Holy Spirit.
And he is not that Ananias of Damascus who was commanded of the Lord to go and anoint the eyes of Saul of Tarsus. For he is reported by that apostle as being a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there. (Acts 22:12).
But this Ananias was, at this time, the high priest of Israel. The historical record of him states that he was, “a typical Sadducee, wealthy, haughty, unscrupulous,” who “used his sacred office for purely selfish and political ends.” He was most certainly a “man of sin, sitting in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God!” (2 Thess. 2:4).
The Lord Jesus warned all disciples of this during his earthly ministry. Matthew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
And the Apostle Paul writes of this same situation, warning believers not to think that just because a man is in a pulpit that he truly is a God-called minister! 2 Corinthians 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
And let us now notice the subject expressed in our title; Ananias Descended. To actually go from Jerusalem to Caesarea is to go north! And looking at a map of that area we would say that we were going “up” to Caesarea from Jerusalem. But there is an underlying message in these inspired words, for Jerusalem was of higher elevation than the coastal city of Caesarea. And true to the above historical description of Ananias, he did go “down” from Jerusalem, the seat of religion, into Caesarea, the seat of the political realm, for that is where the Roman courts and military garrison were set up.
We read of another character who left Jerusalem and went down in Luke’s gospel. Luke 10:30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Any soul, upon leaving any degree of relating to God, goes down in morality and spirituality. And to do so is to fall into the snares of Satan, the thief! Our Lord vividly sets forth the contrast in these two influences. John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
But recall the blessedness of the high priest to Israel down through the years. He provided access to God as they sought God’s will at his hand. He had those mysterious articles, the Urim and Thummim, which provided knowledge of that will. Exodus 28:30 And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the LORD: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the LORD continually. Numbers 27:21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
But now, this creature, high priest in name only, did not lead into God’s light, but into Satanic darkness! For this is one of the blessings which God curses when a people turn from the ways of the Lord! Malachi 2:2 If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.
When the heavenly luminaries, (spiritual ministers), fall from a spiritual state of benefit, being removed in judgment against a nation of gospel rejectors, the pit of darkness opens and hoards of false pastors and teachers, like swarms of locusts block out even the remaining light! Revelation 9:1 And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. 2 And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. 3 And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. And then, even as in our day, one truly spiritual interpreter of God’s word becomes very rare. Job 33:23 If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness:
Keep in mind that Ananias had already fallen in Adam, along with the entire human race. Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; … 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, … 20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: 21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
But being a fallen sinner is far different than being a reprobate sinner! The Lord Jesus came to save some out of the number of fallen sinners. Luke 19:10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. But there is no provision or opportunity of salvation for a reprobate! John 8:21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
It was the chief priests who, looking straight into the eyes of the Incarnate God, made the official statement for themselves and their nation, We have no king but Caesar. (John 19:15). And here again this high priest stands in Herod’s judgment hall (Acts 23:35), there in Caesarea, and condemns his own self in the rejection of Christ’s representative, just as his fellow priests had done years earlier to Christ himself! He failed in the day of God’s visitation! Luke 19:44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. And history relates to us that this Ananias was assassinated later in the Jewish Wars.
One may be a fallen and depraved sinner, but he still has a “talent” that can be taken from him. (See Matthew 25:28-30,41,46). And afterward he is fit only for outer darkness. There is no ‘spark of divinity’ within any human soul by which he can improve his spiritual condition, but there is that point of no return which he can go beyond to render himself to be as Bunyan’s man in the iron cage! He can sin away his day of grace, and then only face a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:27).
And read just how far those of the high priest’s office had fallen from their first holy position before God: Matt. 26:59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; 60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
Well did the Apostle Paul write of them in his Roman letter: Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. (Romans 2:23, 24). For the law clearly stated: Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. (Exodus 20:16).
But what of God’s purpose in raising up such a horrible creature? You do realize that even such wicked persons as this serve the Lord’s eternal purposes! Proverbs 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. And of the evil Pharaoh, who rose up, and knew not God’s mercies in Joseph, we read, And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. (Exodus 1:8, 9:16). All men are God’s servants, but not all men are God’s sons!
Consider this statement by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, spoken through the Apostle Peter: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: (Acts 2:23). There are no wicked hands raised up apart from God’s determinate counsel! And God’s purpose for Ananias’ wicked determination to murder Paul was to get him before Caesar in Rome for a witness of God! Acts 27:24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
This same scene has already been alluded to in the account of Christ before Pilate. But there we read, And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will. (Luke 23:24, 25). This was done in that Jesus was God’s Lamb to be sacrificed for sin!
But this was not the case with the Apostle Paul, who stands, seemingly in the exact same circumstances. For he, as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), was to be a witness and provide a testimony even before kings, that Jesus is the Christ! Therefore as a witness and not The Sacrifice, he was not to be turned over to the murderous Jews, but sent on to Caesar in Rome. And Ananias forced this issue, so that Paul, as a Roman citizen, could state, by the Spirit, I appeal to Caesar.
And this appeal to Caesar was given only after the ‘threat’ of Festus turning Paul over to the Jews in Jerusalem. Acts 25:9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me? This was even as Pilate had done with Christ. But the Lord Jesus, not being a citizen of Rome, as was Paul, was denied any and all appeals to escape the sacrificial work he was sent to accomplish! John 12:27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.
As Paul’s birth made him a citizen of Rome, therefore excluding him from the murderous Jewish priests and council, so the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ assured him of dying at their hands! Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Again, Paul, as are we, was to be a “living sacrifice!” But the Lord Jesus Christ was the very Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29). And as God’s Lamb he could pray, “Let this cup pass from me.” But then he had to add, “Nevertheless, thy will be done.” – And it was! For God, the Father, heard and did answer that prayer. But the answer was, “No.” As God’s Lamb, he had to be sacrificed by the Father through the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14), in order that his blood, the blood of God, should purge forever the sin of all the elect for all eternity!
If it were the Romans that killed him, it would have been but an execution. And that would have had no redemptive value! If it were the Jews that killed him, it would have been an assassination. And that would have provided no redemptive benefit. It had to be that God, Himself, offered him, as in the picture of Abraham, the father, offering Isaac, the son, for there to have been any redemption! It was God who gave him. It was God that spared him not. It was God who delivered him up!
Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Never forget that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God was not solely for the redemption of mankind. No, dear Reader! That sacrifice had to provide God with a great benefit, unobtainable by the sacrifice of thousands of rams or bulls! That sacrifice had to render God “satisfied!” And only God, intently watching the accomplishment of his Lamb could say if it had met its purpose. Isaiah 53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
The Father made sure that it was a sacrifice worthy of providing his satisfaction. It could not be tainted with base and sinful emotions, but was pure and holy to accomplish that goal!
Pastor Gene Breed