The apostles spoke of the last time or the last days as though they would occur in their expected lifetime. Were they wrong? If they were wrong about this, how can we conclude anything that they have told us is true? James wrote of the last days as days of judgment upon those who defrauded others of what belonged to them, and refused to share what they had with the poor (James 5:1-5). Peter also spoke of our eternal inheritance, that is, our salvation or eternal life, which was reserved for us in heaven and was ready to be unveiled in the last time (1Peter 1:4-5, 20). Just before his death, Peter also spoke of the scoffers who would deny Christ, and they would come in the last days (2Peter 3:1-5). Just after James’ death Jude , the brother of the apostle James the Less, wrote of ungodly men who had crept into the church pretending to be brethren, but they loved this world and sought to take advantage of and separate the brethren for their own gain, and Jude claimed this was prophesied for the last time (Jude 1:3-4, 15-19). What happened? It seemed that all of a sudden things began to fall apart. Did this all this occur at once simply by chance or was there an unseen hand behind everything?
What about John? Was his message any different? No, indeed he also had a message for the last time when antichrist should appear (1John 2:18). Notice that John’s message of danger was similar to the other writers:
1 John 2:19 KJV They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us (emphasis mine).
Enemies had infiltrated the ranks of the brethren and had suddenly and all at once begun to strike out at the church. Who would have done such a thing? If all of this was not by accident and had a common source, who would have profited by the destruction and enslavement of the Messianic movement?
Before answering this question, let’s first see what the enemies were saying. They began to deny Jesus was the Christ, thus making themselves an antichrist and effectively denying the Father also (1John 2:22). These men seem to have had either this world’s goods in abundance or sought to enhance their position through separating the brethren and making a living off the church. They preached against helping those in need and had a prosperity Gospel in mind (1John 3:17; cf. James 2:16). More than anything else, this is what they preached, having this world’s goods in high esteem. Denying Christ his proper place in the believer’s life allowed these ungodly men to exalt themselves and lord it over the flock of God (3John 1:9). When some protested, they were removed (3John 1:10). Love of the brethren and love of the truth took a back seat to obeying the voice of men.
There seems to be only one single source for this trouble, if we are to believe the churches problems occurred suddenly and all at once and not by accident. All these things happened while Paul was in prison, probably while at Rome. Annas had failed to have Felix or Festus execute him, so he unleashed his long awaited plan to destroy the Messianic movement in the Diaspora. Very early in the history of the Jesus movement Annas had planted spies in the group in order to bring the sect into subjection to him. Two of these people were Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). We know this by how they are described in passing in verse-13. Notice:
Acts 5:13 KJV And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.
To whom does “the rest” refer? The people didn’t hold the apostles up as gods, as though no man should approach them at all. Therefore, the phrase cannot refer to ordinary believers, because believers did join themselves with the apostles. In some fashion the rest must refer to Ananias and Sapphira, but who are the rest? What is Luke trying to tell us? We need to understand its identity, because Ananias and Sapphira belong to this group of people, so to fully understand their behavior, the identity of the rest must be uncovered.
Elsewhere, Paul spoke of false brethren who had numbered themselves with the believers in order to spy out our liberty in Christ and bring us into subjection (Galatians 2:4). This must be the identity of the rest who were afraid to join themselves with the apostles (Acts 5:13). The question is: to whom did they seek to bring the group into subjection? The only person in the world who hated the Messianic movement so much that he would have organized a worldwide plot against us is Annas, the high priest of Jerusalem. Each time one of his family officiated the office of high priest, there was a persecution of believers. This should tell us something about his heart. He hated the Way, as the Messianic movement had been called. He was the mind behind the empire-wide plot to destroy the churches of God and bring them into subjection to him. All the general epistles were written to oppose the purpose of his plan, which was suddenly put into play. This was the last time and a time for all believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).