From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 2 – A closer look at how God develops us as disciples
In case anybody says that this only happened in the Old Testament, let us look at the book of Acts where we see the same thing happening to Ananias and Sapphira. They sold some land and gave some of the proceeds away to the apostles. They claimed that what they gave was the entire proceeds. In fact, they had held some back for themselves. There was nothing wrong with that, in itself. The Bible makes clear that they were fully entitled to do as they wished with the money. They were under no duty to give away any of it, let alone all of it. The sin was not in holding some of it back, but in lying about it:
1 But a man named Anani′as with his wife Sapphi′ra sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Anani′as, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back 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? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Anani′as heard these words, he fell down and died. 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.Acts 5:1-6 (RSV)
So, God took away Ananias’ life because he had lied to the Holy Spirit. Then the same thing happened to his wife:
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 tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. 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.Acts 5:7-11 (RSV)
Some have argued that Ananias and Sapphira were not real Christians and were actually unsaved unbelievers, who were only pretending to be part of the church. However, I see no basis for saying that. The Bible does not say it, or even suggest it. On the contrary, if they were not real Christians God would have had no reason to discipline them. If God disciplined every non-Christian who ever told a lie there would be none of them left. God fully expects unbelievers to lie, but His principal judgment of them will come later at the Great White Throne, where they will be condemned and punished eternally.
The main reason why people argue that Ananias and Sapphira must have been non-Christians is because they don’t like the idea of God dealing with real Christians in this way. But whether we like a thing or not has nothing to do with whether it is true. We must therefore be guided by what the Bible actually says, not by what we would like it to say.
On that basis we have to conclude that discipline of this kind can, and does, apply to real Christians. It ranges from rebuke to chastisement, and all the way up to ending our lives. That would send us to our Judgment and take away our opportunity to do any further harm.