Stephen has done his best to penetrate the hearts of the Jewish council, but they remain as hard hearted as they were before. Stephen is about to become the first martyr in the New Testament church. We will also be introduced to a man called Saul.
Acts 7:54 "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." When the truth is given, the guilty heart cannot stand to bear it. Stephen has given them his testimony on the everlasting grace of God to a people who continually disobeyed Him. They hated Stephen for pointing out their misconceptions. The things man cannot understand, he tries to destroy. They "gnashed on him with their teeth" or in other words they said mean-spirited hateful things to him. With their mouths they chewed him up, and spit him out.
55 "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." "But he" in contrast to their vile nature, "looked up" "into heaven". In times of great despair and trouble what a better place to look than up to our Redeemer! What a wonderful comfort this must have been to Stephen to know that God and His Son were waiting to receive him into Glory. How could he do anything but exclaim "Behold, I see the heavens opened"? Imagine getting a glimpse into Heaven and not only seeing the "Son of man" but also God standing by Him! The "right hand of God" is the place of prominence and honor; this is Jesus' rightful spot in Heaven.
57 "Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul."
This was all they could take. They "stopped their ears" or placed their hands over their ears as if they had heard the most blasphemous thing yet. Notice that Luke used the term "with one accord" here. Just as the church was in one accord for good; this gathering of men was in one accord for evil. They "cast him out of the city" gates to stone him to death. Jesus was taken outside of the city gates to be crucified by this same group not long ago. The people who took up rocks to hurl at Stephen until he was dead laid "their clothes" or their outer garments at the feet of a man named "Saul". This is the same man who will have an encounter with the One Stephen has been proclaiming before the council, but on this day they were on opposite sides of the cross. But this day would be one to prepare Saul for the work the Lord has for him.
59 "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
Stephen in stoned to death, but Jesus is waiting for him. In true humility and Christian love Stephen with his last breath asks the Lord to "lay not this sin to their charge" much like Jesus when He said as He hung on the cross: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." And with that Stephen "fell asleep" awaiting the resurrection of the body. He did not die on this day; his spirit lives on. He is asleep in Christ. He just entered into the rest that Stephen told of yesterday in our study. If only the council could have seen what Stephen did!
The Bible tells us that unless we have been born again we cannot "see the Kingdom of Heaven". We do not have the spiritual eyes to see what the Lord has done for each and every one of us until He has touched our eyes to see the spiritual. Stephen's eyes were wide open and able to see his Savior. Has God touched your eyes? It is not too late to call upon His name.
Have a great weekend!