Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. – Acts 7:55
8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people.
10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.
11 So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.”
15 At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
John Fletcher was born in Switzerland, in 1729. He became a Methodist pastor and devoted his life to preaching the gospel and helping others. Fletcher literally chased down people to share the gospel with them. Inclement weather never deterred him.
Wherever and whenever he was needed, there he was found. To serve others, he gave of himself so much that his health broke. Repeated exposure to the elements, worsened his condition. When he was gravely ill, and death appeared imminent, many people came to visit and pay their respects.
After spending time with him, one of them commented, “I went to see a man that had one foot in the grave; but I found a man that had one foot in heaven!”
It is a rare privilege and honor to meet a child of the King who has one foot in heaven. Stephen was such a man. He was a man fully motivated by the Holy Spirit, the Father’s grace and power (Acts 6:3, 5, 8, 15). In my lifetime, I have known only one.
Stephen received a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, exalted, in all of His glory standing beside the Father in heaven.
Acts 7:56 “Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
For most of us, facing death evokes some degree of trepidation. Not so with Stephen. Reading his story found in Acts 6, 7, one may well conclude that he never “faced death.”
Stephen being entirely focused on the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, “faced heaven.”
REFLECT & PRAY
The Lord Jesus Christ is high and lifted up. The Father has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).
Father it is a new and wondrous thought for me that as I move through life toward my appointed expiration date, as Your child I face heaven.
In the dreams and visions recorded in Scripture, when the son of God is seen in heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father. In Stephen’s vision, the Lord Jesus Christ is standing. Why is Jesus standing? Could it be that the Lord Jesus Christ stood to greet and welcome Stephen? Will He do the same for the rest of us?
Stephen was the first martyr of the New Testament church. In the centuries since untold numbers of the Father’s children have been martyred. The exact number is known by the Father alone. But there’s much more to come. During the time of the great and terrible tribulation untold millions more will be martyred for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and their loyalty to their Father in heaven.
Revelation 6:9 When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.
But the message of Acts 7 is that Stephen faced heaven joyfully and triumphantly. Death was of no consequence. His eyes were fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Stephen died, not one word of what would become the New Testament had yet been written. And of course John the apostle had not yet received the revelation from the Father that would become the final book of the Bible. But we have it. We know how the story ends. We know that our King will reign forever and ever. Stephen already knew what would be revealed to John.
1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.
2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.
“The best part of heaven will not be the streets of gold, or the pearly gates, or even the happy reunions we will enjoy with believing loved ones. The best thing about heaven is the loving presence of God Himself” (Stanley).
Stephen went immediately into His presence about 2000 years ago. He never “faced death,” he “faced heaven.”