Stephen was a man chosen among the Jews – he was filled with the Holy Spirit and great faith. But he was persecuted by the Jews and taken to the Sanhedrin on trial:
Acts 6 “
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”
At that time, Stephen preached and condemned them for crucifying Jesus Christ.
ACTS 7 “51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
While the Jews were going to punish Stephen in their great anger, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and saw Jesus Christ standing at the right hand of the Father in heaven. But we see something absolutely amazing: what did Stephen say when he saw Jesus?
He was being stoned and was about to die when he asked the Lord to forgive their sins! Stephen saw Jesus and became exactly like Him in His death! He did not pronounce judgment but mercy and grace on his killers! It was Jesus who was speaking these words through Stephen just like when He spoke on the Cross:
Luke 23 “33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.””
What a glorious transformation – where Stephen became just like Jesus Christ in his death. We see the love and mercy of Christ forgiving those who crucified Him. We don’t know what happened later on to those killers of Stephen – the only way for anyone to receive forgiveness is if they believe in Jesus. Did they believe in Jesus later on and be forgiven? God only knows.
But the good news for all believers is that this is our great and glorious hope, that when we see Jesus we will become like Him. Just like it happened to Stephen.
1st John 3 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
Jesus is coming and in that last trumpet, He will raise the dead and glorify all believers – both dead and alive – to receive glorious immortal bodies in the rapture. What a glorious hope! When we believe in Jesus, our spirits were made righteous just like Jesus. But when He returns, we will become exactly like Jesus in our bodies – receiving immortal bodies just like His resurrected and glorified body!
1st Corinthians 15 “22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him…….51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”