Saw the glory of God - The Shekinah, the splendor or manifestation of the Divine Majesty.
And Jesus standing on the right hand of God - In his official character, as Mediator between God and man. Stephen had this revelation while in the Sanhedrin; for as yet he had not been forced out of the city. See Acts 7:58.
Full of the Holy Ghost - See the notes on Acts 2:4.
Looked up stedfastly - Fixed his eyes intently on heaven. Foreseeing his danger, and the effect his speech had produced; seeing that there was no safety in the Great Council of the nation, and no prospect of justice at their hands, he cast his eyes to heaven and sought protection there. When dangers threaten us, our hope of safety lies in heaven. When people threaten our persons, reputation, or lives, it becomes us to fix our eyes on the heavenly world; and we shall not look in vain.
And saw the glory of God - This phrase is commonly used to denote the visible symbols of God. It means some magnificent representation; a splendor, or light, that is the appropriate exhibition of the presence of God, Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30. See the notes on Luke 2:9. In the case of Stephen there is every indication of a vision or supernatural representation of the heavenly objects; something in advance of mere “faith” such as dying Christians now have. What was its precise nature we have no means of ascertaining. Objects were often represented to prophets by “visions”; and probably something similar is intended here. It was such an elevation of view - such a representation of truth and of the glory of God, as to be denoted by the word “see”; though it is not to be maintained that Stephen really saw the Saviour with the bodily eye.
As Stephen stood before his judges, the light of the glory of God rested upon his countenance. “And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” When called upon to answer to the charges brought against him, he began at Moses and the prophets and reviewed the history of the children of Israel and the dealings of God with them and showed how Christ had been foretold in prophecy. He referred to the history of the temple and declared that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands. The Jews worshiped the temple and were filled with greater indignation at anything spoken against that building than if it had been spoken against God. As Stephen spoke of Christ and referred to the temple, he saw that the people were rejecting his words; and he fearlessly rebuked them: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.” While they observed the outward ordinances of their religion, their hearts were corrupt and full of deadly evil. He referred to the cruelty of their fathers in persecuting the prophets, and declared that those whom he addressed had committed a greater sin in rejecting and crucifying Christ. “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.” EW 198.1
As these plain, cutting truths were spoken, the priests and rulers were enraged, and they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God,” and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” The people would not hear him. “They cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” EW 198.2
I saw that Stephen was a mighty man of God, especially raised up to fill an important place in the church. Satan exulted in his death; for he knew that the disciples would greatly feel his loss. But Satan's triumph was short; for in that company, witnessing the death of Stephen, there was one to whom Jesus was to reveal Himself. Saul took no part in casting the stones at Stephen, yet he consented to his death. He was zealous in persecuting the church of God, hunting them, seizing them in their houses, and delivering them to those who would slay them. Saul was a man of ability and education; his zeal and learning caused him to be highly esteemed by the Jews, while he was feared by many of the disciples of Christ. His talents were effectively employed by Satan in carrying forward his rebellion against the Son of God, and those who believed in Him. But God can break the power of the great adversary and set free those who are led captive by him. Christ had selected Saul as a “chosen vessel” to preach His name, to strengthen His disciples in their work, and to more than fill the place of Stephen. EW 199.1Read in context »
God's servants receive no honor or recognition from the world. Stephen was stoned because he preached Christ and Him crucified. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and finally put to death, because he was a faithful messenger of God to the Gentiles. The apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos, “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” [Revelation 1:9.] These examples of human steadfastness in the might of divine power, are a witness to the world of the faithfulness of God's promises, of His abiding presence and sustaining grace. GW 18.1
No hope of glorious immortality lights up the future of the enemies of God. The great military commander conquers nations, and shakes the armies of half the world; but he dies of disappointment, and in exile. The philosopher who ranges in thought through the universe, everywhere tracing the manifestations of God's power and delighting in their harmony, often fails to behold in these marvelous wonders the Hand that formed them all. “Man that is in honor, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” [Psalm 49:20.] But God's heroes of faith are heirs to an inheritance of greater value than any earthly riches,—an inheritance that will satisfy the longings of the soul. By the world they may be unknown and unacknowledged, but in the record books above they are enrolled as citizens of heaven, and an exalted greatness, an eternal weight of glory, will be theirs. GW 18.2Read in context »
“When men shall revile you, and persecute you,” said Jesus, “rejoice, and be exceeding glad.” And He pointed His hearers to the prophets who had spoken in the name of the Lord, as “an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” James 5:10. Abel, the very first Christian of Adam's children, died a martyr. Enoch walked with God, and the world knew him not. Noah was mocked as a fanatic and an alarmist. “Others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.” “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Hebrews 11:36, 35. MB 33.1
In every age God's chosen messengers have been reviled and persecuted, yet through their affliction the knowledge of God has been spread abroad. Every disciple of Christ is to step into the ranks and carry forward the same work, knowing that its foes can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. God means that truth shall be brought to the front and become the subject of examination and discussion, even through the contempt placed upon it. The minds of the people must be agitated; every controversy, every reproach, every effort to restrict liberty of conscience, is God's means of awakening minds that otherwise might slumber. MB 33.2
How often this result has been seen in the history of God's messengers! When the noble and eloquent Stephen was stoned to death at the instigation of the Sanhedrin council, there was no loss to the cause of the gospel. The light of heaven that glorified his face, the divine compassion breathed in his dying prayer, were as a sharp arrow of conviction to the bigoted Sanhedrist who stood by, and Saul, the persecuting Pharisee, became a chosen vessel to bear the name of Christ before Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. And long afterward Paul the aged wrote from his prison house at Rome: “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife: ... not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds.... Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached.” Philippians 1:15-18. Through Paul's imprisonment the gospel was spread abroad, and souls were won for Christ in the very palace of the Caesars. By the efforts of Satan to destroy it, the “incorruptible” seed of the word of God, “which liveth and abideth forever” (1 Peter 1:23), is sown in the hearts of men; through the reproach and persecution of His children the name of Christ is magnified and souls are saved. MB 33.3Read in context »