Stephen was a deacon in the first Christian church at Jerusalem – Circa 32 A.D. He was stoned to death by an angry crowd of Jews. His "fifteen minutes of fame" are found in the Book of Acts…the last of Chapter six and all of Chapter seven.
Picture yourself - standing in that crowd of people in 32 A.D. Now, place yourself in the crowd as a relative of Stephen. Maybe he was your husband…or father. Maybe a brother or uncle. People are throwing heavy rocks at him as he lay in a shallow stoning pit.
Your heart would reach out to him, but there would be nothing you can do for fear of the Roman soldiers who were there, and for fear that the Jews who were throwing these “killing rocks” at your Stephen would come after you next. So you just had to watch him die…or turn your face away if the pain was too much for you to bear.
When it was over, and Stephen lay dead in the pit, you might be asking yourself, as a new Christian, “Why would God start up a church full of “Christ followers” in Jerusalem, let it grow to the point where over fifteen thousand of us are in attendance, and then have the apostles choose out seven deacons to help them run the church affairs…only to have my Stephen put to death?” “God, why would you do such a thing?
There are no mysteries with God. There are no unanswered questions with God.
Everything is on a timetable with God, and the things that happen on earth daily are, for the most part, “earthly things”.
God is working His plan toward a final reconciliation – a “balancing of the books” in heaven. God will reward those whose names remain in the Book of Life, and He will judge all the multitudes whose names are not found therein.
Some “earthly things” happen for the purpose of furthering the DIVINE PLAN of God. Stephen was born for one purpose. God’s plan included that Stephen was born to die this violent death so that His PLAN would move forward.
Stephen lived a good life, and made it into manhood. He grew up learning all that he could from his Rabbi in the Holy Temple at Jerusalem.
He likely served his fellow man in some capacity as one who feared God and eschewed evil. His heart was right with God. He became “born-again” through the preaching of Jesus and the apostles. He trusted all the Jesus said. He was one of the first men to join the church at Jerusalem…this Christian church.
Let’s move backwards from what God’s plan was to the moment of Stephen’s death. When we are finished with the “rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey has said thousands of times, we will understand that every Christian has a part in God’s divine PLAN.
Some of us hold back from serving God with all of our being. When we finally get to the point where we can trust God 100% for everything from our next breath or meal to our next dollar, then He can use us…just like He used Stephen.
On Sunday, April 13, 32 A.D., Jesus was raised from the dead. He went to His apostles who were gathered in what is called the “upper room” in Jerusalem.
They were cowering there….hiding form the Jews who had just crucified their friend, Jesus.
They had high hopes for Jesus and His leadership. He was dead now, and although Jesus told them many times that He would be crucified and that He would raise up from the dead on the third day, they failed to truly believe it.
We pick up on that story in Luke’s writings. Luke 24:45 –“Then opened Jesus their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures”
Jesus preached to them from the Old Testament scriptures, and He spoke to them of heavenly things before the crucifixion on April 11, 32 A.D - a Friday.
But this time, even though none of His apostles believed He was other than a ghost, He opened their understanding.
He wants to “open our understanding of the Scriptures” as well, so that we can be more effective witnesses for Him…and so that we can gain a more personal knowledge of who He is.
Jesus wants a closer relationship with us, and He gains it when we endeavor to show Him that we, too, are interested in getting closer to Him. We demonstrate this by taking the time to read and study His words. How much TIME out of 168 hours in a week do you look into God's love letter to you?
It would not be until Monday, April 21, 32 A.D. that all eleven apostles would truly believe that Jesus was not a ghost, and that He was, indeed flesh and bones and spirit. Eight full days would pass before they accepted all that He said and all that He was.
But, on April 13th – “Resurrection Sunday”, Jesus said this to his yet unbelieving apostles: Luke 24:46 –“Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47-And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM. 48-And ye are witnesses of these things. 49-And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”
Please notice in the above verse that Jesus said, “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47-And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations…”
Jesus speaks of Himself to His apostles in the third person. Jesus did not say, It behooved ME to suffer….He said, “It behooved Christ to suffer”. He also did not say, “Repentence and remission of sins should be preached in MY name…” He said, “Repentence and remission of sins should be preached in HIS name.”
I am careful to point this out because when we get to a recording of events in the upper room – as recorded by Mark, we need to know that Jesus will again use words THEM and THEY for YOU - the eleven apostles.
Jesus told His apostles that He accomplished all that He was to accomplish on this side of heaven.
He commissioned them to preach repentance and remission of sins among ALL NATIONS…BEGINNING AT JERUSALEM. “You apostles shall be witnesses of these things that I have said to you, and witnesses of all that I have opened your understanding to.” “Behold, I send the Holy Spirit of Promise upon you, but wait in Jerusalem until you receive the actual POWER of the Holy Spirit promised to you by my Father.”
John, the beloved apostle of Jesus, recorded this event in the upper room when Jesus breathed upon them and the Holy Spirit dwelled within them for the first time.
John 20:22 –“And when Jesus had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 -Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
It is critical to also understand that these apostles did NOT believe that Jesus was other than a ghost from Sunday, April 13th until Monday, April 21st…eight days later.
We must prove this out before we get to the next level.
John, the beloved, continued to record this event in that upper room. Verses 26 –“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.”
Thomas was in the presence of the many witnesses, including Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany (The sister of Martha and Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead) Cleophas and others when they all came to the apostles with the news that they physically saw and spoke to Jesus on this Sunday, April 13th.
Thomas, known later as “doubting Thomas”, uttered words of disbelief to the witnesses who said, “We have seen the LORD.”
Thomas knew all of these disciples (not apostles…disciples who were followers of Christ). John 20:25- “But Thomas said unto them, ‘Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
On Sunday, April 13th, Thomas and the other ten apostles were in the upper room where Jesus entered, but he and the others still did not believe that Jesus was other than a ghost.
First, Jesus “appeared” in their midst…and the door was locked. This might give us an idea that flesh and bones cannot enter a room that has a locked door. The apostles are no different. They figured that Jesus must be a spirit.
I am giving this background as insight so there are no misunderstandings about Stephen when we get to him shortly.
Eight days later, on April 21st…a Monday, Jesus said to Thomas, in John 20:27-“Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”
Jesus wanted to leave NO DOUBT that He was raised bodily from the dead. He wanted all eleven apostles to finally KNOW that He was flesh and blood…and spirit…and that they should have believed Him when He told them all, while He was with them and before the crucifixion, “I will raise again on the third day and meet you in Galilee.” On Ressurection Sundaty, April 13th, Jesus even ate fish with His apostles - to demonstrate that He was NOT a ghost. He said, "Spirits can't eat food."
Jesus knew of Thomas’s doubts, and of the words of disbelief that he uttered to the actual eye witnesses a week earlier.
This time, Mone=day, April 21st...eight days after the first upper room meeting, Jesus told Thomas to “come…stick your finger into the nail holes and into my side…see if it is not me in the flesh.”
Thomas did as Jesus beckoned, and once he stuck his finger into the nail holes and the side of Jesus, Verse 28 –“And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.”
From that moment forward all eleven believed and Jesus would spend the next forty days…until May 23rd, 32 A.D (a Friday) with them to teach them all they should do and that they should write down. Forty is a sign of completion. These writings would be the New Testament.
Jesus would later choose Saul of Tarsus to become His hand-picked 12th apostle…who would be given the name Paul.
This would occur almost immediately after Stephen was martyred.
Before leaving the upper room on Monday, April 21st, 32 A.D., Jesus left His apostles with words of wisdom….prophetic words that would help them accomplish His mission to Jerusalem first, and then to the whole world.
In John 20:28, Jesus said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
Jesus was demonstrating that greater are those who will come in the future who have NOT seen me. Their faith will be their blessing. “You, Thomas, know me and you had to stick your fingers into my side to believe me.”
Now, before we go back to the dead body of Stephen, we must revisit the upper room on Sunday, April 13th as recorded by the apostle Mark because there is a lot of confusion as to whom Jesus was speaking with when He made the claim that certain POWERS of signs and wonders and miracles would be given.
Mark Chapter 16 and verse 14: Mark records the meeting, but now you know the full and complete background of how none of the eleven believed for eight days.
Mark writes, in verse 14 –“Afterward Jesus appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided (scolded) them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them (the witnesses) which had seen him after he was risen.”
The eleven were scolded by Jesus on April 13th in the upper room…because of their hardness of heart to believe the witnesses, and their outright unbelief that He was, indeed, alive …just as He told them he would be.
Jesus then gave them their commission in verses 15 and 16 –“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 -He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
Now, as I stated above…when Jesus spoke of Himself in the third person, He will now speak directly to the apostles in like manner. He will refer to THEY WHO BELIEVE to mean…THOSE APOSTLES WHO WILL BELIEVE BY NEXT MONDAY APRIL 21ST.
Now we can read about WHOM Jesus would give the extraordinary POWERS of “signs, wonders and miracles” that He possessed. He would be leaving these eleven in forty days, and knew that THEY who believed would need to preach the Gospel of Christ, and that they would also need His authority to prove they were sent MESSENGERS. “Apostle” means “Messenger”.
In Mark’s writings…Chapter 16 and verses 17 and 18, Jesus gives THEM the following POWERS:
17 -"And these signs shall follow THEM THAT BELIEVE; In my name shall THEY cast out devils; THEY shall speak with new tongues…”
18 –“THEY shall take up serpents; and if THEY drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Jesus clearly told the apostles, “THEY (of you) WHO BELIEVE will be given the signs that shall follow THEM (you) when you go into Jerusalem, and preach the Gospel of Christ.
Nothing will happen, however, until the POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST comes upon you. The Holy Spirit is in all of you apostles now…as promised, but you will need the POWER of the Holy Ghost so that you can become BOLD when you deliver my words to the people.
We, today, need to ask God for the POWER of His Holy Spirit that dwells or lives within us. We lack the POWER. We need the POWER to be effective witnesses of Jesus to the unbeliever.
I have said in several articles, that anyone can mention the name of God to anyone on the planet and they will not be offended. When we mention the name of CHRIST to people…in the workplace…in our families….at a party…they cringe…or we cringe. Cringe means to “shrink in fear”.
The apostles were cowering in the upper room…afraid of retribution from those who just crucified their Lord.
They now needed BOLDNESS - POWER - to become witnesses of Jesus Christ, and back then, the Jews and others needed to see “SIGNS” before they would believe anyone that they had the POWER of CHRIST upon them.
Now, lets go over to Acts Chapter One to see what the Plan of God was for these apostles…and for Stephen.
The apostle Peter wrote the Book of The Acts of The Apostles. We just refer to it as “Acts”.
In Chapter 1:8, Peter recalls what Jesus said to them before He ascended into heaven: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 -And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
From this, we now have THE PLAN that Jesus laid out before His apostles. “You shall receive POWER after the Holy Ghost comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me…IN JERUSALEM…AND THEN INTO ALL OF JUDEA….THEN INTO SAMARIA….AND THEN INTO EVERY PART OF THE EARTH.”
God’s plan was to reach the entire world with the Gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ. To do this, POWER from the Holy Spirit would be needed to EMBOLDEN all who preach this message….every disciple.
But, it had to start in Jerusalem.
The newly formed Christian church had grown to over 5,000 men. To that, add their wives and children, so the eleven apostles would have their hands full with about 15,000 converts.
I say Jewish converts, but know that a Jew is always a Jew. If they become saved, they are Jewish followers of Christ, and could be labeled “Christians” or “disciples”, but they shall always be Jewish.
Peter stood up one day and declared that Jesus spoke of twelve apostles…but there were only eleven. Rather than let Jesus choose His own apostle, Peter figured that he would get the new followers of Christ…all Jewish converts, to choose – by lottery, a 12th apostle. They chose Matthias.
Matthias would never be heard of again in the Bible. He accomplished nothing that we know of.
Saul of Tarsus, however, would come to be a hand-picked apostle of Jesus soon after he stood over the dead body of Stephen.
The first church at Jerusalem was booming. It was growing. God’s PLAN, however, was for the Gospel of Christ to go from Jerusalem into Judaea…then spread to Samaria….then to the uttermost parts of the earth, so something would now have to happen to this first church.
Perhaps the first Christian church at Jerusalem would become “comfortable” with their numbers.
Perhaps it would be a while into the future before the rest of the world would receive the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel of Christ is this:
Jesus came to the earth to teach. He came to the earth to die on a cross to forgive mankind of their sins, and to become the final blood sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. He would die, and on the third day rise…victorious over death and the grave. He raised Lazarus before His own crucifixion to prove that He had the power to raise the dead. Jesus would ascend into heaven to prepare a home for ALL WHO BELIEVE to spend eternity in. Jesus would sit at the right-hand of His Father…God.
Whosoever shall call upon the name of Jesus, and repent of their sins, and believe that he is the Christ…the Messiah, they SHALL BE SAVED.
Before the first Christain church was established, however, the apostles would come to Jerusalem and receive this promised POWER of the Holy Spirit of God.
Not surprisingly, the DAY OF PENTECOST would come fifty days (which is what Pentecost means) after the Passover. The Jewish Passover was being prepared for Saturday…the Sabbath…April 12, 32 A.D. On Friday, the day before the Passover Feast, Pilate handed Jesus to the Jews for crucifixion…ad He was, in fact crucified on that Friday, April 11, 32 A.D.
Fifty days later, on Saturday (the Sabbath), May 31st, 32 A.D., these apostles met with several hundred other followers or “disciples” of Christ.
On that day, the sound of a mighty rushing wind was heard and it filled all of the house in which these apostles were meeting. It could easily have been the same house in Jerusalem where the upper room meeting occurred.
Jesus had ascended into heaven on the 43rd day after the crucifixion, and the 40th day after His upper room meeting on April 13th, so He would have ascended on Friday, May 23rd 32 A.D. Eight days later, this Day of Pentecost would happen.
Miracles, signs and wonders began to happen right after this Day of Pentecost began.
On the Day of Pentecost, Peter and the other eleven apostles, began speaking to Jews who came for the feast from over 22 other countries.
These Jews came from Persia and Greece. Parthenians were there as well as Medes, dwellers from Mesopotamia, and Judaea. There were Jews from Cappadocia and Pontus and Asia there. Over twenty-two nations were represented…yet, they heard these twelve from Galilee speaking to them in their own language.
This miracle was called the miracle of “tongues”, which meant the apostles (and others) could speak in languages that they were not trained in, so that unbelievers could hear them in their native “tongue” or language.
This “tongues” miracle was interpreted by some, to mean that God had given the apostles (and now ordinary Christians) the ability to converse in a “heavenly language” that only God can interpret and understand.
The manifestation of the POWER of the Holy Spirit is that unbelievers would be saved.
Unbelievers (Jews from over 22 nations) would hear the Gospel of Christ being preached in their native tongues. The manifestation of this Holy Spirit POWER is NOT for believers to converse with other believers, nor is it for believers to converse with God. God understands our prayers in English. He understands the prayers of the Chinese, the Turks, the Medes and the Persians. He does NOT need to hear us in some heavenly language.
But, to demonstrate that the POWER of the Holy Spirit is given for one reason – to EMBOLDEN otherwise timid Christians to deliver the Gospel of Christ – to EMPOWER the otherwise timid Christians to step up to the plate and do their duty…their “great commission”, we shall quickly go to 1 Corinthians 13:8 where the apostle Paul (whom we shall speak of in a moment), said, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
Paul had the ability to speak to others in their own language. He was a Jew and a Pharisee. He was highly educated. He spoke in many languages, including Hebrew and Greek.
In fact, Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak in the tongues (languages) of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Of all of the special gifts given by God, only three would remain after the “season of Jesus” – “When Perfection comes, all else will cease.”
Paul tells us which three shall remain in verse 13 of 1 Corinthians 13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
We know that “tongues” or the ability to communicate with unbelievers in their native “tongue” or language was given only to unbelievers.
In chapter 14 of 1st Corinthians…at verse 22, Paul tells us, “Wherefore tongues are for a SIGN, not to them that believe, but to them that BELIEVE NOT.”
In 1 Corinthians 14:19, Paul says, “Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.”
And in verse 9, Paul declares, “ So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.”
If there is still doubt in your mind, we should listen to what God Himself said. We find the words in 1 Corinthians 14:
In 1 Corinthians 14: 21, we read, “In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” “SO SAYS THE LORD.”
“In the Law it is written” comes out of Isaiah 28:11 “Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people.”
God Himself said that, in the future, “I will speak to this people (The Jews) with foreign lips and with strange tongues” - meaning that the apostles and others will come, and will speak, but these Jews from all nations will reject my Son even after seeing the SIGNS of others speaking to them in their own native, but Jewish tongue.”
Now comes Stephen.
The church at Jerusalem grew to over 15,000.
The apostles would need to have some help, so they spoke to the followers known as “Christians” or “disciples of Christ”, and they said, in Acts 6:3 - Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word."
Stephen was among the seven chosen. In fact, here is the whole group found in Acts 6:5 – “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.”
Notice that these deacons would receive ALL THE POWERS of authority that Jesus gave to the eleven in the upper room meeting.
The apostles must have prayed over and laid their hands on Matthias to deliver those same POWERS of being able to do SIGNS, WONDERS and MIRACLES.
These apostles laid hands on the deacons to transfer their POWER to the deacons.
Jesus told His apostles, “Whatsoever things YOU shall ask, it will be done unto you.”
I have to run down a rabbit trail to demonstrate that the above verse was NOT given to us today. It was given to the apostles by Jesus. We go to Matthew 22 to discover the miracle of the withered fig tree.
Verse 18 –“Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, He was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, He went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then He said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered. 20 - When the disciples (the apostles) saw this, THEY were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" THEY asked.”
If you read Matthew 22, there was no one else around…only Jesus and the twelve (including Judas at the time).
21-Jesus replied, "I tell YOU the truth, if YOU have faith and do not doubt, not only can YOU do what was done to the fig tree, but also YOU can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22-If YOU believe, YOU will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
The apostles asked for their POWER to be given to the seven new deacons, and they transferred this POWER to them first through prayer (“YOU must ask”) and then through the laying on of their hands to transfer their POWERS…their SIGNS, wonders and miracles.
Philip, one of the seven deacons, did signs and wonders.
In Acts 6:8, we read that Stephen had these POWERS immediately after the apostles laid hands on the seven. “Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”
Stephen would have these POWERS and the POWER of the Holy Spirit to EMBOLDEN him to give his final message to the Jews…and then he would be put to death.
The high priests conspired against Stephen. They singled him out…probably because he was EMBOLDENED to preach the Gospel of Christ to the Jews.
The Gentiles (non-Jews) would receive this Gospel of Christ AFTER Stephen becomes a martyr, and Saul of Tarsus meets Jesus on the road to Damascus. Remember, God’s PLAN is to get the Gospel of Christ out into the entire world. Stephen is part of His PLAN.
You and I are part of that same PLAN of God.
We, like Stephen, WILL become PERSECUTED for our faith in this one called Jesus.
Will YOU have the POWER of the Holy Spirit to be EMBOLDENED when this happens? Even if it means dying? If it comes to the time spoken of in the Bible that Christians WILL be persecuted, and will be asked NOT to speak the name of Jesus, will you speak His name…or will you shrink away and deny that you know Him?
This is why we need the POWER of the Holy Spirit – as Stephen had. We WILL suffer PERSECUTION – even unto the threat of death, in the very near future. IT IS COMING! BE READY.
When the high priests hired people to trump up charges of blasphemy against Stephen, he was arrested and brought before them.
In Chapter 7 of Acts, the high priests and other leaders of the Temple said, “Are these charges true?"
Stephen knew he was about to be martyred, so he set out to lay out all of their sins against them.
He started telling them their history from the time of their father Abraham. They were astonished at his knowledge.
In his final words…found in verses 51-53, Stephen laid it out before them and all the witnesses present: 51 - "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52- Was there ever a prophet your fathers 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 put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
This would be his death sentence. Those high priests and all others in attendance to hear these cutting words uttered by Stephen…a man filled with the Holy Ghost and with POWER, told them the truth of how God felt toward them.
The rest of Stephen’s remaining moments came quickly. Verse 54- “When they 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. 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.”
Stephen died at the hands of fellow Jews….neighbors and friends that he knew and grew up with.
After he became a Jew who believed in the Gospel of Christ, he was compelled to tell them the truth of God and of Jesus…whom they hated….whom they killed.
For Stephens’ bravery, we MUST remember his story and pass it on to others…especially at this hour and season of the “end times”.
I am convinced that we are living in the last of the last days. The news collides and merges with the prophecy of the Bible on a daily basis.
Read my other articles on “Our Last Day on Earth” and the “2012 prophecies” and the “Scott Brown Prophecy”.
Meanwhile, as we finish up with Stephen, and with what God’s divine PLAN was, we end Acts 7 with this: “Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
Saul of Tarsus was a Jew..a Pharisee, trained under the tutoring of the Chiefest of Rabbis…Gamaliel.
In Acts 8:1 – “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
In the very next verse, God’s PLAN unfolded.
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2-Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3-But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”
Because of Saul, and the persecution of the Christians at Jerusalem, and because the high priests…with Saul’s help, managed to throw Christians in jail – men, women and their children…the Christians scattered out into Judea, and into Samaria….EXACTLY AS JESUS HAD TOLD THEM.
From there, Jesus met Saul on the road to Damascus, and Saul, the Jewish Pharisee…accepted this one called Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Jesus EMPOWERED Saul (now the apostle Paul) to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with Holy Spirit POWER, and with the authority from Christ to do SIGNS, miracles and wonders…just as the other apostles did.
Paul healed the sick, raised a young man from the dead who fell out of a balcony and broke his neck. He handled poisonous vipers while on the Island of Malta.
God’s PLAN for Stephen was part of His PLAN for Saul/Paul. His PLAN for Saul/Paul was part of His PLAN for us.
Paul, the greatest of the apostles in my book, wrote much of the New Testament, and more importantly, he became known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles”. That’s US.
The Jews (en masse) rejected Christ…their Messiah. They failed to believe the thousands of fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament. They failed to believe Jesus’s words…and they failed to believe that He died for their sins and for the sins of the whole world.
Therefore, by the time the New Testament was fulfilled…eliminating the need for prophets, apostles, signs, wonders and miracles given by men, the Temple at Jerusalem was destroyed on Saturday…a Sabbath Day, August 4, 70 A.D.
It would not be until these end times that 144,000 Jews will become witnesses for Christ once again. “The Remnant” will consist of 12,000 Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Al the rest will be killed off in an event that is spoken of in the Bible. That event will come when the Temple on Mount Zion is built again.
That cannot come until the Arabs are kicked off the Holy Mountain. That cannot take place without an “event” taking place.
The event will be started by Ahmadinejad, the chosen one who will usher in the return of the Islamic Messiah…the 12th Imam known as al Mhadi.
When that happens…meaning that Iran will attempt to annihilate the Jews, Israel will cause a preemptive strike to happen on Iran. This will be the “event” that will cause all Arabs to be expelled from Israel and from the Holy Mount in Jerusalem in particular.
Ahmadinejad threatens to attack Israel daily with his nuclear weapons that he is developing. See, the news of today, coupled with the prophecy of the Bible, tell us we are in the “End of Times”.
Once the Arabs are expelled, the construction of the Holy Temple will begin.
When the Holy Temple is desecrated, and Arab troops are surrounding all of Jerusalem, Jesus tells us to “Look up – for our redemption draws near.”
Are YOU ready? Are all of your children ready? Are your parents born-again? If not, we have LOST OUR FIRST LOVE, and that is to have the POWER of the Holy Spirit so that we can be EMBOLDENED…like Stephen, to utter the name of JESUS CHRIST to our family, our friends, our co-workers.
If God laid out a date…say Saturday, June 20, 2015, what would you do to ensure that YOU or your loved ones are going to go to heaven?
What would you organize if that was the magic date?
We must get back to our FIRST LOVE, and that is to get the Gospel of Christ out to all whom we know and love because hell is not the place we would willfully send them.
Read the articles on hell and “Have You Lost Your FIRST LOVE?”
John Tyler, Author
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