Stephen now concluded his argument, leveling significant charges against the Sanhedrin members, calling them stiff-necked, spiritually uncircumcised resisters of the Holy Spirit. They are perfectly aligned with their fathers who persecuted and killed the God’s prophets. This culminated in the persecution and killing of the Righteous One, Jesus the Christ. These bold accusations by Stephen caused the Sanhedrin to be filled with internal rage and external indignation.
But Stephen was not deterred by their unified, visible anger because of his Holy Spirit empowerment; and he gazed into heaven, beholding the glory of God in the manifestation of Jesus, standing at the right hand of Gopd … and he declared such a wondrous sight to these men. In what Stephen beheld, the Lord’s posture of standing (instead of sitting) was significant. But the Sanhedrin members would hear no more! They covered their ears as they screamed in hatred against Stephen as they rushed towards him, dragging him outside Jerusalem.
There, Stephen was stoned, and the witnesses who falsely accused him were the first to cast rocks at him, laying their outer robes/cloaks at the feet of a man named Saul. As Stephen was being killed, he proclaimed the divinity of Jesus, calling upon Him as Lord and requesting Him to receive his spirit. Stephen’s final action was to kneel in the posture of intense prayer, and he interceded before God on behalf of his murderers, just as Jesus had done on the cross. Stephen then died as the first martyr in the name of Jesus, and Luke’s description using the verbiage of sleeping in death is a clear indication of the saints’ expectant hope of resurrection.
Saul thoroughly agreed with Stephen’s execution, and a great persecution against the Christian church in Jerusalem began that very day. Such terrible persecution caused a scattering of God’s people as far out as the regions of Judea and Samaria, expanding the reach of the gospel. However, the apostles remained in Jerusalem despite the very real threat of their own martyrdom. Bold Christian sympathizers buried Stephen’s body and loudly lamented over him, despite this being illegal for executed “blasphemers”. Meanwhile, Saul began a wholesale vicious attempt at destroying the church, arresting both men and women as he dragged Christians from their homes and threw them into prison. Would he achieve success?