“Your young men shall see visions…” (Acts 2:17).
“But he (Stephen), being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:55-58).
Stephen was a young man of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, faith, and wisdom (Acts 6:3). Most of us would be thrilled to be noted for just one or two of these godly qualities. As we will soon discover, Stephen possessed not only these, but would be given more.
Stephen was a holy vessel, of a wholly new order, effecting disorder, among the self-righteous crowd. He was fit for the Master’s use, but unfit for the religious system of his day. God raised him up in a blaze of great persecution. Stephen answered the call and sealed his fiery message with his own blood.
Will there be end time persecution in America as great as that which was in Jerusalem long ago? And will there again be Stephens among us who have grand visions of heaven and of the glory of God? And will some be killed for telling the truth?
We have reason to believe that Stephen’s forgiveness of his accusers and murderers was instrumental in bringing forth new birth in another young man named Saul. As Stephen’s life and earthly destiny ended with visions of heaven, Saul’s new life would soon begin with the same. And as Stephen suffered this great persecution so Saul would suffer much more.
I wonder if Saul was rehearsing what he witnessed at Stephen’s martyrdom when shortly after his own conversion the Jews tried to kill him, too.
“Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him” (Acts 9:23).
I believe something was imparted to Saul at Stephen’s stoning and death. The Holy Spirit, who was now in Saul, brought him into remembrance of it, and of what Jesus had spoken to Ananias. It also opened up an understanding later in Saul of what Jesus suffered.
“For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My Name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).
Saul became Paul because Stephen cried out/prayed for his forgiveness. The witnesses at his death laid down their clothes at Saul’s feet, but it was Stephen’s loud praying that would later lay down new paths for those same feet.
In a way, Stephen passed the baton of his life and sacrifice to Saul. Isn’t it interesting that suffering and sacrifice marked Saul’s life (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Later in his life and ministry he recalled again, his earliest persecutions at Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32-33).
Never underestimate what God can do even with one who is standing by as Saul did at Stephen’s stoning. That same spirit of boldness and sacrifice was released and imparted to him. This was the multi-faceted wisdom of God being displayed before principalities and powers. Saul, a murderer of Christians, a persecutor of the Church, now chosen by God, to help perfect the Church and bring salvation to the nations. Oh, what our mighty God can do! Hallelujah!
Stephen’s violent departure led to Saul’s violent entry into the kingdom of God. Will this kind of violence be more frequent and mark these last days? Where are the voices of the spiritually violent witnesses, prayer-s, and preachers that are producing violent conversions?
God is setting a precedent in this hour for those who are moving with His Spirit in life, in prayer, and in ministry. The Spirit of the Lord does multiple things at once when we move with Him and obey Him. There is often a chain reaction and a domino effect, if you will, to those who are flowing with Him. Those called and chosen of Him come under His workings and divine activity. Stephen was obedient. He was filled with the Spirit even in his hour of death; he saw into the Spirit, and spoke by the Spirit.
So put your faith in the wisdom of God, and all the more in your trials (Jam. 1:2-5), so that you can continue to work with the Lord in the moving of His Spirit. There you will find the grace, provision, and the full supply of what you need. This is how God’s economy works. So let the record show that there is confidence and fruit in moving with God in the anointing.
Stephen was a young man who was martyred. Saul was a young man who observed it all. Saul received something of an impartation and an understanding at Stephen’s martyrdom that came later. There was an intensity of the anointing in Stephen’s final hour that marked Saul. In the light of the spirit of antichrist, God’s called out and chosen ones must carry this spirit of martyrdom into the earth. A new breed of preacher must be born.
Young men want to run with zeal, but there’s a process. Jesus was led into the wilderness before coming out in power.
Besides the blameless character of this young man Stephen, there are three more radical qualities which distinguish him from most modern day preachers. I believe these qualities to be the stamp of a true warrior and a new breed of revivalist that will prepare the way for the Lord’s soon return. Here they are:
1. His message was irresistible.
“And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake” (Acts 6:10).
2. His miracles were great and done “among” the people.
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” (Acts 6:8).
3. His martyrdom was the embodiment of the love of our Savior and came with visions of heaven.
“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).
Can there be any greater heaven demanding and hell busting qualities than these? They convey both alarm and assault to Satan and his demons. They cause quaking and trembling in his darkest regions, and glory and rejoicing in the highest of heavens.
Ministry gifts must be unwrapped through prayer. Birth must be given to their ministries on the earth in this final hour.
I believe that the coming apostolic ministries of our day will be carriers of true revival. Like Stephen of old, they will be full of faith and power and do great wonders and signs among the people, while speaking with an irresistible wisdom and Spirit. They will not count their lives dear to themselves, but instead will be utterly abandoned to God’s eternal purposes.
The combination of the deeply convicting repentance preaching of one like Charles Finney and the daring, miracle-working faith of one like Smith Wigglesworth will bring forth a mighty apostolic anointing and authority that has been lacking in recent times. It will ignite the common man to carry that witness into the marketplace.
Passing On The Move Of God To The Next Generation is our latest book born out of this burden. One preacher called it the “acceleration factor” for the season the Church is in now. The last portion of the book outlines the type of young generation preacher that will be needed today in the model of Stephen the martyr. If I was departing the earth for heaven tomorrow, this book would be my last words to the Church.