The Consequences of the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. As religious liberty issues become more prominent and the subject of much controversy, we’re going to examine the scriptures in regard to the book of Acts. The time of the early rain in the history of God’s church is similar to the time of the latter rain. So, we can learn lessons from the book of Acts that apply to our time. What happened back then is a prophetic prototype of what will happen under the influence of the Holy Spirit during the latter rain.
Let us pray. Dear Father in heaven, thank You for revealing to us the secrets of the last days in Your word. But please help us to apply it for salvation. Help us understand where we are in the stream of time. Send your Holy Spirit today as we study what happened during the early rain and parallels to the latter rain. In Jesus name, amen.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 3:16, 17. Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized. Listen to what happened after he came up out of the water.
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
He was anointed with the Holy Spirit. But this does not mean that he was not subject to temptations. In fact, he was going to have greater temptations than ever before. These would not be the average temptations that come, but they would be on His mission and His relationship to his Father.
Now we will read from chapter 4:1, 2.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.”
I was recently reading in the book Confrontation about Christ in the wilderness of temptation. This very good little book has insights that you don’t find in other sources. Listen to this powerful insight that the author portrays. It’s from page 41. Speaking of Satan the author says,
“He found Christ in the desolate wilderness without companions, without food, and in actual suffering. His surroundings were most melancholy and repulsive. Satan suggested to Christ that God would not leave His Son in this condition of want and suffering. He hoped to shake the confidence of Christ in His Father, who had permitted Him to be brought into this condition of extreme suffering in the desert, where the feet of man had never trod. Satan hoped that he could insinuate doubts as to His Father’s love, which would find a lodgment in the mind of Christ, and that under the force of despondency and extreme hunger He would exert His miraculous power in His own behalf and take Himself out of the hands of His heavenly Father.”
When I read that, my thoughts extended to our own times. God’s people will have to go through similar temptations. Satan will try to shake their confidence in God. Now compare this with the following statement from Great Controversy, page 621. This chapter is about the time of trouble. I’ll read parts of this paragraph.
“The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried… Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it… When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.”
Did you catch the similarities between Christ and His people at the end of time? Jesus went through a serious time of weariness and hunger. As he earnestly pled with God for power over the enemy while He was in the wilderness, He didn’t appear as though He had just had the Holy Spirit come upon Him as a dove.
Christ did not have companions to encourage and strengthen Him while He was in the wilderness. He didn’t have food. And He was in actual suffering. So, when God’s people go through this at the end of time, they can take comfort and assurance in the fact that Christ has gone through this before them. While Christ went through this experience for the whole world, we only have to go through it for ourselves.
But we have to stand alone. The people of God will not have friends and companions to encourage and strengthen them, for many will forsake them and some will be separated from us by circumstances. They will only have Christ to cling to. They will have to suffer hunger as Christ did, though probably not as extreme. There will be inconveniences, obstacles, and pressure. The circumstances will be normally intolerable but are needful under God’s providence because they will be designed to separate them from the world at the deepest level of their emotions. To all outward appearances it will seem as though God has forsaken them.
Christ’s circumstances were appalling. He was living in the wilderness with no conveniences of home. He looked awful and very stressed. Satan came and taunted Him with the idea that His claim to be the son of God was not valid based on His circumstances. God’s people will suffer the same mental anguish. Because of their circumstances and their appearance, it will seem as if they are all wrong and all the world is right. The world will have miracles, signs and wonders manifesting themselves on their behalf, and will claim the presence and blessing of God. God’s people will be blamed for the catastrophes and disasters that befall the world. It will appear that everything is the opposite of what they thought it would be.
Listen to this statement from Maranatha, page 209.
“I saw our people in great distress, weeping, and praying, pleading the sure promises of God, while the wicked were all around us, mocking us, and threatening to destroy us. They ridiculed our feebleness, they mocked at the smallness of our numbers, and taunted us with words calculated to cut deep. They charged us with taking an independent position from all the rest of the world. They had cut off our resources so that we could not buy nor sell, and referred to our abject poverty and stricken condition. They could not see how we could live without the world; we were dependent upon the world, and we must concede to the customs, practices, and laws of the world, or go out of it. If we were the only people in the world whom the Lord favored the appearances were awfully against us. They declared that they had the truth, that miracles were among them, that angels from heaven talked with them, and walked with them, that great power, and signs and wonders were performed among them, and this was the Temporal Millennium, which they had been expecting so long. The whole world was converted and in harmony with the Sunday law, and this little feeble people stood out in defiance of the laws of the land, and the laws of God, and claimed to be the only ones right on the earth.”
Christ suffered like this and even worse. Satan accused Him of being the fallen angel from heaven. Listen to this from Confrontation, page 39.
“Satan told Christ that one of the exalted angels had been exiled to the earth, that His appearance indicated that, instead of His being the king of heaven, He was the angel fallen, and that this explained His emaciated and distressed appearance.”
God’s people will be told that they are the ones who are wicked because of their condition and circumstances, their stress. They will be taunted with the idea that they are lost because they have taken an independent tack, when all the evidence seems to be with those who comply with the common good for society.
And Satan is preparing for this right now. Recently we saw that those who refused certain medical interventions because they conscientiously were convicted that it was wrong for them, were accused of actually killing other people, and that their obstinance was offensive to the rest of society. This was a test similar to what God’s people will experience in the time of trouble. It was an experiment that showed the powers of the earth what they can do when the test comes again. World leaders and local governments will not give religious liberty to God’s people. You can expect that what has happened in the past that gave the people religious freedom to worship as they choose and to believe what they thought was correct, will be overturned and the exact opposite will be set in place. It’s already happening in society. If you don’t accept the predominant narrative, you will be cancelled from society. Government leaders and the people in general are already familiar with the process. The pandemic showed how this can work.
The temptations of Christ are an example to us upon whom the ends of the world are come, where we can expect similar things to take place.
“This was indeed a temptation to Christ. But He cherished it not for a moment. He did not for a single moment doubt His heavenly Father’s love, although He was bowed down with inexpressible anguish. Satan’s temptations, though skillfully devised, did not move the integrity of God’s dear Son. His abiding confidence in His Father could not be shaken.”
That’s from Confrontation page 41. Today, religious liberty has been largely removed from western societies. Oh, there is still the semblance of religious liberty, but the common good is the prevailing doctrine. If you don’t comply your social circles will expel you. Your colleagues will shun you. And even your families will look at you as politically incorrect. You will eventually be treated as an enemy of law and order and your conscience will be trampled like it’s dust on the ground.
How did we get to such a state of things? How quickly the principles that have held society together have been overthrown. We are on a slide to the bottom. And it’s going very quickly. It is amazing how circumstances have changed for God’s people. Whereas a few years ago it seemed that everything was secure, and that nothing would undermine religious liberty. But that has all changed now, and now these very principles of liberty and freedom are very insecure. I hope you have been paying attention to what has been happening. The pandemic has dealt a major blow to religious freedom. Not directly, but indirectly, through social media and the mainstream media, private actors and corporate giants. Everything in life will turn against true Sabbath keepers.
So, let’s look at the book of Acts and see what happened in the time of the early reign so that we may understand what happens under the Holy Spirit’s power in a latter rain. When the Holy Spirit is present and working mightily Satan is a stir and will cause problems and difficulties for God’s people. This tests their loyalty to see if they really are serious about their commitments or if they are half-hearted. Satan has just as much interest in this issue as God does. Stephen’s experience is telling.
Turn to the book of Acts, chapter 6. We will read verse one.
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”
The first thing to notice is that the Holy Spirit was working because there was a great increase in the number of disciples or followers of Jesus. So, the church had to become organized more formally. This would make their work more successful and it would not tie down the apostles with the details of church administration. Look at verses 2 through 7.
“Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
This must have made the enemy of mankind very unhappy to see all this organization and preaching of the word. Even many priests were obedient to the faith. This must have stirred the leaders of the Jewish church with anger that even their own fellow priests were following Jesus. No doubt they decided to find someone to make an example. Verse 8.
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.”
Stephen, no doubt, was diligent and faithful in the discharge of his office as a distributor of the church’s charity. But he did much more than that. He manifested uncommon ability and talents that were far beyond his station. and no doubt he was destined for greater things, so the church may have thought.
This is what Acts of the Apostles tells us on page 97.
“Stephen, the foremost of the seven deacons, was a man of deep piety and broad faith. Though a Jew by birth, he spoke the Greek language and was familiar with the customs and manners of the Greeks. He therefore found opportunity to preach the gospel in the synagogues of the Greek Jews. He was very active in the cause of Christ and boldly proclaimed his faith. Learned rabbis and doctors of the law engaged in public discussion with him, confidently expecting an easy victory. But “they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” Not only did he speak in the power of the Holy Spirit, but it was plain that he was a student of the prophecies and learned in all matters of the law. He ably defended the truths that he advocated and utterly defeated his opponents. To him was the promise fulfilled, ‘Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.’ Luke 21:14, 15.”
This man was full of faith and power. That means he was strong in faith and consequently he was also strong in power. Those that are full of faith are always full of power because by faith the power of God is engaged. In fact, his faith so filled him that it left no room for unbelief and made room for the influences of divine grace. By faith we are emptied of self, and so are filled with Christ, who is the wisdom of God and the power of God.
But Stephen had enemies that hated him. He became a target of the church leaders and they agreed that he should be put to death. They wanted to make an example of him so that others would fear to do the same thing. Stephen ably defended the Christian faith and pleaded the cause of Christianity against those that opposed it and argued against it. He was given ability to argue his points in the synagogues.
“Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.”
These were Hellenist, or Greek Jews, Jews of the dispersion. They were more zealous for their religion then even the native Jews. They were sticklers for Judaism. Stephen was so effective in arguments for Christ that they were unable to counter the power that attended his words. Verse 10.
“And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.”
They thought they could settle it with Stephen by disputing with him. But the scriptures say that “they could not resist the wisdom of the Spirit by which he spake.” They thought they were only disputing with Stephen and could easily overcome him. But they were disputing with the Spirit of God that spoke through him with such wisdom and power that they could not argue against him credibly. They were not an equal match for the Holy Spirit.
But the arguments of Stephen did not convince them, neither did they want to be convicted by them. Even though Stephen’s words were convincing and convicting, they rejected them.
When they could not answer his arguments as a disputant, they prosecuted him as a criminal, and hired witnesses and instructed them what to say against him. They wanted to attach blasphemy upon him. They were enraged because he had proved them to be wrong and showed them the right way. For that which they ought to give him thanks, he became their enemy because he told them the truth and proved it to be so.
So, the same is true today. Those who speak truth to power will be treated as enemies and prosecuted as criminals. Religious liberty will be destroyed. The powers that be will have so much corruption to hide that anyone who exposes it will be condemned. Yet Babylon will be exposed.
The Jews did not have a concept of religious liberty where people could choose what they wished to believe and practice their faith based on serious debate. While the Romans controlled them, they could not legally execute Stephen. But, they knew whom they could bribe among the Roman authorities to overlook the execution. So, they stirred up the mob to create a tumult so that they could blame the disruption on the innocent Stephen. Anyway, how could the Romans prosecute a mob. Verses 11-15.
“Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
Learned Jews from the surrounding countries had been summoned for the purpose of refuting the arguments of the prisoner. Saul of Tarsus was present and took a leading part against Stephen. He brought the weight of eloquence and the logic of the rabbis to bear upon the case, to convince the people that Stephen was preaching delusive and dangerous doctrines; but in Stephen he met one who had a full understanding of the purpose of God in the spreading of the gospel to other nations.
Yet, they played on the prejudices of the people in stirring them up. And they were very good at it. The people were ignorant of the plans of the church leaders. In their eyes they were credible, respectable and trustworthy. So, if the leaders said so, it must be true. The false witnesses made it appear that the leaders were right in condemning Stephen to death. The people went along with it because they believed what they saw at face value. This is always dangerous, especially when it comes to religious things. You can lose your salvation by taking the dominant narrative as fact. They feared losing their standing and didn’t investigate the leader’s statements. They didn’t think that it was possible that the powerful leaders would lie to them or misrepresent the truth of the matter.
Does all this sound familiar? In the post truth era this is the way it will go. People will think that what is said by government leaders, church leaders, or whoever they believe is credible, is fact. They will choose sides based on their fears of losing what they have come to believe is true, even though it is a patent lie. At the end of time, the people will be stirred up to persecute God’s people. Listen to this from Selected Messages, Vol. 3, page 416.
“Christ shows that without the controlling power of the Spirit of God humanity is a terrible power for evil. Unbelief, hatred of reproof, will stir up satanic influences. Principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places, will unite in a desperate companionship. They will be leagued against God in the person of His saints. By misrepresentation and falsehood they will demoralize both men and women who to all appearances believe the truth. False witnesses will not be wanting in this terrible work…”
Imagine having lived in a lie for so long that you now believe it is truth. And then you find out what the truth really is and it’s too late to do anything about it. We can see this being played out now to some degree.
Let me give you an example with huge consequences on the way society acts. America was established as a republic based on the rule of law and limited government. Its institutions protected the minority opinion. This protected the freedom of everyone. But for many years now, America’s leaders and the mainstream media have been promoting the idea that America is a democracy. That is quite a different thing from a republic. Democracy is the rule of the majority under the cover of the rule of law. Mob rule in other words. It’s only a matter of time until it descends into mob rule without law and order. In a democracy the government becomes bigger and bigger until it becomes a leviathan.
But the most important thing about a democracy is the minority opinions are not protected. If you hold a minority opinion you can be cancelled, isolated, marginalized, and censored. In other words, persecuted. This means that there is only liberty for the dominant narrative. In some communist countries you can be executed for holding minority opinions. Think of Christianity in North Korea, for example. But even in Muslim countries there are social and legal disadvantages for being a Christian.
Religious freedom in a democracy really doesn’t exist. It is only toleration. And when your religious idea is no longer tolerated you are a persecuted minority. And it is all justified by the concept that your ideas harm others or society at large. I have even heard that recently about certain medical ideas or convictions, haven’t you?
America and countries around the world have changed the way they understand truth. Now lies are accepted as fact. And there is no one in the mainstream that is willing to check out the statements that are made.
If the dominant narrative says that dogs don’t bark, you must not adopt the view that dogs do bark. Otherwise you will be cancelled. “But” you say, “What is that barking noise that I hear?”
“Well, that is just in your head.”
“But,” you respond, “dogs used to bark.”
“They don’t anymore. Dogs are very peaceful and good for society. And if they were to bark, they would disturb the peace. So, they don’t bark.”
“But,” you say with frustration, “I can’t believe that dogs don’t bark.”
“Apparently you are a conspiracy theorist because if you say that dogs bark, then there must be a dark agenda going on to force peace and tranquility on society. And we can’t have that. Peace and tranquility have to be voluntary. And you are trying to say that it’s not. Therefore, you need to be medicated with psychotropic drugs, so you don’t imagine things that are false. Your views have to be censored because they will harm society. In fact, you will need to be locked up for a while, so your ideas don’t spread like a pandemic.”
Of course, this absurd dialog can be applied to any number of issues today, medical, religious, whistleblowers, etc. but rest assured that a democracy will inevitably become the dictatorship of the majority. And leaders want this because the majority can be manipulated through fear to do what they want them to do.
The church leaders in Stephen’s day used this principle to condemn him before the people. They also used it in Christ’s day to condemn Him. And not surprisingly, these tactics will be used against God’s people in the last days.
Back to Stephen. Verses 12-14.
“And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.”
So, this stirred up the people against him. Just in case the Sanhedrin didn’t fulfill their wishes they could let him be run down by the tumult of a mob. They also found a means to stir up the elders and scribes against him. That’s the dignitaries of state and the lawyers, so that if the people should protect him, they might prevail by their authority. They thought they would surely gain their object.
They wanted to make him out as a dangerous man, so they treated him rudely. Notice, that they came upon him, as if when he least expected it. They thought that they would gain sympathy of the people if they would take him by surprise and rather roughly. So, they caught him as if they were trying to prevent his escape and triumphantly brought him in to the council. He could have no friends to support or help and encourage him. And they weren’t going to give him justice. They wanted to isolate and bewilder him if possible. When they had brought many of their sympathizers together, they were emboldened by one another and strengthened one another’s hands.
Notice too, they could not afford to be unprepared as they were when they brought Jesus to His trial and then had to “seek” for witnesses. They were ready beforehand, and they were instructed to make oaths that they had heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God – against this holy place and the law. They misrepresented his words and accused him of things that he did not do.
Remember, Satan hates liberty, especially religious liberty. And he is just as much an inveterate enemy of religious liberty today as he was back in the days of Stephen. And he is doing everything he can to undermine freedom and liberty. And he will co-opt many church going people to help him destroy liberty. Look at verse 13.
“He ceases not to speak blasphemous words.”
It was his common talk, his discourse in all companies; he makes it his business to instill his notions into all he converses with. If it were today, Stephen would be posting continually on social media with profound impact. These false witnesses put a wrong and malicious construction upon what he had said and perverted it. They tried to appear as if they had a deep concern for the honor of God’s name and that they were jealous for His reputation. But they dishonored God by breaking His law by bearing false witness. And with hatred and malice in their hearts, they were about to martyr Stephen.
Thus, it is with all true followers of Christ. They are hated by their own brethren and often cast out. There is no such thing as religious liberty when hatred rules the mob. They will do what they have to do to silence the voice of reproof.
Did Christ’s followers ever blaspheme Moses or the law or God himself? Of course not. They always quoted Moses with respect. They said no other things than what Moses predicted would happen. Very unjustly, therefore, was Stephen indicted for blasphemy. The evidence was minuscule and relied on twisted meanings of words. And it was based only on hearsay. Don’t expect it to be any different at the end of time. You will be condemned on hearsay. But I’m especially impressed with verse 15.
“And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.”
God made it appear that He stood by Stephen in his hour of trial. It is common for judges to observe the countenance of a prisoner which sometimes is an indication either of guilt or innocence. When Stephen appeared with the countenance as of an angel, it was so bright that some in the council hid their faces from it. But the leaders were not shaken and their hearts were hardened even more. Stephen had not the least sign of fear in his face. It only showed his innocence. His extraordinary pleasant and cheerful countenance under these circumstances was amazing. He did not show anger at his persecutors. He looked as if he was most pleased to be among the assembly to give his testimony for Jesus.
There was a miraculous splendor and brightness upon his countenance like that of the savior when he was transfigured, or at least that of Moses when he came down from the mount. God designed that he would put honor on his faithful witness by showing him this way. This would also be a way of warning his persecutors and judges whose sin would be highly aggravated and would be without excuse. It was also laying the groundwork for Saul, the greatest champion of the faith, to be converted. Stephen was owned and possessed by God. The irony is, that while they accused him of blaspheming Moses and showing disrespect for the law, God made his face shine like Moses to indicate that he was respected in heaven like Moses. May God help us to be like that.
The high priest now calls upon him to answer for himself. He has no lawyer, no earthly representative to advocate for him, or who understood the nuances of the law. He could only rely on Christ to sustain him. Listen to Chapter 7.
“Then said the high priest, Are these things so?”
How do you plead, guilty or not guilty? This carried a show of fairness, but it was anything but a real trial, for these men had judged him already and they were prejudiced against his cause. A fair judge would have asked for some solid evidence to support the accusations against him. But he was going to be judged a blasphemer whatever he may offer in justification or explanation. Verse 2.
“And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran…”
Stephen is respectful. He addresses them as men, brethren and fathers though by this time they are anything but brethren. They had rejected Christ, so they could not be his brethren in the real sense of the word. But he is humble, meek, and respectful. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of the convictions of the Holy Spirit upon them.
Being that Stephen was mighty in the scriptures he began by rehearsing the history of the patriarch and how God had delivered Israel from Egypt and brought them to Canaan. Stephen was not a novice in the word of God. This is an important lesson to us. If we expect the Holy Spirit to guide us as we defend the truth before courts of law and justice and before dignitaries of state and church, we will have to be mighty in the scriptures.
He rehearses this history because he wants to point out that God had a church long before “this holy place” or even the ceremonial law was given. And he points out that God was guiding Abraham long before he was circumcised, and that Abraham believed God by faith not by the works of the flesh. That was an important point to these hardened Jews. They were proud of their being circumcised. He also points out that they better not be proud because they came out of the Ur of the Chaldees “where your father’s served other gods.”
But he doesn’t just rehearse the history. Everyone in that court knew the history, at least the facts of history. But Stephen applies the history and shows them that they started from very humble circumstances and they should not be arrogant. Stephen is trying to show them that the Jewish nation, for the honor of which they were so jealous, was very inconsiderable in its beginnings. Their father Abraham was fetched out of obscurity, and their tribes, the heads of which were fetched out of slavery in Egypt when they were the fewest of all people (see Deuteronomy 7:7). Maybe they caught his meaning. The God who could fetch them out of Egypt, could easily send them back to Egypt, or Babylon which is in Ur of the Chaldees, or anywhere else He deemed necessary.
So, Stephen takes them on a long discourse. He shows them the many embarrassments and wickedness of their fathers to try to make them see that their haughtiness and their pride is highly misplaced.
Then in verses 47-50 he says,
”But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?”
He shows plainly that the temple and its services must come to an end and that Christ was the fulfillment of these things. By this time He can see the rage on their faces and that his words wouldn’t be tolerated much longer. Acts of the Apostles, page 100 has this to say about what happened when Stephen reached this point in his presentation.
“When Stephen reached this point, there was a tumult among the people. When he connected Christ with the prophecies and spoke as he did of the temple, the priest, pretending to be horror-stricken, rent his robe. To Stephen this act was a signal that his voice would soon be silenced forever. He saw the resistance that met his words and knew that he was giving his last testimony. Although in the midst of his sermon, he abruptly concluded it.”
Notice that the emphasis was on prophecy. Prophecy was a key point that Stephen was giving because Christ was the fulfillment of prophesy. But this was not the politically correct way to present prophecy. And today prophecy is just as central to the message that we must present. And it is, or will be just as politically incorrect.
In verses 51-53 Stephen turned upon his enraged judges and said,
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”
Stephen, under the spirit of God told them that their power and tyranny must come down, and that the church must be governed by a spirit of holiness and love, and heavenly mindedness. The church must be stripped of the pompous ceremonies of the old ceremonial law. He told them that they like their fathers were stubborn and willful and will not be worked upon by the Holy Spirit to reclaim and reform them. They, like their fathers, were inflexible both to the word of God and to His providences. They, like their fathers, were not only influenced by the methods God took to reform them, but they were enraged and incensed against them. They had resisted the Holy Ghost speaking to them by the prophets whom they opposed and contradicted, hated and ridiculed. They, like their fathers, persecuted and slew those whom God sent to them to call them to repentance so they could receive mercy. They, like their fathers, put contempt upon divine revelation and would not be guided or governed by it. And this aggravated their sin. God had given their fathers His law and now His gospel, in vain. They would not yield to the plainest demonstrations any more than their fathers before them did, for they were resolved not to comply with God either in His law or his gospel.
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then 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 the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Listen to Acts of the Apostles, pages 100-101.
“At this, priests and rulers were beside themselves with anger. Acting more like beasts of prey than human beings, they rushed upon Stephen, gnashing their teeth. In the cruel faces about him the prisoner read his fate; but he did not waver. For him the fear of death was gone. For him the enraged priests and the excited mob had no terror. The scene before him faded from his vision. To him the gates of heaven were ajar, and, looking in, he saw the glory of the courts of God, and Christ, as if just risen from His throne, standing ready to sustain His servant. In words of triumph Stephen exclaimed, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.’
“As he described the glorious scene upon which his eyes were gazing, it was more than his persecutors could endure. Stopping their ears, that they might not hear his words, and uttering loud cries, they ran furiously upon him with one accord ‘and cast him out of the city.’”
No legal sentence had been passed upon Stephen. And in the end, God’s people, stripped of their religious liberty and freedom will also be treated like Stephen was. The courts will not pass a legal sentence on them either. They will just be condemned to death. Yet God will defend him. After the close of probation not one saint will lose his life.
Listen to this from the book Great Controversy, page 615.
“…a decree will finally be issued against those who hallow the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, denouncing them as deserving of the severest punishment and giving the people liberty, after a certain time, to put them to death.”
There will be no courts of justice, no legal sentence, no due process, no trial by jury, nothing. Only an unfair and illegitimate death sentence.
Friends these are the scenes that will be repeated from history in the last days. Under the latter rain the Holy Spirit will be manifest in mighty ways. But satanic agencies will be strong too and manifest themselves in forceful and furious ways. So, it will be a time of great trouble and conflict. But God’s people will look to heaven for their peace. I want to be in that company, few though they may be, that overcomes the devil through the power of Jesus Christ. Don’t you?
Let us pray. Dear father in heaven, we are so weak and so unready for the crisis. Please make us ready so that we are able to stand with Christ by our side throughout the end time crisis. May we have your Spirit to guide us and to lead us in the right way. And may Jesus and the prophecies be more real to us than they have ever been before. In Jesus name, amen.
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