Stephen has long been described as the first martyr of the church, but the mystery information concerning Christ and his church was not revealed until after Stephen’s death.
No where in Stephen’s long message to the rulers of Israel in Acts 7 does he speak of the mystery of Christ, the gospel of Christ, or the church of today.
Instead, Stephen’s message echoed prophets before him since the world began (Acts 3:21). His stoning should remind us of the message, rejection, and stoning of Zechariah in 2 Chronicles.
Just as the prophet Zechariah was sent to disobedient Israel before their political fall, Stephen stood before disobedient Israel before their spiritual fall.
Zechariah and Stephen
2 Chronicles 24:19-21 describes the account of the prophet Zechariah that parallels the account of Stephen filled with the Holy Ghost.
“Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.” – 2 Chronicles 24:19
Just as Israel would not listen to Zechariah, Stephen accuses Israel of having ears that do not hear and of resisting the Holy Ghost.
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” – Acts 7:51
Accused of Breaking the Law
As a result of their disobedience of the law of Moses, God forsakes Israel and pours out his wrath upon the nation by sending them into captivity at the hands of their enemies.
“ And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.” – 2 Chronicles 24:20
Stephen issues the same condemnation against the rulers of Israel for not keeping the law of Moses, and calls them “uncircumcision” which identified them as people forsaken of God outside his covenant (Gen 17:14; Num 15:31).
“Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. “ – Acts 7:53
The Stoning of a Prophet
When Zechariah warned Israel of their disobedience to the law and the impending judgment he was stoned.
“And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD.” – 2 Chronicles 24:21
Before his death Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees of killing Stephen by referring to Zechariah’s death. Jesus said he would send prophets to Israel, but they would be killed.
“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:” – Matthew 23:34
He then prophesied that they would receive the same condemnation as those who killed Zechariah in being guilty and forsaken by God.
“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” – Matthew 23:35
When Stephen accused them of breaking the law, warning them of the Son of Man standing in heaven ready to return, Israel stoned him just as their fathers did Zechariah.
“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…” – Acts 7:57-58
Israel Guilty and Forsaken
Israel had fallen politically in 2 Chronicles by stoning Zechariah and the prophets, and they fell spiritually at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7.
Today, Israel is fallen, blind in part, and salvation is preached not according to prophecy through Israel, but according to the revelation of the mystery of Christ and his church (Rom 16:25).
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” – Romans 11:25
This mystery of salvation after Israel’s fall was not revealed until after the stoning of Stephen when the Lord saved the apostle Paul by his grace. Paul was the minister of salvation to fallen uncircumcised forsaken Jew and Gentile.
Instead of the first martyr of the church, Stephen represents the last in a long line of Spirit empowered prophets sent to the circumcision before their spiritual fall.
By stoning Stephen Israel became guilty of rejecting God, and his law; the Son of God, and his apostles; and the Spirit of God, and his testimony through Stephen.