Stephen’s vision of heaven in Acts 7 is one of my favorites. It is often the image I think of when I’m struggling to focus on and worship God when singing praises to Him. Envisioning the heavens opening up allowing me to see my Lord sitting their receiving my praises helps me to focus on my purpose for singing. My purpose is not for the enjoyment of the audience/congregation. My purpose is not for my own glorification. My purpose, your purpose, in singing praises to God in worship is for the joy and glory of God alone. We should be humbled and awe inspired by the throne of God.
Stephen is the first recorded Christian martyr we see in scripture. He was also one of the first deacons, or servants, picked out to help serve the poor and widows (Acts 6:1-6). He was chosen because he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5). He was part of the vastly growing number of believers and disciples within Jerusalem.
Some of the Jewish leaders ceased him for teaching about Christ, and what he told them in Acts 7 enraged them and caused them to stone and kill Stephen. Instead of running or fighting back because he was full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen looked up to see the glory of God and said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man (Jesus) standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56). As he died, he pleaded with God, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, saw the throne and glory of God. This led him to have mercy and plead for the forgiveness of sins and for salvation for even those who were killing him. When we experience the glory of God and His throne through salvation by Christ, we should be driven to have mercy for those who do not know Christ as their Savior.
Stephen’s martyrdom and the continuing persecution of Christians in Jerusalem caused many to flee and be scattered throughout the region (Acts 8:1). Acts 8:4 tells us that “those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” This is a perfect scriptural example of what Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Stephen dying was a terrible thing, but he loved God, and God used this terrible event for good. God used Stephen’s martyrdom and the persecution of the Christians to spread the Gospel so that others can experience the love, mercy, and glory of God and His throne as Stephen did.
Isaiah also had a vision of God’s throne in Isaiah 6. Writing about his vision, Isaiah says, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’” (Isaiah 6:8). Just as Stephen’s vision of the throne of God inspired others to go forth and spread the Gospel, Isaiah’s vision of God’s throne inspired him to go speak for God to the people.
God’s throne is a missional throne. The mission is to spread the name and glory of God to all the peoples so that they may be reconciled unto God. Isaiah was a prophet telling the people of Israel to repent before they were destroyed. Stephen and the other believers were obedient disciples spreading the Gospel so that people may be forgiven of their sins. In Changing Light, we see that Paul experiences Jesus and has his life dramatically changed. He went from having a desire to persecute Christians to having a desire to spread the name of Christ making more Christian disciples. We cannot experience the glory of God and His throne without being inspired to lead others to this very same throne to worship the One and True living God, to receive forgiveness of their sins, and to be reconciled unto God.
So, I exhort your dear believer, go forth and spread the name of our Lord leading them to His throne so that they may experience His love, mercy, and glory, so their sins can be forgiven, and they can be reconciled unto God.