Acts 7:55
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
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(55) Being full of the Holy Ghost.—There is something suggestive in the fact that this description comes at the close, as at the beginning, of the record of St. Stephen’s work (Acts 6:8). From first to last he had been conspicuous as manifesting the power of the higher life which had, as it were, illumined and transfigured his whole being. The Greek “being full” implies, not a sudden inspiration, but a permanent state.

And saw the glory of God.—Stephen had begun with speaking of “the God of glory” (Acts 7:2). He ends with the vision of that glory as belonging to the Son of Man. The fact was inferred partly, we may believe, from the rapt, fixed expression of the martyr’s face, partly from the words that followed, interpreting that upward gaze. On the word for “looked up steadfastly,” see Note on Acts 3:4.

7:54-60 Nothing is so comfortable to dying saints, or so encouraging to suffering saints, as to see Jesus at the right hand of God: blessed be God, by faith we may see him there. Stephen offered up two short prayers in his dying moments. Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die. Here is a prayer for his persecutors. Though the sin was very great, yet if they would lay it to their hearts, God would not lay it to their charge. Stephen died as much in a hurry as ever any man did, yet, when he died, the words used are, he fell asleep; he applied himself to his dying work with as much composure as if he had been going to sleep. He shall awake again in the morning of the resurrection, to be received into the presence of the Lord, where is fulness of joy, and to share the pleasures that are at his right hand, for evermore.Full of the Holy Ghost - See the notes on Acts 2:4.

Looked up stedfastly - Fixed his eyes intently on heaven. Foreseeing his danger, and the effect his speech had produced; seeing that there was no safety in the Great Council of the nation, and no prospect of justice at their hands, he cast his eyes to heaven and sought protection there. When dangers threaten us, our hope of safety lies in heaven. When people threaten our persons, reputation, or lives, it becomes us to fix our eyes on the heavenly world; and we shall not look in vain.

And saw the glory of God - This phrase is commonly used to denote the visible symbols of God. It means some magnificent representation; a splendor, or light, that is the appropriate exhibition of the presence of God, Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:30. See the notes on Luke 2:9. In the case of Stephen there is every indication of a vision or supernatural representation of the heavenly objects; something in advance of mere "faith" such as dying Christians now have. What was its precise nature we have no means of ascertaining. Objects were often represented to prophets by "visions"; and probably something similar is intended here. It was such an elevation of view - such a representation of truth and of the glory of God, as to be denoted by the word "see"; though it is not to be maintained that Stephen really saw the Saviour with the bodily eye.

On the right hand of God - That is, exalted to a place of honor and power in the heavens. See the Matthew 26:64 note; Acts 2:25 note.

55. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God—You who can transfer to canvas such scenes as these, in which the rage of hell grins horribly from men, as they sit condemned by a frail prisoner of their own, and see heaven beaming from his countenance and opening full upon his view—I envy you, for I find no words to paint what, in the majesty of the divine text, is here so simply told. "But how could Stephen, in the council-chamber, see heaven at all? I suppose this question never occurred but to critics of narrow soul, one of whom [Meyer] conjectures that he saw it through the window! and another, of better mould, that the scene lay in one of the courts of the temple" [Alford]. As the sight was witnessed by Stephen alone, the opened heavens are to be viewed as revealed to his bright beaming spirit.

and Jesus standing on the right hand of God—Why "standing," and not sitting, the posture in which the glorified Saviour is elsewhere represented? Clearly, to express the eager interest with which He watched from the skies the scene in that council chamber, and the full tide of His Spirit which He was at that moment engaged in pouring into the heart of His heroical witness, till it beamed in radiance from his very countenance.

Full of the Holy Ghost; filled with grace suitable to his present trial and suffering.

The glory of God; the glorious God, or so much of the throne and glory of God as mortal eyes are capable for to see.

Jesus standing on the right hand of God; being justified by God, though condemned by Pilate; and

standing ready to assist and comfort all that should suffer for his sake. But he being full of the Holy Ghost,.... That is, Stephen, as Beza's ancient copy, and some others express it; and so the Ethiopic version; the Syriac version reads, "full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost", as in Acts 6:5 and so some copies; being under the influences of the Spirit of God, and filled with his divine comforts, and strong in the faith of Jesus Christ, and having a holy boldness, courage, and intrepidity of mind; instead of being discouraged and dejected, of being cast down in his spirits, and looking down upon the ground, he

looked up steadfastly to heaven; where he desired to be, and hoped and believed he should be; and from whence he knew his help came, and which he might now implore, as well as forgiveness for his enemies.

And saw the glory of God; not the essential glory of God, but some extraordinary light and brightness, which was a token and representation of him:

and Jesus standing on the right hand of God; of that glory which was a Symbol of him: Jesus being risen from the dead, and ascended on high, was set at the right hand of God, in human nature, and so was visible to the corporeal eye of Stephen; whose visual faculty was so extraordinarily enlarged and assisted, as to reach the body of Christ in the third heavens; where he was seen by him standing, to denote his readiness to assist him, and his indignation at his enemies.

{9} But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus {z} standing on the right hand of God,

(9) The nearer that martyrs approach to death, the nearer that they rise up, even into heaven, as they behold Christ.

(z) Ready to affirm him in the confession of the truth, and to receive him unto himself.

Acts 7:55. ἀτενίσας, cf. Acts 1:10, εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, cf. John 17:1, “ubi enim est oculus, ibi est cor et amor”. In the power of the Holy Ghost, with which Stephen is represented as being full, as in life so in death, he saw δόξαν Θεοῦ, in which He had appeared to Abraham, cf. Acts 7:2, πλήρης, “crescente furore hostium, in Stephano crescit robur spiritus, omnisque fructus Spiritus,” Bengel.—Ἰησοῦν ἑστῶτα: elsewhere He is represented as sitting, Acts 2:34. If St. Luke had placed this saying in the mouth of St. Stephen in imitation of the words of Jesus, 21:64, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, he would, without doubt, have described Him as sitting, cf. also the expression “Son of Man,” only here outside the Gospels, and never in the Epistles (Revelation 1:13, a doubtful instance), a noteworthy indication of the primitive date and truthfulness of the expression and the report. See especially Wendt’s note on p. 194 (1888). Standing, as if to succour and to receive His servant, ἵνα δείξῃ τὴν ἀντίληψιν τὴν εἰς αὐτόν (Oecum., and so Chrys.); “quasi obvium Stephano,” Bengel, so Zöckler, and see Alford’s note and Collect for St. Stephen’s day. St. Augustine represents Christ as standing: “ut Stephano stanti, patienti, et reo, ipse quoque stans, quasi patiens et reus compatiatur”. Alford supposes reference in the vision to that of Zechariah 3:1.—ἐκ δεξιῶν: as the place of honour, cf. 1 Kings 2:19, Matthew 20:21. The Sanhedrin would recall the words “the Son of Man,” as they had been spoken by One Who was Himself the Son of Man, and in Whom, as in His follower, they had seen only a blasphemer. On the expression “Son of Man” cf. Charles, Book of Enoch, Appendix B, p. 312 ff., and Witness of the Epistles, p. 286 1892).55. saw the glory of God] Some visible sign of God’s presence such as the Shechinah had been to the Jews of old. See Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:17, in the latter of which passages it is described as like devouring fire. It is defined by the Jews as the concentration of God’s omnipresence.

and Jesus standing on the right hand of God] i.e. he was permitted to behold Jesus triumphing in the flesh in which He had been crucified. The position of standing rather than that of sitting as described elsewhere (Matthew 26:64, &c.) may have been to indicate the readiness of Jesus to strengthen and help His martyr.Acts 7:55. Πλήρης, full) As the fury of his enemies increases, the strength of spirit in Stephen increases, as also every fruit of the Spirit.—ἀτενίσας, having looked stedfastly) By an earnest look to heaven, the mind of those dying by a violent death may be raised up.—εἶδε, he saw) Jesus is not said to have addressed Stephen.—δόξαν Θεοῦ, the glory of God) the ineffable splendour which shines forth in the third heaven.—ἐστῶτα, standing) as if to meet Stephen. Comp. Acts 7:59. For everywhere else he is said to sit. Arator well writes,—

“Lumina cordis habens cœlos conspexit apertos

Ne lateat, quid Christus aget: pro martyre surgit.

Quem tunc stare videt, confessio nostra sedentem

Cum soleat celebrare magis. Caro juncta Tonanti

In Stephano favet ipsa sibi: Dux præscius armat

Quos ad dona vocat.”

“By the light that shone into his heart he beheld the heavens opened, so that it does not escape his glance what Christ is doing there: He rises for the martyr, whom the latter at that time sees standing; whereas our confession (creed) is wont rather to celebrate Him as sitting. The flesh itself, assumed by the Thunderer, favours, in the case of Stephen, its own self. The prescient Captain of our salvation arms those, whom He calls to gifts.”Verse 55. - Looked up steadfastly (ἀτενίσας); see Acts 6:15; Acts 3:4, and note. The glory of God; i.e. the visible glory which surrounds and proclaims God's near presence (see Exodus 24:10, 16, 17; Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 21:14, 23, etc.). Jesus standing. Sitting at the right hand of God is the usual attitude ascribed to our Lord in token of his victorious rest, and waiting for the day of judgment. Here he is seen standing, as rising to welcome his faithful martyr, and to place on his head the crown of life Revelation 2:10). Whether Stephen saw these glorious things in the flesh or out of the flesh he probably knew not himself. Being (ὑπάρχων)

See on James 2:15.

Looked up steadfastly

Compare Acts 1:10; Acts 3:4, Acts 3:12; Acts 6:15; and see on Luke 4:20.


Rising from the throne to protect and receive his servant. Usually Jesus is represented in the New Testament as seated at the Father's right hand. See Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3.

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