Stephen and the Sanhedrin
When the deacons, of whom Stephen appears as the leading evangelist, started their public preaching, “a great company of the priests, were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). But the preaching of Stephen and his understanding of the prophecies clashed with most of the members of the Sanhedrin. Therefore, they charged him that he taught what was contrary to “this holy place,” that is, the Temple; to “the law”; and to the “customs” (Acts 6:13, 14).
Stephen stressed as had Jesus (Matthew 5:17–19), and as Paul later did (Acts 24:14–16; 25:8), that Christianity would present no alteration in the main moral principles of the law that the Jews so loved. Yet, it was obvious that the declaration concerning the Lamb of God meant the end of the sacrificial system as drawn in the law. Such teaching would be taken as harmful to the theology that the Jews clung too.
His Last Speech
Finally, in Stephen’s last speech, he spoke of Abraham’s call and God’s care of Jacob and his descendants (Acts 7:2–17); the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt under the leadership of Moses (vs. 18–36); Moses’ testimony to a future prophet for the church in the wilderness (vs. 37, 38); the untrue worship and unholy sacrifices of the Israelites (vs. 39–43); the wilderness sanctuary built according to the model that was shown to Moses (vs. 44, 45); Solomon’s Temple (vs. 46, 47); and that believers don’t need human temples (vs. 48–50).
This prophecy started in 457 b.c., in the last week of which the Savior was to be cut off, “not for himself,” and the typical, earthly sacrificial ceremonies were to end as an actual means of mediation, which would mean also the end of the earthly priesthood. According to Daniel 9, the crucifixion took place in a.d. 31 “in the midst of the week.” Therefore, the last of the 70 prophetic weeks must end in a.d. 34. And on that same year Stephen was killed.
Stephen’s ministry represented God’s final plea to His beloved people during the last prophetic week, before the gospel was offered to the Gentiles. And killing Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, was the last act of rejection to the Messiah by the Jews as a nation.
In His service,