Stephen seeing the Son of Man

Jesus used the term “Son of Man” repeatedly to describe himself.  In fact, that name is recorded more than 80 times in the Gospels, always used by Jesus, except once when the crowds asking Jesus about it.  Jesus said: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself,"  And the people responded: "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'?”  (John 12:34)

The people clearly understood what Jesus meant when he called himself “Son of Man.”  He was claiming to be the Christ, the promised Messiah.  But the people’s expectation of the Christ did not match what they heard Jesus say about himself being lifted up—dying on a cross.  They expected their Messiah to come in glory, not in humility, and surely not as one who would be tortured and killed in such a dishonorable way.  What glory, they thought, was in that?

Stephen was granted a vision of heaven just before he was martyred.  And he exclaimed to the people who sat in judgment over him, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  The Sanhedrin knew exactly who Stephen was talking about.  Son of Man equals Christ, the Messiah.  They killed Jesus for claiming to be the Son of Man.  Now Stephen was testifying that it was true, that Jesus is the Christ.  Stephen saw him, alive and reigning in the position of all divine power and heavenly glory over all things.

On trial himself before this same group, Jesus said, “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64).  It was a warning to those people that he will come with “power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30), and he will be the Judge who will condemn to death—eternal death—all those who reject him.

Those who die trusting Jesus as their Savior will have their eyes open to see the Son of Man on his throne in the glory of heaven.  But there is no fear in their hearts, for the judgment Christ pronounces is a gracious welcome to come and inherit the kingdom prepared for them.


As Christians we may experience the bitter aggression of those who deny and hate Jesus.  Under such injustice, God give us the heartfelt concern for our persecutors that, like Stephen and Jesus himself (Luke 23:34), we pray for their forgiveness.  For above all, we don’t want anyone to come under God’s dreadful condemnation for their unbelief, but that their eyes be opened to see Jesus as their Savior and in their hearts believe in Christ for salvation and eternal life!

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