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Acts Chapter 7 Verse 59 (Updated)



This exposition forms part of the Hillside Bible Commentary (HBC).

SIGNIFICANCE

Acts chapter 7 verse 59 are often sighted as a ready defense against the Doctrine of Soul Sleep (Psychopannychism), in favor of Particular Judgment.

» According to David J. Stewart verse 59 is proof "that believers who die immediately go to be with the Lord" [8].

» According to John Gill (1697–1771) "from whence we learn, that the spirit or soul of man sleeps not, nor dies with the body, but remains after death; that Jesus Christ is a fit person to commit and commend the care of the soul unto immediately upon its separation" [4]

» According to John Nelson Darby (1800–1882) "he sees the Son of man there ready to receive his spirit. The rest will come later; but it is not only Jesus, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution, but also the souls of His believing people until the moment of resurrection" [3]

Their assumption, is based on verse 59, which says that while Stephen was being stoned he called upon God, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (KJV).

TRANSLITERATION

"And they stoned Stephen, calling upon [the Lord], and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (ASV)
"And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (KJV)
"While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'" (NIV)
"And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'" (NWT, p.1371)
"And they were stoning Stephanos as he was calling and saying, 'Master YHWH / , receive my spirit." (TS, p.1057)

COMMENTARY

John Gill (1697–1771)

"and saying, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit; from whence we learn, that the spirit or soul of man sleeps not, nor dies with the body, but remains after death; that Jesus Christ is a fit person to commit and commend the care of the soul unto immediately upon its separation; and that he must be truly and properly God; not only because he is equal to such a charge, which none but God is, but because divine worship and adoration are here given him. This is so glaring a proof of prayer being made unto him, that some Socinians, perceiving the force of it, would read the word Jesus in the genitive case, thus; 'Lord of Jesus receive my Spirit': as if the prayer was made to the Father of Christ, when it is Jesus he saw standing at the right hand of God, whom he invokes, and who is so frequently called Lord Jesus; whereas the Father is never called the Lord of Jesus; and besides, these words are used in like manner in the vocative case, in (Revelation 22:20) to which may be added, that the Syriac version reads, 'our Lord Jesus'; and the Ethiopic version, 'my Lord Jesus'." [4]

John Wesley (1703-1791)

"7:59 And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit - This is the literal translation of the words, the name of God not being in the original. Nevertheless such a solemn prayer to Christ, in which a departing soul is thus committed into his hands, is such an act of worship, as no good man could have paid to a mere creature; Stephen here worshipping Christ in the very same manner in which Christ worshipped the Father on the cross." [6]

John Nelson Darby (1800–1882)

"... Rejected, and rejected by the Jews, like Jesus, partaking in His sufferings, and filled with His Spirit of grace, Stephen's eyes are fixed on high, on the heaven which the Holy Ghost opens to him; and he sees the Son of man there ready to receive his spirit. The rest will come later; but it is not only Jesus, whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution, but also the souls of His believing people until the moment of resurrection, and the whole church, in spirit, detached from the world that rejected Him, and from Judaism that opposed the testimony of the Holy Ghost. The latter, Judaism, is no longer at all recognised; there is no longer any room for the long-suffering of God towards it. Its place is taken by heaven, and by the assembly, which, so far as it is consistent, follows her Master there in spirit, while waiting for His return..." [3]

The Geneva Study Bible offers no commentary, skipping verse 59. [2]

EXPOSITION

Stephen's final words is a reiteration of Christ's.

» In Acts chapter 7 verses 59, Stephen asks "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (v60) and "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (v59).

» In Luke chapter 23 verses 34 to 46, Jesus asks "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (v34) and "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (v46).

As confirmed by both, John Wesley (1703-1791) [6] and John Nelson Darby (1800–1882) [3], Stephen was merely reiterating Christ's own words on the cross. As Jesus committed his spirit unto His Father, so did Stephen committed his spirit unto the Son. An understanding of either would immediately explain the other.

According to John Gill (1697–1771), John Nelson Darby (1800–1882) and David J. Stewart [8] this act of committing one's spirit into God's hands, constitutes being translated into Heaven immediately after death.

Yet, contrary to their assumption, Jesus did not only commit His spirit to God (Lk. 23v46), but then died, was buried for three days and three nights (Mt. 12v38-40; Mk. 8v31), only to be resurrected on the third day. And He did all of this, without ascending into Heaven.

When Mary Magdalene found Jesus alive at His grave, He told her not to touch Him, since He has not yet ascended unto His Father:

"Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (Jn. 20v17, KJV)

So where were Jesus those three days and three nights?

Well, according to His own testimony, He remained on Earth.

"For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Mt. 12v40, KJV)
"And He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again." (Mk. 8v31, KJV)

It would, therefore, stand to reason, that in committing one's spirit to God and thereafter dying, says nothing of immediate ascension or Particular Judgement.

CONCLUSION

All things considered, Acts chapter 7 verse 59 should read:

"And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'My Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.'" (HALT)

SCRIPTURE

Ps. 31v5; Mt. 12v40; Mk. 8v31; Lk. 23v46; Jn. 20v17; Acts 7v59

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. David J. Stewart. Settling The Soul Sleep Controversy (YouTube; 27 April 2009)
2. Geneva Study Bible Commentary: Acts 7 (Bible Study Tools; 24 November 2010)
3. John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). Synopsis of the New Testament: Acts 7 (Bible Study Tools; 24 November 2010)
4. John Gill (1697–1771). Exposition of the Bible: Acts 7:59 (Bible Study Tools; 24 November 2010)
5. Milburn Cockrell. Was Jesus in the grave for three days and three nights? (Bible Study; 25 November 2010)
6. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes: Acts 7:59 (Bible Study Tools; 25 November 2010)

REVISION

24-25.11.2010 / 06.12.2010 / 11.01.2011 / 26.01.2011
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