The Truth about
1 Sam. 28:8-15
1 Kings 17:21
1 Thess. 5:23
1 Peter 3:19
- Acts 7:59-60
- "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep."
- It is frequently understood from this passage that Stephen expected Jesus Christ to immediately receive his "immortal soul" in heaven.
- If the real Stephen was the spirit, what is the "he" of verse 60 which "fell asleep"? The personal pronouns are associated with the body, not something inside the body. This use of the pronouns is fatal to the idea that the real Stephen was an immortal essence within the body.
- "Sleep" is a scriptural expression describing the unconsciousness of death and implying the waking at the Resurrection Day. For this there is unimpeachable evidence in John ll; esp. vs. 11, 14, 24, cf. Dan. 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:6,18. The fact that Stephen fell asleep indicates he did not immediately go to his reward. (See 1 Thess. 4:13-16.)
- One could handle the problem of what Stephen meant by the expression "Lord Jesus receive my spirit" by taking the following approach;
- Show scripturally when the righteous (and hence Stephen) will receive their reward, e.g., 1 Cor. 15:22-23.
- Indicate the uses of spirit - e.g., that the "spirit" is not the immortal part of man, but the life-power which God gives. (Job 34:14,15; Gen. 7:21,22, - -"the breath of the spirit of life" mg.).
- Then finally show that Stephen had the confidence that as God sent forth His Spirit and raised Jesus, likewise he would be raised. In the death state Stephen's life would be "hid with Christ", and when Christ appears the second time, then Stephen would appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:3,4).
- Jesus uttered similar words to those of Stephen, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit". (Luke 23:46). But Christ went to hell1, not heaven. (Acts 2:27; cf. John 20:17 -- "I am not yet ascended to my Father").
- The Greek word "hades" translated "hell" in Acts 2:27 simply means "the grave". This can be proven from other passages which state that after his crucifixion, Jesus was placed in the tomb. (Matt. 12:40; Acts 10:38-40; 1 Cor. 15:4-5. "Hades" is translated "grave" in 1 Cor. 15:55). Return