Acts 7:56 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Acts 7:56, NIV: Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'

Acts 7:56, ESV: And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Acts 7:56, KJV: And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Acts 7:56, NASB: and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'

Acts 7:56, NLT: And he told them, 'Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand!'

Acts 7:56, CSB: He said, "Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! "

What does Acts 7:56 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Even before making his pointed speech, Stephen had already enraged his accusers. First, he argued so well that Jesus is the Messiah they couldn't defend themselves and had to resort to lying (Acts 6:10, 13–14). Then he had the audacity to explain how the patriarchs worshiped God without a temple, the Law, or even a homeland. He explained that Moses wasn't always a good leader, and that even when he was the people didn't follow him well. Stephen rejected his accusers' idolatry of the temple, reminding them that even Solomon, who built the first temple, knew it couldn't contain God. Finally, he reminded them that throughout the ages Jews have rejected and killed God's prophets and worshiped pagan idols (Acts 7:2–53).

All of that is nothing compared to what he says now. This is not the first time the heavens have opened up to reveal God (Matthew 3:16–17). And it is not the first time Jesus has been referred to as the "son of man," as it was one of Jesus' favorite titles for Himself. It is also the title of a figure in Daniel's prophecy: the son of man would come "with the clouds of heaven." The Ancient of Days would give the son of man "dominion and glory and a kingdom" over all nations forever (Daniel 7:13–14).

There are two common confusions tied to this verse. First, how could Stephen have seen God when God told Moses that no one could see Him and live (Exodus 33:20) and even Jesus said no one can see God (John 1:18)? It is true that no one has seen God's face, that is, His countenance—His full glory. Being omnipotent, God the Father is well able to appear in a form that humans can see, He just doesn't do it very often.

Second, why was Jesus standing when He prophesied that He would sit at God's right hand (Mark 14:61–62)? It appears that the fact He is standing is a special case for Stephen's situation. It may be that Jesus is acting as Stephen's witness or advocate, or that He is prepared to serve Stephen in whatever way he needs. It could also be that "stand" just means that Jesus is in a fixed place. But just because the prophecies state Jesus would sit at God's right hand doesn't mean He can't stand, as well.

This scene, Jesus at the right hand of God, echoes Jesus' prophecy from when He was on trial before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:62). It was the statement that the Sanhedrin took as justification to condemn Him to death. Stephen's description seals his fate as Jesus' had His. The Sanhedrin cannot indulge such a public confession that Jesus is God.