There are six stages that worldly men will pass through when hearing strong preaching or when observing the power of the Holy Spirit. These steps are mocking, caviling, threating, imprisoning, violent blows and finally, slaughtering.
We discover these steps in the Book of Acts. First, skeptics mock. When the 120 were filled with the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost, they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them the utterance. But some of the Jews accused them of being drunk.—Acts 2:13. However, three thousand souls were converted the same day.
When ridicule did not discourage the apostles, the religious leaders proceeded to caviling by asking trivial and annoying questions usually in a tone of contempt. After Peter and John healed the lame man in the temple, the council of priests asked the apostles, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?”—Acts 4:7.
Their question implied a suspicion that it was the effect of magic, or, as in the case of our Lord’s casting out devils, by the power of Beelzebub. There is a touch of scorn in the way in which they speak of the healing itself. They will not as yet call it a “sign,” or “wonder,” but “have ye done this?” At no time did they show any evidence that they were happy for the man’s restoration.
Still the truth continued to prevail. The council next resorted to threats. “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.”—Acts 4:16-17.
When multitudes heard the word, were healed and joined the church, the religious leaders became desperate. “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”—Acts 5:17-18.
After the angel of the Lord freed the apostles, the angel commanded the disciples to start preaching again. Therefore, the Jews were determined to slay them. However, the advice of the more level headed Gamaliel prevailed to give the Apostles a little space. So, the council settled on flogging the apostles and ordered them not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus.—Acts 5:40.
Finally, Stephen preaches to the council with such conviction that they can no longer bear it. Rather than doing the right thing and repenting, the council rose up and stoned Stephen to death, “the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man whose name was Saul.”—Acts 7:58.
Observing Stephen’s faith and obedience unto death ultimately made an impression upon Saul, who soon after was converted and he became the greatest missionary of all, Paul the Apostle, who in turn experienced mockery, caviling, threatening, imprisonment, beating and finally, beheading in Rome.
And the beat goes on!