A STUDY OF THE MYSTERIES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
There are several mysteries mentioned in the New Testament. There is, unfortunately, some confusion concerning some of them. It is my hope that by looking at each mystery in its context, we might come to a better understanding of all of them.
I believe that it is important to point out that a mystery can be completely hidden, as was true in the case of the dispensation of the mystery (see Eph. 3:9); but a mystery could also have been written about in the Old Testament, but not understood until it was explained. (As the reader will see in the section below on the two mysteries of Eph. 3, the mystery of Christ is just such a mystery. ) And in the parables of our Lord we have the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven that are explained to some but not to others. We read in Matt. 13:10-12, “The disciples came to Him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them”.
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
The mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven are the first ones mentioned in the New Testament. In my paper on the kingdom of Heaven, the reader will find the Scriptural evidence for my belief that the kingdom of Heaven is Christ’s rule on earth centered in Jerusalem. Also, that the kingdom of Heaven is the Land of Israel during the millennium. Outside the Land of Israel the nations will not enjoy the millennial blessings that Israel will. They will be ruled with justice by Christ, but with an iron scepter, i.e. with a strong hand.
Many of the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven are similes. That is to say, many begin with the phrase, “the kingdom of Heaven is like“. The word “like” tells us that the parables describe some aspect of what the kingdom of Heaven will be like.
For a complete discussion of all the parables and their meaning please see the paper on this web-site A Study Of How To Interpret The Parables of Jesus Christ.
THE TWO MYSTERIES OF EPHESIANS THREE
As we come now to the mysteries mentioned by the apostle Paul we will see that the mystery of Christ is alluded to several times in his Acts period epistles, but not called “the mystery of Christ” until Eph. 3:4. The mystery of Christ is, unfortunately, often confused with the dispensation of the mystery. That is to say, the mystery of Christ is misunderstood to include the dispensation of the mystery. It is said by some that the dispensation of the mystery was the “apex” of the mystery of Christ. But as the reader shall see as he/she continues in this study, the two mysteries of Ephesians three are totally unrelated in their very nature, and contradictory as to how they were revealed, and as to whom they were revealed. It is therefore, simply not possible to conclude that one was the apex of the other. In order to understand the mystery of Christ we must distinguish between it and the dispensation of the mystery.
Eph. 3:1-9, 1. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles 2. If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward; 3. How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4. Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ;) 5. Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6. That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel; 7. Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power, 8. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9. And to make all men see what is the fellowship (dispensation – same Greek word as in verse 2) of the mystery, which hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”.
I believe that a careful consideration of the passage quoted above will prove that there are indeed two mysteries spoken of in this passage. Consider for example verse 5 which explains that the mystery of Christ “was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets”. The Greek word translated “as” in the phrase “as it is now revealed” is “hos”, and is used as a comparative. It is used for example in I Cor. 13:11 where we read, “when I was a child I spoke as a child”. The comparative “as” tells us that the mystery of Christ had been revealed to some extent to the “holy apostles and prophets”. But we know from verse 9 that the mystery of verse 6 had been hid in God. Logic will simply not allow for a mystery to have been both revealed to some extent and to be hid in God. We are forced to conclude therefore that there must be two mysteries in this passage, i.e. the mystery of Christ and the mystery of verse 6. (Some believe that it was the meaning of the mystery had been hid in God. That thought will be discussed in the section below.)
Let us also consider the fact that the mystery of Christ had been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets, note the plural. It had been revealed to them “by the Spirit”. There is absolutely no Scriptural evidence that the mystery of verse 6 was revealed by the Spirit to anyone but Paul. Again, we are forced to conclude that there are two mysteries in this passage.
Let us add one more piece to this puzzle. We learn in Col. 4:3 that Paul was in bonds “for the mystery of Christ”. But Paul was in bonds as early as Acts 22. In fact we read in Acts 26:32-27:1 that Paul was still in bonds. “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, ‘This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar’. And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius……”. Note the phrase “and certain other prisoners”. That tells us that Paul was a prisoner, i.e. in bonds before Acts 28. Paul could not have been in bonds for the mystery of Eph. 3:6 because that mystery had not been revealed to him until after Israel was set aside at Acts 28. Here again we are led to the inescapable conclusion that there must be two mysteries spoken of in Eph. 3.
Because Scripture never contradicts Scripture we must reconsider the parenthesis as given in the KJV in order that the differences discussed above in the two mysteries of Eph. 3 are not misunderstood. Because there are two mysteries mentioned in Eph. 3, I suggest the following parenthetical marks. 3. “How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4. Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ; 5. Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit) 6. That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel”. In short, the parenthetical comment opens in verse 3b and closes at the end of verse 5.
What is the mystery of Christ? I believe the answer to that question is found in Luke 18:31-34, “Then He took unto him the twelve, and said into them ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitten on; and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.’ And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken”.
The mystery of Christ is that Christ would be killed and rise again. That truth had been hid from the disciples, but it had been written in the prophets. It was not understood until Christ explained it to His disciples just after His resurrection. We read in Luke 24:44-46, “And He said unto them, ‘These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me’. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. And said unto them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day”.
Now the question is: is the mystery of Christ the mystery that had been hid in God? If it is, that means that the dispensation of the mystery began just after the resurrection of Christ when the meaning of the mystery was revealed. . But I do not believe that the mystery of Christ is the mystery that had been hid in God. I believe that Eph. 3 speaks of two mysteries, the mystery revealed in verse 6 is the mystery that had been hid in God. That mystery will be discussed below. But let us now examine the evidence which proves beyond doubt that the mystery of Christ was not the mystery that had been hid in God.
The parallel passage to Eph. 3:9 is Col. 1:25-26. We read in Col. 1:25, “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God”. So the mystery of the present dispensation fulfills the word of God. What does it mean to “fulfill the word of God”?
The Greek word translated “fulfill” in the phrase “fulfill the word of God” is “pleeroo”. The first occurrence is found in Matt. 1:22 where we read, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet….”. In this first occurrence, as well as many others, it is prophecy that was fulfilled. “Fulfilled” has the sense of “completion”. That is to say, a prophecy is fulfilled when what has been prophesied is completed. Indeed it is translated “complete” in Col. 2:10 and Col. 4:12. Col. 2:10 reads, “And ye are complete in Him Which is the head of all principality and power”. And Col. 4:12 reads, “……that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”. So too does Col. 1:25 use the word in the sense of “complete”. The revelation of the mystery completes the Word of God.
The fact that the revelation of the mystery completes the Word of God tells us that there are no new truths revealed in God’s word after the revelation of the mystery of Eph. 3:6. That is to say, once the Word was completed, there would, of course, be no new revelations. Now we must ask if the mystery of Christ completed the Word of God. That is to say, can we say that there were no new truths revealed in the Word of God after Christ’s death and resurrection? No, we cannot say that.
Consider for example, I Cor. 15:51, “Behold I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed”. This was a truth revealed to Paul after the death and resurrection of Christ which proves that the mystery of Christ did not complete the Word of God.
Let us also consider Acts 15 where the counsil at Jerusalem determined that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and obey the entire Law of Moses in order to partake of Israel’s dispensational blessings. This is absolutely opposite of the situation that had prevailed throughout the entire Old Testament and through the Gospel period. We read in Acts 15:19-20, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God; but that we write unto them that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood”. Again this is a new truth revealed in God’s Word that was revealed after the death and resurrection of Christ. And again, this proves that the mystery of Christ did not complete the word of God.
We have learned that the parallel passage to Eph. 3:7-9, i.e. Col. 1:25-26. tells us that the mystery of Eph. 3:9 is the same mystery as Col. 1:25-26. Furthermore, the mystery of Ephesians 3:9 was said to be “hid in God” and the very same mystery was said in Col. 1:26 to “complete the Word of God”. The mystery of Eph. 3:9 cannot be the mystery of Christ because the mystery of Christ did not complete the Word of God.
One more point might be helpful. Eph. 3:9 tells us that the dispensation of the mystery had been hid in God. Those who take this mystery to be the mystery of Christ interpret verse 9 to say that the meaning of the mystery had been hid in God. That is to say, they know that the mystery of Christ had been a matter of Old Testament prophecy but that the meaning had been hid from the twelve. But every word in the Bible is inspired by God. Eph. 3:9 does not say that it is the meaning that had been hid, it says that the mystery had been hid. In short, the phrase “hid in God” means that the mystery itself was hid, not the meaning of the mystery.
Further, in order to make the distinction between the meaning of a mystery and the mystery itself let us look at the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 13:11 establishes the fact that the parables recorded in Matt. 13 were indeed mysteries. The disciples had asked Christ why He spoke to the multitudes in parables. His answer is recorded in verse 11, which reads, “……Behold it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given”. So the parables themselves were mysteries concerning the kingdom of Heaven. But as we read in this verse, even though the mysteries/parables were spoken to the multitudes the meaning of the parable/mystery was not made known to the multitudes. That means that there is a distinction between the parables and the explanations of them. Logic demands the conclusion that because each parable revealed a mystery to all, but the explanation of the parables revealed the meaning to some, there is a distinction between a mystery and the meaning of a mystery. For the sake of clarity, let us consider this truth in other terms.
Each parable that our Lord spoke to the multitudes was a mystery. But the meaning of the mystery was in the explanation of the parable and given only to His disciples. The mystery was one thing, the explanation was something else. Therefore, because the Word of God does indeed make a distinction between a mystery and the meaning of the mystery, and Eph. 3:9 tells us that it was the mystery, not the meaning that been hid in God, we may conclude that Eph. 3:9 is speaking of the mystery itself, not the meaning that had been hid in God.
So the mystery that had been hid in God and had completed the Word of God is not the mystery of Christ because 1) the mystery of Christ had not completed the Word of God; and 2) because it was the mystery itself that had been hid, not the meaning.
THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY- EPH. 3:6
Eph. 3:6, “That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel”. A better understanding of some of the Greek words used in this verse will help a great deal in determining the correct understanding of this verse.
The Greek word translated “Gentiles” in the KJV of Eph. 3:6 is “ethnos”. “Ethnos” is the noun of this sentence and, as is true of many other languages, the adjective (in this case “sunkleronoma”, “sussoma” and “sunmetocha”) must agree in number with the noun it modifies. We read in the book New Testament Greek by D. F. Hudson published by NTC Publishing Group on page 14, paragraph five, “It is also most important to notice that adjectives must have the same function as the noun to which they refer, and must therefore, be in the same Case: they must also have the same number and the same Gender. A singular noun must have a singular adjective, a plural noun must have a plural adjective.…..”. Because “ethnos” is obviously a plural noun, the adjectives must also be plural. As the reader will see in the paragraphs below, the correct definition of the prefix “sun” in the three Greek adjectives used in Eph. 3:6 is “together” or “with”. That definition plus the fact that “sussoma” is a plural adjective makes it clear that the KJV translation of “same body” is not the best translation of “sussoma”. That is to say, because “sun” means “with” or “together”, and because “sussoma” is a plural adjective, obviously there must be more than one “body” that is together. In the translation “same body” there is no sense of together and no sense of the plurality of the adjective.
As mentioned above, the three Greek words translated “fellow-heirs”, “same body” and “partakers” are, “sunkleronoma”, “sussoma” and “sunmetocha” respectively. Note that each begins with the preposition “sun” (The prefix in the word “sussoma” is spelled differently, but is the same prefix as is used by the other two words under consideration.) As always, we must understand the meaning of the Greek word by how it is used in Scripture by the Holy Spirit. I will give just a few examples of how the prefix “sun” is used with other roots, as “sussoma” is used only one time and would not give a clear picture.
It is translated “with” 15 times, as in Mark 14:54, “And Peter followed Him from afar…….and he sat with the servants….”. It is translated “together”13 times, as in “….and were set down together.…”. It is translated “fellow” and “joint” one time each. I believe it is clear that the prefix “sun” means “with” or “together”.
The root of “”sussoma” is “soma” and is used of a body. I believe that just two occurrences of “soma” should suffice to determine what “soma” means. Matt. 5:29, “….for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that the whole body should be cast into hell”. And Matt. 6:22, “The light of the body is the eye….”.
The Greek word “sussoma” is found only in Eph. 3:6 so we cannot determine its meaning by how it is used by the Holy Spirit. But we are not left in the dark as to the meaning. We know by its usage that “soma” means “body”. And we have learned above that the prefix “sun” means “together” or “with”. That tells us that the most literal translation of “sussoma” is “together bodies”. How are we to understand the term, “together bodies”? I believe we will understand it best if we consider two Old Testament passages that tell us that Israel had been separated by God as a nation apart from all other nations.
I King 8:53, “For Thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be Thine inheritance….”. Lev. 20:24, “……I am the Lord your God Which hath separated you from the people”. In other words, part of the mystery hid in God was that Israel was no longer a separated nation, all nations were “together bodies”.
Let us return to the discussion of “ethnos” as used in Eph. 3:6. “Ethnos” occurs 164 times and is translated “Gentiles” 93 times, “nations” 64 times, “Heathen 5 times and “people” 2 times. Does the Greek “ethnos” in Eph. 3:6 refer to individuals or does it refer to nations?
I believe that “ethnos” should be translated “nations” in Eph. 3:6. That nations are “together bodies” is the translation that makes the best sense and it is the only Scripturally accurate one. That is to say, it makes much better sense to say that nations are together bodies than to say that Gentiles are together bodies. Also, it certainly was not a mystery hid in God that Gentiles were together. But it was indeed a mystery hid in God that nations are together bodies. That nations are together bodies stands in sharp contrast to the situation as it existed before the dispensation of the mystery. Before the dispensation of the mystery Israel had been separated unto God as a holy nation. With the putting aside of Israel at Acts 28:25 all nations are now together, i.e. none are separated from the others in God’s sight.
Nations are made up of individuals, and the Bible uses the word “ethnos” in reference to the individuals in the nations as well as the nations as an entity in themselves. The truth that “ethnos” is used of people in the nation is seen in John 11:51-52, “…..he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation (ethnos); and not for that nation (ethnos”) only…..”. It is clear that Jesus died, not for a nation as such, but for the people in the nation(s).
The truth that “ethnos” is used of a nation as an entity is shown in such verses as Romans 4:17, where in reference to Abraham we read, “I have made thee a father of many nations“. I believe the reader will see that to translate “ethnos” in this verse to read, “I have made thee a father of many Gentiles” totally destroys the sense of this verse. In other words, we must use common sense when determining whether “ethnos” means nations or individuals in the nations.
Consider also Acts 13:18-19, “And about the time of forty years suffered He their manners in the wilderness. And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Chanaan, He divided their land to them by lot”. Obviously, God did not destroy seven Gentiles and give their land to Israel. Again, common sense tells us that in this verse “ethnos” does not means individuals in the nations, but nations as an entity.
Let us continue our study of the Greek word “ethnos”. If we translated it as “Gentiles” that limits its meaning to only individuals. But if we translated it as “nations” we may understand it to refer to either nations as an entity, or to individuals in the nations. Because “Gentiles” cannot be together bodies, we must translate it as “nations” with the understanding that nations as an entity are together bodies, But individuals in the nations are together heirs and together partakers.
It may seem strange that the same word (“ethnos) could be used of both nations and individuals in the nations. But in point of fact we have the exact same situation in English. That is to say, in English too we have words that can mean two very different things and can be used in the same sentence. Let’s say we read the following article in our home paper: “The fifth grade class of the elementary school was studying a rare fish when the teacher discovered that there was a school of that fish swimming in the local lake. The Principal of the elementary school gave permission for the entire school to go to the lake and observe the school of fish”.
By using our common sense, it is perfectly clear when “school” referred to children in this article and when it referred to a building and when it referred to fish. So too, in Eph. 3:6, if we use our common sense it is perfectly clear when “ethnos” refers to nations and when it refers to individuals in the nations. In short, just as English words can mean very different things in the same sentence, so too does the Greek word “ethnos” mean different things in the same sentence. We only have to use our common sense in determining what is meant.
The event that made nations together bodies was of course, the putting aside of Israel. That is to say, that as long as Israel was separated unto God the nations could not be “together”. As we have already seen, the prefix “sun” is used three times in Eph. 3:6. Three times we are told that all nations and all individual believers in the nations are together. But we are not told that Gentiles are together with Israelites. No, instead the Holy Spirit directed Paul to write that all are together without even bringing Israel into the discussion. In my opinion, this makes the point so beautifully, and so much stronger than if Paul had written that Gentiles are together with Israelites. That is to say, it is one thing to say that Gentiles are together with Israelites, but Paul, through the Holy Spirit, by not even mentioning Israel, makes the point so obvious that Israel is reckoned among the nations, and that being the case, all are together. The paper on this web-site called Are There Jews And Gentiles In The Dispensation Of The Mystery? will give my reasons for believing that God does not see Jews and Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery, He sees only people of the nations.
Let us try to summarize what we have learned by a different translation of Eph. 3:6, one that more accurately represents the meaning of the original Greek. “That the nations should be together heirs, together bodies and together partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel”.
Now that we understand that “ethnos” of Eph. 3:6 should be translated “nations”, we must consider the phrases “together heirs” and “together partakers”. May I remind the reader that “ethnos” is used for both the nation as an entity and for individuals in the nation. It is clear that in regard to being together heirs and together partakers it is not nations as such that is in mind, but the individual believers in the nations. We might ask then, if “ethnos” refers to individuals in regard to heirs and partakers, shouldn’t we translate it as “Gentiles”? Let’s try that out. “Gentiles are together heirs”. Together heirs with whom? If we take the Bible as it is written and not add words that are not in the texts, we must conclude that Gentiles are together heirs with Gentiles. But the fact that Gentiles are heirs with Gentiles was never a secret hid in God. Paul could not write that Gentiles are heirs with Israelites, because Israel no longer occupied a position separate from the nations. Israel, after She was put aside, was numbered among the nations.
To what are those of the nations partakers? We read in verse 6, “partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel”. I believe that once we determine which gospel Paul had in mind, we will then be able to determine to what those Gentiles were together partakers.
If, for the sake of clarity, we omit the phrases about Paul’s unworthiness to preach this gospel, it will become more clear what the gospel of verse 6 is. Verses 6c to 9 would read, “together partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel whereof I was made a minister….. that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; even (Gr. “kai”) to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery”. The gospel Paul is referring to is not the gospel of salvation, it is the gospel, i.e. the good news, concerning the fact that all nations are together. In other words, the fact that all nations are together is the subject of this passage. Salvation has nothing to do with all nations being together, therefore, the gospel of Eph. 3:6 has nothing to do with salvation.
But if the gospel of Eph. 3:6 is not the gospel of salvation what are these “unsearchable riches” to which Paul refers? The answer to that question is found in the parallel passage, i.e. Col. 1:26-27. Col. 1:27 reads, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory“. The Greek word translated “in” is the preposition “en” and the Companion Bible tells us that when used with a plural it should be translated “among”. So the riches of the mystery among the Gentiles is “Christ among you, the hope of glory“. To whom does the “you” refer that Christ is among? The epistle to the Colossians, like all Paul’s epistles, are written to believers (see Col. 1:2). That means that Christ is among believers. What does that mean? The next phrase will help us to answer that question. “Christ is among you (believers) the hope of glory“.
In order to fully appreciate this verse we must understand the place of believing Gentiles before the mystery was revealed. We read in the Old Testament that Israel will be glorified in the millennial reign of Christ. Gentiles were grafted into Israel but the glory was not theirs as such, it was Israel’s glory. There was no glory for believing Gentiles apart from Israel. Let’s look at just a few of those Old Testament passages that speak of the glory of Israel in the millennium.
Is. 60:14,”The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you (Israel); all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel”
Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn”.
Is. 60:5,”Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you riches of the nations will come”.
Is. 60:10, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you”.
These passages all show the glory of Israel in the millennium. But in the dispensation of the mystery, believing Gentiles have been promised glory in resurrection that has nothing to do with Israel. Where we read of the “riches of the glory of this mystery” we are reading of the fact that Christ is among the Gentiles apart from Israel, and that glory will be theirs in resurrection, again apart from Israel.
After considering what the mystery hid in God is not (i.e. the mystery of Christ) and after coming to a correct understanding of the Greek words “ethnos” and “sun”, we are now ready to answer our question: what exactly is the mystery that had been hid in God? It is that all nations are together bodies, i.e. there is no nation separated from another. And that individual believers in the nations are together heirs and together partakers of the promise given to them by God and that because Christ is among all believers, they will be glorified apart from Israel.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in you own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in“. There is no doubt as to what this mystery is, as Paul explains exactly what it is: “that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in”. But are these Gentiles those of the dispensation of the mystery? In order to answer that question we will consider the following thoughts.
Two things should be noted about this mystery. One is that Paul says, “blindness in part has happened to Israel”. This, together with Romans 11:1 where we read, “Hath God cast away His people? God forbid“, tells us that, as of the writing of Romans, Israel was still God’s people. That tells us that these Gentiles are not of the dispensation of the mystery because the dispensation of the mystery could not have started until Israel had been divorced at Acts 28. (Please see the section above on the mystery of Eph. 3:6.)
The second phrase of this mystery is also worthy of note, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in”. Some students of the Bible believe that Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery are included in the phrase “fullness of the Gentiles”. That is to say, that the fullness of the Gentiles includes the Gentiles who accept Christ in the dispensation of the mystery. I respectfully disagree with that view and I offer the following reasons.
In order to determine if the Gentile believers of the present dispensation are included in the phrase “fulness of the Gentiles” we must consider the context. Verse 26 begins, “and so”. That tells us that verse 26 is the point of the preceding verse. In other words, verse 25 brings us to the point of verse 26 which begins, “and so”. What is the point of verse 26 that verse 25 has led us to?
Verse 26 reads, “And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob”. The phrase “as it is written” tells us that the proof that “all Israel shall be saved” is in the verse that is quoted. In other words, the coming of the Deliverer will save “all Israel”. This verse is quoted from Is. 59:20. If we are to be faithful students of the Word of God we must consider the context from which this verse is quoted
We read in Is. 59:20, “and the Redeemer shall come to Zion and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord”. The fact that the Redeemer shall come “unto them that turn from transgression” tells us that it is not unbelieving Israel that shall be saved. The Redeemer shall come to believing Israel, i.e. those who have turned from transgression. We must bear in mind that “they are not all Israel that are of Israel”.
The phrase “the Redeemer shall come” obviously points to the end times when Christ, the “Redeemer” of Isaiah 59 and the “Deliverer” of Rom. 11, shall return. Let us consider other verses in the context of Is. 59 which speak of the end times.
We read in verse 17b-18, “He put on the garment of vengeance for clothing…. according to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; to the islands He will repay recompense”. The phrase “the islands” obviously refers to Gentile nations, as Israel is not an island, nor, as the Companion Bible tells us, is it “a maritime country”. Let us go on with verse 19 of Is. 59, “so shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against Him and the Redeemer shall come to Zion….”. The phrase “His glory from the rising of the sun” obviously refers to the end times’ millennial reign of Christ. Surely it is obvious that the vengeance and fury referred to in this context is that which will be seen in the end times, i.e. in the day of God’s vengeance. The vengeance of the end times is the time of God’s wrath. Believers will be saved from God’s wrath by the rapture, another end times event.
Having given the Scriptural evidence that sets Rom. 11:25-26 at the end times, we are now ready to consider the term, “shall be come in”. That is to say, the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in to what? Given the context of Is. 59, we must, in my opinion, conclude that they shall come in to the blessings of the end times, i.e. the millennial reign of Christ. Or taking the entire chapter 11 into account, the phrase “shall be come in” tells us that the Gentiles will come in to the blessings of Israel as depicted by the olive tree of Rom. 11. This conclusion is in keeping with the the context of Rom 11:26b which reads, “and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” which is of course, a reference to the millennial reign of Christ. Consider also the next verse, “For this is My covenant unto them….”. The new covenant will be put into effect in the millennium.
The mystery of Rom. 11:25 is that blindness in part had happened to Israel until all Gentile believers shall be graffed inot the olive tree and will therefore come in to the end times’ millennial blessings. The Gentiles of the dispensation have nothing to do with millennial blessings, their calling is to heaven where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Therefore, the mystery of Roman 11:25 has nothing to do with Gentiles of the dispensation of the mystery.
Those who include the Gentiles of the dispensation of the mystery in “the fullness of the Gentiles” point to Luke 21:24 as referring to the same idea. It should however be noted that the “times of the Gentiles” does not have the exact same meaning as “the fulness of the Gentiles”. But for the sake of thoroughness, we will examine Luke 21:24. “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. Some believe that Luke 21:24 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. If that were true (which I do not think it is) then “the times of the Gentiles” could indeed refer to the dispensation of the mystery. But to what period in God’s history does the phrase “the times of the Gentiles” refer? In order to answer that question we must examine the context of Luke 21:24.
Verses 7-36 give an account of our Lord’s telling His disciples of the great tribulation. Note especially verse 7, “Master….what signs will there be when these things come to pass?” Verse 8, “…Many shall come in My Name saying, ‘I am Christ….”. Verse 9, “…ye shall hear of wars and commotion’s..”. Verse 10, “….Nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom”. Verse 12, “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you and persecute you…”. Verse 17, “Ye shall be hated of all men for My Name’s sake”. Verse 20, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains: and let them which are in the midst of it depart out: and let not then that are in the countries enter thereinto”. Verses 23-24, “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days, for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”.
This passage has to do with the tribulation period. To read into this passage the inclusion of Gentiles of the dispensation of the mystery, is to ignore the context. In this passage the phrase, “the times of the Gentiles” has nothing to do with Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery, it has to do with the dispensation described as the great distress, i.e.tribulation.(Please see the paper on this web-site, When are The Times Of The Gentiles? for a more compete study of this topic.)
Another passage that has a phrase similar to “the fulness of the Gentiles” is Acts 15:16-17. “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down: and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the Lord, Who doeth all these things”. This is quoted from Amos 9:11-12. To whom does the phrase, ” Gentiles upon whom My Name is called” refer? We read in Deut. 28:10, “And all peoples of the earth shall see that thou (Israel) art called by the name of the Lord…..”. Israel was “called by the name of the Lord”. What does that mean? In my opinion, it means that believing Israel was God’s People. So in Amos 9 and Acts 15 the Gentiles who are called by “My name” are believing Gentiles.
Now we are ready to examine the context of Amos 9:11-12 in order to determine to which period in God’s history this prophecy refers. The prophecy refers to millennial times. The evidence of that is found in verse 15 of Amos 9, “And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God”. The “residue of men” refers to the remnant of Israel. And “all the Gentiles upon whom My name is called” are believing Gentiles, i.e. those Gentiles who believed in the One True God of Israel. These are the Gentiles of the millennial reign of Christ.
“Now to Him That is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began. But now is made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith“.
The question is, which mystery is being spoken of in these verses. Is it the dispensation of the mystery? There are several clues in the verses themselves that will help in our consideration of this question.
1) Consider the opening of this passage, “Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel….”. Paul uses the phrase “my gospel” three times: here in Romans 16, in Romans 2:16 and in II Tim. 2:8. Romans 2:16, “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” The other reference to “my gospel” is found in II Tim. 2:8 where we read, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel”. We are not left with any doubt as to what Paul meant by the term “my gospel”. It referred to judgment and the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
2) Let us consider verse 26, where Paul writes that the mystery of verse 25 “is now made manifest by prophetic writings”. The dispensation of the mystery is the present dispensation in which all nations are the same in God’s eyes (Eph. 3:6). The revelation of that mystery was not “made manifest by prophetic writings” prior to Acts . In point of fact it was a mystery that had been hid in God until it was revealed to Paul after Acts 28.
3) Let us also consider the phrase, “and made known to all nations for obedience of faith”. In my opinion, the mystery of Eph. 3:6 that the nations are now the same, i.e. together bodies, does not lead to “the obedience of faith”. On the other hand, the mystery of Christ, which is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ certainly should lead to “the obedience of faith”.
Let us try to pull together what we have learned in order to discover if the mystery of Romans 16 is the dispensation of the mystery.
1. The mystery of Romans 16 is referred to as “my gospel” the nature of which is explained in Rom. 2:16 and II Tim. 2:8. It has nothing to do with the dispensation of the mystery as described in Eph. 3:6. “My gospel” has to do with judgment and the resurrection of Christ.
2. The mystery of Romans 16 had been revealed by “prophetic writings”. There is absolutely nothing before Romans 16 which even hints of the dispensation of the mystery spoken of in the prison epistles.
3) The mystery that the nations are now equal does not, in my opinion, necessarily lead one to “obedience of faith”.
We must conclude therefore, that the mystery spoken of in Romans 16 is not the dispensation of the mystery.
Having said that the mystery of Romans 16 is not the dispensation of the mystery revealed to Paul after Acts 28, let us address the question of what is the mystery of Romans 16?
First, the Greek word “kai” translated “and” in the phrase, “according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” can also be translated “even”. “My gospel” is, in part, the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, I believe that “and” should have been translated “even” so the phrase should read, “according to my gospel, even the preaching of Jesus Christ“. When we studied the mystery of Christ we saw that that mystery had to do with the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, I believe that the mystery of Romans 16 is the mystery of Christ. That is to say, the mystery of Christ concerns the death and resurrection of Christ. “My gospel” is described in Romans 16 as the “preaching of Jesus Christ” and in II Tim. 2 we learned that it had to do with the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the mystery of Romans 16 is the mystery of Christ, which has to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not the dispensation of the mystery.
For further evidence that Rom. 16 speaks of the mystery of Christ let us compare this passage in Rom. 16 with the opening passage of Romans. Romans 1:1-5 reads, “Paul a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures,) Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name”.
Note the phrases in this passage that are similar to those in Rom. 16 which makes them parallel passages, “Promised afore by His prophets in the holy Scriptures” and “for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name”. And the phrases “made of the seed of David” and ” the resurrection from the dead:” which explain “my gospel” of Rom. 16. This passage and the one quoted from chapter one are obviously parallel passages. What can we learn by comparing these two parallel passages?
The mystery of Christ, as explained above is the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul wrote of Christ’s resurrection specifically in chapter one and alluded to it by the term “my gospel” in Rom. 16. In my opinion, this suggests that the mystery of Rom. 16 is the mystery of Christ.
I CORINTHIANS 2:7
“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”.
Some Bible students believe that the mystery of I Cor. 2:7 is the dispensation of the mystery revealed to Paul after Acts 28. In my opinion, the context refutes that position. For example, Paul writes that if the princes of the world had known of this mystery they would not have crucified the “Lord of glory”. The Lord was not crucified because the “princes of this world” did not know of the dispensation of the mystery. Not only had that mystery not even been revealed when Christ was crucified, but Paul, to whom the mystery was to be revealed, had not even been converted at the time of the crucifixion.
Also, the dispensation of the mystery has to do with God’s dealing with the nations as “together bodies”. The understanding of that mystery has nothing to do with “our glory”, it has only to do with how God is dealing with the nations in this present dispensation. (Please see the section on Ephesians 3:6 above.)
What then, is the mystery alluded to in I Cor. 2:7? Let us examine the context for the answer to that question.
We read that the “princes of this world” would not have crucified Christ if they had known of this mystery. I believe that they would not have crucified the Lord if they had known that He was the promised Messiah. That is the mystery of I Cor. 2:7.
Let us also consider the phrase “which God ordained before the world”. The Greek word translated “world” in this verse is “aion” and should be translated “age” as the NIV does in verse 6. The NIV translates “aion” as “time” in verse 8, but “age” would have been a more consistent translation. The question is: before which age did God ordain this mystery? Note the context. Verse 6 speaks of the “princes of this age”, and verse 8 speaks of the princes of this age who had “crucified the Lord of glory“. The age from which this mystery had been hidden was the age of the crucifixion of Christ.
I CORINTHIANS 4:1
“Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God”. Obviously the “mysteries of God” are those mysteries which had been revealed to Paul up to the point of his writing the first letter to the Corinthians. There is no mention of the dispensation of the mystery until after Acts 28, i.e. in his letter to the Ephesians. Therefore, the “mysteries of God” mentioned in this verse do not include the dispensation of the mystery.
I CORINTHIANS 13:2
“Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge…..”. Obviously, once again Paul is referring to the mysteries that had been revealed to him up to the point of his writing his first letter to the Corinthians.
I CORINTHIANS 14:2
“For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” There are no specific mysteries mentioned in this verse.
I CORINTHIANS 15:51-52
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed”.
This mystery is explained in the immediate context and needs no further explanation.
“Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth: even in Him”.
The mystery of His will is explained in the immediate context. It is that all things in heaven and earth will be gathered together in one, in Christ. Again, no further explanation is necessary.
Eph. 5:25-32, “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it……so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church”.
The point of this passage is that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. The relationship of the church to Christ is used as an example of what the relationship is between husband and wife. That is to say, the church is called the “body of Christ”. So the church is one with Christ just as the husband is one with his wife.
In short, the mystery spoken of in this chapter is the relationship of the church to Christ is the same as the relationship of the husband to his wife, i.e. they are one body.
Praying “for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds…..”.
For which gospel was Paul in bonds? Many assume that it was for the gospel of the dispensation of the mystery that Paul was in bonds. Col. 4:3 will, however, tell us exactly why Paul was in bonds. “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds”.
COLOSSIANS I: 25-27
“Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. (The Greek word translated “in” is “en” and could, according to the Companion Bible Appendix six, be translated “among” when used of a plural noun. Therefore, the last phrase of this verse could be read, “Christ among you the hope of glory.)
There is only one mystery that we are told of that had been hid in God. That is the dispensation of the mystery (Eph. 3:9). We must conclude therefore, that the mystery to which Paul alludes in this passage is the dispensation of the mystery.
However, Paul describes this mystery in a slightly different light than he does in Ephesians 3:6. That is to say, in Eph. 3:6 Paul writes of the mystery in terms of ethnos being equal. Here in Colossians one, Paul describes the mystery in terms of blessings for the individual Gentile, i.e. Christ being among the Gentiles, the hope of glory.
There is, of course, no contradiction in these two passages. In Ephesians Paul writes of nations and believers of the nations being “together”. In Colossians he writes of the fact that because the nations are “together” in the dispensation of the mystery, Christ is the hope of glory apart from Israel among all individual Gentiles. This is in contrast to earlier dispensations when Gentiles had to become proselytes, as in Old Testament times, or were grafted into the nation of Israel, as in the Acts period. That is to say, up until the dispensation of the mystery Gentiles partook of the glory that had been promised to Israel. In the present dispensation, however, the hope of glory is given to Gentiles apart from Israel.
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ”.
First, we must understand that the texts (according to the note in the Companion Bible) read, “the mystery of God, even Christ“. We read of a “mystery of God” in Rev. 10:7. As the reader will see in the discussion of that passage below, I believe that the context will show that in Revelation the mystery of God refers to God’s plans and purposes as revealed by the prophets. But the meaning of the mystery of God in Colossians must be taken from its context.
What then is the “mystery of God”? The NASB has, “a true knowledge of God’s mystery, even Christ Himself”. And the NRSV has, “have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ Himself”. In other words, the “of” in the phrase “mystery of God’ is the Genitive of Possession, i.e. God’s mystery. So the mystery of God is Christ, Himself.
In order to understand that mystery we must consider the point of Colossians chapter 2. I believe that point is made in verses 8-9. 8) “Beware lest any man spoil you through vain philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ: 9) For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him….”.
Paul’s point in this chapter is, in my opinion, that they should not be concerned with philosophies etc. of the world because they are complete in Christ. Note the word “for” that begins verse 9, i.e. “for in Him”. That tells us that in this context, the reason they are complete in Him is because in Christ dwells “the fulness of the godhead bodily”.
If we consider the context in our determination of what God’s mystery is I believe we may conclude that “God’s mystery, even Christ” is that Christ is the fulness of the godhead bodily.
“Praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds”.
The mystery of Christ has been discussed above in the section “The Two Mysteries Of Ephesians Three”.
II THESSALONIANS 2:7
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way, and then shall that wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming”.
We read in the immediate context of Paul’s warning: “Let no man deceive you…for that day shall not come except the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped: and that he as God sitteth in the Temple of God shewing himself that he is God” (verses 3-5).
It is clear that the “mystery of iniquity” concerns the antichrist. Paul’s warning is to make them aware that iniquity will increase, but that they should not be concerned with whether the rapture had passed, because the antichrist had not yet appeared, and that when he does, he will be destroyed at the coming of the Lord.
I TIMOTHY 3:9
“Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience”. We are not told in the context what the mystery of the faith is. Neither do we find this phrase anywhere else in God’s Word. In my opinion the “of” is the Genitive of relation, which is defined in the Companion Bible as, “frequently the ‘of’ is equivalent to ‘pertaining to“. In this case it is the mystery pertaining to faith.
I TIMOTHY 3:16
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”.
I’m sure I was not the only one to assume that the mystery of godliness is explained in this verse, and it is that God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. However, in considering the usage by the Holy Spirit of the Greek word translated “godliness” it is clear that God being manifest in the flesh etc. is not the mystery of godliness.
The Greek word translated “godliness” is “usebia”. The first occurrence is in Acts 3:12 where we read, “And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, ‘Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this: or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?'” “Usebia” is translated “holiness” in this verse. I believe that if we look at several more verses in which the Greek word is used the reader will have a better sense of how the Holy Spirit means for us to understand it.
I Tim. 2:2, “…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty”.
I Tim. 4:7-8, “But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself unto all godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things….”
I Tim. 6:5-6 “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain”.
The Strong’s Concordance tells us that the Greek word is derived from the Greek word translated “piety. In my opinion that definition, together with the usage as shown in the verses quoted above, tells us that the “mystery of godliness” has nothing to do with God manifest in the flesh.
How are we to gain an understanding of the phrase “mystery of godliness”? From the context. We read in verses 14-15, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness“. I suggest that the mystery of godliness is connected to how one should behave in the house of God. If we leave off the parenthetical statement at the end of verse 15 we read, “…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God …… and without controversy great is the mystery of godliness”. In other words, I believe Paul is saying that all the things that he had written were to tell all believers how they ought to behave in the house of God. One behaves in a god-like manner in the house of God, i.e. in all godliness.
I believe that verse 16b goes with 4:1 and begins an entirely new and different thought. That would read then, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith….”. In other words, Paul expresses the tenants of the faith and then warns against those who will depart from it.
We read in John chapter four, verses 9-26 of a conversation that our Lord had with a Samaritan woman about where one should worship God. Verses 23-24 tell us of true worship. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”.
We learned from the paragraphs and quotes above that the mystery of godliness is connected to how one is to conduct himself in the house of God. I believe that Jn. 4:23-24 gives us the explanation of how one is to worship God. Therefore, I think we may conclude that the mystery of godliness is that God is to be worshiped in spirit. The reason it is said to be a mystery is because Old Testament worship centered around very concrete things such as sacrifices, strict observance of various festival days and the sabbath. In other words, the emphasis was not on worshipping God in spirit, therefore it was a mystery revealed by our Lord in John chapter four.
“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches”.
Again, this mystery is explained and needs no further comment.
“But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to his servants the prophets”.
If we determine what is finished as the seventh trumpet is sounded by the seventh angel, we will learn what the “mystery of God” is. For that we will look at Rev. 11:15, “”And the seventh angel sounded: and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever”.
The mystery of God then in this context, refers to God’s plans and purposes as revealed by the prophets. Those plans are that Christ would rule over the nations of the world.
“And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abomination of the earth”.
What exactly is the mystery spoken of in this verse? Many, if not most, assume that the mystery is which city the woman represents. I believe however, that the context tells us that that is not the case.
We read in Rev. 17:3-5, “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”.
Verses 3-5, quoted above, tell us that John saw a woman sitting on a beast. In verse 7 the angel said to John, “I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her…..”. Verses 8-17 reveal the meaning of the mystery of the beast, and verse 18 reveals the mystery of the woman herself. We read in that verse, “and the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth”. The mystery associated with the great city is not which city the woman represents, it is that the city reigns over the kings of the earth. If the mystery was which city the woman represented, the angel would have revealed the name when he revealed the mystery in verse 18. But he did not, he revealed the fact that the woman represents a city that reigns over the kings of the earth. Again, the mystery is not which city the woman represents, the mystery is that the city she represents “reigneth over the kings of the earth”.
As I have studied the mysteries of the New Testament I have been struck by the fact that the mysteries having to do with the resurrection of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ were mentioned or alluded to more than any other mystery. This seems, in my opinion, to be extremely appropriate. God’s plan of salvation rests upon Christ’s death and resurrection; there is nothing more important or more fundamental than that.
Some have referred to the dispensation of the mystery as “the great mystery”. Of course, it is important in terms of God’s plans and purposes for the ages, and I would not for one minute, want to minimize its importance. But it is the mystery of Christ, i.e. His death and resurrection, that is alluded to as a mystery more than any other. Therefore, in my opinion, if there is “the great mystery” of the New Testament, I would say that it was not the dispensation of the mystery, but the mysteries concerning His death and resurrection, i.e. the mystery of Christ.
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the mysteries of the New Testament. Please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org