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About Doctrines

Mysteries



The above verse is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (cf. Matt 13:11; Luke 8:10). It follows Jesus parable of the sower and the seeds and is in response to the disciples request for an explanation of the parable. This verse is a portion of this response. God has revealed unto the disciples of Jesus the “mystery” of the kingdom of God. What exactly is the mystery?

When we think of mysteries, we normal think of Columbo, Perry Mason, Agatha Christie and a host of other “who done it” books and authors. While the general concept may be similar, the "who done its" are a long way from the use of the term mystery in Scripture. In the Bible, the term is used to describe a truth of God previously unknown ("hidden") but now revealed. In part, the term mystery is a one word definition for the progressive revelation of God that we have previously discussed.

The Greek word, musterion, occurs 27 times in the King James translation. A proper biblical definition of the word is a hidden or secret thing not generally subject to understanding. The term is found in the three synoptic Gospels as indicated above, the book of Revelation, and in six of Paul's thirteen letters. But, the concept of a mystery in Scripture finds its roots in the Old Testament. Daniel, for example, speaks of God's understanding of the symbols in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan 2:44). These symbols represent the history of the worldly empires that will lead to the establishment of God's own, eternal kingdom. It is when we come to the New Testament that the concept of the mystery of the kingdom becomes clearer. While Jesus describes the mystery of the kingdom, it is Paul's letters that bring the mystery into full bloom.

The concept of a mystery lies in the character of God. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. God may, thus, know all about the world, the human heart, history, and the future. Man, on the other hand, lives in a finite environment and can, of his own accord, know none of these things. God is also sovereign, so He controls all events, either directly or by allowing events to occur, such as sin. God has blessed man by revealing to man much about these events, as well as about God’s character and actions. In Scripture certain portions of this revelation is referred to as a "mystery."

So, when Paul writes of a mystery, the Apostle speaks of something hidden in a previous dispensation, but now revealed. Again, to draw from the analogy of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the meaning of the dream was hidden from the King until God revealed the meaning to Daniel. There are many events of Scripture hidden from men. Some of these have been revealed throughout the pages of Scripture. In this sense, all things were hidden at one time or another, and then revealed by God.

The details of Daniel's prophecies and the interpretation of the King's dream point toward the Kingdom of God, but little or no detail about this future kingdom is revealed. That the details contained in the pages of Daniel point to God’s kingdom are made clear within the pages of Revelation (cf. Rev 1:20; 17:5, 7). The same is true of many other points of Scripture. For example, one the great New Testament mysteries is the Church, the body of Christ. The Old Testament prophets foresaw the suffering servant Messiah and the triumphant Messiah (cf. Isa 9:6; 53:1-12), but did not comprehend the time frame existing between the two events. This intervening time is the age of the Church.

As we move into the New Testament more of the detail is flushed out for our understanding. Jesus takes Daniel's slim details and tells us this is the kingdom of God. While Christ only uses the word "musterion," in the above verses, His discourses, especially the various parables found in Matthew 13, tell us much about God's kingdom. But, even so, the main ingredient of the present portion of this kingdom is still missing from the discourses of Christ.

That ingredient is the existence of Jew and Gentile together as equals within the Church. Paul's letters add this detail to the mystery of the Kingdom. It is not until we come to the Epistles that we discover the body of Christ is a "new nation" without land, formed from all peoples of the world, as a spiritual nation. After defining the mystery as being involved with the special revelation of Christ's appearance (Col 2:2; 4:3), Paul effectively adds three key points to the mystery concept.

First, the divine mystery is incorporated in Christ's atoning death on the Cross (1 Cor 2:1).

Second, God's plan involves the inclusion of the Gentiles through the Cross (Eph 2:13-16).

Third and last, Paul sees the mystery of the church as being the reconciliation of all things to God (Eph 1:9-10).

With this as the background, we find several aspects of God's character clearly revealed in the mysteries. Included are His sovereignty, His omniscience and His grace.

Paul reveals to us a portion of the mystery in Romans 11, then, recognizes the power of God involved in this revelation as the Apostle breaks into praise for the knowledge and wisdom of God (11:33-36). This salutes the all-knowing wisdom and knowledge of God (omniscience). This mirrors Daniel bursting into prayer in response to God’s revelation (Dan 2:20-23).

Second, both the Old and New Testaments reflect God’s sovereign control of history. Daniel rejoices over God's control of history (Dan 2:36), just as does Paul. The Apostle sees the formation of the Church as having been determined in the counsels of God prior to creation (Eph 3:9-11; Col 1:26-27). The Church is not an after-thought in God's Plans. The special people of the body of Christ were determined before all things began.

Third, God's grace is seen in His desire to reveal the mysteries to us. If you look at many cults, they steep themselves in a blanket of secrecy. Many of the rites of entry and the rituals of worship are hidden from all but the truest members. God's revelations of the mysteries of Scripture demonstrate a deep desire on His part that we share in the secrets of His knowledge. There are certainly things known to God not known to us. Many of these may never be known although some will be learned when we arrive in heaven (1 Cor 13:8-12). But, we may rest assured that God has revealed to us all we need to know about our "religion." God has revealed to us how to find Him, how to live once we have found Him, and knowledge about those who are in His family with us. God's graciousness is found in His willingness to reveal the mystery of His Plans to His people (Matt 11:25-26). This desire is found in the existence of the Bible, a book whose purpose is to reveal God’s mysteries to us.

What are the mysteries then?

Biblical mysteries, then, point us the sovereignty of God as He controls human events. The existence of mysteries should provide great peace and comfort to a believer. With God in control, nothing will happen that He has not ordained. His plans work to the salvation of His people (Rom 8:28-30). In these mysteries, God reveals His grace and good ness. By telling men how to find Him, God has revealed His character, His Plans, His method, and, unfortunately, His punishment for a failure to believe Him (Rom 1:18-32).

Perhaps, the greatest mystery of the Bible is one not fully answered. Why don't more people listen to the revealed mysteries?

 

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