There are three Scriptures in which the “great” secret is specially revealed. And there are others which contain definite teaching concerning it. Colossians 1:24-28; Romans 16:25-26 and Ephesians 3:1-11
Therefore if you’re just seeing this blog for the first time, we have been unfolding the word Mystery. The apostle Paul mentions 28 mysteries in the New Testament. We have been searching to discover just what was meant and understood clearly by the believers in the first century. To do this we recognize that through the institution of etymology, which is basically discovering the purpose for which words were first used and a certain time, we will find truth.
There seems to be great deal of controversy over whether or not there is going to be a mass disappearance of believers from the earth known as the “Rapture of the church”.
Is there going to be a disappearance of believers, and if so when will it take place, before Christ’s return or after the apocalypse? Those who hold the view that there is a Rapture that will take place, have one of four views. Before we can discuss the different views it is important that we first examine the words that bring us to this teaching.
As a Bible teacher for nearly 35 years, I find it grievous that we who call ourselves believers hold such varying opinions on such a wide variety of subjects. So much so, that we currently have over 1500 different denominations calling themselves Christians.
At this time, I am not going to address the different views that exist concerning “the Rapture of the church”, but rather help us all to come to the understanding of how we arrived at such a great misunderstandings.
It is my desire to unfold the mystery which is a Greek transliteration of the word musterion. However, much of the debate is founded on the simple reading of an English text rather than proper study. As we continue this study I’m sure there are many who would like us to just give them a direct answer however, since we are taken up with the subject of the word Musterion or Mystery, which Mystery is it we are dealing with, the one folks seem to use out of context such as the Mystery of Christ or the Mystery of the Body?
It is our prayer here at Agape Chapel that God would grant us the wisdom necessary to take things that are so divisive, and make them understandable.
I want to rest this brief introduction with one simple truth. As Bible teachers we desire to guide a student in his or her discovery and not to discover for them. Simply put, Pastor Terry Reynolds and I will present evidence, then you as students study the material and ask questions. Please, whatever your opinion may be, it is our hope that it will not be founded in someone else’s opinion, but rather your own due diligence.
THE SECRET BEING REVEALED
In the book of Ephesians, we will begin our quest which I have titled “The Secret Being Revealed”. Ephesians, perhaps more than any other book, gives the particulars concerning the revelation of the Great Secret. “As it is (hath) now (been) revealed.”
Ephesians 3:1-11, For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation (stewardship) 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 (the secret) of (or concerning) 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 fellow heirs, and of the same body, (i.e.; a joint-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 (untrackable) riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see (Greek, to enlighten all as to ) what is the fellowship (stewardship) of the mystery, (or secret) which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose (purpose of the ages) which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. This doesn’t mean, as some bible teachers have taught, that it had been revealed before in a certain way, at least not in the same manner that it is now. It is distinctly and emphatically declared again and again, here and in other passages, that it had not been revealed at all! I say again, it had not been revealed at all!
“That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and (fellow-members) of the same body (i.e., a joint-body).” Fellow members of the body – sussōmos. This is a peculiar ecclesiastical word which only occurs here.
There can be no doubt from scripture that this is not a reference to the Gospel. The Gospel was never kept secret. The good news of salvation through Christ alone, the seed of the woman, was revealed from earliest times (Genesis 3:15), and it was preached unto Abraham (Galatians 3:8). Saints give attention to my words, it could not have been a coded message that Gentiles were to be blessed with Israel: because that wasn’t kept secret either.
The simple fact is, that the first blessing promised to Israel through Abraham, contained the promise of blessing for the Gentiles in addition.
We read in Genesis, “In thee (and in thy seed – 28:14) and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Again, speaking of Abraham (Genesis 18:18), God says: “…all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.” Over and over again this promise is repeated (See Genesis 22:18; 26:4, etc.).
The prophets of Israel constantly had this as the burden of their message. They told of the time when “all nations shall call Him blessed” (Psalms 72:14).
“God be merciful unto us and bless us: And cause His face to shine upon us, That Thy way may be known upon earth Thy saving health among all nations” (Psalms 67:1, 2).
In Romans 15:8-9a, it is distinctly declared that, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy...” As it is written (not as it hath been kept secret!)
What is it? “We shall not all sleep.” What? Not though “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)? Must we not die? No! Blessed be God. It is not necessary! The members of the Body were judged with the Head, and were “crucified with Christ,” and therefore there is no reason why they should ever die at all, and no reason why they should ever come into judgment (Romans 8:1). They may “fall asleep,” but “not all.” But whether alive or asleep,
“…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, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
“I would not have you ignorant… concerning them which are asleep… if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so [we are to believe that] them also which sleep in Jesus will God [through Jesus] bring with Him [from dead, i.e., as He brought Jesus again from the dead]. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [get before] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first [i.e., before the living are changed]: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together [i.e., at one and the same time] with them in the clouds, to [for the purpose of] meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
Oh! What a blessed truth to be initiated into. Well, may He say, “Behold I tell you a secret.” “I would not have you ignorant” of it.
This, then, is the end of the Body of Christ on earth. “The perfect man” is formed; the Body is complete, and when it becomes completed, it is received up in glory! We have already considered the three great passages which reveal it. But there is a fourth, and it sums up the whole round of doctrine contained in the revelation of it.
GREAT IS THE MYSTERY! Of godliness, i.e., of the true Faith, which [Mystery] was manifested in the flesh. The R.V. gives “He who” in the text, and rightly says in the margin, “The word God, in place of He who, rests on no sufficient ancient evidence.
Some ancient authorities read which.” This is our belief. We believe that the original word was Ho, which, neuter, to agree with the word musterion, which is also neuter. Then some scribe, not understanding the sense added, an “S,” thus turning it into hos, which made it masculine, who, or He who, though the sense is therefore made more obscure. Finally, some later scribe put a little mark in the “O,” therefore making it into Th, and making the two letters ThS and abbreviation of the word Theos, God. A microscope reveals the fact that the little mark in the “O,” in the Alexandrine MS. is in different ink, and was evidently added by a later hand. This, we believe, to be the evolution of the reading, and that originally it was simply “O,” which this passage is generally taken of Christ personal. But if read, as we submit it ought to be read, of the Mystery Christ or Christ Mystical, then in the six sentences we have the whole truth, concerning the Body, revealed.
The place occupied by the “revelation of the mystery” in 1 Timothy 3:16 will be best understood by the important position it occupies in contrast with the “Mystery of Iniquity.” When viewed in the position given to it in the Epistle, the two central numbers, E and E, the two Mysteries or Secrets of God and Satan, are seen to stand in solemn and awful opposition. You see, used out of context we can form opinions which are not only improper exegesis, but divisive.
PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS. Once we have grasped the great secret of God, we have a key to open several other difficult subjects, which have been made difficult and dark through the shutting out of the only light that could explain them.
Many false notions have sprung up, as the necessary consequence of having lost the truth of the Mystery.
WHY WAS THE SECRET KEPT? Why was the great doctrine of the “Mystery” ever kept secret at all? Why did God hide it in Himself, so that no one could possibly discover it till He chose to reveal it? The reason is clear. Had it not been kept secret, the Jews would have had a reason for their rejection of Christ again in the Acts of the Apostles!
They could have pleaded that they were only fulfilling the prophecies, and would have lost at once all their responsibility. True, the rejection of Christ was foretold, but there was not a word about their rejection of the renewed offer of the King and the Kingdom, which was made authoritatively after the Ascension.
In Acts 3:18 the Holy Ghost, by Peter reminds the nation how “those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” There was an end of the matter, so far as Old Testament prophecies were concerned. Christ had suffered, but now, as to His entering into His glory, and fulfilling all the prophecies concerning that glory which was to follow, what of these? What hindered their fulfillment? Why should there be delay in their accomplishment?
The condition had been laid down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy and reiterated all through the Prophets that “Repentance” – National Repentance – must precede national blessing. The call goes forth therefore in the very next verse. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (:19-21).
The question is, was this most formal offer merely a mockery? Suppose they had obeyed that call and repented, and turned to the Lord, would not the times of refreshing have come from His presence? Would He not have sent Jesus Christ? And in that case would not all that He had spoken by His prophets have been fulfilled? True, Christ had suffered; the Heavens had received Him, but not for ever; only “until” Israel should repent, and turn to the Lord. Can we believe that this offer so formally and solemnly made was unreal?
Israel was responsible before God for the rejection of that offer; but, had the consequence of their rejection of that offer been previously made known, such responsibility would have been impossible.
Therefore, was the secret purpose of God hidden in Himself: therefore was it kept secret during times eternal; and not until Israel had definitely refused to repent - and thus, rejected the offer to send Jesus Christ from Heaven - not until then, was the secret of God revealed.
We must never adopt any system of interpretation which would have necessitated that rejection of Christ by Israel. Had the secret been revealed before, they would have been compelled to reject Christ, and they could not have been held responsible for that rejection. Their present dispersion with all its sufferings, is in consequence of that rejection, and God is righteous in all His acts. The second consequence which flows from the doctrine of the mystery is this: Had Israel obeyed the call in Acts 3:19-21, and the Lord Jesus had been sent, there is not a prophecy in the Old Testament or in the Gospels which would not have been fulfilled! This is a great truth and an important principle far-reaching in its results. It tells us that the Gospels are the conclusion of the Old Testament history, and not the commencement of Church teaching; except of course, so far as Christ crucified is the foundation of all blessing, whether for Creation, for Israel, or the Church of God. Oh, precious saints is this not glorious!!! Everything taking place just as it should and when it should. On behalf of Pastor Terry Reynolds and myself Pastor Jeff Russell, Agape always… Next week: The case for the Pre-tribulation Rapture