Right about now you are probably asking yourself a different question than what is found within the title for this post. That new question probably sounds something like, “what mystery?” Unfortunately, the vast majority of professing Christians have never heard the Bible discussed in terms of prophecy versus mystery. That subject, however, is extremely Biblical and it is not a stretch to state that understanding the “mystery” is the key to understanding your Bible.
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, [Romans 16:25]
There is a mystery that God kept secret from the beginning of the world, until the time that He chose to make that mystery known by revelation. The apostle Paul wrote the epistle of Romans to the Roman believers in and around the Acts chapter 20 time period and it is here that we learn where it is, and who it was to, that God made the decision to reveal His mystery. We must ask the question at this point, “does your church preach Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery?” The passage continues:
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: [Romans 16:26]
God chose a time period (early in the 1st century AD) to make known a mystery and He revealed it directly to the apostle Paul. Paul, in Romans 16:25, is calling this information “my gospel” and he is stating in verse 26 that it is being made known to all nations (the Gentile nations AND the nation of Israel) for individuals to be obedient to it as the content of what is saving faith.
A hidden truth concerning God’s will or plan is called a “mystery” in Scripture, not because it cannot be known today, but because it was kept secret by God in past ages, before it was supernaturally revealed by God through the apostles at the start of the Church, the body of Christ. The Greek word mystērion, translated as “mystery,” means a hidden thing, a secret, or a mystery. We read elsewhere in Paul’s epistles:
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; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: [Ephesians 3:8-9]
Within Ephesians 3, we have a second witness to this mystery subject spoken of by the apostle Paul and we see again that it is a subject that has been hid in God since the beginning of the world. We see also within this passage that Paul was uniquely commissioned to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery. Does “making all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery” describe your ministry or your evangelistic efforts?
The Bible declares that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed the mystery to the apostle Paul:
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) [Ephesians 3:3-4]
In Colossians chapter 1 we see the mystery mentioned again:
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil 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: [Colossians 1:25-27]
We see again that the mystery was hid(den) from prior ages and from prior generations. For roughly four thousand years it had been hid from ages and from generations. It is now, during this dispensation, to be made known to all those who are to be called saints. This passage goes on to inform us that one of the components to the mystery involves Christ being in us. At this point we have to ask yet another question, “why have I not heard of this mystery subject before now?”
Before the creation of heaven and Earth and all that is within them, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit planned this mystery and ordained when it would be that Jesus the Christ, God manifest in the flesh, would speak the wisdom of God in a mystery:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: [1 Corinthians 2:7]
Though most who read the Bible think of “stewardship” in economic terms or of supervising or taking care of an organization or property, Christians are to be stewards of the mysteries of God:
Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. [1 Corinthians 4:1-2]
If we allow ourselves to acknowledge and to understand that the Bible speaks repeatedly to a mystery that God disclosed after the crucifixion and ascension of Christ, we can then position ourselves to better appreciate the fact that you and I are living in a unique period of time, one in which the mystery of God’s will can be fully made known:
Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: [Ephesians 1:9]
For an interesting exercise within your studies, locate and examine each time Paul uses the word “mystery” within his 13 epistles. There is actually a lot of “mystery” within the mystery kept secret since the world began. All of it is revealed through the apostle Paul. One thing that Christians rarely recognize is that God gave the “why” of everything to the apostle Paul. This makes the Church, the body of Christ, the recipients of information that no other group of people has been exposed to since before the penning of Paul’s last epistle.
With the Bible as our authority, we must recognize that God has not always dispensed the same information to the same people during every period of time within human history. That fact is made abundantly clear within the first verse of the Book of Hebrews:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; [Hebrews 1:1-2]
The Bible contains information that no one could know until Christ “dispensed” it to Paul. The Bible also contains information which everyone could know since the world began. Christians are to engage in the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, and this instruction clearly differs from Peter’s message, which was spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets since the world began:
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. [Acts 3:21]
The mystery program that you and I find ourselves within currently is contrasted in Scripture by a prophecy program. This prophecy program includes information that God revealed to the world through the mouth, the speaking, of men of His choosing. Those men were called prophets and what they spoke was labeled as prophecy. That which is described as the prophecy program is that which was spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, since the world began. Let’s look at some additional examples of how Scripture identifies when something spoken by God is being relayed:
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: [Luke 1:70]
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; [Acts 2:16]
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) [Matthew 24:15]
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; [Matthew 27:9]
It is safe to say that over 99% of those who call themselves Christian, and have access to a Bible, are able to locate two specific pages within their Bibles. The first page reads, “The Old Testament.” The second page reads, “The New Testament.” It is at this point that we need to recognize that every Christian divides his or her Bible in some way, shape, or form. This is also the reason why I can boldly proclaim that every Christian is a dispensationalist, but we’ll save that argument for a future post.
While most everyone recognizes the existence of both the Old and the New Testaments, it is extremely rare to find anyone recognizing the presence of a third area of division, the mystery made known to the apostle Paul. This fact is troubling since the Bible clearly instructs that, as Christians, we are to make the mystery known, that we are to preach Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, that we are to make all men see the fellowship of the mystery, and that we are to be faithful stewards of the mystery doctrines. Does that describe your walk with the Lord and your understanding of the Bible?
Separate from what all the prophets spoke since the world began is the mystery information which none of the prophets spoke. This is because the mystery had been hidden since the world began. Christians need to recognize that there are two separate and distinct bodies of information within the Bible, separate programs identified as prophecy and mystery. That which is described as the prophecy program is that which was spoken by the mouth of all the prophets. It was known to man because the prophets spoke it and they wrote it down for future generations to read. Separate from what all the prophets spoke since the world began is the mystery information, which none of the prophets spoke about. The mystery information had been hidden since the world began and was first given to the apostle Paul in Acts chapter 9.
As one studies this subject out further and they learn that there indeed is a prophecy program, one that is followed in Scripture by the true nation of Israel, and that there is a mystery program, one that is for the Church, the body of Christ, they then come to understand that prophecy is not for today. Allow me to state that again since Christians living in the 21st-century have been conditioned to believe so much errant theology – prophecy is not happening today and has not been happening for roughly two thousand years. That statement and that realization flies right in the face of numerous Christian “ministries” and a multitude of sensationalist teachers of the Bible, ones that work hard to dazzle their audiences with their false understanding of the Bible. The Church, the body of Christ, is not living in a dispensation where prophecy is coming to pass. The Church is living in a dispensation where prophecy has been interrupted by the revelation of the mystery.
The Bible clearly declares the presence of mystery information made known to Paul, information that was unknown before Christ imparted it to the apostle of the Gentiles. Rightly dividing the differences between the mystery and the prophecy programs is the most important thing a student of the Bible can learn. Once they are able to make that distinction, they are then able to clearly identify the Gospel of their salvation without confusion.
Not known by those who were living in the prophecy program was that God would reveal a mystery by which God would create a new celestial creature that would operate in heavenly places for the glory of God. Contrasting that, the primary prophetic topic within the prophecy program is the literal one thousand year reign of the Messiah within a future earthly kingdom. This Millennial Kingdom is the topic of numerous prophecies within the Bible and they are prophecies that have not been fulfilled as of yet. The kingdom discussed within the writings of the prophets was prepared from the foundation of the world and is clearly part of the prophecy program. The prophesied earthly kingdom program is all about Israel’s rise, but during this time of the mystery, blessings come as a result of Israel’s fall:
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [Romans 11:11-12]
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? [Romans 11:15]
Israel is currently blind and is fallen. As a result, a new salvation program has come to the Gentiles. Israel has no standing with God during this current dispensation, a dispensation in which the mystery program is front and center. During this dispensation, there is a new creature, the body of Christ, where both Jew and Gentile are invited to be one in Christ:
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. [1 Corinthians 12:13]
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:28]
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [Rom 3:21-22]
When God finally set the nation of Israel aside, He stated through the apostle Paul:
Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. [Acts 28:28]
While Israel and the prophetic program are temporarily set aside, the Church, made up predominantly of Gentiles, has Paul as its apostle:
For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [Romans 11:13]
When the period referred to in Scripture as the dispensation of the grace of God, the mystery program, has come to its conclusion, God will again resume His dealings with the nation of Israel and will bring the prophetic program to a conclusion. While keeping in mind that all Scripture is equally important as the Word of God, and that all Scripture is profitable for the man of God, we must recognize that prophecy within Scripture deals directly with the nation of Israel and not with the Church, the body of Christ.
Recognizing the difference between the prophecy program and the mystery program within Scripture allows the student of the Bible to clearly recognize who the audience is while reading the various books that comprise the Bible. With that in mind, ask yourself who the audience is within the following verses and what the implications are for how it is that you currently “divide” your Bible:
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: [2 Peter 1:19]
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. [Revelation 1:3]
When one accurately understands and distinguishes the difference between the prophecy program within Scripture and the mystery program within Scripture, they are then able to accurately divide the Scriptures, as commanded by the apostle Paul. Dividing mystery information from prophecy information is the key for any student of the Bible to truly understand the Word of God. That said, there are additional ways in which the student of the Bible can divide the Scriptures. The posts that follow will explore a number of those divisions.
Something was spoken and something was hidden since the beginning of the world.
2 Timothy 2:15. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Colossians 1:25-26. Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Romans 11:13. For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
1 Corinthians 15:40. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Ephesians 1:3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
Revelation 20:1-7, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Daniel 2:35, Psalm 2:6-9, Isaiah 65:19-25 and many more verses…
Matthew 25:34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Romans 11:25-26. For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, untilthe fulness of the Gentiles be come in. 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:
Ephesians 3:2. If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
Romans 11:26-27. 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: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
2 Timothy 3:16-17. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
1 Timothy 2:15. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.