|Study of Important Biblical Distinctions - 14 - MYSTERIES OF SCRIPTURE|
HERE'S THE DIFFERENCE
The New Testament presents us with a series of mysteries. The danger is not so much to confuse them as to fail to understand them. We will therefore devote this lesson to a short summary of the meanings of the various mysteries.
A mystery is a truth which has never before. been revealed, which man could not arrive at by his own intellect, and which has now been revealed by God to men.
The Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven
In Matthew 13:11 we read of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They are presented in this chapter in the form of seven parables.
The Mystery of Israel's Blindness
Because of Israel's rejection of the King, God has caused a judicial blindness to come upon the Jewish nation. This partly explains the great difficulty which Jewish people have in accepting The Lord Jesus as their Messiah, and the relatively small number who are saved. But this blindness is neither total nor final. Some do see that The Lord Jesus is the One of whom the prophets spoke. And the blindness will continue only until the "fulness of the Gentiles" has come, that is, until the Lord takes His Gentile bride home to be with Himself. Then a believing remnant out of Israel will turn to Christ.
The Mystery of the Rapture
Up to this time in human history it was always believed that everyone would die sooner or later. But now the Apostle Paul makes the startling announcement that not all believers will die. Those who are living at the time of the Rapture will go to heaven without dying. They will be changed-that is, they will receive glorified bodies-and they will never see death. Those who have died in Christ will be raised and taken to heaven with the living saints. Further details are found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The Mystery of the Church
The Church was a truth kept secret since the world began (Rom. 16:25) but revealed to the apostles and prophets of the New Testament period (Eph. 3:5). This mystery embraces such important features as
"This mystery among the Gentiles" in Colossians 1:27 is defined as "Christ in you, the hope of glory. " This is the same mystery as the Church; it emphasizes that Christ is the hope of glory for believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews-all now have the same standing before God in Christ.
The Mystery of Iniquity
The only reference to the "mystery of iniquity" is in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8. There Paul, says that "the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed..." (NASB). Even in the early days of the Church a spirit of lawlessness was already operating. There were many antichrists. But the full development of lawlessness was restrained by an unnamed Person (whom we believe to be the Holy Spirit). When that restraining Person is removed (the Holy Spirit will be taken away as the permanent Indweller at the Rapture), then the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist, will stride onto the stage of history. He will be the very embodiment of sin and lawlessness. The world will never before have seen such a concentration of wickedness in any human being.
The Mystery of the Faith
The "mystery of the faith" refers to the body of Christian doctrine, or what we call the Christian faith. It is called a mystery because so many of its truths were completely unknown in Old Testament times.
The Mystery of Godliness
Literally translated, 1 Timothy 3:16 reads:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of piety. He who was manifested in flesh has been justified in the Spirit, has been preached among the nations, has been believed on in the world, has been received up in glory.
The verse does not say definitely who is the subject, but the description could only fit one person-our Lord Jesus Christ. Up to the time that Christ came into the world, men had never seen perfect godliness in a human life. But the Lord Jesus came and gave a practical demonstration of what an absolutely godly person is like.
The Mystery of the Seven Stars
This mystery is clearly defined. The seven stars in John's vision are the angels or messengers of the seven churches of Asia. The seven golden lampstands are the seven churches. In the next two chapters, the Lord addresses letters to the angels of the seven churches. These letters may be understood in three different ways.
The Mystery of God
When the seventh trumpet of Revelation 10 sounds, the mystery of God will be fulfilled. The sounding of the seventh trumpet is accompanied by loud voices in heaven saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever' (Rev. 11:15 NASB). From this we know that the seventh trumpet sounds at the close of the Great Tribulation, when Christ returns to earth to reign (Rev. 11:17). At that time the Lord's faithful Tribulation saints will be rewarded and His enemies will be destroyed (v. 18).
The Mystery of Babylon
Babylon the Great is pictured in Revelation 17 as a harlot sitting on a beast with seven heads and ten horns. She is named Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the earth. The explanation of the mystery is given in verses 8-18. The woman is a great city that reigns over the kings of the earth (v. 18). The beast is an empire that in turn existed at one time, passed out of existence, will be revived, and will be destroyed (v. 8). The seven heads are seven kings of this empire (v. 9). The ten horns are ten kings who will be federated with this empire (v. 12). The harlot rides on the back of the beast for awhile, but is then destroyed by it (v. 16). The empire itself will eventually be destroyed by the Lord (v. 14).
There are four other references to mysteries in the New Testament.
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