BY CHARLES WOODRUFF
Occasionally I have enjoyed reading a mystery novel. I have read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and greatly enjoyed the late Jeremy Brett in the role when PBS aired most of them in a TV series a number of years ago. I now have them all on tape so I can view them whenever I like. I also liked some of the Alfred Hitchcock movies, especially the ones with James Stewart. My wife still likes Diagnosis Murder and Murder She Wrote. There is something about a mystery.
The Bible has much to say regarding mysteries. The word “mystery” is strictly a New Testament word, and is found 22 times in the KJV, and “mysteries” is found 5 times. It is from the Greek word mustēriŏn of which Strong says “to shut the mouth; a secret or mystery.” Young’s Concordance says “What is known only to the initiated.” Vine’s Dictionary says “primarily that which is known to the initiated (Greek= mustēs ).” The word “secret” is used a number of times in the OT, with several Hebrew words and shades of meaning. Most notably for this study is “The secret (Heb. sathar), things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed (Heb.galah) belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Here secret means hidden, or concealed. But “revealed” here means exposed, denuded, disclosed or discovered. Many things were disclosed to God’s children in the OT to encourage them to follow the Lord and obey His law. But many things were not yet revealed in that OT dispensation. In the NT the mysteries are revealed, or will be, to the true Christians.
In the NT there are many different mysteries that are discussed. I have tried to categorize some of the most obvious verses as follows:
1.The kingdom mysteries mentioned by Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; and Luke 8:10; Matthew and Mark say kingdom of heaven, Luke says kingdom of God).
2. The parousia, or second coming mystery (I Corinthians 15:51).
3. The charisma or spiritual gifts mystery (I Corinthians 14:2).
4. The God’s will mystery (I Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 1 :9).
5. The body of Christ mystery (Ephesians 3:1-9; 6:19).
6. The Christ and church mystery (Ephesians 5: 32).
7. The Christ is God mystery (Colossians 2:2; 4:3; I Timothy 3:16; Romans 16:25).
8. The Christian faith mystery (I Timothy 3:9).
9. The mystery of iniquity (II Thessalonians 2:7).
10.The apocalypse mysteries: the mystery of the seven stars (Revelation 1:20); the mystery of God (10:7); the mystery of Babylon (17:5 ); the mystery of the woman(17:7 ).
W.E. Vine tells us in his Expository Dictionary of NT Words the following information:
“The word "mystery" in the New Testament does not denote that which is mysterious (as with the English word), but it denotes that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its scriptural significance is truth revealed” .
In other words these mysteries are mysteries to the uninitiated, i.e., those who have not had the supernatural, divine revelation. In today’s modern churches, so often everything is by program, by rote, and by repetition. Nothing unusual ever happens. There is no expectation for God to do anything. The service could well go on without God. Yet the Bible warns us that true salvation must come by supernatural revelation by the Holy Spirit. “Knowing brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you by word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…” I Thessalonians 1:4,5). This is the sinner’s “initiation” into the mysteries of God. It requires the new birth, which only God can give (see John 3:3).
The way of salvation, yes, all the ways of God are a mystery to those who are outside, to those who have not been supernaturally called. There are some mysteries that remain for the redeemed child of God because God reveals many things by progressive revelation, not all at once. For instance, we that have been saved for many years do not know all the mysteries of the Return of Christ. There is much in scripture (especially Daniel and Revelation), that remains locked. Remember Daniel was told “Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased”(Daniel 12:4). John the Apostle was told “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter” (Revelation 4:1b), but it wasn’t all totally clear in the book he wrote. It still has many symbols, types and shadows of which we don’t have all the keys yet, though some say they have it “all figured out.” We are told “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy” (Revelation 1:3), so we do need to study this challenging book, as difficult as it can be.
In future issues of Word of Truth, I hope to look into some of the individual mysteries listed here, beginning with the mystery of the NT church which indeed was “hidden” until Christ shed His blood at Calvary. There was, of course, the Old Testament assembly, or congregation; even called the “church in the wilderness” by Stephen in Acts 7:38. But in that form it was a figure, a type which could not be completed without the sacrifice of Christ. He implied this when He said “Upon this rock (Greek= petra), I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” ( Matthew 16:18). The rock was not Peter (petros; a piece of stone), but the petra, i.e., the huge foundation stone; Christ Himself, which was the revelation of the mystery that Peter supernaturally received “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” If this revelation is not first received, I do not care how many professions you have made, how many times you have been baptized, how many times you have received communion, if you saw an angel, a ball of fire, or a premonition of death. It doesn’t matter how elect you think you are, how much you do or do not believe in predestination, or any other doctrine, if you have not had Christ revealed to you supernaturally -- you are lost!