A Voice in the
Seven Mysteries: -Topics
Prophecy teaser: puzzles
As many of you have figured out by now, many of the things shared with you through VW come about as a result of the Lord speaking through His Word in my own private quiet time. As my reading has progressed, I have been in The Revelation again recently. ...Just finished it this morning (Nov13,97)
The other day in chapter 10, reading about the "sounding of the seventh angel"(vs7) it says, "when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets."
As I read this I thought about the "post-trib" and/or "pre-wrath" views that many hold regarding the Rapture. Seeing the "seventh" trumpet of seven, the "seventh" would be the "last" trumpet of the seven. Some post-tribbers equate "this" seventh trumpet with Paul's "last trumpet" of 1Cor15:52.
And then, I saw "mystery of God" in there. And got to thinking how the whole business of the "Church" is mentioned elsewhere as being a "mystery" and thus, the idea that the "mystery would be finished" equating with the "end" of the "Church" era. And yet, there are SO MANY NUMEROUS passages that tell us that the Church will not go through the Tribulation...but, that Israel will. Is there a contradiction in God's Word? No.
So, a few days later I fired up the software and noted every Scriptural reference to the word "mystery/mysteries." And by the time I was finished, and had notated them and briefly typed into the editor the "subject matter" of each "mystery" reference, I realized there was quite an outline. And as they were grouped in their respective topics, it so happens that there are "seven" of them.
Now...another interesting observation just a day-or-so ago. If you will...an "object lesson" for the sake of understanding prophecy.
When a person reads the book of the "Revelation of Jesus Christ" there are parts that are history, some that are a general overview, and parts that are prophetic. Students and teachers of prophecy have often looked at words/phrases like "after these things I saw," "now I saw," "then I stood," "then I looked," "then I heard.." etc. Assuming the word "then" has meaning in terms of chronicled sequence of events. As though, because John saw things in a certain "order" means that that is the same order in which things happen.
Well, 12:1-6, being placed smack dab in the middle of the whole book, should dispel such thoughts. The "great sign" in heaven. Some who know astronomy have indicated that the "events" recorded in those verses have actually been occuring celestially over the past year or so. (Have they run their course yet..?) Anyone with the slightest knowledge of history and Scripture, can also see those verses being an over-all view of history AND prophecy. Period.
Don't anybody laugh now, but a couple days ago as I was reading one of the "then" comments, my mind remembered the topic of "Found Out." Cybersmut and the process of looking up the \browser\cache directory files to ferret out the "history" of where a browser had been, and "what" a person may have been looking at.
When a person clicks on \cache files, different images pop up on the screen. A "button" to "return to" someplace. A banner of advertisement. A logo. Website graphics and background textures. All, one at a time. A person can look at the "source code" of the .html file, but since the browser has encrypted all the files with new names, the source code doesn't really tell "what the site actually looks like" with all the parts in their proper places. If you've never been to the URL for the site, you merely see the parts and pieces of the site. But the total picture is elusive. Each part and piece is VERY CLEAR and distinctive. But...well, you get the idea...
It's the same with prophecy. We have all these bits and pieces in the "Folder." And we know that Jesus said, "so you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near--at the doors!"(Mt24:33) But the exact details and arrangement (total "picture") only God knows. (Mt24:36) For anyone to claim to be an "expert" in prophecy is a futile endeavor. Right now we can only see through the hazy mirror. (1Cor13:12) We don't know fully what will be, or what we will be (1Jn3:2) because it has not yet been "revealed." It's a "mystery." Because the "secret things belong to the LORD our God."(Dt29:29)
From what we do know, however, we know it is "soon." "Watch therefore... therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Mt24:42,44)
General thoughts: definitions
According to the American Heritage Dictionary (CD) some of the definitions of "mystery" are:
1. Something that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding; an enigma: 4. Often mysteries. The skills, lore, or practices that are peculiar to a particular activity or group and are regarded as the special province of initiates: 5. [Theology.] A religious truth that is incomprehensible to the reason and knowable only through divine revelation. 6. a. An incident from the life of Jesus, especially the Incarnation, Passion, Crucifixion, or Resurrection, of particular importance for redemption.Thus, essentially, a "mystery" is something that is not understood just by intuition. It is either beyond comprehension; is only for specially chosen ones to understand; or must be explained, either by joining the group which then explains it, or in the case of Scriptural mysteries, it must be "revealed" by God.
Does this fit what Scripture says? Regarding persecution Peter says "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; (1Pet4:12) Anyone who has been under spiritual attack from the "principalities" (Eph6:12) remembers how at times there is a lack of "understanding" as to what is going on. "Why" are these things happening? And if some of it comes from those who call themselves "Christians" (but we later come to understand they are not) while it is happening the whole thing is "mysterious" because we know we are being obedient to God and His Word; and yet, these who call themselves "Christians" are telling us that we are not being "loving and Christ-like" in the stands that are necessary for us to take. Of these, Jesus said, "Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known."(Mt10:26) As He later tells the Church in Philadelphia through John, "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews [Believers] and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you."(Rev3:9) To my mind, this is quite a "mystery."
In this series we will not consider TV's "Unsolved Mysteries." Nor will we delve into things like the Catholic cult's "eucharistic mysteries." Or UFO's. Things which are demonic. While there may be many things which we think are "mysterious" in Scripture; and while we have considered some mysterious aspects to prophecy in the introductory remarks; we will limit the actual studies to those things which Scripture, Itself, labels as "mysteries."
To the unbeliever, pretty much all of Scripture is one big mystery. "The natural man does not receive [accept] the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know [understand] them, because they are spiritually discerned."(1Cor2:14) When the scoffer of the world seems to be totally blind to those things you are trying to impart as you witness, and you wonder in your soul "why" he just doesn't seem to be able to grasp what you tell them; dear Believer, that is BY DESIGN. God's design; as Jesus prayed, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight."(Mt11:25-26)
As Jesus continues, the knowledge of God comes from the fact that the Son, Jesus Christ "wills to reveal Him."(vs27) As He says again, "No one comes to the Father except through Me."(Jn14:6b) A person of the world simply CANNOT know and understand God until he has come to Christ. The greatest scholar cannot understand Scripture unless he knows Jesus. Jesus purposely spoke in parables, as He explains to His disciples, "it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given."(Mt13:11)
Throughout history there have been many mysteries. As Jesus said again, "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."(Mt13:35)
Some of the mysteries are hidden until a particular time. Many things spoken to Daniel, he was told to "shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end" as it was said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." (Dan12:4,9) The description in vs.4b tells us that we, now, are in that time of the end. It is "at the very doors."(Mt24:33)
Some things we will not understand until we "shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."(1Jn3:2)
Many Old Testament mysteries were not for the O.T. prophets who wrote of them, but for the "Church."(1Pt1:11-12) Even the angels long to understand them.
And many we simply do not understand. They are too "God-like" and we are too much "of the flesh." "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it."(Ps139:6) And so, as we consider a handful of topics in this series, if we come away not yet fully understanding "everything" about them, do not be concerned about it. The Lord will reveal to us, individually, what we need to know.
One final thought. There is a grievous error running rampant amongst some circles. They quote "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." (Amos3:7) ...as they then go about, claiming that many of them are prophets with "new words" from the Lord, or they proclaim some "prophetic word from the Lord." Things which are not found in Scripture. And some things which, in fact, are contrary to Scripture.
Let us remember a few solemn warnings:
"There are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or AN ANGEL FROM HEAVEN [a "filling" spirit], preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed." (Gal1:7-8) Never mind the source; if something other than the already-given Scripture is proclaimed, they are accursed; because the Gospel has "once for all [been] delivered to the saints."(Jude3) And the Lord is quite clear about adding to, or subtracting from, the "words of the book of this prophecy."(Rev22:18-19)
So, what about Amos3:7? If it is true that God is about to "do" something (judge the world in His Wrath), and that He doesn't do so unless He reveals it to the prophets...why shouldn't we expect "prophets" to be rising up here and there with "new words from the Lord"?
God is only going to act according to the Word He has already given. When Jesus came the first time His prophet was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" (Lk3:4) John the Baptist. And his coming was prophesied in the Old Testament.(Is40:3) Do we have any prophets foretold for the time yet future? Indeed, we do. "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1260 days..."(Rev11:3) These two are the only ones foretold in Scripture. Anybody else who rises up, claiming to be a prophet of future events with "extra-new" words from God, is a False Prophet. Take good heed to this!!! These two prophets appear on the scene during the time of Jacob's Trouble. And, as we know from past studies, the Church must be raptured out of the world before that. Thus, we know that there are NO "such" prophets of God today.(May 10,98) Mark this well!!!
In this series we will consider Seven topics labelled as "mysteries" in Scripture:
God: kingdom of heaven
"Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."(1Cor4:1)
Of the seven mysteries in Scripture, likely the greatest mystery of all is God, Himself. The preacher says, "I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Ec3:10-11) We can use all the means at our disposal to investigate and discover. We can reach into the vastness of space and see things exploding billions of light-years away. We can delve into the intricacies of a living cell, and realize that genetic code, while so small, leaves the most sophisticated computers "in the dust" with its complexities. And for all these "hints" at the vastness of God's creation, God Himself is undiscoverable. His limits are unknowable. As the psalmist says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Ps139:6)
Jesus told Nicodemus, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.(Jn3:8) As He tells the woman of Samaria, "God is Spirit.."(4:24)
Just as we cannot fully know God and the extent of His creation, we also cannot fully know His ways. There are certain things that He purposely keeps as "secrets." And they are totally His domain. And others that He wills to make known to us. "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (De29:29) He makes known to us exactly those things which are needful for following Him in obedience and faith.
We do not need to lust after extra knowledge and experiences which He has not appointed. And this is where man gets into trouble. The quest after more knowledge and experience is where Eve succombed to Satan's temptings. The desire to attain to some of those as-yet unrevealed mysteries that God did not intend for man to know. Or, that were reserved for a time in the future.
We have the same thing going on today. God's Word has been given "once for all."(Jude3) And it is completely adequate for God's child to follow Him fully.(2Tm3:16-17) And yet we see people seeking after "more" things which God does not intend for us. So they claim new revelations, and proudly proclaim their new mysteries; all the while, feeding right into Satan's hand.
But the child of God is to grow in wisdom and knowledge, "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.(Col2:2-3) And how do we attain unto this wisdom? The "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments.." (Ps111:10) As we are "doers of the Word"(Jas1:22) we are vessels fit for the Master's use (2Tm2:21-kjv) the Holy Spirit has full reign in our lives (Eph5:18) the Holy Spirit teaches us about God and Jesus. (Jn16:14-15) And if you notice the words, He doesn't teach us "everything" but Jesus says He takes "[of] what is Mine."(vs14)
Of great wisdom is this, because later John would see this same Jesus, only in glorified form, and would fall "at His feet as dead."(Rev1:17) God is a "consuming fire"(Deu4:24) No one can see God's full glory and live. "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." (Ex33:20) Thus, He has made Himself the "invisible God" (Col1:15, 1Tm1:17) That's a "mystery" right there. What does He look like?
God has given slight glimpses of Himself in Scripture. And yet, you will notice that nobody has given a description of what God looks like. Isaiah (6:1-4) sees the "Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up" but the only descriptions we read are of the seraphim and of the shaking." When Ezekiel saw "visions of God" (ch1) he does not describe God, but those creatures in God's presence. And when God speaks to him, he sees the "appearance of a man..."(vs26) but the descriptions show that his vocabulary does not have adequate words to convey what he sees. The closest we come to God's glory is John's vision of Jesus Christ in Revelation ch1. Since we are told that Jesus is the "express image of His person."(Heb1:3)
Jesus came in human form, as John writes, "that..which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hand have handled, concerning the Word of life."(1Jn1:1) He was/is the very essence of "eternal life"(vs2) We have studied how Jesus was very "flesh and blood."(Heb2:14) And of the necessity to realize His "humanity."(1Jn4:2) And yet, He is also very God of God. He is the Son of God.(Acts8:37) We can see His humanity. We believe His deity. But to put the two together in one Person. That is a mystery, which we will not understand until we are with Him and see Him "just as He is." (1Jn3:2)
And then, there's the Holy Spirit. Even more mysterious. A person Whom Jesus promises in the "singular" "..when [He], the Spirit of truth, has come, [He] will guide you..."(Jn16:13) And yet, we also read of the "seven Spirits of God."(Rev3:1,4:5,5:6) This last verse is quite awesome. "...a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven...eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Some people try to say that these are the "seven churches" of Rev1:20. But somehow I doubt it, when we read what some of those churches are like in chs 2-3.
When there is a person, a king, a ruler...a person in authority over an empire, estate, domain...that empire is a "kingdom." Everything, from the ruler on down to the least significant speck, is part of that kingdom. God has His "kingdom." The "Kingdom of heaven."
Only people who "belong" can have access to such a kingdom. Others are turned away at the gates, unless they have proper credentials, with the king's favor. And knowledge of the kingdom is only available to those, so credentialed. In answer to the disciples' question "why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus replied, "because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given."(Mt13:11) To the lost, the kingdom of heaven is a mystery, and Jesus keeps it that way. "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world."(Mt13:35)
And so, Jesus continues the "mystery" which was bound up since the beginning of time. Coming to earth, speaking of the Kingdom of heaven. And yet, although He speaks, the same words are, to the unregenerate... "hidden." But to those who know Him... "revealed."
For the Believer Jesus said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'see here!' or 'see there!' For indeed the kingdom of God is within you."(Lk17:20-21) "Christ in you, the hope of glory."(Col1:27) ...being "in Christ."(2Cor5:17)
While the Believer is still in this world, "unglorified," we see things "in a mirror, dimly.."(1Cor13:12) The fact that we see "in a mirror" means we are not yet seeing the "real thing" but merely a reflection. And with these bodies of mortality (Rom7:24,1Cor15:42~) we cannot see God and Jesus Christ in full glory. We see them only in a fraction of Their fullness. "But then face to face." ..as we "see Him just as He is" ...as we become "like Him."(1Jn3:2) He will be revealed to us. No longer a mystery. That which we now don't fully understand.. "...then I shall know just as I also am known."(1Cor13:12b)
Gospel Message of Jesus Christ:
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith; (Rom16:25-26)
The Gospel message that Paul preached, he referred to it continually as a "mystery." Seeking for boldness "to make known the mystery of the gospel."(Eph6:19) Praying for open doors "for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains."(Col4:3)
Key to the Gospel message is "faith." And even faith is a mystery. (1Tm3:9) And no wonder! The world does not understand "Faith in Christ." To the wise of this world the preaching of the cross of Christ is foolishness.(1Cor1:18) The "natural man does not receive" the things of God.(1Cor2:14) He is incapable of doing so; because it is a spiritual matter. But for the one who does believe, his faith comes from the "Spirit Who is from God"(1Cor2:12) This faith is a "gift" from God.(Eph2:8) It is not something that can be pulled out from within by watching the Oprah Winfrey show. Nor by sitting in some meeting under some "power of annointing"...or whatever other gimmicks people attempt.
Another key to the Gospel, without which salvation is impossible, is the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a set of "opposites"! The wise men came to Jerusalem, Israel's seat of power, looking for the "King of the Jews."(Mt2:2) But He was born in a humble stable because his "parents" were too poor to pay their way ahead of the masses for an "uptown hotel."(Lk2:7) When Satan tempted Jesus, he shows Him all the "kingdoms of the world" and offers them to Him.(Mt4:8) But Jesus rejects the offer and tells Satan to "be gone!" Even His earthly (half) brothers scoffed at Him suggesting that He "get with the program" and promote Himself, "For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." (Jn7:4) And yet He came as a humble servant, of "no reputation" to die.(Phil2:6-8) As Isaiah states, "He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him"(53:2)
All the Jews were looking for "signs" (Jn2:18) to authenticate the kind of Messiah they thought they were expecting. Even after His resurrection, the disciples were still hoping for a military/political leader to "restore the kingdom to Israel."(Acts1:6)
Paul gives us to understand that, had the Jewish rulers realized the nature of Jesus' first coming, they would have recognized their Messiah, and would not have crucified Him as they did.(1Cor2:8) They did so in ignorance.(Acts3:17) But even so, while they did it in ignorance, their ignorance fulfilled God's plan of the necessity of a perfect sacrificial Lamb to atone for the sin of the world.(Rev1:5,5:6)
And then, "Redemption" itself. The fact that "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace."(Eph1:7) This is something the O.T. prophets spoke of much. But did not understand. Isaiah, particularly, speaks much of this, in great detail, "He was wounded for our transgressions...when You make His soul an offering for sin...He shall see the travail of His soul, and be satisfied...because He poured out His soul unto death." (53:5,10-12) And yet, "to them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering.."(1Pt1:12) Even "angels desire to look into." And while it was planned since the beginning of creation, all these did not comprehend the plan. This mystery of which WE are the beneficiaries.
But, sad to say, many even today do not understand Redemption that comes through Christ. It is a mystery to them. Not having humbled themselves in faith and simple repentance. They are still busy trying to keep "commandments and ordinances"(Eph2:15) which Christ "abolished in His flesh." And, if a person does not get past this mystery, he is not saved. "Whatever is not of faith is sin."(Rom14:23b,Gal2:16) Because without faith, Christ's crucifixion is not efficacious to an individual person. The jailer at Philippi asked, "what must I do to be saved?"(Acts16:30) In other words, 'what does it take to receive the Redemption Christ's blood provides?' "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.."(vs31) Faith. Redemption and Faith go hand-in-hand. Try to explain this to the PhD's of the world. Humanly it simply doesn't make sense. It is a "mystery." It only makes sense to someone imbued with God's Holy Spirit.(Rom8:16) And since the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts2), He has now revealed these things to us(Jn16:14) that were once hidden since the beginning of creation. "that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." (1Cor2:12)
Paul sums up this whole mystery about Christ's work. "Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory."(1Tm3:16)
Eventually, however, there will come a time when this salvation is no longer available. During the time of "Jacob's Trouble"(Jer30:7) people will be able to "call upon the name of the Lord" to be saved.(Joel2:32) But this salvation will no longer be available after the "sounding of the seventh angel."(Rev10:7) Grace will no longer be in effect as Christ comes to rule "with a rod of iron." (Ps2:9) As He comes "dash[ing] them in pieces" in the "winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God."(Rev19:15) This "mystery of God [will] be finished."(Rev10:7)
And the proclamation will be made...
"And he said to me, Do not seal the Words of the Prophecy of this Book, for the time is at hand. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. (Re22:10-11)
How do we know it is the mystery of God's grace? Because it is the one as "declared to His servants the prophets." It is the mystery which "we" .. "now" have as the "gospel" which is preached "by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.."(1Pt1:10-12) In the past the Law existed and "sin abounded."(Rom5:20) Now, Grace reigns "through Jesus Christ our Lord." (vs21) And is implemented through the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of grace."(Heb10:29) So, if the Holy Spirit is taken out, something new/different must come along, since the Law was done away in Christ, since "Christ is the end of the Law."(Rom10:4) We can't go back to the Law.
So, if this salvation, and/or the Law, is no longer available, how will people be able to have fellowship with God? Will they be preaching the gospel to persuade people to repent? He says, "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jer31:33-34) A new covenant for a new dispensation. (Talk about "irresistable" grace!!) This is yet future. To us under Grace, yet, a "mystery."
Israel's blindness: so Gentiles can be saved
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Rom11:25)
This is the "mystery" of Israel's rejection and formation of the predominantly "Gentile" Church. The rejection was two-way. Israel rejected God; so then God rejected Israel.
To Saul Samuel said, "..Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king." (1Sam15:23) And when Israel craved a king, God had told Samuel to go ahead and make Saul their king, "..for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.(1Sam8:7) And through their history, they continually went "a whoring after the heathen."(Ez23:30-kjv) And ultimately God "..scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; [He] judged them according to their ways and their deeds.(Ez36:19)
Their Messiah came, and they cried out "His blood be on us and on our children" (Mt27:25) as they "..crucified the Lord of glory."(1Cor2:8) Even though they were waiting expectantly for Him, and knew the prophecies, when He actually came, they were "ignorant" of Him. (Act3:17) As Jesus said, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes."(Lk19:42) And if that wasn't enough, the Holy Spirit came at the Jewish feast of Pentecost. And they rejected Him.(Acts7:51,28:25) "Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them."(vs27) "...because you did not know the time of your visitation."(Lk19:44b)
The mystery here. While it is obvious that Israel rejected God, so that He, in turn, rejected and scattered them "like stubble" in the winds. (Jer13:24) They were (are) His chosen people. The promises to Abraham of the "everlasting covenant."(Gen17:7) And yet Paul's words in Romans 11 sounds like Israel's blindness was part of God's "plan" from the beginning. Part of His "purpose." How does God choose Abram from out of Ur; Allow his descendents to be enslaved in order to show His power by freeing them from Egypt; And then establish them as a nation...only to let them "fall" by the wayside again, when he had made covenants with them to preserve them?
There was a "fulness of the Gentiles" which needed to come in. (Rom11:25) This word "fulness" carries with it the idea of "completing the required number." Just like it takes a certain number to make up a team or "full crew," there is a certain number which God requires to fill the "house"(Lk14:23) He has "predestined" a certain number to "adopt as sons..according to the good pleasure of His will."(Eph1:5) As the early Church realized, "God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name...so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name." (Acts15:14,17) In order to accomplish this, God allowed Israel to be "blind" for a time.
But that is not a permanent condition. God has preserved a "remnant." (Rom11:5) At one point Elijah thought he was the "only one" left, who worshipped God and did not bow to Baal. God assured him, "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." (1Ki19:18)
Ultimately, Paul writes, "All Israel will be saved."(Rom11:26) As we noted in the preceding section, Israel cannot go back to the old "covenant" which was done away in Christ, as "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."(Rom10:4) And they rejected the Holy Spirit.
God has a "new covenant" in store for them.
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jer31:31-34)
Gentiles believing: fellow heirs
"..how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, (Eph 3:3-6)
God had called Abram, "Get out of your country, from your kindred, and from your father's house...I will make you a great nation...in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."(Gen12:1-3) One of the signs of God's covenant as He changed Abram's name to "Abraham" (from "exalted father" to "father of a multitude"), was circumcision. Until modern medicine discovered that it is a "healthier" way to be, this rite was strictly a "Hebrew" tradition.
As Peter wrote to the Hebrew Christians ("pilgrims of the Dispersion" -1Pt1:1) he reminds them, "but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy [separated] nation.(2:9) God's desire for Israel was for them to be "a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine."(Ex19:5) Without going into a lot of detail at this time, essentially, God chose the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, AS A NATIONALITY, to be His own special people. Had the "heart"(Deu5:29) of Israel been right before God, the aspect of being "Jewish" would have been synonomous with being "A Believer" in the LORD God.
If a Gentile came to understand Who God was, came to believe in God, and wanted to be a part of that fellowship; he could do so...through circumcision.(Ex12:43-49,etc.) And in so doing, he became "Jewish," and then had the ability to participate in all the Jewish feasts and sacrifices. But there was always this "barrier" between God's chosen "Israel", and "Gentiles." And when an Israelite would speak of a "Gentile" he was not only making a "national" distinction, but in so saying, he was labelling that person as an "unbeliever." And, depending on whether we count the beginning of this with Abraham or Moses, this was the case for roughly 2000 to 1500 years.
Then, along comes Jesus Christ, the "fulfillment" of the covenant and Law(Mt5:17), and puts an "end" to this Law(Rom10:4) by dying as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."(Jn1:29,36) He fulfilled not only the 2000 year old covenant with Abraham, but the 4000 year old one with the Serpent.(Gen3:15)
As we see from Israel's history, they were unfaithful. They were not able to keep the Law; partly because of their "uncircumcised hearts." (Acts7:51) Partly, because there was a "fault" with the first covenant (Heb8:7-8), because the only thing the first covenant/Law could do was to bring about a knowledge of sin, and condemn a person(Rom7,etc.) to death.(Rom6:23a)
While Jesus was born a "Jew" in fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, His "own" (Jewish nation) "did not receive Him."(Jn1:11) They rejected Him as they cried out, "His blood be on us and on our children."(Mt27:25) and cried out further, "We have no king but Caesar!"(Jn19:15) And solidified their rejection of God's Holy Spirit, as the "salvation of God" was then "sent to the Gentiles.."(Acts28:28) As Israel was "broken off" (Rom11:17) from the "Vine"(Jn15:1) for a time; leaving a "remnant" (Rom11:5) until a future date.(vs11,26)
But in the mean time, Gentiles get to be the primary focus of God's grace; as has been the case now for about 2000 years.
When the change first came about, it was difficult for people with a Jewish mind-set to understand that Gentiles could possibly become a primary focus of God's grace. There had always been this "enmity" between Jew and Gentile. But when Christ died, "He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man...making peace, that He might reconcile them both to God.." (Eph2:14-16) You see, while Christ came as a "Jew" to die for Israel, He also came to die for the whole of the "world."(Jn3:16) The "enmity" was not really between Jew and Gentile, but between God and the sinner.
When Jesus paid the price of "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins"(Eph1:7), both Jew AND Gentile have access to God. We are now "in Christ."(2Cor5:17) Christ is "in you."(Col1:27)
And here we have the Scriptural response to the BIG ERROR of the typical "Hebraic roots" Believers. Into the Jewish mind, "God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, TO THIS VERY DAY."(Rom11:8) As they look for God's restoration of Israel, they are assuming that things are going to "go back" to the way they "used to be." With the Law and traditions. And thus, when they look at the "reconciliation" of Gentiles, they view it as being that Gentiles are "reconciled TO ISRAEL." When Paul writes that Gentiles are "grafted in" (Rom11:19) they think they were grafted in "TO ISRAEL." Making "Israel" the focal point; ..not "God."
And many Gentiles think they have to be "Jewish" in order to receive full benefit; or that the Church is actually an "extension" of Israel with all of Israel's prophecies and promises.
But you notice Paul writes, "..that He might reconcile them both TO GOD in one body."(Eph2:16) When Christ died, the Gentile no longer becomes a Jew for salvation. A Jew no longer needs to rely on "circumcision." (1Cor7:19) But on "the hearing of faith."(Gal3:2)
And this was also part of God's covenant to Abraham, as "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Gen15:6, Gal3:6) so, too, "..in you all the nations (Gentiles) shall be blessed." (Gen12:3, Gal3:8) So, while Israel considered Gentiles as "dogs"(Mk7:27-28), the "little dogs" were part of God's plan all along. As Jesus said to the woman, "O woman! Great is your faith!"(Mt15:28) Jesus, the "Jew," also came for Gentiles...
"I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'" (Isa49:6)
Christ and the Church:
"..to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made know by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies."(Eph3:9-10)
If the reader recalls previous installments of this series, the mystery of salvation. The mystery of Christ coming to die to redeem "whosoever will"(-kjv). That Old Testament prophets who wrote the O.T. books did not understand it. They were told that their prophetic ministry was for "us."(1Pt1:12) And that even angels did not understand it, but "desire (with longing) to look into" it.(vs12b) This word "desire, with longing" carries with it the idea that the thing desired is "forbidden" to them.
And so Paul explains that the "Church" is the vehicle through which this mystery is revealed.
We read in Eph5:23-32 how the relationship of Christ and the Church is very much like marriage. In the O.T. Moses was instructed to be careful to follow the "pattern" of the "heavenly things"(Heb8:5) as the various things for worship were made. That the tabernacle, altars, ark, etc. were "types" of things in heaven. Thus, as people saw these things, and participated in them, there was a sort of "duplication" of heavenly things going on on earth.
With the coming of Christ, and His death, burial and resurrection, there are new dimensions to this heavenly/earthly relationship. Where God said, "no one can see Me and live"(Ex33:20); now, the Believer has a relationship of "intimacy" with God...through Christ. Christ, being the "image of His person."(Heb1:3) We are able to "boldly" come to the "throne of grace."(Heb4:16)
Christ loves the Church, as a husband is exhorted to love his wife. (Eph5:25) Christ gave Himself for the Church. The Church is to be subject to Christ, having been santified and cleansed. Just as a marriage results in "two becom[ing] one flesh"(vs31), so, too, the Church are "members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones."(vs30) As we commemorate "in remembrance" with the Lord's Supper, the symbolic partaking of His body and blood.(Lk22:19-20) As Jesus had made clear the necessity of partaking of Him for "eternal life."(Jn6:54-56) As this is symbolic of "abiding" in Him.(Jn15)
A new dimension came into the God/man relationship. Where it used to be that God was "up there" and man performed periodic sacrifices to try to "reach" God, Whom he could not see, and never quite for sure knew what God expected, because God was so fearsome; Jesus said, "no longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you."(Jn15:15)
This intimate "knowing" is the fellowship Jesus prays, "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one.."(Jn17:23) As Paul writes, "if anyone is [in Christ].."(2Cor5:17) The mystery among the Gentiles is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."(Col1:27) As we live our lives, it is not "me" living but "Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me."(Gal2:20)
All this happens through the agency of the Holy Spirit Who "sealed" (Eph1:13) us at salvation. Who "fills" us (5:18) to know what the will of the Lord is. He "take[s] [of]" what is Christ and declares it to us.(Jn16:15) Making it unnecessary to have special priests to explain the "law" to us, because the Holy Spirit Who is in us (Rom8:9) teaches us "all things."(1Jn2:27)
And, of great wisdom is this, too. No longer are the "saints" confined in a single "nationality" with local controls and guidance. But His word has "..gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world." (Rom10:18) Each individual believer needs guidance that is more reliable than another fellow-human being, such as priest or king. Christ has made each believer a "priest" as we have direct access to God, since the veil has been torn in two, through "His flesh." (Heb10:19-22)
Now, the amazing thing about all this is this. That, while Christ died for the world to save us, and that we now have this wonderful relationship with Him, and access to the Father through Christ; even though [WE] are present participants in this great drama of history; this whole thing isn't necessarily TOTALLY [for] us. We are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses"(Heb12:1) It is as though we are in the middle of this "arena" with spectators in the grandstands around us, watching. And God chose to demonstrate "to the principalities and powers in the heavenlies"(Eph3:10) His "manifold wisdom" through the vehicle of the "Church."
This plan was set in motion "from the beginning of the ages."(vs9) Thus, we have, not only the covenant with Abraham (Gen12:3) around 2000 B.C., but also the one with the serpent (Gen3:15) around 4000 B.C. when Lucifer decided to challenge God.(Is14:14) And the "competition" has been waging for 6000 years. Satan wanting preeminence, and seeking to destroy God's creation; and God showing His wisdom and power above Satan.
And thus, the whole counsel of God regarding the Church is a matter which is "playing out" in the "heavenlies"(Eph1:3) This is where the "spiritual blessings" come from (vs3); we are "adopted as sons"(vs5); we are "accepted" in the Beloved(vs6) ..something which angels do not have; we have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins"(vs7); we have an inheritance(vs11). And the list goes on and on. Things which the principalities and powers cannot participate in; which they can only stand from afar, and watch, with wonderment.
And when the whole "play" has come to its final "act", Christ will stand before the Father and all creation as the "Lamb as though it had been slain" (Rev5:6) and He will "raise..up" the one who "believes in Him..and [has] everlasting life"(Jn6:40) and will "confess his name before [His] Father and before His angels.(Rev3:5) From out of all the chaos Satan wreaks, Christ will bring out the "jewels" (purified Israel -Zec9:16, Mal3:17,3); and His "wife" (the Church -Eph5:32); and present them to God before all creation.
And all creation will respond, "at the name of Jesus every knee [will] bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and every tongue [shall] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."(Phil2:10-11)
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed; in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." (1Cor15:51-54)
While Jesus Christ died on the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of sins (Eph1:7), and rose again, insuring eternal life (Rom6:4); there is one final act which He must perform in order that man can appear before God in the heavenlies when Jesus confesses the Believer before His Father (Mt10:32), and before the angels (Lk12:8). One barrier remaining. "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption." (1Cor15:50) These "bodies" we live in; they cannot go to heaven.
A change is going to happen. Before Paul's time, even Job had been given to understand. He knew he would die. But he also knew that a "change" would come.(Job14:14) He knew of the resurrection, as he confidently says, "after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God."(Job19:26) ...as he "yearn[ed]" for that day. The "latter day"(vs25 -kjv) when Christ would "stand" (to be established and recognized) before all creation.(Rev5:13)
This "change" is a new body. No longer corrupt with sin and disease. No longer subject to the "curse" of death.(Gen2:17,Rom6:23) When Jesus died and rose again, He destroyed the devil's "power."(Heb2:14) When He changes us, he will remove us from Satan's "grasp" (Eph6:11-12,1Pt5:8); the "victory through our Lord Jesus Christ"(1Cor15:57) will be complete. "Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'death is swallowed up in victory.'"(vs54)
When the time comes, this change will happen to dead and alive Believers, alike. The dead will "be raised incorruptible"(vs52) and those alive will not ever die (vs51), but will simply be "changed." And the change will happen in a "split-second." However long a "twinkling" of an eye is...that's how long it will take. Just... "zap!" Those who are dead "will rise first"(1Ths4:16) ...and then "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."(vs17)
Oh...by the way. This is not a "secret" (quiet) event; as scoffers retort. It will be with a "shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God."(vs16)
The world will be put on notice that God's wrath is "just about to be" poured out upon the world...
Iniquity and lawlessness:
With the trumpet of the Rapture, the world will be put on notice that God's wrath is "just about to be" poured out upon the world...
"..we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition...
"...and now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For 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 the lawless one will be revealed..."(~2Ths2:1-8)
The "mystery of lawlessness" is already at work. But there is a "lawless [one]" yet to be revealed. As John refers to "[the] Antichrist" which is to come, even though "now" [many] antichrists have come. (1Jn2:18)
And then there's the question that many like to philosophize about. With God's infinite power and wisdom, and love of righteousness and loathing of iniquity... "why" did He create a universe with a potential for His subjects to rebel against Him, and to sin? Why did He not create a "perfect" habitation where all creatures simply willingly obey Him continually? Paul addresses this in Romans 9. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! ..He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' And essentially we see that God "willed to" create in the way He did.
"..that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory.."(vs23)
So, the answer is, "The LORD has made all things for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom."(Pr16:4) "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom11:33-36)
However, at one point in history, the most beautiful creature of God's creation decided to rebel against the Creator. Reading in Ez28:12-15 it would seem that Lucifer would have been part of God's creation at the time the Garden of Eden was formed, and he was placed in the garden, in perfection, along with the rest of creation. "..until iniquity was found" in him.(vs15) This iniquity took the form of pride and malcontent with his position. Reading in Isa 14:12-14, it would seem that he wanted to leave his abode and clamour his way to heaven, and exalt himself above everything else, to be "like the Most High."(vs14)
A lot of the details of all this are a big "mystery." Whatever the case, God cursed the serpent. (Gen3:14,Rev12:9) While there is a lot we don't know, there are some things we do. Originally Lucifer was the "anointed cherub who covers."(Ez28:14) A place of special relationship with God. And after the fall, he still has had access to God's presence, and apparently communicates with and "makes deals/challenges" with God.(Job1:11,2:5, Lk22:31) And he "accuses" the brethren.(Rev12:10)
So, for some reason, in the wisdom of God, God is going to allow Satan essentially free reign for a few short years. He will be "cast to the earth" (out of heaven)(Rev12:7-9), and there will be "woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." (vs12) Of these days Jesus says, "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's (Israel -Isa45:4,65:9, Rev12:14) sake those days will be shortened. (Mt24:22)
The wisdom of God sees the need for iniquity to come to a full and complete end. For instance, God's "delay" in rescuing Israel out of Egypt to possess the land was because "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete." (Gen15:16) And of the future Daniel speaks, "And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; he shall destroy fearfully..." (Dan8:23-25) This is the "lawless one." As if to say, "Ok, Satan, here's the chance you've been wishing for...take your best shot..."
And for Israel, who will experience all this, "seventy weeks are determined for your people (Israel) and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy."(Dan9:24)
69 of these "weeks" (of seven years each) have already been fulfilled. The 70th is yet to happen. We know that God is going to "purify the sons of Levi"(Mal3:3). He will "forgive their iniquity, and their sin [He] will remember no more."(Jer31:34) As God will "betroth" Israel to Himself "in righteousness." (Hos2:19) As the "King, the LORD of hosts" sets up rule in Jerusalem.(Zec14:16)
But, at the present time there is a restraint against satan's full onslaught. The same One Who, "convict[s] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment"(Jn16:8) As God said, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man.."(Gen6:3) It is "He Who now restrains." (2Ths2:7) But then He, along with the Church He indwells (Rom8:9), will be "taken out of the way."(2Ths2:7) The words in the literal here are fascinating; "until out of the midst it comes." "He" restrains. But "it" comes out of the midst. "It" being the "Church" which "He" indwells.
This, too, is a mystery, which those who are not Believers simply will not understand, because it is not "for" them; ..as they will scoff and explain it away; as their eyes are blinded. (2Cor4:4) They are yet "in darkness" and the Day will "overtake" them."(1Ths5:4)
But you notice, "and [THEN] the lawless one will be revealed."(vs8) The Holy Spirit/Church "comes out from the midst" and THEN, the lawless one is revealed. According to Dan9:27, this "revelation" of the lawless one begins the seven-year period, the "70th week."
For those willing to accept it, these (2Ths2:7-8, Dan9:27) are the most clear Scripture passages indicating the "pre-Trib" Rapture of the Church. As God has not appointed us to wrath.(1Ths5:9) Because of Christ's redemption we are "counted worthy (Rev3:4b) to escape all these things that will come to pass"(Lk21:36) ..because we have the "hope of salvation." And are...
"...looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing [in the clouds where we meet Him in the air -1Ths4:17] of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,(Tit2:13) Where we will see Him and be "like Him" "..And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1Jn3:2-3)