What is a “mystery?” It is NOT something mysterious or hard to understand. It refers to something that was unknown and unknowable apart from divine revelation. There are several lines of truth, which are referred to in the New Testament as “mysteries.” They are divided into the following categories: a body of New Testament doctrine; Christ, the Body of Christ, the rapture of the Church, and the blindness of Israel during this age. They are truths which refer to the church or church age, either directly or indirectly.
A BODY OF DOCTRINE
The Mystery of Faith (I Tim.3:9)
This mystery has to do with Christian doctrine. The definite article appears before faith. Hence, “the faith” (in the objective sense) would refer to the body of Christian doctrine. Christian doctrines are called “mysteries of the faith” because these doctrines were kept secret during the Old Testament period. They are NOW revealed, and are no longer mysteries or secrets. They are now to be gladly proclaimed worldwide and believed! The “mystery” of the faith would refer to the body of doctrine that sets forth the heavenly truths revealed in Paul’s gospel.
In I Tim.3:9, deacons are required to hold (constant, active steadfastness) to this sound doctrine with a pure conscience. In other words, a deacon must be orthodox! He must know these truths, and hold steadfastly to them with a pure conscience.
Some understand “the faith” here in a subjective sense. In that case, “The faith” would refer, not to the content of the revelation, but to the spiritual apprehension of that doctrine. D. Edmond Hiebert said that the mystery of the faith may be “regarded as denoting the substance of the mystery, that is the content of the Christian gospel, the faith. Or it may have a subjective sense as pointing to the revealed truth which is apprehended and appropriated by faith. Either view is possible and amounts to about the same thing.” [i] If the subjective sense were the meaning here, then Paul would be requiring deacons not only to “hold” these truths, but also to understand them. Since deacons are required to hold on to this truth, it would also be implied that they must be understood. The important point here is that God has delivered this marvelous truth which was formerly not known to the sons of men. Deacons are required to hold them fast!
Holding fast to these truths refers to not mere head knowledge, but actually LIVING them out in one’s daily life – otherwise, there can be no pure conscience! The pure conscience was also part of the requirement. If the marvelous truths concerning the mystery (our relationship to Christ and to one another as members in the Body) are found in our heads and not lived out in our lives, our consciences will be defiled. These church truths are not ethereal, theological arguments to be confined to classroom, but are practical, life-transforming truths! It is a life to be lived, not just information to be stored in one’s mind. If one’s life is not being lived in harmony with these great truths, then a pure conscience is impossible. Church truth requires something of deacons – and of all of us! Church truth requires a right relationship with Christ our Head and with one another. Church truth requires of us a holy life – the life of Christ, lived through our yielded members! Nothing less than that will yield a pure conscience!
The Mystery of the Wisdom of God (I Cor.2:7)
In this passage, Paul declares that God’s wisdom is not the kind of wisdom the world could achieve on its own. (I Cor.2:6) It is not the kind of wisdom the natural man could obtain by observation, hearing, or thinking. (I Cor.2:9) This Divine wisdom was a “mystery” (vs.7). It is presently still hidden from the lost world which is now under Satanic blindness. (II Cor.4:3-4) In ages past, it was hidden from all the sons of men, but no longer. Now it is revealed! Although this truth was hidden from men, it was no mystery to God! It was in His mind and heart. The Lord ordained this wisdom before the world! (vs.7c)
This divine wisdom is “unto our glory.” (vs.7b) Robert Gromacki writes, “Concerning believers, God ‘did predestinate [them] to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Rom.8:29). This predestination of believers was included within God’s foreordained wisdom which was decreed before the ages of time began… The purpose of this determination was unto our glory. God has already positionally glorified each believer (Rom.8:30), but practically, he must wait to share in the glory of an immortal, incorruptible body (Rom.8:18).” [ii] Some elements of this previously hidden, Divine wisdom have to do with Christ and the Body of Christ. In particular here (I Cor.2:7), Paul speaks of those truths which are associated with His eternal purpose to glorify the saints of this age in Christ. The angels desire to learn of God’s wisdom by observing the church function (Eph. 3:10-11). Angels learn of God’s marvelous grace as they observe sinners saved by grace function in His Body and experience a transformation from glory to glory. (II Cor.3:18) The process of bringing many sons to glory has begun! The work that God has begun in each believer of this age will continue to be performed until the day of Jesus Christ! (Phil.1:6) God had an eternal purpose to transform some into the image of His Son, seat them in heavenly places in Christ, and cause them to share in glory with Him. That purpose is to be realized in the church. It was previously hidden in the mind of God.
The Lord chose to conceal this wisdom from mankind until revealed through the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers. God did not reveal all of His wisdom at once, but rather gradually and progressively. This divine wisdom was made known to them by means of supernatural revelation, which was recorded in Scripture for us. (I Cor.2:10-13) The truths concerning the mystery have been recorded that believers might study them, know them, and live them. Of course, the natural man is not able to understand or appreciate these marvelous mysteries now revealed. (I Cor.2:14) They are still hidden from him because of his natural blindness. (II Cor.4:3-4) However, Paul implies that not even all believers are able to grasp and understand these marvelous truths. Only the “spiritual man” has that ability! (vs.15) This divine wisdom is spiritually discerned. Only the man who is filled with God’s Spirit will understand, appreciate, and experience these truths. The carnal believer cannot “digest” them (I Cor.3:1-2). Thus, his growth will be hindered greatly.
No wonder Paul prays that God would open the eyes of believers to understand and appreciate the hope of our calling! (Eph.1:16-23) It is a heavenly and glorious calling, but is so often not understood or appreciated by believers today. The church doesn’t need any new revelation (as the charismatic movement implies). Rather, we need to grasp, appreciate, and abide in the marvelous wisdom and truth already revealed!
If we are ever going to experience the joy of the Christian life, live a heavenly life, walk a worthy walk, and appreciate all the riches we have in Christ, then we must be SPIRITUAL men… daily surrendered and yielded to the Lord, and filled with the Spirit of God. As a carnal man, we will NOT be able to digest these wonderful truths which teach us about our relationship to the Risen and glorified Savior! We might hear the truth spoken, but it will not “sink in.” We will be ignorant of our glorious position In Him, in the heavenlies! If we are ignorant of our heavenly position, we will not be abiding there. If not abiding in Christ in the heavenlies, we will be living an earthbound existence and will experience a tremendous struggle in our walk. (Rom.7:14-25) God wants us to grow in grace and in the KNOWLEDGE of Christ. (II Pet.3:18)
We are indeed RICH in Christ – but we must KNOW these truths before they have an effect on our life. We must KNOW that our old man was crucified and that we are new creatures, able to walk in newness of life (Rom.6:4-6). As we DWELL in our glorious position in Christ, the condition of our daily life is gradually and consistently transformed into His image! (II Cor.3:18) Thus, God has revealed wisdom that is designed “unto our glory.” This wisdom was hidden in ages past, but no longer. God wants His heavenly people to KNOW these truths and meditate upon them that God’s purpose for our lives will be realized.
The Mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4)
This refers to Christ as the THEME of this mystery now revealed. In Colossians 3:4, “Christ is named as the object in whom all the truth about the church is contained and made possible. It is the mystery regarding Christ and His redeeming work which made possible the church.” [iii]
In context, Ephesians three speaks of the main CONTENT of this mystery, namely, the Body of Christ. The revelation about the Body of Christ is also a revelation about Christ Himself in His new role as Head of the Body (Eph.1:21-23). Some have understood “Christ” to refer to the Body of Christ because of the following context.[iv] This interpretation views the word Christ in verse four as being used virtually as a synonym for the church. The Church is Christ – it is His Body. (See also I Cor. 12:12, where Paul refers to the Body of Christ as Christ.) The mystery of Christ then, refers to truth about Christ’s Body – truth never before revealed.
Paul has much more to say about the mystery in this chapter. In context, the main truth about Christ’s Body not previously revealed, was the fact that Jew & Gentile would be united together on equal footing in the same Body. (vs.6) “In Judaism, opinion was settled that Gentiles could be saved only by becoming Jews. This idea persisted even in the early church among some of its Jewish members.” (Acts 10-11,15) [v] However, an understanding of what the mystery is, will remove all such confusion. The gentile is not required to become a Jew or live under the Jewish law! That wall that formerly separated Jew and Gentile has been abolished in Christ’s flesh! (Eph.2:14-15) Therefore in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile! (Gal.3:27-29)
Believers today need to know that the church is not a New Israel, but is a New Man (Eph.2:15), entirely distinct from Israel! This knowledge will keep us from trying to put the yoke of Jewish law on the believer of this age as a means of sanctification. That leads to nothing but frustration! (Rom.7:14-25)
Paul’s ministry was “to make all men see what is the fellowship of this mystery which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 3:9). The term “fellowship” (oikonomia) is the word for dispensation or stewardship. To Paul was entrusted the stewardship of dispensing this marvelous truth to all men. God called Paul to preach this mystery, and to teach men HOW this mystery (Body of Christ) works or functions to the glory of God. The “will” of the Head in heaven is carried out on earth through His Body as members of that Body yield to Him and function together in harmony. In truth, Christ (His will, life, power, love, etc.) is manifested in the Body! It is the glory of this age!
This mystery (the church) is God’s plan for the present age. The Body of Christ is what GOD is concerned about today. Men have devised all kinds of plans, programs, and para-church ministries. But God’s plan has not changed. God’s plan is to manifest HIS LIFE through HIS BODY unto HIS GLORY. The theological and practical significance of this plan must not be overlooked or underestimated. It is grossly ignored in much of Christendom today. Many Christian leaders today will acknowledge this in theory or on paper, but the truth seems to get lost in the shuffle in all the busy-ness of doing the Lord’s work. It is amazing that believing men can ignore God’s plan, create their own substitute plan, spend all their time attempting to make their man-made, man-centered, and man-empowered activities & program successful, and then call it “the Lord’s work.” What must the Lord think of it all?
Declaring this marvelous mystery (Eph.3:9) was no minor sub-point to Paul. It was the driving force in his life. God called Paul to preach the “unreachable riches of Christ” among the Gentiles (vs.7-8), and he was forever thrilled with the privilege. He SAW the glorified Christ! (Acts 9:3) He was caught up into the heavens (II Cor.12:1-6). Unlike the other apostles who knew the Lord Jesus in His time of humiliation, Paul knew Him only as the Lord of Glory… the God-Man in Glory! Paul knew Christ as the Heavenly Head of His Body on earth! Perhaps better than any other saint, Paul knew the GLORY associated with being united to the Risen Savior! Paul appreciated the glorious, heavenly position that is enjoyed by the church – organically united to Christ, our Head! Paul understood the glory of this union, and the privilege of being a member of Christ’s Body, and the privilege of manifesting Christ to the world through our yielded members! This truth gripped his heart and changed him forever. It should grip our hearts today too!
The Mystery of God and of Christ (Col.2:2-3)
Here Christ is called the “mystery of God and of the Father.” Christ reveals the Father to man in a way that was not possible in ages past. The Gnostics were convincing some men to seek truth about God apart from Christ. If the believers were going to stand firm and not be swayed by the false teachers, then they needed “the full assurance of understanding” and they would have to acknowledge the “mystery of God.” Paul encourages believers to be “Christocentric” in their understanding.
The mystery of God in Col.2:2 IS Christ. Wuest noted that “the word Christ is in the same case as mystery, placing it in apposition with it. The mystery is Christ.” [vi] Christ came to reveal truth about God the Father. Concerning this passage, Homer Kent writes, “A great many textual variants occur at the end of 2:2, but the preferred texts read this way: ‘the mystery of God, [namely] Christ.’ By putting Christ in apposition with ‘mystery,’ Paul has stated that the very essence of God’s revelation to mankind is the person of Christ. It is He who has revealed God to men (the image of the invisible God,” 1:15), and who has reconciled men to God. (1:20-22)” [vii]
The reason to seek truth about God in Christ (and nowhere else!) is that “in [Christ] are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden” (Col. 2:2, 3). The Son is the ultimate revelation of who God is and what He is like (Heb.1:1-3). To know Him is to know the Father. (John 14:6-12)
In Colossians chapters two and three, Paul wants the believers to know some important truths relating to our new relationship to Christ. Part of the mystery of Christ refers to our UNION with Him! These truths were not known in ages past. However, it is now revealed that [positionally] we are complete in Him (vs.10); we have been circumcised in Him (vs.11); we have been buried with Him and raised with Him (vs. 12). Because of this union with Christ, we are dead to the world (Col.2:20) and raised into the heavenlies! (Col.3:1-3) This positional truth is intensely practical. Since we have been united to Christ, we are to walk in Him (vs.6); we are to be rooted and built up in Him (vs.7); we should seek those things which are above (3:1) and set our affections on things above (3:2). We are a heavenly people and ought to abide in Christ and DWELL in the heavenlies.
The Mystery of Christ in You (Col.1:26-27)
The fact that Christ would indwell the believer was never revealed to any saint in previous ages. This truth is called a mystery. Old Testament saints never imagined such a thing would ever take place! The Old Testament saints knew that Messiah was coming. They knew (or should have) that He would die for sins. But the fact that He would actually dwell in the redeemed body of a believing Gentile was unheard of! Those who were once “afar off” (Eph.2:12-13) are not only made nigh, but are actually indwelt by Christ! They are in Christ, and Christ in them! Jesus hinted at this in John 15:4. (see also II Cor.13:5; Rom.8:10; Gal.2:20; Eph.3:17) The wonder of it all!
Christ in us is the “hope of glory.” Those who are “in Christ” and in whom Christ dwells, possess this hope of glory! Believers look ahead to being glorified with Him one day! What a glorious hope! (See also Col.3:4; Rom.5:2; 8:18; II Cor.4:17; I Pet.5:10; I John 3:2) What a motivation for godly living: Christ dwells in us! What assurance of future glory: Christ dwells in us! What comfort and joy for the present: Christ dwells in us! What power for living: Christ dwells in us! What confidence in adversity: Christ dwells in us! No wonder Paul calls this the ‘riches of the glory’ of the mystery. (Col.1:27)
THE BODY OF CHRIST
A Great Mystery: Christ and the Church (Eph.5:32)
This refers to the mystery of the union of Christ and the Church as His Body and Bride. This is a difficult passage to interpret precisely, yet, one thing is clear: Paul sees a connection between the relationship between husband and wife, and the relationship between Christ and the church. (Cf. vs.23-27) This certainly was a mystery – not revealed in ages past. No one ever knew that Christian believers would one day be united together in an eternal relationship to Christ as His Bride. This is such an intimate, personal relationship that it can only be likened to marriage! This mystery of the relationship between Christ and the church is revealed in Ephesians chapter five, but also appears in other Pauline epistles. (See Romans 12:5, 1 Cor. 12:12, & Eph. 1:22, 23.)
This union is the basis of all the exhortations to love and to obedience. Because this unique personal relationship is likened to a marriage, we are exhorted to LOVE the Lord… to SERVE the Lord… to SUBMIT to the Lord as Head… to be DEDICATED to the Lord… and to have NO OTHER lovers, which would be tantamount to spiritual adultery. Just as marriage causes all previous relationship to fade away, when a believer is joined to the Lord – all other allegiances are to fade away. (Including the Law – Rom.7:1-4) Thus, we are exhorted to have a single-minded loyalty and dedication to the Lord… our Husband and Head. (James 4:4; Matt.6:24) Putting any other relationship before this one is the sin of spiritual adultery. The concept of dedication to the Lord was not a mystery – but being part of ONE BODY with the Lord is. This mystery is called “great.” It is of great importance and great significance. The practical implications are tremendous. It is a profound truth that can have life-changing results!
The Mystery of Jew And Gentile As Fellowheirs in the Same Body (Eph.3:6)
Paul mentions the mystery that God revealed to him in verse 3. In verse six he explains the CONTENT of that mystery.The truth that had never been revealed before was the fact both the Jewish and Gentile believer in Christ would be received into the same Body (the church) on equal footing. They would be fellow-heirs and partakers of the same promises IN CHRIST by the gospel. The Gentiles are FULL members of the Body of Christ, united to Christ the Head and every other member of the Body, possessors of the life of Christ, and indwelt by Him! (see I Cor.12:12-13)
The fact that gentiles would be saved was no mystery. The fact that gentiles would participate with the Jews in the future kingdom was no mystery. But the fact that they would be received as equals IN CHRIST (in the Body of Christ, the church) was a mystery! Gentiles would not have to become Jews or keep the Jewish laws. As fellowheirs, the Gentiles would have the same legal status, privileges, and inheritance as believing Jews. Kent points out that “in the Greek text each of these nouns is compounded with the same prefix meaning co– or fellow-. Thus, he says that Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members, and fellow-partakers with Jews of these salvation blessings.” [viii]
The significance of this new status for Gentiles might be overlooked by many today. But when compared to their previous position, it is a remarkable mystery! Consider Ephesians 2:12: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” And now believing gentiles stand as equals with Jewish believers IN CHRIST, for there is no difference! This new position should bring joy to every believing Gentile every day!
Chafer’s comments on this passage are helpful. “That the gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body is not a recognition of the Old Testament prediction that, during Israel’s coming kingdom glory, Gentiles will be raised to a subordinate participation in those blessings (Isa.60: 12). Those predictions were of an earthly calling, and, being revealed in very much Old Testament prophecy, could be no part of the heavenly calling – the “mystery hid in God.” This mystery is of a present uniting of Jews and Gentiles into one body – a new divine purpose, and, therefore, in no sense the perpetuation of anything which has been before.” [ix] Thus, this mystery of a New Man, a new Body, the church is a totally distinct program of God. The wise interpreter will “rightly divide the word of truth,” and will not blur together what God has separated!
The Mystery of Godliness (I Tim.3:16)
In the context of chapters two and three, Paul has been speaking about church truth: prayer, worship, teaching, and church leaders. In verse 15, he mentioned the fact that the house of God, the church, is the pillar and ground of the truth.
In verse 16, Paul mentions the mystery of godliness. Paul himself defines a mystery as a truth which was “kept secret since the world began” but is “now made manifest to his saints.” (Rom.16:25; Col.1:26) Paul’s use of the word mystery usually involves truth relating to the church. Many understand the mystery of godliness to be a reference to the incarnation of Christ. However, the incarnation WAS revealed in the Old Testament (Isa.7; 14; 9:6; Jer.23:5-5). That was no mystery.
I Tim.3:16 does speak about Christ revealing Himself in a body, but not the incarnation. It refers to Christ revealing Himself through the Body of Christ, the church. This interpretation is consistent with the context and the definition of mystery. The fact that Paul mentions a mystery of godliness also implies that Paul is speaking not about incarnation but about the “conduct of the church”. In verse 15, he just spoke of the need to “behave (oneself) in the house of God, which is the church of the Living God.” The mystery of godliness refers to Christian behavior in the local church. That which makes Christian behavior so unique (and previously unrevealed) is the fact that Christ DWELLS in us! (Col.1:26-27).
Each of the following six phrases Paul uses in I Tim.3:16 refers to the church.
God was manifest in the flesh.
- God the Son manifests Himself through His Body, the church.
- God’s life is manifested through the human flesh of saved human beings in this age (II Cor.4:10-11).
- It is the life and power of the indwelling Christ that makes the church such a unique and unprecedented witness on earth today – God manifesting Himself in flesh!
Justified in the Spirit
- The Spirit of God is vindicating the resurrected Christ by means of the resurrection life of believers today as they walk in newness of life! (Rom.6:4)
- The godly behavior of believers in the church today declares to the world that the Christ who dwells within is alive, true, and righteous!
- God’s Word is declared to be right when Spirit filled believers in the church function in harmony with it.
Seen of angels
- Paul states in Eph.3:10 that angels desire to observe the church and in fact that they ARE observing the church.
- Angels learn about the manifold wisdom of God by observing the Jewish and Gentile sinners saved by grace, functioning together in unity for God’s glory as one New Man.
Preached unto the Gentiles
- The mystery of the gospel is preached today among gentiles worldwide by the churches.
- This responsibility to preach Christ belongs to the church. It is through the efforts of the churches that Christ is preached unto the ends of the world (Col.1:26-29; II Cor.5:18-20).
Believed on in the world
- By means of the existence of the church, many in the world have come to believe its message and witness. Believers are living epistles (II Cor.3:2-3).
- As the world observes the church, some will recognize the truth of its message and the reality of its life. Some in the world will believe and be saved.
Received up into glory.
- When the church’s ministry in the world is finished, the Lord will rapture His bride and take her to glory (John 14:1-2; I Thess.4:13-18).
- The rapture is also called a mystery (I Cor.15:51).
In this passage, Paul notes how the ministry, witness, and destiny of the church are similar to that of Christ. Many of the things which were true of Christ residing in human flesh (incarnation), are also true of Christ residing in or indwelling the church, which is His body. In both cases, the life, power, grace, love, compassion, holiness, and righteousness of God are manifest to the world.[x] Carlton Helgerson wrote, “The truth, once perfectly manifested in Christ, continues to be mirrored as the mystery of godliness in the local assembly, whose present tenure is in this respect analogous to that of our Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh.”[xi] The mystery of godliness is an entirely new means of godly behavior that is unique to this dispensation. That which makes Christian behavior so unique is the fact of the indwelling Christ (Col.1:26-27). The Risen and glorified Christ is manifesting His life through His Body on earth (Eph.1:20-23; Gal.2:20; II Cor.4:10-11). Christ dwells in each member of the church individually, and in the local church corporately. The church is the habitation of God, the Temple of the living God. (Eph.2:21-22). As believers in the local church function together according to God’s will and Word, then Christ is being formed (a clear manifestation of His life) in that church (Gal.4:19). Christlikeness is the objective for the individual believer (Eph.4:13; Col.1:28; II Cor.3:18) and God’s purpose is to manifest that likeness to the world through His Body, the church. This is the riches of the glory of the mystery!
THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH (I COR.15:51)
The Mystery of Rapture of the Church (I Cor.15:51)
The church was a mystery in Old Testament times. No one knew. Thus, truths about the church were also not revealed. Among those glorious truths is the promise that some of the church age saints would not die. The term “sleep” in I Cor.15:51 is used as a euphemism for death. (See John 11:11-14) When Paul told the Corinthians that they “shall not all sleep” he meant that one entire generation of Christians would be taken into heaven without experiencing death. This truth is unfolded further in I Thess.4:13-18. This was a mystery.
After stating that not all believers shall “sleep,” Paul then wrote that all believers instead would be “changed.” The generation of Christians who are alive at the coming of the Lord in the air for His church will be instantly translated into their glorified bodies (I Cor.15:51). When Christ shall appear for the church, “we shall be like Him” in that we too will be changed into our glorified body (I John 3:2). It is hard to imagine the joy of that blind believer who instantaneously is changed into glory, and sees for the first time! And what he will see! Glory!
Certainly the fact of resurrection was no mystery in the Old Testament. Job fully expected to see God in his body after death. (Job 19:26; see also Isa. 26:19; John 11:24) But the fact that one entire generation of believers would escape death altogether and be instantly translated into glory was not revealed!
And of course the coming of the Lord was no mystery in the Old Testament. There are many passages which reveal the coming of the Lord (Mal.3:2; Isa.40:5,10; Job 19:25; etc.). All of the Old Testament passages which speak of the Lord’s coming speak either of His first coming at Bethlehem, or His second coming in power and great glory. There is not one passage in the Old Testament which speaks of the Lord’s coming in the air to take His Bride, the church. That coming was a mystery.
The possibility of being caught up to heaven apart from death was not a mystery in the Old Testament. In fact, two Old Testament saints WERE caught up to heaven apart from experiencing death. (Enoch, Heb.11:5; Elijah, II Kings 2:11) But that was not the expectation of Old Testament saints. No Old Testament saint could say, “I fully expect that the Lord could come at any moment and instantly translate me into glory, without experiencing death.” Paul reveals something new – which IS the expectation and hope of every church age saint: that Christ could return in our lifetime. One generation will be “changed in the twinkling of an eye” from a flesh and blood body to one suited for eternity. What a blessed hope!
Again, this mystery refers to church truth, previously not revealed, but now made known unto the sons of men. And what wonderful truth this is! Imagine – He could come for us today! This is our Blessed Hope! (Titus 2:13) Are you ready? Would you be ashamed if He came today? This truth has great practical value to us today. Some (out of ignorance) might assume that all this teaching about a “mystery” and a heavenly position is so ethereal and nebulous as to be no earthly good. Just the opposite is true. It is intensely practical truth that will change our lives for His glory (I John 3:2-3)!
THE MYSTERY OF THE PARTIAL BLINDNESS OF ISRAEL (ROM. 11:25)
Another mystery related to the church is revealed in Rom.11:25. The content of this mystery relates to the fact that during this age, Israel has been judicially blinded (hardened). The FACT of this blindness of Israel was not a mystery. That was revealed in the Old Testament (Isa.6:9-10). However, this blindness is now revealed to be only partial. There is a remnant of Jews during this age who are not blinded, but who have received Christ as Savior, and have been brought into the Body of Christ on equal footing with Gentiles. This element was a mystery.
This blindness in Israel is also temporary. It is only “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” The expression fulness of the Gentilesrefers to God’s plan to bring Gentiles into the place of blessing in this dispensation. During this age, God is calling out of the gentiles, a people for His name (Acts 15:14). Israel’s fall (Rom.11: 11,15,17) opened the opportunity for gentiles to be grafted into the place of Divine blessing. Today the Gentile is evangelizing the Jew. When this age has been completed, and the last gentile has been brought into the Body of Christ, God will once again turn to His chosen nation Israel and resume His program for them (Rom.11:1-36). At that point, Israel will enter the 70th week of Daniel which has been determined upon her. The church’s ministry on earth will have been completed, and then Israel will be the center of God’s attention. At that point, Jews will evangelize the gentiles! 144,000 Jewish evangelists will proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom. “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!” Multitudes from all nations will believe and be saved, but they will NOT be part of the Body of Christ, the church (Rev.7:9-17). When the Lord returns, Israel as a nation will recognize her Messiah and respond in faith and repentance (Zech.12:10-14). A fountain of blessing will be opened to Israel (Zech.13:1). All Israel shall be saved (Rom.11:25-26). The blindness of Israel is only temporary. That which was a mystery is the fact that this blindness runs concurrently with the church age and will END when “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
Thus, the church age is a program independent of God’s program for Israel. It might be considered a parenthesis in God’s ongoing plan. God has a separate and distinct program for His earthly people Israel. During this age, the nation Israel has been judicially blinded. But when God’s program for His heavenly people, the church, is completed, He will then resume working with the Jews. Every one of His covenants to them WILL be fulfilled when Israel repents (Zech.12:10-14; II Cor.3:13-16).
Paul’s purpose in revealing this mystery is to prevent gentiles in this age from becoming “wise in [their] own conceits” (Rom.11:25). In this age of grace, Gentiles should thank God that they are received on the same legal status as Jews. Gentiles should never become puffed up or assume an air of superiority over the Jews. It was this same kind of Satanically induced “gentile conceit” that enabled Hitler to imagine Aryan Gentile superiority over the Jews. God’s words include severe warnings to gentile pride. “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.” (Cf. Rom.11:17-22).
Many individual Jews have received Christ as Savior, and there is at present a remnant according to the election of grace (Rom.11:5). Yet nationally, Israel’s eyes are blinded to their own Scriptures, to Christ as their Messiah, and to the message of the gospel of God’s grace (II Cor.3:13-16). The fact that Israel’s blindness would run concurrent with the church age was a mystery.
 This “mystery” is only indirectly related to the church, and for that reason some may not want to include it in its present category of church truth.
[i] D. Edmond Hiebert, I Timothy, pg.69
[ii] Robert Gromacki, Called to Be Saints, pg.33-34
[iii] Homer A. Kent, Ephesians, the Glory of the Church, pg.51
[iv] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, page 1926
[v] Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Treasures of Wisdom, Studies in Colossians & Philemon, page 61
[vi] Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, Vol.I, pg.196.
[vii] Homer A. Kent, Jr., The Treasures of Wisdom, Studies in Colossians & Philemon, pg.70-71
[viii] Homer A. Kent, Ephesians, the Glory of the Church, pg.52
[ix] L.S. Chafer, The Epistle to the Ephesians, pg.87
[x] For a more detailed coverage of this truth see George Zeller, The Mystery of Godliness and the Local Assembly of Believers, Middletown, Middletown Bible Church Printing.
[xi] Pastor Carlton Helgerson, The Local Church, pages 25-26