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1 TIMOTHY 3:16
GREAT IS THE MYSTERY!
of godliness, i.e., of the true Faith,
which [Mystery] was manifested in the flesh.
The R.V. gives "He who” in the text, and rightly
says in the margin, "The word God, in place of He who, rests on
no sufficient ancient evidence. Some ancient authorities read which.
This is our belief. We believe that the original word was Ho, which,
neuter, to agree with the word musterion, which is also neuter. Then
some scribe, not understanding the sense added, an "S,” thus turning it
into hos, which made it masculine, who, or He who,
though the sense is thus made more obscure. Finally, some later scribe put a
little mark in the "O,” thus making it into Th, and making the
two letters ThS and abbreviation of the word Theos, God. A
microscope reveals the fact that the little mark in the "O,” in the
Alexandrine MS. Is in different ink, and was evidently added by a later hand.
This, we believe, to be the evolution of the reading, and that originally it
was simply "O,” which.
This passage is generally taken of Christ personal.
But if read, as we submit it ought to be read, of Christ mystical, then
in the six sentences we have the whole truth, concerning the Body, revealed.
The place occupied by the Revelation of the
Mystery in 1 Tim. 3:16 will be best understood by the important position it
occupies in contrast with the "Mystery of Iniquity.” When viewed in the
position given to it in the Epistle, the two central numbers, E and E,
the two Mysteries or Secrets of God and Satan, are seen to stand in solemn and
THE STRUCTURE OF 1 TIMOTHY
A/ 1:1-2. Benediction.
3:14-15. Intended visit and interval.
3:16. The Mystery of Godliness.
4:1-2. The Mystery of Iniquity.
4:13-16. Intended visit and interval.
C/ 5-6:2. Discipline.
B/ 6:3-21-. Doctrine.
A/ 6:-21. Benediction.
We have what is true of Christ personally,
of course; but we have more; we include what is true of the members as
well, if we take it as referring to the Body of Christ – the Head and the
What is it?
"MANIFESTED IN FLESH.” True of the members, and true of the Head (Rom. 1:3).
"JUSTIFIED IN SPIRIT.” True of Head, and members as set forth in Rom.
"APPEARED TO ANGELS.” This is explained by Eph. 3:10, where we are told
that now unto principalities and powers in the heavenlies, God is making known
His manifold wisdom by means of the Church.
"PROCLAIMED AMONG THE GENTILES,” not merely Christ personal, but the
Body of Christ, is now proclaimed, "made known to all nations” (Rom. 16:26),
"made known among the Gentiles” (Col. 1:27), preached "among the Gentiles”
"BELIEVED IN THE WORLD.” It is made known "for the obedience of faith”
(Rom. 16:26) [i.e., faith-obedience].
"RECEIVED UP IN GLORY.” If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be
glorified together, also with Him” (Rom. 8:17). "For whom He justified, them HE
also glorified” (Rom. 8:30).
This then is the end of the Body of Christ, as it
was of Christ personal. The members are waiting to be "Received up in Glory,”
as the Head was. This is our hope, our "blessed hope.”
So that waiting for God’s Son from heaven is part
of our Christian position. It enters into the very foundation of our standing
It is not the mere study of prophecy, which may,
or may not, be taken up by Christians as an "extra subject,” but it is the warp
and woof of our Christian standing in Christ.
The three pairs of statements may be thus
contrasted: Nos. 1 and 2. Though manifested in the "flesh,” we know what it is
to be "justified” as to the spirit.
Nos. 3 and 4. It is being made known to angelic
beings in heaven above; ant it is being proclaimed to men on earth beneath.
Nos. 5 and 6. By grace, we believe the wondrous
testimony now while in the world, and we are waiting to be
"RECEIVED UP IN GLORY.”
(Fifth Paper, Things to
Come, Jan. 1896, 2(7):116-117))
V.- OTHER PASSAGES RELATING TO THE
We have now considered the four important
passages which contain the revelation of the great secret, viz., Rom. 16:25,
26; Eph. 3:1-11; Col. 1: 24-27, and 1 Tim. 3:16.
But there are other passages which refer to it
and throw light upon it. Some writers treat these as all referring to so many
different mysteries; buy we shall see that they all refer to and throw light
upon that which is called THE GREAT MYSTERY (except of course those we have
already considered, connected with the Present interval, the Kingdom, Israel’s
blindness, and the Mystery of Iniquity.)
(1) EPHESIANS 1:9-11.
Here we read how the same grace which was wrought
redemption and forgiveness for His people, has also caused us to abound "in all
wisdom and knowledge.”
What is this wisdom? – "Having made known unto us
the mystery of His will.” These words convey no sense to the English
reader, unless we translate (instead of transliterate) the word mystery, viz., His
secret purpose, i.e., the secret which He hath willed of His good
pleasure. God has now caused us to abound in all wisdom because He has revealed
to us His secret purpose which He purposed in Him (i.e. in Christ
– so R.V.); that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather
together in one (re-unite under one Head) all things in Christ; both which are
in heaven and which are on earth; even in Him, in Whom also we have obtained an
inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh
all things after the counsel of His own will.
Here we have the great secret and its purpose
referred to, and in verse 22 we are told how "” the God of
our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory… hath put all things under His feet
and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body,
the fullness of Him that filleth all [the members of that Body] with all
[spiritual blessings]” (verse 3).
(2) EPHESIANS 6:19.
Here the Apostle prays "that utterance may be
given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the secret of
the gospel,” i.e., the doctrine of the Body of Christ, which is the
great secret and the great subject of the gospel. It was specially the good
news revealed to and made known by Paul according to what he calls "my gospel”
(Rom. 16:25). It was in a very special manner his gospel.
The gospel – the good news of a Saviour
for lost sinners – was (as we have already seen) never a secret. It was
"preached before unto Abraham” (Gal. 3:8), and all the saints of God rejoiced
in it. But the good news concerning the Body of Christ was kept secret, and
then became, and could be called, Paul’s special gospel to be made known among
all nations. It is the good news of the Body of Christ. Hence, in 2 Cor. 4:4,
it is called "the gospel of the glory of Christ,” i.e., the gospel of Christ’s
glory. God highly exalted Him and gave Him to be the Head of the Body. This is
now "the secret of the gospel.”
(3) COLOSSIANS 2:2.
Here it is called "God’s secret,” i.e.,
the secret which God purposed, and kept in silence through times eternal and in
His own good time made known. He prays for these Colossian Saints that they
"might be comforted and knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full
assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God (i.e. God’s
secret) even the Christ* in whom (marg. wherein) are hid all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” That is to say, all the treasures of divine
wisdom are contained in the Mystery – i.e., the Body of Christ.
[* Note: According to the R.V. and the Ancient
Text, the words "and of the Father” go out. They were doubtless added by a
later hand for some purpose, and by someone ignorant of the Mystery. Indeed
that ignorance is manifested by the Revisers’ note: "The ancient authorities
vary much in the text of this passage.”]
This is the secret, which, according to
(4) 1 TIMOTHY 3:9,
We are to hold, as the essence
of "the Faith.” "Holding the Mystery (the secret) of the faith in a pure
conscience.” Here again the great secret of Christ’s Body is the central object
of the Christian Faith.
These are all passages which
refer to the great secret, but there is one other which is full of instruction
(5) 1 CORINTHIANS 2 AND 3.
True, the word Mystery is not
in the Received Text, but according to the R.V. and all the great Critical
Greek Texts we must read the word musthrion
(musteerion), secret, instead of marturionmarturion), testimony, in 1 Cor. 2:1. It will be seen that there
is but little difference between the two words – just one or two letters
changed by some scribe who did not understand the Mystery, made the word
"Testimony,” instead of "Mystery.”
It is worthy of remark how the
ignorance of this Mystery on the part of Scribes has led to so much confusion
of the Text in the passages which refer to it.
The condition of the Corinthian
saints was such that they were not spiritually fitted to receive instruction in
this wondrous truth. When the first epistle was written to them, the apostle
explained this to them, and says: "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came
not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the Mystery
of God (i.e., God’s Secret). For I determined not to know anything among
you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Instead of declaring to them the
Mystery, he had to confine himself to the simplest truths of the Gospel. He
preached only a crucified Saviour. He could not declare all the great truths involved
in a risen and glorified Saviour. He had preached "the Gospel of the grace of
God,” but he could not proclaim "the gospel of the glory of Christ.” The reason
why he "could not”, he now proceeds to explain.
"My speech and my preaching was
not with enticing words of man’s wisdom,… howbeit we speak wisdom among them
that are perfect,” or that are initiated. This word was the technical
term for those who were initiated into the ancient and wrong heathen
"mysteries”, or "the wisdom of this world.” I could not speak "wisdom” to you,
he says, "howbeit we do speak wisdom to those who are initiated into
it,” "yet not the wisdom of this world,… but we speak the wisdom of God in a
(concerning the) secret, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the
world unto our glory (i.e., with a view to our glory).” Here is again a reference to the great
secret, which had been hidden in God, and ordained by Him before the ages.
"None of the princes of this world knew” about it, he says, for "it is written
eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man
the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath
revealed it unto us by His spirit.”
These words are usually taken
in a general sense, as teaching that the natural man cannot receive spiritual
things. This fact is perfectly true, of course, as is definitely stated
elsewhere and further on. But it is not what these words say here. these words
have a special reference to the "hidden wisdom,” i.e. the Mystery, and
what is stated here is, that no human being ever dreamed of it. It never
entered the head or heart of mortal man. "BUT GOD HATH REVEALED IT BY
HIS SPIRIT.” It will be noted that the word "them” (in verse 10) is in italics,
and we are quite at liberty to insert the word "it” as referring to the secret
(as indeed the R.V. suggests in the margin).
Then he goes on to explain what
is the essence of a secret, in verses 10 and 11, and argues that as no one can
tell what a man’s secret was unless He had been pleased to reveal it. And this
He has done, as verse 12 states: - "Now we have received not the spirit of the
world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are
freely given to us of God, which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s
wisdom teacheth, but which the holy spirit teacheth, declaring to spiritual
persons spiritual things.” With this the R.V. margin agrees, "interpreting
spiritual things to spiritual men.”
Why? Because the next verse
goes on to explain that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit
of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because
they are spiritually discerned.”
"Declaring to spiritual persons
spiritual things”: the three words which follow have been variously rendered
and interpreted. In the Greek they are pneumatikois pneumatika sunkrinontes.
The first word is in the dative case, masc., plural "to
spiritual [persons].” The second word is in the accusative case, neuter,
plural, "spiritual [things],” and the third word is peculiar. The
A.V. and R.V. render it "comparing,” but the R.V. margin suggests "combining”
or "interpreting.” It occurs only here and in 2 Cor. 10:12 in New
Testament, and means literally to separate and compound anew; hence to
explain a thing, as is done when one takes it to pieces and puts it
together again; to explain by comparing one thing with another; or to
compare with a view to explaining; to expound, make known, declare.
It is used in Numbers 15:34 of those who had caught the man gathering sticks on
the Sabbath day, and it says: "they put him in ward because it was not declared
what should be done to him.” The word in this sentence is used to represent the
word "declared.” Hence, it means to declare, make known, explain,
or expound. The words here mean simply this that we speak the words
"which the holy spirit teacheth, declaring spiritual things to spiritual
Westcott and Hort, in their
Greek Text, preserve an ancient reading, but not being supported by the other
MSS., they put it in the margin. It is pneumatikos, spiritually; and
would read, "declaring spiritual things in a spiritual manner.”
Then chap.3:1 comes in, taking up the thought
where it was left in 2:1, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto
spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you
with milk and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it (or to
receive it), neither yet now are ye able, for ye are yet carnal; for
whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are yet not
carnal and walk as men (or marg., according to men). For while one
saith, I am of Paul’ and another, I am of Apollos: are ye not carnal?”
The great central truth of the
whole argument is that these Corinthian Christians were taken up with "Bodies”
of men, as we now call them, and they were therefore totally unfitted to
receive the truth of the "one Body” of Christ. While they were putting the
members in the place of the Head they were carnal and not spiritual, and
therefore not in a position to have the truth concerning "God’s Mystery”
declared to them.
Hence, when the Apostle went to
Corinth he determined not to go beyond the simplest elementary gospel teaching,
to feed them with milk, to proclaim a crucified Saviour; for they were not in a
condition to hear about the glorified Saviour – "the gospel of the glory of
Christ,” and all the glorious things which are freely given to us of God, and
which He has prepared with a view to their glory, the glory of the members of
the Body in Christ, their glorified Head in heaven.
[Here was what we
put at the beginning as the "Introductory thoughts” for these studies.]
(First Paper, Things
to Come, Sept. 1895, 2(3):42-44)
1- THE MEANING OF THE
There is no subject of greater importance to the Church of God than that which, in the New
Testament, is called "The Mystery”: but it is not every Christian who is in a
position to receive it. Only those who have "believed God,” and who have thus
been justified as Abraham was by faith in His Word concerning the redeeming
blood; and who, in "the obedience of faith,” reckon themselves to be dead and
risen again in Him, and whose citizenship is now in heaven – only these are the
fit recipients of the wondrous revelation of the "Mystery of God and of
God’s Gospel concerning His Son
Jesus Christ had been promised through the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures, as
we read in Rom. 1:1-3; but the Mystery of the Body of Christ had never been
revealed, and did not therefore form the subject of Old Testament Prophecy.
It was the subject of a special
revelation to Apostles, and Prophets, and Saints through St. Paul, to whom and
by whom this Mystery was first announced in mortal ears And it was communicated
only to the Saints who had been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, who
had been justified by faith, and sealed with the holy spirit of promise; only
to those whom God, who is rich in mercy, was pleased to make know that which
has hitherto been hidden in Himself, and was never previously revealed unto the
sons of men.
When Christians left their first
love in the earliest days of the history of Christendom, this precious
revelation was apparently the first which became obscured and lost sight of.
Then the true teaching concerning the holy spirit in the Church became less and
less clear, especially while the simple foundation of the truth of
justification on the principle of faith alone was also being departed from.
These precious truths – by the
Lord’s long-suffering patience and mercy, have been partially recovered in
these last days out of the wonderful treasury of His Word, but never, perhaps,
in their pristine freshness and clearness.
It is our object now, in
dependence on the Lord’s goodness, and reliance on the holy spirit’s guidance,
to do something to recover the blessed truth concerning the "Mystery,” and thus
endeavour to be a "good scribe,” bringing out of the Mater’s treasures
something that is old but yet new, and new but yet old.
It will be well at the outset to
define our terms, and to have a clear understanding as to
THE MEANING OF THE
The word "Mystery” is not an
English word at all; it is a Greek word, transliterated. True it has become
Anglicized, and is in common use to-day, but its meaning has changed, and is
very different from the meaning which the Greek word originally had, and still
has of course, in the Scriptures. We use it of something which no one can
understand. This is not altogether wrong if we add the thought – until
he is initiated!
In the Greek, the word musteerion
means simply a secret. It occurs in the Septuagint only nine times as
the equivalent of the Hebrew word ratz, which means to conceal hence,
a secret. It occurs in Dan. 2: 18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47 (twice), and in 4:9,
and is translated secret.
It was the king’s secret which
had gone from king Nebuchadnezzar, and which no one could tell him, until God
revealed it to Daniel…
Thus, it is perfectly clear and
certain that the word Mystery, as used in the Scripture, is simply a secret.
But by the end of the second century after Christ the word musteerion
had acquired an additional use. It was used not only of a secret, but of
a secret sign or symbol. In this sense the Greek fathers employed it to
denote any such sign, whether of words or actions. They spoke of the
offering of Isaac as a musteerion, i.e., a sign or symbol
of the secret purpose of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ. And they
used it interchangeably with the words tupos, type; sumbolon,
symbol, and parabolee, parable. It has a sense, therefore,
similar to these words.
Justin Martyr (A.D. 148) says
that in all false religions the serpent was represented as "a great symbol and
musteerion” (Apol. i. 27). So in his reference to the Paschal
Lamb, he says, "the musteerion therefore of the Lamb… was a type of
Christ.” Speaking of Isaiah 7:14, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a
son,” he says, "since this refers to the house of David, Isaiah has explained
how that which was spoken by God to David, in a mystery, would actually
come to pass. Perhaps” he adds, "you are not aware, my friends, of this – that
there were many sayings written obscurely; or in parables; for secret
signs; or in symbols, which the prophets who lived after the persons
who said or did them, expounded” (Trypho, c. 68).
Mystery was practically
synonymous with a symbol, and yet there was a slight difference. Perhaps
a secret sign would best express it; and this was the usage of the word
when the Revelation was given to John. Hence, in that book, we must give the
word this signification. In Rev. 1:20, it is used of "the mystery of the seven
stars,” and in chap. 17:5, 7, it is used of "Babylon.” So that in these things we are to
see a secret sign of something which they were to represent.
It is remarkable also that soon
after this we find the Latin version translating the word mystery (in
Eph. 5:32) by the word sacramentum, i.e., sacrament. From this it is
positive that at that time the word sacramentum or sacrament meant
merely a secret sign or symbol! It had not then acquired its
later theological use; but the word "sacrament” had reference merely to a symbol,
or a symbolical act, a secret sign, shewing forth the Lord’s death.
The popular etymologies of the
word are therefore all wrong and misleading. If the word (according to
Tertullian) had any reference to a military oath, it was only because in the
administration of that oath some secret sign was given or made which
symbolically represented it.
It is certain, therefore, that
the modern and ecclesiastical use of the word "sacrament” is not only a gross
misrepresentation of the truth, but it is founded on ignorance of the history
of the word.
1) The Greek musteerion
means a secret; and later a secret sign or symbol.
2) The Latin sacramentum
is used in the Vulgate as the equivalent of musteerion in Eph. 5:32,
therefore sacramentum meant, and means, a secret sign or symbol.
This gives us the true meaning of
the word as used by the Reformers in one of their prayers. When they say "these
holy mysteries,” they mean "the special commemoratives of bread and wine,” i.e.,
these signs and symbols which are used to "show forth the Lord’s
Thus, in our search for truth,
two great errors are, at the outset, corrected: - The true meaning of the word Mystery
in the Scriptures is not something that cannot be understood, but something
kept secret – a secret truth or sign, revealed to those who are initiated. And
the theological word Sacrament is not some act of ecclesiastical
jugglery, but a simple symbolical act, by which the Lord’s people show forth
their Lord’s death.
We are now prepared to apply the
meaning of the word mystery, thus ascertained, to the various passages
in the New Testament where it is used.
Things to Come, Oct. 1895, 2(4):64-66))
II. THE SECRET OF THE
There are several secrets which
are there spoken of; and there is one that is called the "great secret."
They are all of them connected
with the present interval between the first and second Advents of the Lord
That there was to be an interval
at all between "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow”
(Luke 24:26) was not revealed in the Old Testament.
The "sufferings” themselves were
not secret; neither was the "glory that should follow.” Both were subjects of
Old Testament prophecy. Both are there fully and plainly revealed. And what is
very remarkable about those prophecies is this, that while we have many
prophecies of the glory without any reference to the sufferings;
we never have a prophecy of the sufferings without finding, in the
immediate context, a reference to the coming glory.
The prophets who prophesied, and
all who heard or read their words, were perfectly well acquainted with these
two great facts; but they were wholly ignorant as to what interval, if any,
should separate them. They knew not whether the "glory” would follow
immediately upon the "sufferings” or whether there would be an interval of one
year, or then years, or a hundred, or a thousand years between them. There was nothing to tell them. Hence, they
were doubtless perplexed. We are, indeed, told by the holy spirit (1 Pet.
1:10-11) that they "enquired and searched diligently as to what, or what
manner of time, the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it
testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should
follow.” But there was nothing that could throw any light on the "manner of
time” which should elapse, between the sufferings and the glory. It was clear that
they could not be simultaneous. But "what manner of time” could there be
The "manner of time” was untrackable.
That is the meaning of the word "unsearchable” in Eph. 3:8, where we read of
"the unsearchable riches of Christ.” True, the riches or Christ are "unsearchable.”
No one can estimate what riches have been laid up in Christ for those who are
the members of His body.
"How vast the riches
In Christ the Lord
But this is not what is meant in
Eph. 3:8. The word here rendered "unsearchable” occurs only in one other place,
Rom. 11:33, and there it is rendered "past finding out.” It is anexichniastos
(Gr.), and means that which cannot be explored.
The word rendered "unsearchable”
in Rom. 11:33, is a different word altogether anexereuneetos (Gr.) and
means, past comprehension.
No one could find out "what, or
what manner of time” should elapse between "the sufferings and the glory.” It
was past finding out.
There were riches which could be
explored. Many promises and prophecies connected with Christ could be
understood, searched out, traced, and enjoyed by the faithful. The prophets
conveyed their readers from hill-top to hill-top, but the valley that lay
between could not be explored. Its mines of wealth could not be discovered. Its
riches could not be searched. We, who by grace, have been initiated into the
secret, and who have the key to unlock those treasures, can know something
about these riches of (or pertaining to) Christ; but there were other riches
connected with Christ that were untrackable – past finding out.
Connected with this secret of the
present interval, and, indeed, forming part of it, there were, as we have said,
several other secrets: -
3) THE DURATION OF ISRAEL’S
BLINDNESS (Rom. 11:25).
That blindness was to happen to Israel was no
secret. It was plainly revealed in the Old Testament. In the year that King
Uzziah died, Isaiah had a glorious vision of Israel’s King preparatory to the
solemn mission which he received : -
"Go and tell this people,
Make the heart of this people fat,
and make their ears heavy,
and shut their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
"Then said I, ‘Lord, how long!’”
"How long?” Yes, that was the
great and anxious question of Isaiah. The prophet "searched and inquired
diligently as to what manner of time” was signified.
"How long?” he asked, shall this
blindness happen to Israel?
That decree of judicial blindness was pronounced under
most impressive circumstances. There was everything which could add solemnity
and importance to the occasion. And when we come to the New Testament we find
the prophecy there times referred to: Matthew 13:14 (the prophetic Word of
Jehovah), 15; John 12:40 (Isaiah saw Christ’s glory); and Acts 28:26 ("well
spake the Holy Ghost, by Isaiah”).
So that this blindness itself was
the subject of special revelation, and was no secret. It was there
revealed that it was to last as long as the land remained desolate. But there
was one thing connected with it which was kept secret, ant that was afterwards
revealed in Rom. 11:25, where, speaking of this blindness, it is written, "I
would not have you ignorant, brethren, or this secret, that blindness in
part hath happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.”
Here the secret was revealed, and the answer is at length given to the question
"How long?” We are no longer "ignorant” as to the duration of this "blindness
in part”; we know its decree was announced, and we know when it will come to an
4) "THE SECRETS OF
THE KINGDOM” (Matt. 13:11, 35).
It was no secret that the
kingdom, so long prophesied, should be rejected; that the King should not be
received; that Messiah should be "cut off,” and not then receive the kingdom.
All this was a plain matter of Divine revelation. Many prophecies declare this.
But what was to happen to the
kingdom during the rejection of the King was not revealed; this was kept
secret. There can be no kingdom without a king, therefore, while he is away,
the kingdom must be in abeyance.
In the Old Testament we have the
kingdom prophesied. In the Gospels and Acts we have the kingdom rejected. In
the Epistles we have the interval between this rejection, and the future
setting up of the kingdom in Divine power, judgment, and glory, which is
foreshewn in the Apocalypse.
In this Epistles we have the
interval, but chiefly in its relation to the Church. We do not learn in them
what was to happen to the kingdom; the secrets concerning this are not there
revealed. It is in Matt. 13 that the Lord Jesus, in seven parables, describes
the course of the kingdom from the first sowing of its seed by the Son of Man,
to the final setting up of the throne of His glory; and this without any
reference whatever to the Church.
The Church, as we shall presently
see, is not the subject of these parables, being itself another secret, emphatically
called "the great secret.”
These parables concern the
kingdom, and we are clearly told why they were spoken, and what was their
subject as well as their object.
In verse 10, the disciples came
and said unto Him, "Why speakest Thou unto them in parables” He answered and
said unto them, "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries” (i.e.,
of course, the secrets) "of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not
given,” etc. Then in verse 34, we read "All these things spake Jesus unto the
multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: that it
might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet (Ps. 88:2), saying, I will
open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from
the foundation of the world.”
Hence, in these seven parables,
we have the revelation of the secrets concerning the kingdom of heaven; i.e.,
what would happen in consequence of and after its rejection, and we are told
that these things had been kept secret all through the ages. And further, that
when the Lord Jesus spake in parables, He spake, not to reveal the secrets to
the multitudes, but to hide them; and also that His disciples and we might
It is clear, therefore, that we are not to look for the
Church in these parables, but that, whatever we may learn from them, we must
distinguish between these "secrets of the kingdom” and the "great secret”
concerning Christ and the Church.
[see The Kingdom and the
Church, by the same Author and Published by Messrs. Eyre and
Spottiswoode, Great New Street.
Price (in 1895), one penny.]
5) "THE MYSTERY OF
INIQUITY” (2 Thess. 2:7).
The rejection of the kingdom
would, we are taught, lead up, at the time of the end, to the "time of Jacob’s
trouble” (Jer. 30:7), when the Man of Sin will be revealed. He will be
manifested in his own appointed season. But we are told also that even now,
yea, even when the revelation was given in 2 Thess. 2:7, that the secret
of lawlessness was already at work.
[see The Structure of the
Epistles to the Thessalonians, by the same Author. Published by Messrs. Eyre
and Spottiswoode, Great New Street, London,
E.C. Price (in 1895), Sixpence.]
Even now we see this secret
purpose working. Lawlessness is already being developed. We see it in the
Family, in Society, in the church, and in the State. If we were asked to
describe the one great feature which characterizes our times, we must say it is
lawlessness. Ant this is the working of the secret counsel and purpose of the
coming Antichrist, whose open manifestation will be the signal for the closing
of this present interval, and whose final destruction will usher in the kingdom of Heaven. For then (i.e., in the days of
the seventh angel when he is about to sound), "then is finished the mystery (or
secret counsel) which God purposed to fulfill according to the good tidings
which He declared to His servants the prophets” (Rev. 10:7).
(Sixth Paper, Things to
Come, Feb. 1896, 2(8):142-144))
VI. – PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS.
When once we have grasped the great secret of
God, we have a key to open several other difficult subjects, which have been
made difficult and dark through the shutting out of the only light that could
Many false notions have sprung up, as the
necessary consequence of having lost the truth of the Mystery.
WHY WAS THE SECRET KEPT?.
But first let us ask, why was the great doctrine
of the "Mystery” ever kept secret at all? Why did God hide it in Himself, so
that no one could possibly discover it till He chose to reveal it?
The reason is clear. Had it not been kept secret,
the Jews would have had a reason for their rejection of Christ again in the
Acts of the Apostles! They could have pleaded that they were only fulfilling
the prophecies, and would have lost at once all their responsibility.
True, the rejection of Christ was foretold, but
there was not a word about their rejection of the renewed offer of the King and
the Kingdom, which was made authoritatively after the Ascension.
In Acts 3:18 (R.V.) the holy spirit, by Peter
reminds the nation how "the things which God foreshowed by the mouth of all the
prophets that His Christ should suffer, He hath thus fulfilled.” There was an
end of the matter, so far as Old Testament prophecies were concerned. Christ
had suffered, but now, as to His entering into His glory, and fulfilling all
the prophecies concerning that glory which was to follow, - what of these? What
hindered their fulfillment? Why should there be delay in their accomplishment?
The condition had been laid down in Lev. And Deut. And reiterated all through
the Prophets that "Repentance” – that National Repentance must precede
National Blessing. The call goes forth therefore in the very next verse
(19). "Repent ye, therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,
that so there may come season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and
that He may send the Christ which hath been appointed for you, even Jesus; whom
the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, whereof
God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world
began, etc.” (R.V.).
The question is, Was this most formal offer
merely a mockery? Suppose they had obeyed that call and repented, and turned to
the Lord, Would not the times of refreshing have come from His presence? Would
He not have sent Jesus Christ? And in that case Would not all that He had
spoken by His prophets have been fulfilled? True, Christ had suffered; the
Heavens had received Him, but not for ever; only "until” Israel should
repent, and turn to the Lord. Can we believe that this offer so formally and
solemnly made was unreal? We cannot so believe. Israel was
responsible before God for the rejection of that offer; but, had the
consequence of their rejection of that offer been previously made known, such
responsibility would have been impossible. Therefore was the secret purpose of
God hidden in Himself: therefore was it kept secret during times eternal; and
not until Israel had definitely refused to repent, and thus, rejected the offer
to send Jesus Christ from Heaven, not until then, was the secret of God
We must never adopt any system of interpretation
which would have necessitated that rejection of Christ by Israel. Had the
secret been revealed before, they would have been compelled to reject Christ,
and they could not have been held responsible for that rejection.
[Note: This would not have
affected the fulfillment of the Seventy Weeks of Dan. 9. All would have gone
forward; and before the actual "times of refreshing” would have come the "time
of Jacob’s trouble”; and before the sending of Jesus Christ would have come the
revelation of Antichrist, as there foretold; to say nothing of the shortening
of the days provided for in Matt. 24:22 and Rom. 9:28.]
Their present dispersion with all its sufferings,
is in consequence of that rejection, and God is righteous in all His acts.
(2) A KEY TO OLD
The second consequence which flows from the
doctrine of the Mystery is this: Had Israel obeyed the call in Acts 3:19-21,
and the Lord Jesus had been sent, there is not a prophecy in the Old Testament
or in the Gospels which would not have been fulfilled! This is a great truth
and an important principle far-reaching in its results. It tells us that the
Gospels are the conclusion of the Old Testament history, and not the
commencement of Church teaching; except of course, so far as Christ crucified
is the foundation of all blessing, whether for Creation, for Israel, or the Church of God.
The Gospels are a record of the rejection of
Christ on the part of Israel,
and not a record of the foundation of the Church. This exposes the follies of
those who seek to apply the Sermon on the Mount to the Church and the world
during this present dispensation; and who would build up "the New Theology” on
"the teaching of Jesus,” instead of on the teaching peculiar to this
dispensation. It reveals to us the mistakes and errors of those who go back to
the historic Gospels to preach the "Come- to-Jesus Gospel,” instead of
preaching the Gospel from the Pauline Epistles, which are specially given to
the Church for Church teaching and Gospel preaching. Those who adopt the former
plan are those who generally more or less ignore the latter.
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