Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chapter Two - The Disclosure of the Mystery

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, a disclosure is (1) the act of disclosing; an uncovering and opening to view; discovery (2) the act of revealing; utterance of what was secret; a telling (3) the act of making known what was concealed.

The mystery was not an afterthought or "Plan B" of God for it was the “eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11). However, God purposely kept it a secret for over four thousand years. The questions that naturally arise are:
1. Why did God keep it secret?
2. When did God reveal it?
3. Who did He reveal it to?

From Genesis 12 until Acts 8 God’s revelation primarily concerns the nation of Israel. The Gentiles are only dealt with in relation to Israel. God chose Abraham and promised to make of him a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). He gave Israel covenants (Romans 9:4) concerning a land (Genesis 17:8) and a kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12-16). The mystery concerns a spiritual body in which the distinction between Israel and the Gentiles does not exist. God did not reveal to Israel what did not concern them. How could Christ legitimately offer Himself as King to Israel if it was already revealed to them that they would be “cast away” while the body of Christ was being built (Romans 11:25)?

The suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ was prophesied to Israel (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53) but the full magnitude and understanding of what it would accomplish was not. That wasn't revealed until after the resurrection of Christ. Had the princes of the world known what Christ would accomplish by His cross, "they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). It was Pharaoh’s decree to kill the male babies of the Israelites that caused Moses to be brought up in his own house (Exodus 1:15 – 2:10). Pharaoh actually raised the man that God used to deliver His people out of Egypt. Likewise, God allowed Satan to have Christ crucified but He used that very death to destroy the devil (Hebrews 2:14). Satan, that great deceiver, deceived himself when he had Jesus killed for it was by the cross that redemption was accomplished. The church which is the body of Christ is built upon the basis of the cross of Christ (Ephesians 2:11-22). 

You will search in vain to find the mystery of the body of Christ in the OT scriptures. The prophets spoke of the “sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:11). The Jews had a difficult time trying to reconcile the prophecies that described a suffering Servant with those that described a glorious King. If the Jews did not understand that there would be two separate comings of Christ (Luke 24:21) they sure did not know anything about the parenthetical mystery age in between. The OT prophets did not see this present age whatsoever! There are prophetic passages in which we read about both comings of Christ as though what He was going to accomplish would occur at the same time.

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth [first coming].
4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law [second coming]. (Isaiah 42:1-4)

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD
[first coming], and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; [second coming]”. (Isaiah 61:1-2)

Another example is found in Hosea 3:4-5 where we read about both the judgment on Israel and her restoration.

4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: [the mystery is revealed during this time but not a word is said about it in this prophecy] 5 Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.”

You will also search in vain to find the mystery in the Gospel records. Consider these facts about the ministries of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the twelve apostles.

John the Baptist

1. The purpose of his prophesied ministry was to prepare the way for the King.

2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Mark 1:2-3)

2. He preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:1-2)

3. He baptized with water in order to manifest Christ to Israel (John 1:31). His baptism was “the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins”. This baptism looked forward to the New Covenant which God will be make with Israel when Christ sets up His kingdom (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Israel, as a nation, does not receive remission of sins until the return of Christ (Acts 3:19).

31 And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. (John 1:31)

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. (Mark 1:4-5)

4. When he was in prison he doubted that Jesus was the Christ (Matthew 11:2-6) because he was expecting the kingdom to be set up shortly ("at hand" means very near). He did not understand why he, as the forerunner of the King, was in prison if the kingdom of heaven was at hand. At this point, the mysteries of the kingdom were not revealed. These would have answered John’s doubts. Obviously, John the Baptist DID NOT preach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

The Earthly Ministry of Jesus Christ

1. His earthly life and ministry were under the law.

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (Galatians 4:4)

17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)

2. In His earthly ministry He confirmed the promises made to the Jewish fathers.

8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: (Romans 15:8)

3. He preached the gospel of the kingdom and worked the signs of the kingdom.

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

4. He was not sent to the Gentiles. He did minister to a few Gentiles but the exceptions prove the rule. He certainly loves the world, but according to prophecy Israel is to be saved first and then the Gentiles are blessed through their rise.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24)

5. Knowing of His rejection the Lord instructed His disciples in mysteries (Matthew 13) and began to prepare them for the tribulation period (see Matthew 24 for example). If the mystery was revealed at this point why would Christ instruct His disciples in preparation for the tribulation period which will take place AFTER the Grace Age closes with the rapture?

The Twelve Apostles

1. They were sent to Israel to preach the gospel of the kingdom and to work the signs of the kingdom.

5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:5-8)

2. They are promised twelve thrones in the kingdom.

28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28)

3. They did not understand the death of Christ nor did they believe in His resurrection (until Christ appeared to them after His resurrection and opened their understanding).

9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.
11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
(Luke 24:9-11)

Carefully compare the following passages of scripture:

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures
:” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

1 Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.
2 And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
3 And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.
4 And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart. 5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.
6 And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where. (Luke 9:1-6)

31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.
32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on:
33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. (Luke 18:31-34)

The twelve apostles did not preach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ before it was accomplished. Jesus did not even begin to talk to them about this until the end of His ministry (Matthew 16:21-23). They preached the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23; 24:14) which was the good news (gospel basically means good news) that the prophesied kingdom was at hand. Even after the resurrection of Christ they did not preach the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in the same way that Paul did. In Acts 2 and 3, Peter preaches the cross as BAD NEWS (he does not say that Christ died for our sins) telling ISRAEL that they killed their Messiah and that now they must repent of this awful deed. But with Paul the “preaching of the cross” (1 Corinthians 1:18) is GOOD NEWS because it is the power of God unto salvation.

In the Gospels, the King offered Himself to Israel and they (as a nation) rejected Him. After He arose from the dead He appeared several times to His disciples over a period of forty days (Acts 1:1-11). He showed them that His suffering had to precede the glory of the kingdom and prepared them to RE-OFFER the kingdom to Israel. They had to replace Judas (Acts 1:13-26) before the offer could be made because there must be twelve apostles to sit on twelve thrones in the kingdom (Matthew 19:28). Now, with the great sign of the resurrection (Matthew 12:39-40) and the baptism with the Holy Ghost for greater signs and wonders (Acts 2) the leaders of Israel are without excuse to be ignorant that Jesus is the Christ (Luke 23:24, Acts 3:17). In Acts 2 Peter indicts Israel for killing the Messiah and calls on them to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” and exhorts them “Save yourselves from this untoward generation”. In Acts 3:19-21 Peter gives a bona-fide OFFER of the kingdom. 

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

This offer was rejected by the leaders of Israel (Acts 4-7) and culminated with the stoning of Stephen. When they stoned Stephen (who they knew was filled with the Holy Ghost) they committed blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which Jesus warned would not be forgiven in this world or the world to come (Matthew 12:31-32). Israel rejected the Father (1 Samuel 8:7), the Son (Matthew 27:22), and now the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Three strikes and you are OUT! At this point everything was in line for the tribulation period to begin. As the Jews “gnashed” on Stephen “with their teeth” he “looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus STANDING on the right hand of God”. Jesus was standing in preparation for judgment (Psalm 110:1; James 5:9). God could have begun to pour out His wrath but instead poured out His GRACE. 

Instead of bringing in the tribulation period, God saved Saul of Tarsus (later called Paul, a Gentile name), who was a leader in Isarel's rebellion against Him, by “exceeding abundant” grace (1 Timothy 1:12-16) and sent him as the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). Christ from heaven revealed the "gospel of the grace of God" (Galatians 1:11-12) and the mystery of the body of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-12; Colossians 1:21-29) directly to him. The other apostles and prophets had the mystery revealed to them by the Spirit through Paul's teaching.

Most believe that the body of Christ was started in Acts 2 on the basis that the disciples were baptized with the Holy Ghost. They assume that this was when the Spirit began to form the body of Christ. It is important to understand that the 
baptism with the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:5) is NOT the same thing as baptism by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). There are two different baptisms that involve the Holy Spirit. Consider these contrasts:

With the Holy Ghost                            By the Spirit
1. Outward manifestations (Acts 2:4)    1. No outward manifestations (Rom. 6:3)
2. For power (Luke 24:49)                     2. For salvation (Gal. 3:26-27)
3. According to prophecy (Joel 2:28)    3. According to the mystery (Eph. 4:4-5)
4. Christ baptizing (Matt. 3:11)              4. The Spirit baptizing (1 Cor. 12:13)

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