The Mystery Religion
by Jack M. Lane
I usually introduce this topic by saying, "Today I’d like to talk about the mystery religion. I can guess that some of you are already thinking of some scriptures, like 'Mystery, Babylon the Great,' and 'The mystery of iniquity already works.' If we hear someone mention the mystery religion, that’s the first thing many of us think of. Well, if that's what you think I'm going to talk about, you have another think coming!"
We might remember how one large church organization tells its people not to try too hard to understand the concept of the Trinity, because it’s a mystery. You can’t understand it. All you can do is accept it. If you really try to understand it, you’ll go insane. So just accept it.
We frequently associate the mystery religion with that church organization.
But this is about another mystery religion. This is the religion that usually goes under the name, “New Testament Christianity.” I’m not talking about Protestantism, or Catholicism, or Gnosticism, or New Age-ism, or any other -ism. I mean us. What I call “biblical Christianity.” Some of us call it “walking in the way,” or a variety of other names.
We don’t often consider Christianity to be a mystery religion. But think about it. What we know, what we take for granted, what we teach our children, really is a mystery to the world around us. The people of the world, in their natural state, are usually not receptive to the things of God.
If our parents did a good job of raising us, we might have been more receptive to God’s calling. Or if God did a really good job of shaking us up at some point in our lives, that might have made us more receptive to what God was trying to tell us.
You may or may not remember an old game show called “I’ve Got a Secret.” Well, the scriptures reveal that God had a secret. He kept his secret a secret throughout much of human history. Moses didn’t know the whole story. Abraham didn’t. King David didn’t. The prophets didn’t.
Moses knew enough to say that someday God would send a prophet like him, and he told Israel to listen to that prophet. When John the Baptizer was doing his thing, people asked him, “Are you that prophet?” They knew what Moses said, clear down through the centuries, but nobody knew the whole story.
Abraham knew that some day the land, as far as he could see to the north, south, east, and west, would belong to him and to his descendants. But he didn’t know what we know.
In fact, we know a lot more than the ancients did. It’s been written in the Greek scriptures, and without the Greek scriptures, the New Testament, we wouldn’t know what we know.
Let’s look at some of the scriptures that talk about a mystery. As we go, we will learn more about this mystery religion we’re in.
Speaking the wisdom of God in a mystery
1 Corinthians 2:1-11 (NKJV throughout):
1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
From this we can see that there was some mystery, some hidden wisdom, which God kept secret clear from the beginning, which He now reveals to mature followers through His Spirit.
25 Now to Him [God] 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
26 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—
27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
Here we see that the mystery was kept secret since the world began, but now it’s being revealed through the commandment of God, for the purpose of being obedient to the faith.
And by the way, “now” doesn’t mean today. It means at the time Paul was writing, in the first century A.D. That was the time when God chose to reveal more of His hidden secret.
1 Corinthians 4:1: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
Stewards are the people in charge of things, usually in a boss’s work location or a master’s household. Paul says he is one of the stewards of the mysteries of God. Whatever the mystery is, whatever the mysteries are, they are God’s mystery.
You might remember what the book of Proverbs says, in Proverbs 25:2: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” God took delight both in hiding this precious knowledge and in revealing it to His people in the end times. Since we are “rulers in training,” we are the kings who glory in searching out these matters God still keeps hidden from the world around us.
In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul asks us to put on the whole armor of God, and then he asks the church to pray.
18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
So we’re seeing that this mystery, which has been hidden until the first century A.D., is from God, and has something to do with the gospel.
The mystery and the gospel
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"
11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.
13 Therefore [That’s why] I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, 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.'
16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;
17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
From reading these scriptures, you can start to pick up on the responsibility that comes with knowing the mystery. It’s not just fun and games. If the folks out there are dull of seeing and hearing, that means we’re supposed to be sharp of seeing and hearing. If we can see things the prophets and righteous men of old wanted to see, but couldn’t see, that’s not just so we’ll feel special. God has a reason in doing what He does. He had a special reason for calling people and opening up their eyes and ears.
Part of the job of those to whom these mysteries have been entrusted is to spread that word. Paul took this responsibility very seriously. In Colossians 4 he says something very similar to what he said in Ephesians 6.
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,
4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
This is the mystery, the mystery of Christ, that became part of the gospel message, a message that was not revealed until the first century A.D. It was such an enormous leap forward in knowing what God’s plan was that it became known as “the good news,” or “the gospel.”
In one sense, you could say the gospel is the mystery, and the mystery is the gospel. It’s the mystery of God, which He kept hidden. It’s the mystery of Christ, and what he did for all mankind. It’s the mystery of the kingdom, or the reign of God in our lives, and the better promises of eternal life to those who repent, who believe the gospel, and who obey the gospel.
What is this word, “mystery”? Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible tells us that the Greek word is “musterion (moos-tay'-ree-on); from a derivative of muo (to shut the mouth); a secret or ‘mystery’ (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites): KJV [translates it as] mystery.” You can see a relationship between the Greek word musterion and the English word “mystery,” although “mystery” may not be the best translation. This word musterion might be better translated as “sacred secret.”
Manifested in the flesh
Now, just to complicate matters, I’d like to add a little mystery to this concept of the mystery. It’s in 1 Timothy chapter 3. Let me share with you an interesting thing I found.
1 Timothy 3:16: “And 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.” This is apparently one of the creeds of the early church that were quoted in the scriptures. This is a statement of belief.
But it makes no sense to say all these things about God. When the Greek scriptures talk about God, they always mean the Father. It makes no sense to say that God was received up in glory, and all these other things. That was a red flag for me.
I found that other translations say “He was manifested in the flesh,” etc.
The NIV says, “He appeared in a body,” and the antecedent to “he,” the noun that the pronoun refers to, is God, not Jesus.
So, what’s going on? Is it “he” or is it “God”? At times like that, I go straight to the Greek to find out what’s going on. And you know what I found? What’s interesting is that where it says, in English, “God was manifested in the flesh,” in the Greek there is no word for “God”! In the Greek, it doesn’t say “God was manifested in the flesh,” or “He was manifested in the flesh.” It just says, “manifest in flesh.”
Here’s a more literal transliteration from the Greek: “And without controversy great is the godliness mystery was manifest in flesh, justified in spirit, seen of angels, preached to Gentiles, believed on in world, received up into glory.”
“Great is the godliness mystery.” Yes, I can go along with that. But the next sentence still doesn’t have a subject. My guess us that the translators apparently felt they needed to put something in there to have all the parts of a sentence, a subject for the sentence, so they added in the word “God.”
Well, suppose the thought really is there in the Greek. Let me propose this: This passage might be translated, “Without controversy [or without a doubt] great is the mystery – godliness was manifested in the flesh,” etc.
I’m not going to say that it should be translated that way, and the language is a bit unclear here in the Greek, so this point can remain a mystery for awhile longer.
For now, let’s take it with this “godless” understanding. It says this is a great mystery. Somehow, godliness was manifest in the flesh, or attributes of God were seen in the flesh. The rest of those things in the list are things which typify the life of Jesus, not the Father. So this is part of the mystery of Christ. Somewhere else it says “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Here it seems to say that godliness was manifested in the flesh, and it’s a great mystery.
But that’s only part of the mystery, part of the good news. There’s more good news. We will be raised from the dead to be with God and Jesus for eternity.
1 Corinthians 15:50-54:
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—
52 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.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 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."
The other mystery religion
Next we can look at the reference to the other mystery religion. Gnosticism was already creeping into the congregations. Gnosticism is a religion of secrets, and special knowledge reserved for those who are initiated into the higher ranks. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:7: “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.”
I can’t tell you exactly who Paul is referring to here. The New King James capitalizes the word “he,” but I don’t think God is going to be taken out of the way. You just don’t do that with God. But the point is, this mystery religion, Gnosticism, is a religion of lawlessness.
Another time “mystery” is associated with the great false religion is in Revelation chapter 17.
1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication."
3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.
5 And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
6 I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
7 But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
And the angel goes on to describe the situation. But I wanted to show you that this woman, often defined as a church that controls a mighty empire, is not only named “Babylon the Great,” but she is also named “Mystery”!
But our mystery religion is the better one. We know that God’s mystery, which He kept hidden until the first century A.D., is the story of salvation, the story of living forever with God and all of God’s resurrected children, in joy and happiness, endlessly into the future.
Going to the nations
But even in the first century, this wonderful new faith seemed to be just for the Jewish believers. At least, that’s what the Jewish believers seemed to think. But Jesus said that God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten son. He said to go into all the world, teach all the nations, make students from all the nations.
Peter had his vision of the unclean critters on the bed sheet. That was to show that God didn’t consider Gentiles to be unclean, even though that was apparently a feature of Judaism at the time.
And this became a part of the mystery that God revealed to His people, that the good news would be for everyone, not just for the Jews.
Turn to Romans chapter 11. Paul is talking to the Gentile converts about Jews who were unbelievers.
11 I say then, have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.
12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh [the Jews] and save some of them.
15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16 For if the firstfruit is holy [if the Jews are holy], the lump is also holy [that’s the entire church, including the Gentiles]; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in."
20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these [the Jews], who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 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.
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins."
If you become blinded and lose your vision, you would remember seeing from before the time you were blinded. But if you were born blind, you wouldn’t have any idea what sight really is. Like the man who was born blind, when Jesus healed him, it was a real “eye-opening experience.”
It opened up whole new ways of thinking, using parts of his brain he hadn’t used before. The mere act of seeing, which we take for granted every minute of every day, was a complete mystery to that man who had been born blind. That’s how it is when God opens up a whole new field of understanding to the human race when it had been hidden all along.
You remember how Jesus said, in Matthew 9:16-17:
16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.
17 Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."
He said this because a lot of Jews were going to have trouble relating to this new way of thinking he was bringing. The patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear, the separation, is made worse. The old wineskin breaks open. Jesus was saying that you can’t put the new ideas he was bringing into the old paradigm. The old paradigm will be ruined. It can’t hold the new ideas. And Jesus knew that a lot of Jews, blind from birth, were going to have trouble with this new way of thinking that didn’t match what they had been taught from birth. They had been taught something from birth, and that made them blind from birth. A miracle of seeing takes place, but if you take that miracle of seeing, and sew it to your old garment, or put it in your old, hardened, unyielding wineskin, something’s going to break. It won’t work.
That’s what Jesus was talking about, and that’s what Paul was talking about. God was revealing His mystery back then, that salvation can be obtained through the shed blood of our savior. Not only that, but the Gentiles also have access to that same blood and that same salvation.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
12 that we who first trusted in Christ [the Jewish Christians] should be to the praise of His glory.
13 In Him you also [the Gentile believers] trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Turn next to Colossians chapter 1.
Paul writes to the congregations in the Gentile areas, and he mentions right up front, in chapter 1 of both of these books, Ephesians and Colossians, that the Gentiles can obtain the same salvation the believing Jews can.
24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,
26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints [both Jew and Gentile].
27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.
Back in Ephesians, there’s another passage we need to look at.
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—
2 if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you,
3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already,
4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
5 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:
6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.
8 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
9 and 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;
10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,
12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
There’s a lot in that short space. The mystery of Christ that was not made known in past ages, the unsearchable riches of Christ, is not only salvation, but that the Gentiles can have salvation, and be fellow-heirs, through the same Jesus the Jewish believers looked to. The Gentiles could join this “fellowship of the mystery.” This was God’s eternal purpose, even though it was hidden from mankind for so long.
Christ and the church
There is yet another mystery we should look at. Turn to Ephesians chapter 5. We’re going to expand the concept of the mystery even further.
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,
19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
All of this talk of the married state is not just good advice, but it’s also an allegory to the relationship Jesus has with his church. Jews didn’t have that kind of relationship with Yahweh. Gentiles didn’t have that kind of relationship with their pagan gods. But to be a child of God is to be the bride of Christ. And the relationship we are supposed to have with Jesus is the kind of relationship wives are supposed to have with their husbands. Now that’s a mystery! Great is the mystery! Especially this part.
Why a secret?
But let’s ask a question at this point. Why did God want to keep this incredibly good news a secret? God had a plan of salvation all along. Why not just let mankind know what the plan was? The answer is found back where we started, in 1 Corinthians chapter 2. Let’s go back there.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Do you know what that means? In order for God to carry out His plan, to have a son, to have him be the greatest prophet and miracle worker, and for him to become the sacrifice that would save the world, God had to keep it a deep dark secret, or else Satan would have already counterfeited it endlessly, and Satan would have done everything in his power to stop the crucifixion.
If the rulers of this age had known the mystery, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
It was God’s good pleasure to sacrifice His son for our sake, and, in order to get the job done with a minimum of Satan’s counterfeits, God chose to keep the details a secret.
Even today we can see any number of different understandings about the crucifixion and resurrection, as well as what God is, what His name is, what Jesus was, what his name is, what man is, where man goes at death, and a whole host of other confusions.
And that seems to be part of the mystery. We get frustrated when we run up against the far edge of our understanding on many things. God apparently wants to continue to conceal matters, and He sees whether or not we take delight in searching them out.
That’s a part of the mystery, too. If we love a good mystery, and this is a really good mystery, are we reading the mystery to see “who done it,” check out all the clues along the way, and how it all turns out? I love a good mystery.
The six parts of the mystery
Here’s what Fausset's Bible Dictionary says. There are six New Testament "mysteries":
(1) The incarnation (1 Tim 3:16).
(2) The mystery of iniquity (2 Thess 2:7).
(3) Christ's marriage to the church, Eph 5:32 …
(4) The union of Jews and Gentiles in one body, the present election church (Eph 3:4-6) …
(5) Israel's full and final restoration (Rom 11:25).
(6) The resurrection of the body (1 Cor 15:51).
The dictionary states, “Ordinarily ‘mystery’ refers to those from whom the knowledge is withheld; in the New Testament mystery refers to those to whom it is revealed. It is hidden in God until brought forward; even when brought forward it remains hidden from the carnal.”
Passover and the days of unleavened bread
So that’s the story of the mystery religion. And this is a really good story to tell around Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. What does all this have to do with Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread? Well, what is the meaning of Passover? Up until about the year 30 A.D., Passover was the annual memorial of the time God passed through Egypt at night and killed the firstborn of the Egyptians. The lamb’s blood on the doorposts on that fateful night in ancient Egypt was the sign that Israelites were inside, and their families were spared.
I don’t think God needed to see the blood to be reminded where the Israelites lived. It was a sign to themselves, not to God. Even though the scripture quotes God as saying, “When I see the blood on the doorpost I will pass over that house,” I can’t help but think that God knew where the Israelites lived. They needed to see the blood, as a matter of obedience, and to remind themselves of why they heard the sounds of screaming, yelling and crying from the Egyptian cities. Passover was a memorial to God’s punishment of the Egyptians and Israel being freed from slavery.
What is the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread? Up until about the year 30 A.D., the meaning of the days of unleavened bread was to commemorate the exodus, and the unleavened bread the Israelites baked because they were fleeing and didn’t have time to let their bread dough rise. It was a memorial to being set free from slavery and going out to begin a new life. That’s what it meant to people up until about 30 A.D.
Why do I stress the year 30 A.D.? Because by the year 35 A.D., or 40 A.D., or thereabouts, the idea of a Christology was being developed for the holy days. Now Passover had become a memorial to Jesus’s death, using bread and wine rather than lamb’s flesh. Now the days of unleavened bread became the time we act out the putting of sin out of our lives, and the escape through the waters of baptism from our slavery to sin to our hope of a new life in the promised land.
And we can carry out this Christology to the other holy days, as well.
We have read a number of scriptures where Paul mentioned “dispensation.” There is a field of theology called “dispensationalism,” which I don’t care to get into right now. But the main idea is that the Bible contains what is called “progressive revelation,” which means that God has dealt differently with mankind in different eras, while our sum of knowledge has increased as time and eras go by. I don’t agree with many of the tenets of dispensationalism, but it certainly does appear that God has chosen to reveal His plan in different ways, at different times, in different amounts.
It says in Hebrews 1:1-2: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son …”
We know from our own Bible studies that God has been working out His plan throughout human history, and more information comes to us as time goes by. This is pointed out frequently in the scriptures we’ve looked at, which plainly state that God had a mystery, He kept it hidden from the rulers of this world, and He reveals it to His saints.
So I do believe in progressive revelation to some extent, although I don’t go along with all the ideas of dispensationalism.
Studying the mystery in context
So to wrap this up, we have seen six facets of this mystery, the six mysteries that were listed. And we see in our own lives that God has not yet revealed all the details. He sees us, and knows if we are truly interested in learning His mind and His plan.
Are we studying our scriptures? Are we meditating on them day and night? Are the scriptures more precious to us than fine jewels? Do the saints talk about the scriptures when they get together?
What are we doing as we try to find the meaning for so many biblical questions we have? We’re trying to uncover the mysteries God has hidden. When we are doing that, are we out sinning? Are we lusting and murdering in our hearts? Are we planning our bad deed for the day, which we need to do before we can go to sleep at night? I don’t think so. I think we are exercising the right of kings, trying to uncover the secret things God has hidden, trying to follow up on the tantalizing clues He has left us, trying to solve the puzzle.
I hope we will continue to try to understand the mystery. But I will leave you with one final thought. We need a context in which to study this mystery. Here’s the context, in 1 Corinthians 13.
1 Corinthians 13:1-2:
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
We mustn’t get the big head if we understand some of God’s mysteries. There is something that is very much more important than understanding all mysteries, and all the rest. If we work on the mysteries within the framework of love, and let that be our guiding light, that’s the best path to take. I don’t think we will ever know the mysteries fully in this life. As it says in verses 12 and 13:
1 Corinthians 13:12-13:
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I love a good mystery. But the better thing to remember is that greater than the mystery is the love.