mysteries in the Bible

Jesus spoke of two mysteries.  Both Paul and John wrote about mysteries.  So what are these mysteries we find in the Bible?  Are they completely revealed to us today?  Or do some remain mysteries?  

The Kingdom Mysteries Revealed by Jesus

  1. Kingdom of Heaven 
  2. Kingdom of God

1. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven

Mat 13:11  …it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…

2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of God

Mark 4:11  …Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God…

Many Bible readers fail to recognize that these are two very different kingdoms.  The Kingdom of Heaven, which both John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed to be “at hand [near]” was a literal, physical kingdom. In a literal, physical kingdom, the king dwells with his people and sits on a throne in a palace.  Why was the Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed to be near? Because Jesus was dwelling on earth with God’s people. However, Jesus never sat on a throne in a palace.  The Kingdom of Heaven will be fully here in the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. Then Jesus will sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem (just as the angel promised Mary that her son would do — Luke 1:32).

The other kingdom Jesus spoke of, the Kingdom of God, is here on earth now, yet it is not seen in the physical realm.  It is a spiritual Kingdom. Of this Kingdom also, Jesus is the King and He reigns, sitting on the “throne” of the hearts of all who belong to Him. King Jesus reigns through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit in this spiritual kingdom of which He spoke and Paul wrote.

Mat 6:33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Luke 17:21  Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Rom 14:17  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Summary

Jesus differentiated these as two separate mysteries of two separate kingdoms.  It is helpful when we read the Bible that we do the same.  We must understand that when the Kingdom of Heaven (God’s dwelling place) is here on earth during the Millennial Reign, righteousness will flow as a mighty stream (Amos 5:24); and “every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together…” (Isaiah 40:4-5). That has not yet happened…but one day it will.  Until then, we live in the Kingdom of God.  May we serve our King with gladness (Psalm 100:2), and come into His gates with thanksgiving,  and bless His name (Psalm 100:4)

Paul Revealed Nine Mysteries

  1. Godliness 
  2. Israel’s blindness
  3. His Will 
  4. God and Christ
  5. The Faith   
  6. Christ and the Church 
  7. Christ 
  8. Iniquity
  9. The Rapture 

1. The Mystery of Godliness

1 Tim 3:16  And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

The mystery of godliness is a reference to the power that enables a Christian to live godly in this world.  We should all seek to have godliness exhibited in our lives. This world is not our home. It opposes God and His will and ways.  Our home is in Heaven (Phil 3:20), and yet we remain here. Therefore, we must not conform to this world (Ro 12:2).  

So what is the mystery of godliness?  It was exhibited when God the Son came to earth, took on flesh, lived honoring God the Father, preached the will and ways of God, and was glorified. That’s the godliness we seek. And Jesus has given us the Power to have such godliness.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and give us the strength to overcome the world just as He overcame the world. 

When we think we are not able to do something, or we feel we can’t overcome something, and then we find the strength to do so, we should marvel at the great mystery of godliness–the Spirit who leads us, guides us, convicts us, sanctifies us, and comforts us in all we do.  He sanctifies us…until we go home.

2. The Mystery of Israel’s blindness

Rom 11:25  For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

The mystery of Israel’s blindness is that God has hidden from their sight that which they have chosen not to see (Luke 19:42) — but only for a time.  When “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” God will turn His face to the Jewish people and reveal Himself to them (just as prophesied) and their blindness will depart them and a believing remnant will see their God.  This is why Paul said that this blindness is only “in part.”

3. The Mystery of His Will

Eph 1:9-11  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one 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:

The mystery of God’s will is that, in His perfect timing and in His perfect way, He will work all things out according to His perfect purpose and plan (Ro 8:28). While much is revealed to us about the final reconciling of God to His people, there yet remains a mystery, but yet a mystery with a guarantee of completion.

4. The Mystery of God and Christ

Col 2:2  That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;

This mystery of God the Father and Christ the Son was not easy for the people at the time to comprehend.   It was the incarnation of Jesus into human flesh, the fullness of the Godhead, and the divine wisdom and knowledge as seen in Jesus’ earthly ministry and as needed for the redemption and reconciliation of man.

5. The Mystery of The Faith

1 Tim 3:9  Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.

“The faith,” in this context, is linked to the gospel. Therefore, “the faith” can be understood broadly to mean the whole of the doctrines of the New Covenant or more specifically as the good news, i.e. the gospel of saving grace in Jesus Christ, upon which every doctrine of the New Covenant lies.  The passage in 1 Timothy 3 requires bishops (deacons) to hold to this mystery of faith with a pure conscience. (1 Tim 3:1-9), as should all Christians.  In doing so, we honor the One who died that we might live, and we are to be a strong testimony of His saving grace to a lost world.

6. The Mystery of Christ and the Church

Eph 5:32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

This mystery of which Paul spoke concluded his teaching on the biblical relationship between a husband and wife (Eph 5:22-32).  The lesson put forth is of a created order of the man, who was created first out of the dust of the earth, followed by the woman who was created next from the rib of man (out of his side).  Created to be a helper to man, this passage tells us that the created order says a wife is to submit to her husband’s headship.  However, it begins first with the sacrificial, uncompromising love that a husband is to have for his wife and to give to her.  As Paul concludes his teaching, he tells us that he is really speaking of spiritual things. The “great mystery” is that this lesson is really about the relationship between Christ and the church.

As the bridegroom, Christ loves His betrothed bride (read: Are we the Bride of Christ now, or is that future?) with a sacrificial, undying, unrelenting, never-failing love and so His bride should willing submit to Him.

7. The Mystery of Christ

Eph 3:3-6 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words. Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
Col 1:26-27  Even the mystery which has been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Paul clearly defined this mystery as something that God had planned from ages past but had not revealed.  The mystery of Christ is the mystery of the indwelling Holy Spirit being given to all people (Jews AND Gentiles) who come to Jesus in faith.  This is the power of the resurrection (Phil 3:10), and it is given to all believers to equip them to live a godly life and to share the gospel message (Col 4:3).

8. The Mystery of Iniquity

2 Th 2:7  For the mystery of iniquity doth already work…

Notice this is not the mystery of sin, but of iniquity.  Sin is moral failure in breaking God’s commandments.  Iniquity is moral uncleanness.  It is what we are born in, stained by the sin nature inherited from our father Adam.  It is the uncleanness of an unregenerate heart and it is incomprehensible to us just how grievous it is to God.  It is only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we can be victorious over iniquity (sins and transgression, too.) Read Sin, Iniquity and Transgression? How are they different?

9. The Mystery of The Rapture

1 Cor 15:51-53  Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Paul is telling us that not all will sleep (die) but some will be changed (glorified) at the time of Christ’s coming for His bride.  Jesus is called our blessed hope, whose glorious appearing we watch for (Titus 2:13).  His glorious appearing is  most commonly called the Rapture and it will be the time when Christians in the grave will be bodily raised, and those still alive will be caught up to Heaven to be with the Lord:

1 Th 4:16-17  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Summary

As clearly seen, many of Paul’s “mysteries” overlap.  That should be of no surprise since, in all of his epistles, Paul writes of the same things. This shows the consistency and the cohesiveness of the doctrines of our faith, which some may at one time have been “mysteries,” but no longer are.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church:

1 Cor 2:9-12  …as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. [mysteries we have not seen, heard or understood]  But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. 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.

John Wrote of Three Mysteries

  1. The Seven Stars & Golden Candlesticks
  2. Babylon the Great
  3. The Woman

1. The Mystery of the Seven Stars & Golden Candlesticks

Rev 1:20a  The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks…

The Lord is so good.  In the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells John to write what he sees.  And John saw many things that are not clear in his understanding.  But Jesus revealed to him their meanings. In this case, Jesus clearly told what the mystery of the seven stars was:

Rev 1:20b  …The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Reading further we learn the message that Jesus had for each of these churches was really shrouded in mystery.  It was the same message of redemption Paul and the other New Testament writers preached; and Jesus gave the same warnings about falling away and the same admonition to remember, repent, and return.

2. The Mystery of Babylon the Great

Rev 17:5  And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

What John saw was certainly mysterious.  Here, Jesus revealed to him the origin of an evil “harlot” that will come out of the mystery “city of Babylon.”  This is, of course, prophecy and is yet to be fulfilled.  Therefore, we can only study the clues that Jesus gave to understand these words.

While Babylon was an ancient city on the Euphrates River, the name here seems to be a symbolic reference to Rome (Rev 17:9, 1 Pet 5:13) from which will rise up a “church”/religious system during the Tribulation.  It will be a universal church, as well as a political and commercial system reminiscent of the ancient Roman Empire. The Antichrist will be the leader of this system.  So the name “Babylon the Great” represents both a place and a system much like “Wall Street” represents both a place and system.

3. The Mystery of the Woman

Rev 17:7  And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

The mystery of this harlot is two-fold:

  1. First, the harlot’s identity is somewhat of a mystery. The passage does give clues, and many have understood those clues to be pointing to the leader of the future “church” (or religious system) in the Tribulation. John saw a woman with seven heads that represented seven mountains on which the woman sat (Rev 17:9) These seven mountains represented seven kingdoms, “five of which have fallen, one that is, and one that is to come” (Rev 17:10). Jesus revealed much more, but that description is sufficient for our purpose here.
  2. Second, the harlot’s purpose is somewhat of a mystery. Understanding how this “woman” will be an instrument in God’s hands requires studying the entire book of Revelation and understanding Old Testament prophecies of the seven-year period of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7), known as the Tribulation.

Summary

The first mystery that Jesus gave to John is fully understood as it relates to the time in which we live, the time of the Church and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who explains all things. The second and third mysteries remain mysteries still…at least in part.  While God is gracious and has revealed much for our understanding, these mysteries are yet future and should not be a focus of our daily lives.   We will not be present when they are revealed, but instead, we will be in Heaven with the Lord as promised in the revealed mystery of the Rapture.  We will watch as all the events of the Tribulation unfold and then these mysteries will become clear in our understanding.

In Conclusion

Until the time when Jesus comes for us, we should echo the words of the prophets when they did not understand the mystery of future events:  “Oh Lord, thou knowest.” (Jeremiah 15:15, Ezekiel 37:3). And, we should keep looking up (Luke 21:2) and always be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15).

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Do not be anxious about anything.  (Phil 4:6)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must rightly remember who is in control.  Our God is sovereign over all things, including COVID-19.  As Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The sovereignty of God is a soft pillow on which weary people lay their heads.” 

Remember also God’s gracious promise, and that it is true and He is faithful to keep it:  Hebrews 13:5 …”I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  The next verse remind us of the power that comes in trusting God and how we can live:  Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man [or COVID-19] shall do to me.

God loves us, and in Christ we find confidence and calm in times of uncertainty and trouble.  When we trust in God, fear is replaced with faith, stress is replaced with strength, anxiety is gone and hope abounds, problems become opportunities, and we are able to receive the blessings God has for us in the midst of difficult circumstances. Turn to Jesus. He will lead you to the still waters and give rest for your troubled soul.  

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…Hebrews 6:19

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