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‘Mystery’

 

Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version.

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‘I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, . . .

 that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

– Rom. 11:25

 

Q What is meant by ‘mystery’?

 

A To be a rounded Christian requires one to be both godly and informed. To be aware of the world around us is to be tuned into the signs of the times, the indicators of prophecies given long ago. To understand the plan of the ages requires us to pay diligent attention to the manner in which God is working out His purpose. This does not mean that we will understand all things in advance, any more than Jesus knew everything while in the flesh. The revealing of divine truth comes on its own timetable; until then, it remains a ‘mystery’ not because it is unfathomable or magical, but because the time for it to be explained has not yet arrived.

 

Adding a few comments to Rom. 11: 25 then, we have:

 

I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant [agnoeo, un-knowing or agnostic] of this mystery [Paul is giving new truth, formerly secret], . . . that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

 

The ‘secret’ here is not the fact that the Jews were blinded, or hardened against the truth that Christ was their Messiah that was evident to all  but that they would remain in this condition until the full ‘number’ of the Church (the Little Flock) would be gathered prior to Christ’s reign over earth. In v. 26 Paul designates the Church in its fulness, joined with Christ, as ‘Sion’ (Zion) and Israel as ‘Jacob’:

 

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written [in Isa. 59:20, 21], There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

 

As the Apostle Paul had elsewhere pointed out, the Jewish nation, represented by the olive tree, was pruned down to a relative few who had answered the gospel call. In their place, believing Gentiles were grafted in. This meant that the Church then and since comprised more Gentiles than Jews, the natural heirs of the Abrahamic promise. This is laid out in Rom. 11: 13-32.

 

Blindness or hardness of heart will be lifted from Israel when Christ returns with His Church to set up the kingdom on earth and national Israel is converted. But their conversion could not occur before the Church was complete. This passage in Romans, therefore, sets out at least three important facts:

 

1. That Israel was blinded for a purpose (that God might have mercy on them);

2. That their blindness could not be removed before the Church was complete; and

3. That there is a numerical upper limit (144,000) of those who become members of the Church.

 

Connected with No. 3 is the truth, previously not known, that ‘the body [of Christ] is not one member, but many’ (1 Cor. 12:12, 14, 20, 27; emphasis added). Compare this passage with Eph. 5:30-32:

 

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

 

Here Paul couches the ‘mystery’ in the figure of husband and wife, where Christ Jesus is the groom and the Church His wife. (Incidentally, this is solid proof, if any were needed, that marriage is between a man and a woman.)

 

To sum up, a biblical ‘mystery’ is not a fantastical conglomeration of impossibly unreasonable concepts, but a secret, not revealed before its due time, for reasons which the Heavenly Father reserves to Himself.

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June 2017

 

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