‘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 (Matthew 13:11).”’
In the everyday sense, a ‘mystery’ is knowledge withheld. In Scripture it is knowledge that is made known by divine revelation, i.e., knowledge revealed in a manner, and at a time appointed by God, to those who have been illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament prophets wrote and spoke their prophesies, but they did not fully comprehend them. An understanding of them would come later, when a knowledge of God’s purposes would be revealed to the writers of the New Testament. God revealed these hidden mysteries to Paul the Apostle and to other writers of the New Testament.
In Colossians 1:26-28 Paul tells of a significant mystery that was made known to him and which he earnestly imparted to the church. He wrote of ‘the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 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. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.’
Note that this mystery is revealed to God’s saints (v. 26) – not to the natural man who does not receive the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).
And what exactly is this ‘mystery’? It is the knowledge of the *’hope’ which is laid up for those with God-given faith by His grace (Ephesians 2:8). They have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus, and their sins have been forgiven (Colossians 1:14). They will inherit eternal life, i.e., ‘the riches of the glory,’ because of Christ in them (v. 27).
Having made peace through the blood of His cross, Jesus ‘has reconciled all things to’ His Father (v. 20). This is true of all born-again Christians who were once ‘alienated’, and by their wicked works were ‘enemies’ of the Father (v. 21).
The Blindness of Israel
A fundamental aspect of God’s mystery of salvation is the blindness of Israel (Romans 11:25), which is still true today. Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah, and they cannot comprehend a Jewish remnant ever sharing the kingdom with Gentiles on account of their common salvation – despite the fact the Jews were to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 26:23)
Not only are the majority of Jews blind to the mystery of salvation through the blood of Jesus, but in this respect they are no different to the majority of Gentiles. By contrast, Jesus explained to His believing disciples,’“To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may not see and not perceive, And hearing they may not hear and not understand; Lest they should turn And their sins be forgiven them (Mark 4:11, 12)’’”’
But there will come a time when there will be an influx of Israelites into the kingdom, as the following verses testify: ‘And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come from Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins (Romans 11:26, 27).”’
Paul is not prophesying that every physical descendant of Abraham will be saved; rather that the new Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), which is composed of both Jews and Gentiles, will be saved. They are the ‘new creation’ spoken of in Galatians 6:15: ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.’
Jews and Gentiles Comprise the Kingdom
Paul sums it up this way: ’In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 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 (Ephesians 1:7-10).’
He goes on to explain: ‘For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles – if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may know my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 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; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 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 (3:1-7).’
Just as Paul could not restrain himself from preaching the mystery, as Christ’s ambassador (6:20), I pray that we too have the same faithful zeal as ambassadors of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:1). Amen.