MYSTERY

In New Testament usage, a mystery is not a puzzle or a secret that leaves people in ignorance, but a truth that God reveals. It usually refers to something that people normally would not know, but that God in his grace makes known to them (Eph 3:4-5; Col 1:26; Rev 17:7). The truths concerning salvation through Jesus Christ are mysteries in this sense. People could not work them out by themselves, but God who planned salvation from eternity reveals them (Rom 16:25-26; 1 Tim 3:9,16). Jesus taught his disciples that there was a mystery concerning the kingdom of God (Matt 13:11).

He revealed that God has already established his kingdom in the world, even though the world is still under the power of Satan. God does not yet force people to submit to the kingdom’s authority. Consequently, those who are not in the kingdom live in the world alongside those who are. The decisive separation will take place on the day of judgment (Matt 13:24-30,36-43; see KINGDOM OF GOD). Paul’s preaching was a revelation of the mystery of the gospel and the mystery of Christ (Eph 6:19; Col 2:2; 4:3). He showed that God’s plan of salvation through the gospel was to unite Jewish and Gentile believers in one body through Jesus Christ. All share equally in the full blessings of God, without any distinction on the basis of nationality (Eph 3:3-6; Col 1:26-27; cf. Rom 3:21-24). This unified body is a picture, a foretaste and a guarantee of the unity that there will be throughout the universe when God, through Christ, finally removes all rebellion and disharmony (Eph 1:9-10; 3:9-10; cf. 1 Cor 15:25; see GOSPEL). A further mystery reveals how believers can participate in the blessings of this coming glorious age. God will remove all the effects of sin and death from his people for ever, through the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of all believers to a new state of existence in spiritual, imperishable bodies (1 Cor 15:51-53; see RESURRECTION).

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