By Oscar M. Baker
This question has been asked many times. The subject is new to so many people. I think it well to go over and over the material on it so that all may understand.
The mystery was a secret. the Greek word is MUSTERION, meaning a secret that is hid until a time comes to reveal it. There are several secrets mentioned in the Bible, such as; the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of godliness, the mystery of Christ, and others. The mystery that we consider here is the one that Paul especially emphasizes in Ephesians and Colossians. If you read these two epistles carefully you will recognize my quotations from them even tho I do not mention chapter and verse each time.
This secret was given by special dispensation of God to the apostle Paul. Paul was to make it known to the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus. All this happens after Paul has completed his three missionary journeys and after his arrest in Jerusalem. It could not have been before, for at Jerusalem Paul declared that up to that time he had taught nothing beyond what was in the Law and the Prophets. What he had taught was no secret. But the mystery which was his theme, later was one that had been hid from ages and generations and had been hid in God.
One phase of the mystery which had been hid was that God would some day deal directly with the Gentiles instead of thru Israel. From the time Israel left Egypt until eight years after the death of the Lord, it was impossible for a Gentile to be saved except by being circumcised and becoming a Jew. In Acts 10 Peter used the keys given to him to unlock the door of the kingdom to the Gentiles. This happened at the home of Cornelius. None of the 12 had preached to Gentiles before this, neither did they after this. Peter prepared the way for Paul who was the apostle to the Gentiles. However, during the rest of the Acts period, the Gentile was a grafted in olive branch, a wild one. He received his blessing and position from the root, which was the Jew. It was a time when the Jew was first.
During this time a Gentile could be saved and belong to the church of God if he observed four things:
1)Abstain from meats offered to idols
2)Abstain from blood
3)Abstain from things strangled
4) Abstain from fornication
These Gentiles could become the spiritual children of Abraham and partake of the promise. They were warned that they might be plucked out if they did not bear fruit.
But when the mystery was made known, the Jew was no longer first. The Gentile had no dependence on the Jew for any blessing or position.
In the church which is the body of Christ, Jew and Gentile are equal God is now building a temple. It is made of living stones. It grows. Jew and Gentile are both joint-heirs with Christ on an equal footing. There are no inequalities of gifts as in the acts period.
Before the revelation of the mystery, it was known that the Lord was seated with the Father in His throne, but it was not known that some day a body of believers would be blessed in that place. The hope of the church today is to be manifested with Him in Glory. Never before had man any expectation of future blessing anywhere but on the earth. No one in the Old Testament expected to go to heaven when they died. Those of the Acts period did expect to be caught up in the air to meet the Lord when He came, but they would come back to earth with Him immediately to be with Him in the setting up of the Kingdom.
Another thing that had been kept secret was the members of the body would be sealed until the day of redemption (resurrection). This sealing is the witness of the Holy Spirit. This seal cannot be broken. This is all accomplished without any requirements such as church membership, ordinances, payment of dues, or any other thing man may think up to impose on one whom the truth has set free.
THE HOPE OF ISRAEL was to be resurrected and possess the land promised to their fathers. They had the 10 Commandments, diverse laws and ordinances, and circumcision. There is nothing in the Old Testament about men going to heaven after death.
THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD was to be caught up, either dead or alive, into the air to meet and come back with the Lord when He comes to set up His Kingdom on the earth. This church was made up of both Jew and Gentile with the Jew first. There were two faiths, and two gospels. The middle wall of partition was between. They were to observe water baptism and the Passover. They were still subject to the law, (except Gentiles as in article before).
THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH WHICH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST is to have an earlier resurrection, to be caught up into the super-heavens and manifested with Him in Glory. This is His coronation where He is made King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This happens before either the hope of Israel or that of the church of God.
That leaves the nations which were before Abraham which are not included in the three groups above to appear at the Great White Throne. There are the four future resurrections. In which will you appear? What is your hope?
Originally Published Oct. 1948