You know, Phil. It’s not that there’s not a beauty and glorious saving power in Christ apart from the context that the mystery provides. The gospel is still a revelation to the heart, even if it is not fully appreciated that it existed in the Old Testament in the form of a prophetic mystery.
I see it like a jewel that has its own native beauty that stands in one sense on its own. But the jeweler who cuts the precious gem has in mind a well chosen setting that he regards as essential to bring out the jewel’s fullest brilliance. To me, that’s what seeing this mystery in its original background does for our vision of God. It provides the setting in which it has pleased the Lord for us to see the glory of His Son in the context that He chose and prepared. For basic salvation, it is not essential. But for the fuller glory of Christ, it is indispensable. It also serves to protect against distortion, so that the Christ that is worshipped is the true Christ of God and not “another Jesus” (2Cor 11:4) of “another gospel” (Gal 1:6).
The gospel is the first century revelation of the sealed testimony (or ‘vision’) that was fully foretold in the prophets (Acts 26:22), but not fully revealed (“kept under wraps” Heb of Isa 8:16; Keil and Delitzch) until the appointed time (Ro 16:25-26; Eph 6:19). No time now, but a review of all that scripture says concerning the mystery of the kingdom and the gospel in both testaments will show that its purpose was to accomplish not only salvation but also judgement. It was hidden for judgment.
God prepared a prophetic mystery, not only to show His glory in its revelation, but also to test and expose the pride of unbelief, even as it revealed the glory of God’s saving wisdom to the penitent and believing (‘unto babes’; Mt 11:25). Though now an ‘open secret’, universally declared from the house tops, it is still foolishness to the natural man.
[Note: It is well to remember that Jesus refrained from explaining many things, even to His disciples (Jn 16:12), even as He commanded silence until the time appointed for fulfillment and full revelation (Mk 8:30; 9:9). The mystery of His necessary sufferings and resurrection began to be expounded on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:46). But the full revelation of the gospel of both comings would not be publicly declared until Pentecost with the outpouring of the Spirit (Acts 2:32-35; 3:18-21 w/ 1Pet 1:11-12). Until then, the question remained as to when the risen Christ would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Therefore, the relation of the revelation of the ‘mystery of the gospel’ (Eph 6:19) to the outpouring of the Spirit stands out as very significant, and not enough considered in the theology of the church.]
Many that would agree with all the above, might not be aware that although the mystery has been once and for all revealed in terms of history and the New Testament scriptures, it cannot be apprehended in a way that changes the heart except by revelation of the Spirit. To effect this sovereign transaction, flesh and blood is powerless (Mt 16:17).
Fewer still consider that the mystery of the gospel will be revealed to the penitent remnant of Israel at Christ’s return (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39). Until then, the mystery of Christ’s twofold advent remains a rock of offence and stone of stumbling, not only to Israel, but to the nations that will soon be forced to hear and consider the relationship of Israel to Christ’s return.
For this cause, the mystery remains a snare and a trap, not only for Israel, but for all nations that persists in their refusal to consider the issue of the Jew and the Land (despised “Zionism”) in relation to the prophetic testimony concerning the everlasting covenant and Christ’s return.
At the same time that Israel rejects the testimony of the gospel in order to enter into its fateful “covenant with death and hell” with the Antichrist (Isa 28:12, 15-18), the nations (and the professing church in the nations) will be required to choose whether they will receive or reject the the prophetic testimony concerning the relationship of Christ’s imminent return to “the controversy of Zion” (Isa 34:8; Zech 12:2).
So despite its now open revelation, the mystery remains the same stone of stumbling that will once more sift and judge, not only Israel, but all nations, and no less the church (Ro 11:25; 1Pet 4:17). Therefore, the mystery is still the two edged sword of salvation and judgment. It is still the tried stone of testing and division. That has not changed.
It is as interesting as it is paradoxical to consider that the part of the mystery that concerned Christ’s first coming to suffer, which was so hidden and unknown to first century Israel, is now so published abroad and known. Whereas, the earth shaking controversy over Jerusalem that would embroil all nations, and plunge the world into a final unequaled tribulation, which was a common expectation among apocalyptic sects of the Jews, is today little considered if it is known at all. But it is the end cap of the same mystery that tested Israel. It is this second stage of the mystery leading to Christ’s return that will cause the nations to stumble at the mystery of Israel, just as Israel stumbled at Jesus.
I’ll be anxious to see more of what you’ve written on this awesome mystery of Israel and the Church.
Lately, I continue to see a need to write at some length on the relationship of the so-called ‘gap’ to the mystery of Christ’s twofold advent. Some of it is common dispensational ‘fare’, but there are some unexplored dimensions that are central to the church’s present and future conversation with Israel. The much maligned gap is at the heart of the mystery of Christ, Israel, and the church. In reaction to such ridicule, and in view of its central significance to the glory of the mystery, I have called it, “the glory of the gap.” :-) Reggie