Romans Bible Study Lesson 49

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The Mystery

Romans 11:25—27

The olive tree illustrates how God is dealing with Israel. In chapters 9—11 Paul speaks specifically to the Jews in the church at Rome to explain to them why it appears God is changing His plans and perhaps alleviating any fears that God will not fulfill His promises given specifically to Israel. With some natural branches cut out of the olive tree and wild olive branches grafted in, Paul is showing Israel that God has gotten rid of the unfaithful group of Israel and is now working through believing Gentiles. Remember, this tree represents the group through whom God is working but does not represent salvation.

Verse 25

In the first sentence of this verse Paul did not want us to be ignorant of this mystery. What mystery? In context Paul is referring to the idea of Israel being partially hardened and cut off of the olive tree. To have Israel removed from their place of favor and the Gentiles put in their place was a new concept that could not be traced back to Old Testament prophecy. It was a Mystery.

• The Mystery

There are two ways of understanding a mystery. The first would be like an Agatha Christie murder mystery where all the facts and details would need to be acquired and assembled so you could logically ascertain who is the murderer.

The second type of mystery is information that is completely secret and is undiscoverable. In the Bible, God had a plan that He kept secret for many generations until He decided to reveal it to mankind. In Paul’s writings, the Mystery is undiscoverable and untraceable in the Old Testament. The Mystery remained hidden until God decided to reveal it through Paul.

Colossians 1:25—26 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people

1 Corinthians 2:7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory;

Ephesians 3:8—9 8To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;

This last verse has an unfortunate translation in the NASB. The King James Version is more accurate in saying the unsearchable riches of Christ. This verse is not referencing how unfathomable or deep Christ’s riches are, it is pointing out that these riches of the Mystery are unsearchable or untraceable.  None of this Mystery doctrine is traceable back to any writing previous to Paul because God revealed the Mystery through Paul. This Mystery was hidden in God and not in Scripture (Ephesians 3:9).

There are many who feel that Paul’s message is not new, that he is merely taking the gospel preached in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and bringing that to the Gentiles. The above verses contradict that thinking. Paul calls it a Mystery because it has been kept secret for ages and generations. Not only that, but God commissioned Paul to be the one through whom He would reveal the Mystery.

• Prophecy vs. Mystery

Mystery is always in contrast with prophecy. If it is prophesied then it cannot be a mystery. If something is a mystery then it cannot be a subject of prophecy. In Scripture, Israel’s earthly program was revealed through prophecy. God told Abram that He would become a great nation who would be greatly blessed. God revealed through Moses that Israel would be a nation of priests. Daniel shows how Israel’s program plays out in the end times. Many Old Testament books foretell of the blessings promised Israel in the earthly Kingdom.

On the other hand, Scripture is completely silent on the future Church, the Body of Christ. We learn nothing of national Israel being temporarily set aside nor of having the Jews and Gentiles put on the same level as far as whom God deals with. Gentiles can now come directly to God instead of going through Israel. There is no indication in Scripture that there would be a heavenly hope for a spiritual body of believers with Christ as head in the place of a political, physical kingdom on earth with Christ as King. The Old Testament never hints at salvation by faith apart from works. We only learn about these things through the Mystery as revealed through the Apostle Paul.

This changeover from a prophetic program to a mystery program defines when God stopped His dealings with Israel as a nation and began dealing with individuals within the newly formed church. This moment is pictured as the breaking off of branches from the olive tree. If we can pinpoint the moment that God went from Prophecy to Mystery then we can pinpoint the cutting off of national Israel and the beginning of the Church, the Body of Christ. If we don’t know when today’s church was formed then we will not be able to discern what parts of the Bible are written to us. All of Scripture is for our benefit but not all is written directly to us. If we don’t know what Scripture can be taken for ourselves then we will be in danger of trying to follow orders written to another people in another time.

These two verses point out the differences between the two programs. The first verse capsulizes the finishing up of God’s program for Israel with the coming of the Millennial Kingdom. Notice that this program goes back to ancient time. It is all about prophecy. The second verse is about God’s program in this Church age. Notice it was a Mystery that was kept secret for long ages past.

Acts 3:19—21, 24 19“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 24“And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.

Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past.

• The Mystery Church

One concept that confuses many is the church. When people hear the word church they automatically think of today’s church. They usually think that this church was formed in Acts 2 with the giving of the Holy Spirit. Most people believe this because that’s what they were taught by teachers who were taught the same thing. Understanding God’s separate program for Israel would go a long way in helping people see that the events in Acts 2 was a continuation of His work with Israel and not the beginning of a new work. The traditions of men are hard to break.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Many do not understand that church can refer to Israel (Acts 7:38), an angry mob (Acts 19:31) or the Church, the Body of Christ (Colossians 1:24; Ephesians 1:22—23). A church is nothing more than a called-out group.

With this in mind we can see another church mentioned in Matthew 16. I believe this is in reference to a Jewish church, specifically a Kingdom church. It is Peter upon whom this church will be built. Still another church is spoken of in Matthew 18:17. This is in reference to the existing Jewish church and addresses how the leadership is to deal with problems within that church. These instructions will also be in play during the Millennial Kingdom after this church age has come to an end.

• Some aspects of the Mystery

1. National Israel temporarily set aside (Romans 11:12—20).

2. No difference between Jew and Gentile (Romans 10:12, 13; Galatians 3:28).

3. The preaching of the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24; Ephesians 3:2).

4. Being reconciled to God through the death of His Son (Romans 5:10).

5. The “New Man” being formed from Jews and Gentiles believers (Ephesians 2:15; Galatians 3:28).

6. Believer’s heavenly hope (Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:20).

7. Believers will be caught up (Raptured) to meet the Lord in the air (1 Cor. 15:51?52; 1 Thess. 4:17).

• Summary

Paul often refers to the Gospel he preached as a Mystery that was not known in ages past. Jesus Christ personally revealed this Mystery to Paul coming to him on several occasions (Acts 9:15—16; 26:16). When Paul told others about his revelation from Jesus Christ, it was the Holy Spirit who revealed to them that what Paul said was the very word of God. The Holy Spirit works with us in the same way. As we read the words of Paul, He makes it possible for us to be able to understand and transform His word into action.

Ephesians 3:1—5 1For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– 2if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; 3that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. 4By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;

Unfortunately, there are many who twist these words (usually out of ignorance) to support their idea that the Mystery was revealed to Paul along with many prophets and apostles. They do not make a distinction between Jesus Christ training Paul with the doctrine of the Mystery and the Holy Spirit illuminating believers concerning its truth. His doctrine was not according to man (Galatians 1:11).

We know Paul’s Mystery doctrine is unique from Kingdom doctrine just by comparing the contents of the two. We also can ascertain that there is a difference because Paul had to go to Jerusalem to tell them what doctrine (gospel) he was preaching to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2). He did not need to defend that he was preaching to the Gentiles but was defending the gospel that he was preaching to them. We even see Peter, the leader of the 12 Disciples, being admonished by Paul in Antioch (Galatians 2:11—21).

Seeing a clear distinction between Prophecy and Mystery will go a long way in helping you understand Scripture and remove much of the confusion that is so prevalent in Christendom today.

Verses 26—27

Paul now quotes from the Old Testament because he is now referencing God’s prophetic program for Israel. The idea that all Israel will be saved is not part of the Mystery. To prove that all Israel will be saved, Paul quotes from Isaiah 59:20 and Jeremiah 31:33—34. These quotes should deflate any haughtiness on the part of the Gentiles (verse 20).

This prophecy will be fulfilled after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (verse 25). In other words, after the Rapture, God will once again turn His attention to Israel to fulfill the many promises made to Israel in the Old Testament. All Israel remaining at the end of the Tribulation will see the Lord coming in power back to earth and they will all mourn

Zechariah 12:10, 11; 13:9 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.11“In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 9“And I will bring the third part through thefire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested They willcall on My name, And I willanswer them; I will say, ‘They areMy people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”

Revelation 1:7 BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.