Other Mysteries Relative to Messiah Revealed
1, 2. (a) How has the word “mystery” been defined? (b) What purpose in connection with the Christ has God made an open secret to us?
A MYSTERY has been defined as “any truth unknowable except by revelation of God.” It is a “sacred secret” that is revealed by God in his own due time. (Romans 16:25, 26) For long periods of time it was a mystery or sacred secret just who would be the Messiah, the “seed” of God’s heavenly “woman.” Also, God’s purpose in connection with the Messiah or Christ was a long-time mystery or sacred secret. But in his appointed time God revealed, or kept no longer a secret, that it was his purpose to use the Messiah or Christ in connection with an administration of all things, as in the management of a house by a steward. Such an administration for unity would mean that God would head up all things in the Messiah (Christ) or gather all things together again under the headship of the Messiah or Christ. It was a kindness for God as the Administrator to reveal this, just as we read:
2 “This he caused to abound toward us in all wisdom and good sense, in that he made known to us the sacred secret of his will. It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration [management as by a steward] at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ [Ma·shiʹahh], the things in the heavens and the things on the earth. Yes, in him, in union with whom we [disciples of Christ] were also assigned as heirs, in that we were foreordained according to the purpose [Greek: proʹthe·sis] of him who operates all things according to the way his will counsels, that we should serve for the praise of his glory, we who have been first to hope in the Christ.”—Ephesians 1:8-12.
3. What did God’s promise of a “new covenant” mean for the old Mosaic Law covenant and its purpose?
3 It was in harmony with this purpose of God that the Messiah Jesus began to lay the foundation for a congregation of which he would be the divinely appointed head. The individual members of this congregation under Christ were not personally foreordained or predestinated; only the number of members and their Christian characteristics were foreordained. Just as he showed by his teachings, Jesus knew that the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34 foretold how Jehovah God would make a “new covenant” with His people. Accordingly, the old Law covenant that Moses had mediated for the natural Jews would come to an end. As it is said in Hebrews 8:13: “In his saying ‘a new covenant’ he [God] has made the former one obsolete. Now that which is made obsolete and growing old is near to vanishing away.” By the time of Jesus’ public career that Law covenant of Moses was more than 1,540 years old. And yet after all that time it had failed to produce a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) Even down till today, nineteen hundred years later, those natural Jews who claim to be still under the Mosaic Law covenant have failed to furnish God with a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” even their Aaronic priesthood having disappeared since 70 C.E.
4. What is to be said about the foundation of the Christian congregation, and when first was it founded?
4 Jesus kept in mind that the nation of Israel was founded upon the twelve patriarchs, the twelve sons of Jacob. (Genesis 49:28) So, from among his disciples, Jesus chose twelve men whom he called “apostles” (sent-forth ones) and who were to be secondary foundations upon him the main foundation of the congregation. (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Ephesians 2:20) Referring to himself as a rock foundation, he said in the hearing of the twelve apostles: “On this rock-mass I will build my congregation, and the gates of Haʹdes will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18) However, down to the day of his death Jesus still recognized the nation of Israel as being the congregation of God, preaching in its synagogues and teaching in its temple at Jerusalem. It was first on the fiftieth day from the day of his resurrection from the dead that the congregation of which he was the head and main foundation was formed. On what basis can that be said? On the following sound basis:
5. What was poured out on that festival day of Weeks, and upon whom, and what was Peter’s explanation of how it was poured out?
5 On that festival day of Shavuoth or Pentecost and in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28, 29, God’s holy spirit was poured out. Upon whom? Upon the nation of Israel that was celebrating its festival of Weeks (Shavuoth) there at Jerusalem? No; but upon about one hundred and twenty faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who were congregated together in an upper chamber in Jerusalem. In visible and audible proof of this, “tongues as if of fire” hovered above their heads and they began speaking with tongues other than their native language. To the thousands of amazed Jews that gathered, the apostle Peter explained that the fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29 about the outpouring of God’s spirit was taking place, and then he added:
“This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear. Actually David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for a certainty that God made him both Lord and Christ [Ma·shiʹahh], this Jesus whom you impaled.”—Acts 2:1-36.
6. (a) What did Jesus’ pouring out the spirit mean as regards his disciples? (b) What did that mean for the nation of Israel and its Law covenant?
6 Thus, by pouring out holy spirit from God upon his faithful disciples, Jesus was anointing them with holy spirit and was building his congregation. What, then, did this mean for the nation of Israel, that had impaled the Messiah or Christ? It meant that they were no longer the congregation of Jehovah God. It meant that their old Law covenant had vanished away. It had been canceled out, God himself nailing it, as it were, to the stake upon which Jesus Christ had hung as a curse for the nation of Israel on Passover day. (Colossians 2:13, 14; Galatians 3:13) By accepting this Son of God as their sacrificed Messiah, the Jews who were born under that Law covenant could come out from under its curse and receive the blessing of Jehovah God.—Acts 3:25, 26.
7. What did Jesus now mediate by means of his blood, and in what position did this leave the nation of Israel according to the flesh?
7 Moreover, when Jesus Christ presented to his heavenly Father the merit or value of his human lifeblood, he validated a new covenant, the covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Just as Moses had mediated the old Law covenant with blood of mere animal sacrifices, so now Jesus Christ in God’s presence mediated the new covenant with his own sacrificial blood. In this respect also he was a Prophet like Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) So a new covenant had replaced the old Law covenant, and the nation of Israel according to the flesh was not in that new covenant. Consequently the nation was no longer the congregation of Jehovah God, no longer the “Israel of God.” So all natural Jews born since the cancellation of the Law covenant have never been under that old covenant, even though their rabbis might say they are.
8. What kind of Israel came into existence on that day of Pentecost, and how does Peter show the contrast between it and natural Israel?
8 With that day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. a spiritual “Israel of God” came into existence, built upon the Messiah Jesus as the rock-mass foundation. “For,” as Galatians 6:15, 16 states, “neither is circumcision anything nor is uncircumcision, but a new creation is something. And all those who will walk orderly by this rule of conduct, upon them be peace and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.” Showing the contrast between these and the nation that rejected the Messiah Jesus, the apostle Peter wrote to Messiah’s disciples: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Peter 2:8, 9.
9. What new supper did Jesus start for his disciples, and of what covenant did he speak?
9 Not being under the old Mosaic Law covenant, this spiritual “Israel of God” does not celebrate the annual Passover. On finishing the last Passover that Jesus celebrated with his apostles in Jerusalem, Jesus took a loaf of unleavened bread and a cup of wine and started a new annual supper for his followers in memorial of his own death as the Lamb of God and as the Mediator of the new covenant. After saying a blessing over the cup of wine, he said to his faithful apostles: “Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my ‘blood of the covenant,’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27, 28; compare with Exodus 24:8.) But of what covenant was Jesus talking? Luke’s account of Jesus’ words tells us, saying: “This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.”—Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:20-26.
10. How did that covenant compare with the one mediated by Moses, and why were certain natural, circumcised Jews not taken into that new covenant?
10 It was the “new covenant” as foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34 that Jesus’ blood was to validate, to bring about God’s forgiveness of the sins of those taken into the new covenant. This new covenant Jesus validated when he presented the value or merit of his blood to Jehovah God after ascending to heaven. By virtue of this he became the Mediator of the new covenant, which was a better covenant than that mediated by Moses at Mount Sinai in 1513 B.C.E. (Hebrews 8:6-13; 9:15-20; 12:24; 13:20; 1 Timothy 2:5, 6) Unhappily, the natural, circumcised Jews that refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah were not taken into the new covenant and hence did not become part of the spiritual “Israel of God.”
11. At the new supper, what did Jesus say to his apostles about a kingdom, and what success did this assure for the new covenant?
11 After Jesus had his apostles drink the cup of wine that represented his blood that was to be applied to the new covenant, he continued talking to them and said: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:28-30) This was an assurance that the new covenant validated by Jesus’ blood would be successful in producing a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” The faithful members of the spiritual “Israel of God” who are taken into the new covenant will share with Jesus Christ in the heavenly kingdom that would rule over more than the earthly territory of King David. These will also serve as underpriests of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was to be made a “priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!”—Psalm 110:4.
MYSTERY RELATIVE TO ABRAHAM’S “SEED” UNLOCKED
12. On Pentecost of 33 C.E., what mystery was unlocked regarding the “seed” of Abraham, and what kind of “seed” was it to be?
12 Since God’s covenant promise to the patriarch Abraham back in 1943 B.C.E., the mystery existed, Of whom will the promised “seed” of Abraham be composed, for the blessing of all the families of the ground? (Genesis 12:1-3) On the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E., this mystery was unlocked. The “seed” was to be composed of more than just the Messiah Jesus, of course, for God had promised Abraham that his seed would be like the stars of the heavens and the grains of sand on the seashore. Natural, circumcised Israel did become like that, but Abraham’s true seed was to be composed, not of natural Israel according to the flesh, but of spiritual Israel, who are begotten by God’s spirit to become spiritual sons of God with a heavenly inheritance in view. God is the Greater Abraham, the name meaning “Father of a Multitude.”
13. On Pentecost, to whom was the opportunity given to become part of the spiritual “seed” of Abraham, and for how long was this opportunity held out to them exclusively, and why?
13 However, the people of natural Israel were given the first opportunity to become the members of the spiritual “seed” of Abraham. On the day of Pentecost of 33 C.E. it was natural, circumcised Jews, natural descendants of Abraham, that were begotten by God’s holy spirit as His sons and taken into the new covenant. Thereby Jehovah God became the Greater Abraham to this spiritual “seed.” Although the nation of Israel had shared in cutting off the Messiah in death at the half of the ‘seventieth week of years’ (from 29 to 36 C.E.), yet Jehovah God continued showing them favor for the latter half of that seventieth week of years out of regard for his covenant with Abraham, whose fleshly descendants the nation of Israel was. (Daniel 9:24-27) So the opportunity to become Abraham’s spiritual “seed” continued to be offered first to them to the end of the seventieth week.
14. How did Peter, at the Jerusalem temple, point out this kindly provision for the natural seed of Abraham?
14 Some days after Pentecost the apostle Peter pointed out this kindly provision of God, when speaking to a crowd of Jews at the Jerusalem temple: “And all the prophets, in fact, from Samuel on and those in succession, just as many as have spoken, have also plainly declared these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God covenanted with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ To you first God, after raising up his Servant, sent him forth to bless you by turning each one away from your wicked deeds.”—Acts 3:24-26.
15. To whom, then, did the blessing of Abraham’s “seed” come first, and how were the blessed ones released from slavery?
15 Some years later a former Pharisee, who used to be very zealous for the Jewish traditions, wrote the following words:
“Christ [Ma·shiʹahh] by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: ‘Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.’ The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham might come to be by means of Jesus Christ for the nations, that we might receive the promised spirit through our faith.”
“But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law, that he might release by purchase those under law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”—Galatians 3:13, 14 ; 4:4-7.
16. One’s being a member in the spiritual “seed” of Abraham is based upon a fleshly connection, or upon what?
16 Explaining that membership in the “seed of Abraham” is based not on a fleshly connection with Abraham but on exercising such faith as Abraham had, the foregoing writer, the apostle Paul, said: “Surely you know that those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”—Galatians 3:7, 8, 26-29; Genesis 12:3.
A MYSTERY UNLOCKED GENERATIONS LATER
17. How many Jews had faith like that of Abraham and took advantage of the ‘seventieth week of years’ of divine favor to them?
17 Not all fleshly descendants of Abraham had the faith that he had and that resulted in his being called righteous and the “friend” of God even before he was circumcised in the flesh. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:9-12; James 2:21-23) So not many of the natural Jews took advantage of the ‘seventieth week of years’ during which the Abrahamic covenant was ‘kept in force’ in behalf of the fleshly descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Daniel 9:27) Only a small remnant did so. The latest figure for those Jews at Jerusalem who accepted the Messiah Jesus before the end of the ‘seventieth week of years’ in 36 C.E. was given as about five thousand.—Acts 4:4.
18. How many did God purpose to have of the spiritual Israelites, and so what questions arose at the end of the ‘seventieth week’?
18 God had foreordained a number far larger than that for his “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” that was to be produced by the new covenant. The exact number that he purposed to have he did not reveal till after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E. and toward the end of the first century. Then to the aged surviving apostle John he revealed the purposed chosen number of spiritual Israelites to be 144,000. (Revelation 7:4-8; 14:1-3) When the ‘seventieth week’ ended in the autumn of 36 C.E., the number of Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah and who had been baptized with holy spirit was evidently far less than 144,000. What then? Had God’s purpose failed? Or, what surprising step would he now take toward not letting his “eternal purpose” in Christ fail?
19. What revelation did God now make regarding the body of baptized believers under the Messiah Jesus as Head?
19 Down till the autumn of 36 C.E. the congregation of the baptized followers of the Messiah Jesus consisted exclusively of natural Jews, circumcised Samaritans and others who had become circumcised proselytes of the Jewish faith. (Acts 2:10; 8:1 through 9:30; 11:19) The rest of mankind were unbelievers, “without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise,” having “no hope” and being “without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:11, 12) Now came a revelation: The body of believers under the Messiah Jesus as their Head was no longer to be exclusively of persons drawn from the Jewish race and Jewish proselytes. Henceforth there were to be taken into the body of Messianists uncircumcised believers, persons just as uncircumcised as Abraham was when God called him and then made the covenant with him and justified him to friendship with God because of faith. So, too, these accepted non-Jews had faith.
20. (a) So what was no longer to stand as a barrier between Jew and non-Jew? (b) So to whom did God now turn favorable attention?
20 In the middle of the ‘seventieth week’ in 33 C.E., God had abolished the Mosaic Law covenant and had inaugurated the better “new covenant” with spiritual Israel. So the old Law covenant should no longer stand as a barrier between Jew and Gentile. So, moving down a cleared path, as stated in Ephesians 2:13-18, Jehovah God turned his attention favorably to the uncircumcised Gentile nations in order “to take out of them a people for his name.”—Acts 15:14; Amos 9:11, 12, Greek Septuagint Version.
21. To whom did God then send his angel, and what did this one do?
21 At the end of the seventieth week of years, Jehovah God sent his angel, to whom? To an uncircumcised Gentile at the capital city of the Roman governor over the province of Judea. Cornelius was this Gentile man, a centurion of the Italian band, but “a devout man and one fearing God together with all his household, and he made many gifts of mercy to the people and made supplication to God continually.” Cornelius was told to send to the south to the seacoast city of Joppa and have Simon Peter brought up from there. Simon Peter went along with the three men who were sent to get him, he having been instructed to go along with them and to “stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.”
22. In the Gentile home, what did Peter preach about to the gathering and say about forgiveness of sins?
22 So smothering his prejudice against entering a Gentile home, Simon Peter went in to Cornelius’ home at Caesarea. On invitation he preached to this Gentile and those whom he had gathered into his house to hear the apostle Peter. Peter preached to them about the Messiah whom God had sent to Israel. “Also,” Peter continued on to say, “he ordered us to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness that this is the One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone putting faith in him gets forgiveness of sins through his name.”—Acts 10:1-43; 11:4-14.
23. At what miracle did Peter command his listeners to be baptized, and in whose name?
23 Those words were enough for Cornelius and those listening with him. Also, God read their hearts and took action. We read:
“While Peter was yet speaking about these matters the holy spirit fell upon all those hearing the word. And the faithful ones that had come with Peter [six circumcised Jewish believers] who were of those circumcised were amazed, because the free gift of the holy spirit was being poured out also upon people of the nations. For they heard them speaking with tongues and [magnifying] God. Then Peter responded: ‘Can anyone forbid water so that these might not be baptized who have received the holy spirit even as we have?’ With that he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they requested him to remain for some days.”—Acts 10:44-48; 11:1-17.
24. What did those Jews in Jerusalem who heard Peter’s explanation do in response?
24 Later, on his return to Jerusalem, Peter explained to the circumcised Jewish believers there his course, saying: “If, therefore, God gave the same free gift to them as he also did to us who have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I should be able to hinder God?” We today should be like those back there who heard Peter’s explanation: “Now when they heard these things, they acquiesced, and they glorified God, saying: ‘Well, then, God has granted repentance for the purpose of life to people of the nations also.’”—Acts 11:17, 18.
25. What command of the resurrected Jesus did the circumcised Jewish believers then obey?
25 From then on, the apostles and fellow Jewish believers did not restrict themselves only to Jews and proselytes, but did what the resurrected Jesus told them to do: “Go therefore and make disciples”—of whom?—“of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
26. What apostle in particular wrote about God’s mystery with reference to believing Gentiles?
26 Prior to the conversion of Cornelius to discipleship of the Messiah, Saul of Tarsus, who had been a conscientious persecutor of Messianic believers of his own Jewish people, himself got converted. He promptly started preaching to other circumcised Jews, showing them from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures that this Jesus, the son of David, was the foretold Messiah or Christ. In course of time he was given the standing of an apostle and was called Paul, and was specially made “an apostle to the nations.” He in particular wrote about what a marvelous mystery, or “sacred secret,” it was that God revealed there in 36 C.E. by His admitting of believing Gentiles into the body of Christ’s disciples, as members of the “seed of Abraham.”—Romans 11:13.
27. What grand “sacred secret” was Paul making known among the Gentile nations?
27 For example, Paul wrote concerning the long-secret feature of the Messianic congregation: “I became a minister of this congregation in accordance with the stewardship from God which was given me in your interest to preach the word of God fully, the sacred secret [or, the mystery] that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations. But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones, to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret among the nations. It is Christ in union with you, the hope of his glory.” (Colossians 1:25-27) What a grand “sacred secret,” to be revealed after such long periods of time, that believers from among the Gentile nations should be given the heavenly “hope” of being glorified with the Messiah, Christ! It was indeed an honor and a privilege to be a minister of a congregation with such a hope!
28, 29. (a) This loving consideration for Gentile believers was contained in God’s purpose in connection with whom? (b) In expressing gratitude for his part in this connection, what did Paul write about God’s “eternal purpose”?
28 O just to think that all this loving consideration is within the lofty purpose that God formed in connection with his Messiah, so as to make Gentile believers part of the spiritual “seed” of Abraham for blessing all mankind! How admirable it is that the loving God has stuck to this generous feature of his will, because it is part of his “eternal purpose”! In expressing appreciation for his own God-given part in this connection, Paul says:
29 “To me, a man less than the least of all holy ones, this undeserved kindness was given, that I should declare to the nations the good news about the unfathomable riches of the Christ and should make men see how the sacred secret is administered which has from the indefinite past been hidden in God, who created all things. This [procedure] was to the end that now to the governments and the authorities in the heavenly places there might be made known through the congregation the greatly diversified wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose [Greek: proʹthe·sis] that he formed in connection with the Christ, Jesus our Lord.”—Ephesians 3:8-11.
30. (a) According to His “eternal purpose,” how did God proceed to make manifest his “greatly diversified wisdom”? (b) Why are we highly favored to be living at this time?
30 Thus God proceeded in such a way with his “sacred secret” that, “according to the eternal purpose that he formed in connection with the Christ,” there might now at this time be made manifest to the governments and the authorities in the heavenly places the “greatly diversified wisdom of God” by the producing of the Christian congregation as an example thereof. Are we not highly favored to be living in this time of understanding the “sacred secret” of God according to his “eternal purpose”? Paul says:
“In other generations this secret was not made known to the sons of men as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by spirit, namely, that people of the nations should be joint heirs and fellow members of the body and partakers with us of the promise in union with Christ Jesus through the good news.”—Ephesians 3:5, 6.
31, 32. (a) Who in pre-Christian times were interested in understanding these things? (b) So from whom will Christ’s “body” be made up?
31 Ancient pre-Christian prophets, yes, even angels, were interested in just how this “sacred secret” would be administered by Jehovah God.
“Concerning this very salvation a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings [destined, in store] for Christ and about the glories to follow these. It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you with holy spirit sent forth from heaven. Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.”—1 Peter 1:10-12, NW; An American Translation.
32 So in God’s due time it was revealed that the full membership of Christ’s “body” would be made up of Gentiles as well as Jews. God’s “eternal purpose,” as first formed at the Garden of Eden, took into account this congregation having the Messiah as its Head. In it both Jews and Gentiles were unified.