1, 2. What “sacred secret” should interest us, and why?
SECRETS! Because they intrigue, fascinate, and mystify, humans often have difficulty keeping them confidential. However, the Bible says: “The glory of God is the keeping of a matter secret.” (Proverbs 25:2) Yes, as Sovereign Ruler and Creator, Jehovah rightfully keeps some things secret from mankind until it is his due time to reveal them.
2 However, there is a fascinating, intriguing secret that Jehovah has revealed in his Word. It is called “the sacred secret of [God’s] will.” (Ephesians 1:9) Learning about it can do more than satisfy your curiosity. Knowledge of this secret can lead to salvation and can provide you with a glimpse into Jehovah’s unfathomable wisdom.
3, 4. How did the prophecy recorded at Genesis 3:15 provide hope, and what mystery, or “sacred secret,” did it encompass?
3 When Adam and Eve sinned, it may have appeared that Jehovah’s purpose to have an earthly paradise inhabited by perfect humans had been thwarted. But God immediately addressed the problem. He said: “I shall put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.”—Genesis 3:15.
4 These were puzzling, cryptic words. Who was this woman? Who was the serpent? Who was the “seed” that would bruise the serpent’s head? Adam and Eve could only guess. Still, God’s words provided hope for any faithful offspring of that unfaithful pair. Righteousness would triumph. Jehovah’s purpose would be realized. But how? Ah, that was a mystery! The Bible calls it “God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom.”—1 Corinthians 2:7.
5. Illustrate why Jehovah revealed his secret progressively.
5 As the “Revealer of secrets,” Jehovah would eventually unveil pertinent details regarding the outworking of this secret. (Daniel 2:28) But he would do so gradually, progressively. To illustrate, we might think of the way a loving father responds when his little boy asks, “Dad, where did I come from?” A wise father provides only as much information as that little boy can grasp. As the boy gets older, the father tells him more. In a similar way, Jehovah determines when his people are ready for revelations of his will and purpose.—Proverbs 4:18; Daniel 12:4.
6. (a) What purpose does a covenant, or contract, serve? (b) Why is it remarkable that Jehovah would initiate covenants with humans?
6 How did Jehovah make such revelations? He used a series of covenants, or contracts, to reveal much. Likely, you have at one time or another entered into some sort of a contract—perhaps to buy a home or to borrow or lend money. Such a contract provided a legal guarantee that the terms agreed upon would be fulfilled. But why would Jehovah need to make formal covenants, or contracts, with humans? Surely, his word is a sufficient guarantee of his promises. That is true, and yet, on a number of occasions, God has kindly backed his word with legal contracts. These ironclad agreements give us imperfect humans an even more solid basis for confidence in the promises of Jehovah.—Hebrews 6:16-18.
The Covenant With Abraham
7, 8. (a) What covenant did Jehovah make with Abraham, shedding what light on the sacred secret? (b) How did Jehovah progressively narrow down the line of descent to the promised Seed?
7 Over two thousand years after man’s expulsion from Paradise, Jehovah told his faithful servant Abraham: “I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens . . . and by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” (Genesis 22:17, 18) This was more than a promise; Jehovah framed it in the form of a legal covenant and backed it by his unbreakable oath. (Genesis 17:1, 2; Hebrews 6:13-15) How remarkable that the Sovereign Lord actually contracted to bless mankind!
“I shall . . . multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens”
8 The Abrahamic covenant revealed that the promised Seed would come as a human, for he would be a descendant of Abraham. But who would he be? In time, Jehovah revealed that of Abraham’s sons, Isaac would be a forebear of the Seed. Of Isaac’s two sons, Jacob was selected. (Genesis 21:12; 28:13, 14) Later, Jacob uttered these prophetic words over one of his 12 sons: “The scepter will not turn aside from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [“He to Whom It Belongs”] comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.” (Genesis 49:10) Now it was known that the Seed would be a king, one who descended from Judah!
The Covenant With Israel
9, 10. (a) What covenant did Jehovah make with the nation of Israel, and what protection did that covenant provide? (b) How did the Law demonstrate mankind’s need for a ransom?
9 In 1513 B.C.E., Jehovah made a provision that set the scene for further revelations about the sacred secret. He concluded a covenant with Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel. Although now no longer in force, this Mosaic Law covenant was an essential part of Jehovah’s purpose to bring about the promised Seed. How so? Consider three ways. First, the Law was like a protective wall. (Ephesians 2:14) Its righteous statutes acted as a barrier between Jew and Gentile. Thus the Law helped to preserve the line of the Seed of promise. Thanks largely to such protection, the nation still existed when God’s due time arrived for the Messiah to be born into the tribe of Judah.
10 Second, the Law thoroughly demonstrated mankind’s need for a ransom. A perfect Law, it exposed the inability of sinful humans to adhere to it fully. It thus served “to make transgressions manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made.” (Galatians 3:19) By means of animal sacrifices, the Law offered provisional atonement for sins. But since, as Paul wrote, “it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins away,” these sacrifices only foreshadowed Christ’s ransom sacrifice. (Hebrews 10:1-4) For faithful Jews, then, that covenant became a “tutor leading to Christ.”—Galatians 3:24.
11. What glorious prospect did the Law covenant offer Israel, but why did that nation as a whole lose out?
11 Third, that covenant offered the nation of Israel a glorious prospect. Jehovah told them that if they proved faithful to the covenant, they would become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) Fleshly Israel did eventually provide the first members of a heavenly kingdom of priests. However, as a whole, Israel rebelled against the Law covenant, rejected the Messianic Seed, and lost out on that prospect. Who, then, would complete the kingdom of priests? And how would that blessed nation be related to the promised Seed? Those aspects of the sacred secret would be revealed in God’s due time.
The Davidic Kingdom Covenant
12. What covenant did Jehovah make with David, and what light did it shed on God’s sacred secret?
12 In the 11th century B.C.E., Jehovah shed further light on the sacred secret when he made another covenant. He promised faithful King David: “I shall certainly raise up your seed after you, . . . and I shall indeed firmly establish his kingdom. . . . I shall certainly establish the throne of his kingdom firmly to time indefinite.” (2 Samuel 7:12, 13; Psalm 89:3) Now the lineage of the promised Seed had been narrowed down to the house of David. But could an ordinary human rule “to time indefinite”? (Psalm 89:20, 29, 34-36) And could such a human king rescue mankind from sin and death?
13, 14. (a) According to Psalm 110, what promise does Jehovah make to his anointed King? (b) What further revelations regarding the coming Seed were made through Jehovah’s prophets?
13 Under inspiration, David wrote: “The utterance of Jehovah to my Lord is: ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’ Jehovah has sworn (and he will feel no regret): ‘You are a priest to time indefinite according to the manner of Melchizedek!’” (Psalm 110:1, 4) David’s words applied directly to the promised Seed, or Messiah. (Acts 2:35, 36) This King would rule, not from Jerusalem, but from heaven at Jehovah’s “right hand.” That would give him authority not just over the land of Israel but over the whole earth. (Psalm 2:6-8) Something more was here revealed. Note that Jehovah uttered a solemn oath that the Messiah would be “a priest . . . according to the manner of Melchizedek.” Like Melchizedek, who served as king-priest in Abraham’s day, the coming Seed would have a direct appointment from God to serve as King and Priest!—Genesis 14:17-20.
14 Over the years, Jehovah used his prophets to make further revelations about his sacred secret. Isaiah, for example, revealed that the Seed would die a sacrificial death. (Isaiah 53:3-12) Micah foretold the place of the Messiah’s birth. (Micah 5:2) Daniel even prophesied the exact timing of the Seed’s appearance and death.—Daniel 9:24-27.
The Sacred Secret Revealed!
15, 16. (a) How did Jehovah’s Son come to be “out of a woman”? (b) What did Jesus inherit from his human parents, and when did he arrive as the Seed of promise?
15 How these prophecies would be fulfilled remained a mystery until the Seed actually made his appearance. Galatians 4:4 says: “When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman.” In the year 2 B.C.E., an angel told a Jewish virgin named Mary: “Look! you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father . . . Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.”—Luke 1:31, 32, 35.
16 Later, Jehovah transferred the life of his Son from heaven to Mary’s womb, so that he came to be out of a woman. Mary was an imperfect woman. Yet, Jesus did not inherit imperfection from her, for he was “God’s Son.” At the same time, Jesus’ human parents, as descendants of David, provided Him with both the natural and the legal rights of an heir of David. (Acts 13:22, 23) At Jesus’ baptism in 29 C.E., Jehovah anointed him with holy spirit and said: “This is my Son, the beloved.” (Matthew 3:16, 17) At last, the Seed had arrived! (Galatians 3:16) It was time to reveal more about the sacred secret.—2 Timothy 1:10.
17. How was light shed on the meaning of Genesis 3:15?
17 During his ministry, Jesus identified the serpent of Genesis 3:15 as Satan and the serpent’s seed as Satan’s followers. (Matthew 23:33; John 8:44) Later, it was revealed how all of these would be crushed forever. (Revelation 20:1-3, 10, 15) And the woman was identified as “the Jerusalem above,” Jehovah’s heavenly, wifelike organization of spirit creatures.*—Galatians 4:26; Revelation 12:1-6.
The New Covenant
18. What is the purpose of “the new covenant”?
18 Perhaps the most dramatic revelation of all came on the night before Jesus’ death when he told his faithful disciples about “the new covenant.” (Luke 22:20) Like its predecessor, the Mosaic Law covenant, this new covenant was to produce “a kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9) However, this covenant would establish, not a fleshly nation, but a spiritual one, “the Israel of God,” made up exclusively of Christ’s faithful anointed followers. (Galatians 6:16) These parties to the new covenant would share with Jesus in blessing the human race!
19. (a) Why does the new covenant succeed in producing “a kingdom of priests”? (b) Why are anointed Christians called “a new creation,” and how many will serve in the heavens with Christ?
19 But why does the new covenant succeed in producing “a kingdom of priests” to bless mankind? Because instead of condemning Christ’s disciples as sinners, it provides for the forgiveness of their sins through his sacrifice. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Once they receive a clean standing before Jehovah, he adopts them into his heavenly family and anoints them with holy spirit. (Romans 8:15-17; 2 Corinthians 1:21) They thus experience “a new birth to a living hope . . . reserved in the heavens.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4) Since such an elevated status is entirely new to humans, spirit-begotten anointed Christians are called “a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Bible reveals that 144,000 will eventually share in ruling redeemed mankind from heaven.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1-4.
20. (a) What revelation regarding the sacred secret was made in 36 C.E.? (b) Who will enjoy the blessings promised to Abraham?
20 Along with Jesus, these anointed ones become “Abraham’s seed.”* (Galatians 3:29) The first ones chosen were fleshly Jews. But in 36 C.E., another aspect of the sacred secret was revealed: Gentiles, or non-Jews, would also share in the heavenly hope. (Romans 9:6-8; 11:25, 26; Ephesians 3:5, 6) Would anointed Christians be the only ones to enjoy the blessings promised to Abraham? No, for Jesus’ sacrifice benefits the whole world. (1 John 2:2) In time, Jehovah revealed that an unnumbered “great crowd” would survive the end of Satan’s system of things. (Revelation 7:9, 14) Multitudes more would be resurrected with the prospect of living forever in Paradise!—Luke 23:43; John 5:28, 29; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:3, 4.
God’s Wisdom and the Sacred Secret
21, 22. In what ways does Jehovah’s sacred secret display his wisdom?
21 The sacred secret is an astonishing display of “the greatly diversified wisdom of God.” (Ephesians 3:8-10) What wisdom Jehovah displayed in formulating this secret, then in revealing it so gradually! He wisely took into consideration the limitations of humans, allowing them to manifest their true heart condition.—Psalm 103:14.
22 Jehovah also showed matchless wisdom in his choice of Jesus as King. Jehovah’s Son is more trustworthy than any other creature in the universe. In living as a man of blood and flesh, Jesus experienced many kinds of adversity. He fully understands human problems. (Hebrews 5:7-9) And what about Jesus’ corulers? Over the centuries, both men and women—chosen from all races, languages, and backgrounds—have been anointed. There is simply no problem that individuals among them have not faced and overcome. (Ephesians 4:22-24) Living under the rule of these merciful king-priests will be a delight!
23. What privilege do Christians have in connection with Jehovah’s sacred secret?
23 The apostle Paul wrote: “The sacred secret that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations . . . has been made manifest to his holy ones.” (Colossians 1:26) Yes, Jehovah’s anointed holy ones have come to understand much about the sacred secret, and they have shared such knowledge with millions. What a privilege all of us have! Jehovah has “made known to us the sacred secret of his will.” (Ephesians 1:9) Let us share this marvelous secret with others, helping them likewise to peer into the unfathomable wisdom of Jehovah God!
“The sacred secret of . . . godly devotion” was also revealed in Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:16) It had long been a secret, a mystery, as to whether anyone could maintain perfect integrity to Jehovah. Jesus revealed the answer. He kept integrity under every test that Satan put upon him.—Matthew 4:1-11; 27:26-50.