A Secret Christians Dare Not Keep!
“I have spoken to the world publicly. . . . I spoke nothing in secret.”—JOHN 18:20.
1, 2. What is the significance of the Greek word my·steʹri·on as used in the Scriptures?
THE Greek word my·steʹri·on is translated in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures 25 times as “sacred secret” and 3 times as “mystery.” A secret called sacred must be important indeed! Anyone privileged to gain knowledge of such a secret should feel highly honored, since he has been counted worthy to share a secret with the Supreme God of the universe.
2 Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words confirms that in most cases “sacred secret” is a more appropriate rendering than “mystery.” It says of my·steʹri·on: “In the [Christian Greek Scriptures] it denotes, not the mysterious (as with the Eng[lish] word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a mystery implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed. Hence the terms especially associated with the subject are ‘made known,’ ‘manifested,’ ‘revealed,’ ‘preached,’ ‘understand,’ ‘dispensation.’”
3. How did the Christian congregation of the first century differ from certain mysterious religious groups?
3 This explanation highlights a major difference between the mysterious religious groups that flourished in the first century and the newly formed Christian congregation. Whereas those initiated into secret cults were often bound by a vow of silence to guard religious teachings, Christians were never put under such a restriction. It is true that the apostle Paul spoke of “God’s wisdom in a sacred secret,” calling it “hidden wisdom,” that is, hidden from “the rulers of this system of things.” It is not hidden from Christians to whom it had been revealed through God’s spirit so that they might make it public.—1 Corinthians 2:7-12; compare Proverbs 1:20.
The “Sacred Secret” Identified
4. On whom does the “sacred secret” center, and how?
4 Jehovah’s “sacred secret” centers on Jesus Christ. Paul wrote: “[Jehovah] 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 at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth. Yes, in him.” (Ephesians 1:9, 10) Paul was even more specific about the nature of the “sacred secret” when he pointed to the need for “an accurate knowledge of the sacred secret of God, namely, Christ.”—Colossians 2:2.
5. What is involved in the “sacred secret”?
5 More, however, is involved, for the “sacred secret” is a secret with many facets. It is not simply the identification of Jesus as being the promised Seed or Messiah; it includes the role he is assigned to play in God’s purpose. It involves a heavenly government, God’s Messianic Kingdom, as Jesus clearly explained when he told his disciples: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted.”—Matthew 13:11.
6. (a) Why is it correct to say that the “sacred secret” was “kept in silence for long-lasting times”? (b) How was it progressively revealed?
6 A long period of time was to expire between the first mention of God’s purpose to provide a basis for the Messianic Kingdom and the bringing of “the sacred secret . . . to a finish.” (Revelation 10:7; Genesis 3:15) Its being brought to a finish would occur with the Kingdom’s establishment, as a comparison of Revelation 10:7 and 11:15 proves. In fact, some 4,000 years elapsed from the giving of the first Kingdom promise in Eden to the appearance of the King-Designate in 29 C.E. Another 1,885 years elapsed before the Kingdom was established in the heavens in 1914. Thus the “sacred secret” was progressively revealed over a period of almost 6,000 years. (See page 16.) Paul was indeed correct in speaking about “the revelation of the sacred secret which has been kept in silence for long-lasting times but has now been made manifest and has been made known.”—Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 3:4-11.
7. Why can we have utmost confidence in the faithful and discreet slave class?
7 In contrast with humans, who have a limited life span, Jehovah never feels pressured by time to reveal his secrets prematurely. This fact should prevent us from becoming impatient when certain Bible questions cannot presently be explained to our satisfaction. Modesty on the part of the faithful and discreet slave class, commissioned to provide the Christian household with food at the proper time, prevents it from presumptuously running ahead and wildly speculating about things that are still unclear. The slave class strives to avoid being dogmatic. It is not too proud to admit that as of now it cannot answer every question, keeping Proverbs 4:18 clearly in mind. But how thrilling to know that Jehovah, in his own due time and in his own way, will continue to reveal his secrets as to his purposes! Never should we become impatient with Jehovah’s arrangement, indiscreetly trying to rush ahead of the Revealer of secrets. How reassuring it is to know that the channel Jehovah is using today does not do so! It is both faithful and discreet.—Matthew 24:45; 1 Corinthians 4:6.
The Secret That Has Been Revealed Must Be Told!
8. How do we know that the “sacred secret” is to be made known?
8 Jehovah has not revealed his “sacred secret” to Christians for them to keep it hidden. It is to be made known, in harmony with the principle Jesus set down for all his followers—not just for a few clergymen: “You are the light of the world. A city cannot be hid when situated upon a mountain. People light a lamp and set it, not under the measuring basket, but upon the lampstand, and it shines upon all those in the house. Likewise let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matthew 5:14-16; 28:19, 20.
9. What proves that Jesus was no revolutionary, as some claim?
9 Jesus had no revolutionary intention of forming an underground organization of followers to pursue secret purposes. In the book Early Christianity and Society, Robert M. Grant wrote regarding the defense made of the early Christians by second-century apologist Justin Martyr: “If Christians were revolutionists they would remain in hiding in order to reach their goal.” But how could Christians “remain in hiding” and at the same time be like “a city . . . situated upon a mountain”? They dared not hide their light under a measuring basket! The government, therefore, had nothing to fear from their activity. This writer went on to describe them as “the emperor’s best allies in the cause of peace and good order.”
10. Why should Christians not keep their identity secret?
10 Jesus did not want his disciples to keep secret their identity as members of a so-called religious sect. (Acts 24:14; 28:22) Failing to let our light shine today would be displeasing both to Christ and to his Father, the Revealer of secrets, and it would not leave us happy.
11, 12. (a) Why does Jehovah desire Christianity to be made known? (b) How did Jesus set the proper example?
11 Jehovah “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11; Acts 17:30) The basis for forgiveness of the sins of repentant humans is faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all—not for just a few—so that “everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It is vital that people be helped to take the necessary steps that will qualify them to be judged as sheep, not goats, during the coming judgment.—Matthew 25:31-46.
12 True Christianity is not to be hidden; it is to be made known in every appropriate way possible. Jesus himself set the proper example. When questioned by the chief priest about his disciples and his teaching, he said: “I have spoken to the world publicly. I always taught in a synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.” (John 18:19, 20) In view of this precedent, what God-fearing person would presume to keep secret what God has declared must be made public? Who would dare hide “the key of knowledge” that leads to eternal life? Doing so, would make him like the religious hypocrites of the first century.—Luke 11:52; John 17:3.
13. Why should we preach at each and every opportunity?
13 May no one ever be able to say that we as Jehovah’s Witnesses have kept God’s Kingdom message secret! Whether the message is accepted or rejected, people must know that it has been preached. (Compare Ezekiel 2:5; 33:33.) Let us therefore take advantage of each and every opportunity to speak the message of truth to all, wherever we happen to meet them.
Putting Hooks in Satan’s Jaws
14. Why should we not be hesitant about being open in our worship?
14 In many places Jehovah’s Witnesses are becoming more and more the center of media attention. Similar to what happened to the early Christians, they are often misrepresented and placed in the same category as questionable religious cults and secret organizations. (Acts 28:22) Might our openness in preaching make us more subject to attack? It certainly would be unwise, and not in keeping with Jesus’ counsel, to thrust ourselves into the midst of controversy unnecessarily. (Proverbs 26:17; Matthew 10:16) However, the beneficial work of Kingdom preaching and helping people to improve their lives is not to be hidden. It glorifies Jehovah, lifting him on high, directing attention to him and to his established Kingdom. The recent gratifying response to Bible truth in Eastern Europe and parts of Africa has partially been because of the increased openness with which the truth can now be preached there.
15, 16. (a) What purposes are served by our openness and spiritual prosperity, but is this a cause for concern? (b) Why does Jehovah put hooks into Satan’s jaws?
15 It is true that the openness with which Jehovah’s Witnesses preach, the spiritual paradise they enjoy, and their prosperity—both in human resources and material assets—do not go unnoticed. While attracting honesthearted ones, these factors may repel opposers. (2 Corinthians 2:14-17) In fact, this may eventually serve to lure Satan’s forces into attacking God’s people.
16 Should this be a cause for concern? Not according to Jehovah’s prophecy found in Ezekiel chapter 38. It foretells that Gog of Magog, descriptive of Satan the Devil since his debasement to the vicinity of the earth after the Kingdom’s establishment in 1914, will lead an attack on God’s people. (Revelation 12:7-9) Jehovah tells Gog: “You must say: ‘I shall go up against the land of open rural country. I shall come in upon those having no disturbance, dwelling in security, all of them dwelling without wall, and they do not have even bar and doors.’ It will be to get a big spoil and to do much plundering, in order to turn your hand back upon devastated places reinhabited and upon a people gathered together out of the nations, one that is accumulating wealth and property, those who are dwelling in the center of the earth.” (Ezekiel 38:11, 12) Verse 4 shows that God’s people need not fear this attack, however, because it is of Jehovah’s doing. But why would God allow—yes, even provoke—an all-out attack on his people? In verse 23 we read Jehovah’s answer: “I shall certainly magnify myself and sanctify myself and make myself known before the eyes of many nations; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.”
17. How should we view Gog’s imminent attack?
17 Thus, rather than living in dread of Gog’s attack, Jehovah’s people look forward with anticipation to this further fulfillment of Bible prophecy. How thrilling to know that by prospering and blessing his visible organization, Jehovah inserts hooks into Satan’s jaws and draws him and his military force on to their defeat!—Ezekiel 38:4.
Now More Than Ever!
18. (a) To what realization are many people now coming, and why? (b) How does the reaction to Kingdom preaching serve as a powerful motivation?
18 In modern times Jehovah’s Witnesses have been very open in expressing their Bible-based views, even though this has not been popular. For decades they have warned of the dangers of smoking and drug abuse, the shortsightedness of permissive child training, the bad effects of entertainment saturated with illicit sex and violence, and the risks of blood transfusions. They have also pointed out the inconsistencies of the evolution theory. More and more people are now saying, “Jehovah’s Witnesses are not wrong after all.” Had we not been so open in making our views public, they could not react this way. And do not overlook the fact that by making such a statement, they are taking a step in the direction of saying, “Satan, you are a liar; Jehovah is right after all.” What a powerful motivation for us to continue following Jesus’ example, publicly speaking the word of truth!—Proverbs 27:11.
19, 20. (a) What determination did Jehovah’s people express in 1922, and do these words still apply? (b) How should we view Jehovah’s “sacred secret”?
19 Jehovah’s people have long understood their obligation in this regard. At a noteworthy convention in 1922, J. F. Rutherford, then president of the Watch Tower Society, thrilled his audience by saying: “Be sober, be vigilant, be active, be brave. Be faithful and true witnesses for the Lord. Go forward in the fight until every vestige of Babylon lies desolate. Herald the message far and wide. The world must know that Jehovah is God and that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. This is the day of all days. Behold, the King reigns! You are his publicity agents. Therefore advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom.”
20 As important as these words were in 1922, how much more so 75 years later, when the revealing of Christ as Judge and Avenger is much closer! The message of Jehovah’s established Kingdom and of the spiritual paradise enjoyed by God’s people is a “sacred secret” simply too grand to keep. As Jesus himself so clearly stated, his followers must, with the help of the holy spirit, be witnesses “to the most distant part of the earth” concerning his key place in Jehovah’s eternal purpose. (Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:8-12) In fact, as servants of Jehovah, the God who reveals secrets, we dare not keep this secret to ourselves!
How Would You Answer?
□ What is the “sacred secret”?
□ How do we know that it should be publicized?
□ What brings about Gog’s attack on Jehovah’s people, and how should we view this?
□ What should each of us be determined to do?
[Box on page 16]
A “Sacred Secret” Progressively Revealed
□ After 4026 B.C.E.: God promises to raise up a Seed to destroy Satan.—Genesis 3:15
□ 1943 B.C.E.: The Abrahamic covenant is validated, promising that the Seed will come through Abraham.—Genesis 12:1-7
□ c. 1781 B.C.E.: Jehovah confirms that the Seed will come through Isaac’s son Jacob.—Genesis 28:10-15
□ 1711 B.C.E.: Jacob indicates that the Seed will come through his son Judah.—Genesis 49:10
□ Jesus reveals that he will have fellow rulers and judges, that the heavenly Kingdom will have earthly subjects, and that all his followers are to be Kingdom preachers.—Matthew 5:3-5; 6:10; 28:19, 20; Luke 10:1-9; 12:32; 22:29, 30; John 10:16; 14:2, 3
□ 36 C.E.: Peter learns that non-Jews will also be Kingdom joint heirs.—Acts 10:30-48
□ 55 C.E.: Paul explains that the Kingdom joint heirs will be resurrected to immortality and incorruption during Christ’s presence.—1 Corinthians 15:51-54
□ 1879 C.E.: Zion’s Watch Tower points to 1914 as a year of great significance in the outworking of God’s “sacred secret”
[Pictures on page 15]
Like their Leader, Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses publicly declare Jehovah’s Kingdom