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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2008, 12:58:40 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

Concerning the kingdom on earth Zacharias said:

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people,

"And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David;

"AS HE SPAKE BY THE MOUTH OF HIS HOLY PROPHETS, WHICH HAVE BEEN SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN" (Luke 1:68-70).

Again at Pentecost, Peter, speaking of the absence of Christ and of the signs of His return, said:

"Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, WHICH GOD HATH SPOKEN BY THE MOUTH OF ALL HIS HOLY PROPHETS SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN."

"YEA, AND ALL THE PROPHETS FROM SAMUEL AND THOSE THAT FOLLOW AFTER, AS MANY AS HAVE SPOKEN, HAVE LIKEWISE FORETOLD OF THESE DAYS" (Acts 3:21,24).

But concerning the body of Christ, with its heavenly calling and position, not one word is to be found in the pages of prophecy.  Indeed, God kept this great purpose a secret until He was ready to bring the body itself into being, and then He revealed it first to the Apostle Paul.  The apostle says of this great purpose, that it was:

"KEPT SECRET SINCE THE WORLD BEGAN" (Romans 16:2.5).

"A MYSTERY . . . ORDAINED BEFORE THE WORLD UNTO OUR GLORY" (I Corinthians 2:7).

"IN OTHER AGES... NOT MADE KNOWN" (Ephesians 3:5).

"FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE WORLD HID IN GOD" (Ephesians 3:9).

"HID FROM AGES AND FROM GENERATIONS" (Colossians 1:26).

Manifestly there is a great difference between that which was "spoken by the mouth of all [God's] holy prophets since the world began" and that which was "kept secret since the world began."
 

PROPHECY AND THE MESSIANIC KINGDOM


As we have seen, God's plan to establish the Messianic kingdom was no secret to the Jews of Christ's day.  The kingdom is the very theme of Old Testament prophecy and is described there in great detail.  Some of the principal facts to be noted in regard to it are as follows:

1.  It will be set up on earth: "I shall give Thee the uttermost parts of THE EARTH for Thy possession" (Psalms 2:8 ). "THE EARTH shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:9). "A King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in THE EARTH" (Jeremiah 23:5). "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgment in THE EARTH" (Isaiah 42:4).

The angels confirmed this when, at His birth, they praised God, saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and ON EARTH peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

Our Lord, too, confirmed it when He said: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit THE EARTH" (Matthew 5:5), and taught His disciples to pray: "Thy kingdom COME.  Thy will be done IN EARTH, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2008, 01:00:27 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

The kingdom which John the Baptist, our Lord and the twelve proclaimed "at hand" was indeed "the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 3:1,2, 4:17, 10:5-7), but it was to be set up on earth.  Now, while its establishment is held in abeyance, it is vested in Christ Himself in heaven (Colossians 1:13), but the goal of prophecy is the establishment of the kingdom on earth (Romans 11:25-29).

2.  It will be a theocracy.  God Himself will reign, in the person of Christ: "They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). "And His name shall be called . . . The mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6). "The Lord shall be king over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9). "The King, the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 14:16).

3.  It will be centered at Jerusalem, Israel's capital city: "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). "The Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 24:23). "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord" (Jeremiah 3:17).  Thus He will reign primarily over Israel (Micah 5:2).

This was confirmed by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:32,33), by the Magi (Matthew 2:1,2) and by the Lord Himself (Matthew 19:28 ).

4.  It will extend to all the earth: "Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him" (Psalms 72:11). "And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him" (Daniel 7:14). "Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord" (Zechariah 8:22).

5.  All Israel will then be saved: "They shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jeremiah 31:34). "I will save them . . . and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God" (Ezekiel 37:23).

This was confirmed by Paul in Romans 11:26, etc.

6.  Israel's suffering and sorrow will then be over: "Speak ye comfortably [comfortingly] to Jerusalem. . . . that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned" (Isaiah 40:2). "Give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3). "They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:10).

7.  Israel will then become a blessing to all nations: "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isaiah 60:3). "And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing" (Zechariah 8:13). "In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zechariah 8:23).

These promises date back to the covenant which God made with Abraham: "I will multiply thy seed . . . and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:17,18 ).

8.  Government will be purified: "With righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth" (Isaiah 11:4). "As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Isaiah 61:11). "A King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth" (Jeremiah 23:5).
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2008, 01:02:15 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

9.  War and bloodshed will be abolished. [3] "His name shall be called . . . The Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). "And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4).

10.  Health and long life will be restored to the human race: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Isaiah 35:5,6). "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed" (Isaiah 65:20). [4]

11.  The animal creation will be tamed: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 11:6-9).

12.  The curse will be removed from the vegetable creation: "The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as a rose.  It shall blossom abundantly . . .  for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.  And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water" (Isaiah 35:1,2,6,7).
 

THE PROPHETIC WORD AND THE
BELIEVER TODAY



All Scripture is, of course, equally important as the Word of God, and all profitable to the man of God.  Yet the thoughtful student of the Word soon discovers that certain passages have a more direct bearing upon others than upon himself and are in that sense more important to those directly involved.

The command to keep the Passover, for example, directly involved the Israelites under the law and was, in that sense, of greater importance to them than to us.

In the same way prophecy (except Paul's) deals directly with Israel and the nations, not with the body of Christ.

While a deep interest in the prophetic word is commendable, we must not forget that there is nevertheless another great body of truth which more directly concerns us.

When God finally set the nation Israel aside He said, through the Apostle Paul:

"Be it known therefore unto you, that THE SALVATION OF GOD IS SENT UNTO THE GENTILES, and that they will hear it" (Acts 28:28 ).

Therefore Paul says, by inspiration:

"I SPEAK TO YOU GENTILES, INASMUCH AS I AM THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES, I MAGNIFY MINE OFFICE" (Romans 11:13).

Thus, while Israel and the prophetic program are temporarily set aside, the church is made up predominantly of Gentiles in the flesh, with Paul as their apostle.

This is why the apostle speaks of "this mystery among the Gentiles" (Colossians 1:27) and explains to the Gentile believers of this day:

"For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of THIS MYSTERY, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; THAT BLINDNESS IN PART IS HAPPENED TO ISRAEL, UNTIL THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN" (Romans 11:25).
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2008, 01:04:28 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

When the period here referred to has run its course, God will again resume His dealings with Israel and bring the prophetic program to a conclusion, as the next verses state:

"And so ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED: AS IT IS WRITTEN, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

"FOR THIS IS MY COVENANT UNTO THEM . . (Romans 11:26,27).

This interruption of the prophetic program must be borne in mind in any consideration of the importance of the prophetic word.  While as the Word of God, prophecy is fully as important as any other part of the Scripture, it deals directly with Israel and the nations, not with the body of Christ.

Thus it is Peter, not Paul, who says: [5]

"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; [6] whereunto ye do well that ye take heed [(] as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day star arise[)] in your hearts" (II Peter 1:19).

Again it is John, not Paul, who writes in his introduction to The Revelation:

"Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand" (Rev. 1:3).

A blessing, of course, comes to any one who reverently studies any part of the blessed Book, but this special blessing will be the portion of those who study the Book of the Revelation and keep its precepts in that day when the revelation of Christ in glory will again be at hand.

Hence it is important to remember that while all Scripture is indeed for us, Paul's epistles constitute our private mail. It is Paul who was specially chosen of God as the apostle of the Gentiles and the one through whom the mystery was to be revealed.

What a pity, in this dispensation of the grace of God, that the church abounds with "prophetic experts," while "experts" in "this mystery among the Gentiles" are so rare!
 

THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY


Many "mysteries" are to be found in the Scriptures, but one stands out pre-eminently as "The Mystery:" the great body of truth committed by revelation to the Apostle Paul.

When Messiah first appeared on earth, God did not immediately establish His kingdom by force.  The kingdom was first proclaimed "at hand" and offered for acceptance.  This proclamation and offer was, of course, made to Israel, for the Gentiles had long been given up, "even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge" (Romans 1:28 ).  But Israel proved herself no better than the Gentiles as she took the heaven-sent King, nailed Him to a tree and then, when God raised Him from the dead, still stood by her awful deed, defying the resurrected and glorified Christ and waging relentless war against those who dared to acknowledge Him as Messiah.

"He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.

"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:10,11).

And so, before the actual bringing in of the glorious reign of Christ, man was allowed to demonstrate his own moral failure and see for himself that the establishment of the long-promised kingdom would not be the result of his own efforts or character but of the grace and power of God, for man had done everything in his power to hinder the bringing in of the kingdom.

But "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Romans 5:20).  When Israel rejected her Messiah, God cast her aside (temporarily) along with the other nations, that He might offer to all His enemies everywhere reconciliation by grace alone, through faith in the rejected Christ.  Thus "the dispensation of the grace of God" was ushered in (Ephesians 3:2) so that those willing to accept God's grace might be reconciled to Him in one body by the cross (Ephesians 2:16).
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2008, 01:06:25 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

"FOR GOD HATH CONCLUDED THEM ALL IN UNBELIEF, THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL" (Romans 11:32).

"AND THAT HE MIGHT RECONCILE BOTH [JEWS AND GENTILES] UNTO GOD IN ONE BODY BY THE CROSS, HAVING SLAIN THE ENMITY THEREBY.

"And came and preached peace to you [Gentiles] which were afar off, and to them [Israelites] that WERE nigh" (Ephesians 2:16,17).

Nothing of this is to be found anywhere in prophecy.  It was a surprise of grace, so to speak, "hid from ages and from generations"; "kept secret since the world began."

The main features of this hitherto unrevealed program were as follows:

1.  Israel set aside, temporarily, along with the Gentiles: "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for" (Romans 11:7). "The fall of them" (Romans 11:12). "The casting away of them" (Romans 11: 15). "Because of unbelief they were broken off" (Romans 11:20). "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief" (Romans 11:32).

2.  Mercy shown to all alike: "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief THAT HE MIGHT HAVE MERCY UPON ALL (Romans 11:32). "For there is NO DIFFERENCE between the Jew and the Greek: for THE SAME LORD OVER ALL is RICH UNTO ALL THAT CALL UPON HIM.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:12,13). "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (I Timothy 2:5).

3.  The gospel of the grace of God, through Christ's finished work, proclaimed: Hence Paul's claims concerning "the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD" and "THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD which is given me to you-ward" (Acts 20:24, Ephesians 3:2).

4.  Believers reconciled to God by the cross: "God was in Christ, RECONCILING the world unto Himself" (II Corinthians 5:19). "That He might RECONCILE both [Jews and Gentiles] unto God . . . BY THE CROSS" (Ephesians 2:16). "When we were enemies, we were RECONCILED to God BY THE DEATH OF HIS SON" (Romans 5:10). "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies . . . yet now hath He RECONCILED in the body of His flesh THROUGH DEATH" (Colossians 1:21,22).

5.  Jewish and Gentile believers thus baptized into one body: "That He might reconcile both unto God in ONE BODY by the cross" (Ephesians 2:16). "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs [joint heirs], and of THE SAME BODY [of a joint body], and partakers [joint partakers] of His promise in Christ by the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). "There is ONE BODY" (Ephesians 4:4). "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into ONE BODY, whether we be Jews or Gentiles" (I Corinthians 12:13). "Now ye are THE BODY OF CHRIST, and members in particular" (I Corinthians 12:27). "So we, being many, are ONE BODY in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5). "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27,28 ).

6.  This body of believers given a position in Christ in the heavenlies: "And [God] hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). "[God] hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). "For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven" (Philippians 3:20). "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above . . .  for your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).

How vastly different this is from the reigning of Christ on earth at Jerusalem over Israel and the nations!  How different from peace on earth with all Israel saved, war and disease abolished, the animal creation tamed and the curse removed from the vegetable creation!
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« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2008, 01:08:23 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

What a pity that these great distinctions between prophecy and the mystery have not been more generally observed!
 

TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD


Because of a failure to recognize the mystery, some have supposed it necessary to alter prophecy to account for the present condition of Israel and the presence of the predominantly Gentile church of this age.

Seeing that the fulfillment of prophecy apparently ceased shortly after the crucifixion of Christ, and realizing that there was still much left to be fulfilled, these have supposed that God could not have meant exactly what He said when He prophesied that Christ would sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem as King of Israel.  They have supposed that these things must have been intended in a "spiritual" sense and so have concluded that Christ is now seated on "David's throne" at God's right hand, thus confusing earthly Jerusalem with "the Jerusalem which is above." They have further concluded that the church of today is "spiritual" Israel, that heaven is Canaan, etc.

But there is in fact nothing spiritual about this interpretation of the Scripture.  It is carnal, not spiritual, to fail to take God at His Word and to seek to explain away difficulties by arbitrarily altering what has been plainly written.

We vigorously object to this whole system of interpretation because:

1.  It leaves us at the mercy of theologians. If the Scriptures do not mean what they obviously, naturally seem to mean, who has the authority to decide just what they do mean?  If theologians have that authority, then we must agree with Rome that the Church, not the Bible, is the final and supreme authority.  Nor will it any longer avail us to turn to the Scriptures for light, for the Word of God does not mean what it says and only trained theologians can tell us what it does mean.

2.  It affects the veracity of God.  It is a thrust at His very honor.  If the obvious, natural meaning of the Old Testament promises is not to be depended upon, how can we depend upon any promise of God?  Then, when He says: "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved," He may also mean something else.  This is unthinkable of God, for it is only just that the promisee should have a fair understanding of the promise, for promised something, he will have a right to claim exactly what he has been promised.  A little child is supposed to have said: "If God didn't mean what He said, why didn't He say what He meant?"

3.  It endorses apostasy.  Indeed, it is the mother of apostasy.  When Luke 1:32,33 is "spiritualized" the Modernist agrees wholeheartedly.  He agrees that the throne of David and the house of Israel in this passage must be viewed in a "spiritual sense"--and so must the next few verses!  Thus Christ was not really born of a virgin.  This picture is merely drawn to impress us with the purity of His person, etc.!

And the Modernist denies the resurrection in the same way.  Concerning Acts 2:30-32 it is argued that since Christ will not really occupy the throne of David, neither was He really raised from the dead!  The Scriptures which say so must be "spiritually" interpreted!

And here comes one of "Jehovah's Witnesses," claiming to belong to the 144,000.  Ask what tribe he is from and he will explain that not physical, but "spiritual" Israelites are referred to in the prophecy of the 144,000!  Yet we are distinctly told that there are to be 12,000 from each tribe, and the tribes are named!

Rome employs the same reasoning.  She is seeking to establish the kingdom of Christ on earth!  Because the Church of Rome is really a political system, with a state and a ruler on earth it may seem at first that she leans rather to a literal interpretation of prophecy, but this is not so, for the Church of Rome is not literal Israel, Rome is not Jerusalem, and Christ Himself is not reigning.

Those who have resorted to the "spiritualization" of the prophetic Scriptures because they cannot account for the seeming cessation in their fulfillment, will find the solution to their problem in the recognition of the mystery.  Recognize the mystery and there will be no need to alter prophecy.
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« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2008, 01:10:34 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MYSTERY TO US


Before further considering this great body of truth let us note the surpassing importance of it to us.  We say to us because Paul was sent particularly to the Gentiles with this revelation (Ephesians 3:1-3).

1.  God has made it known:

"HAVING MADE KNOWN UNTO US THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL" (Ephesians 1:9).

2.  It is His will that all see it:

"AND TO MAKE ALL MEN [7] SEE WHAT IS THE FELLOWSHIP [Gr. oikonomia, DISPENSATION] OF THE MYSTERY" (Ephesians 3:9).

3.  Paul asked prayers for open doors to make it known:

"PRAYING . . . THAT GOD WOULD OPEN UNTO US A DOOR OF UTTERANCE TO SPEAK THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST" (Colossians 4:3).

4.  He asked prayers for an open mouth and boldness to proclaim it:

"THAT I MAY OPEN MY MOUTH BOLDLY, TO MAKE KNOWN THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL" (Ephesians 6:19).

5.  A knowledge of it imparts spiritual encouragement and enlightenment:

"THAT THEIR HEARTS MIGHT BE COMFORTED [ENCOURAGED] . . . UNTO ALL RICHES OF THE FULL ASSURANCE OF UNDERSTANDING . . . THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT [Gr. epignosis, FULL KNOWLEDGE] OF THE MYSTERY" (Colossians 2:2).

6.  Believers are established by it:

"NOW TO HIM THAT IS OF POWER TO STABLISH YOU ACCORDING TO MY GOSPEL, AND THE PREACHING OF JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY" (Romans 16:25).

7.  Proclaimed for the obedience of faith:

"NOW . . . MADE MANIFEST, AND BY THE SCRIPTURES OF THE PROPHETS [Gr. PROPHETIC SCRIPTURES [8] . . . MADE KNOWN TO ALL NATIONS FOR THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH" (Romans 16:26).
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« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2008, 01:12:08 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY

 
BASIC DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY


PROPHECY

Concerns a kingdom; a political organization (Daniel 2:44, Matthew 6:10).

The kingdom to be established on earth (Jeremiah 23:5, Matthew 6:10).

Christ to be its King (Jeremiah 23:5, Isaiah 9:6,7).

The kingdom prophesied "since the world began" (Luke 1:68-70, Acts 3:21).

Israel to be given supremacy over the nations (Isaiah 60:10-12, 61:6).

The Gentiles to be blessed through Israel's instrumentality (Genesis 22:17,18, Zechariah 8:13).

The Gentiles to be blessed through Israel's rise (Isaiah 60:1-3, Zechariah 8:22,23).

Prophecy mainly concerns nations as such (Isaiah 2:4, Ezekiel 37:21,22).

Prophecy concerns blessings, both material and spiritual, on earth (Isaiah 2:3,4, 11:1-9, etc.).

Prophecy concerns Christ's coming to the earth (Isaiah 59:20, Zechariah 14:4).

In prophecy, salvation by grace through faith alone is not contemplated.

The proclamation of the prophetic program committed particularly to the twelve (Matthew 10:5-7, Acts 1:6-8,3:19-26).

The prophetic program revealed through many of God's servants (Luke 1:70, II Peter 1:21).

Old testament writers frequently did not understand the prophecies made known through them (Daniel 12:8-10, I Peter 1:10-12).


THE MYSTERY [9]

Concerns a body; a living organism (I Corinthians 12:12,27, Ephesians 4:12-16).

The body given a position in heaven (Ephesians 1:3, 2:5-6, Colossians 3:1-3).

Christ its living Head (Ephesians 1:19-23, Colossians 1:18 ).

The body chosen in Christ before the world began, but "kept secret since the world began" (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 1:4-11, 3:5-9).

Jew and Gentile placed on the same level before God (Romans 10:12, 11:32, Ephesians 2: 16,17).

The Gentiles blessed through Israel's obstinacy (Acts 13:44-46, Romans 11:28-32).

The Gentiles blessed through Israel's fall (Acts 28:27,28, Romans 11:11,12,15).

The mystery concerns individuals (Romans 10:12,13, II Corinthians 5:14-17).

The mystery concerns "all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies" (Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 3:1-3).

The mystery explains Christ's present absence from the earth (Ephesians 1:20-23, Colossians 3:1-3).

Salvation by grace through faith alone lies at the very heart of the mystery (Romans 3:21-26, 4:5, Ephesians 2:8,9).

The proclamation of the mystery committed particularly to Paul (Ephesians 3:1-3,8,9, Colossians 1:24-27).

The mystery revealed through one man: Paul (Galatians 1:1,11,12, 2:2,7,9, Ephesians 3:2,3). [10]

Paul both understood and longed that others might understand the mystery revealed through him. (Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21, Colossians 1:9-10, 2:1-3).
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« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2008, 01:13:49 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter II.
PROPHECY AND THE MYSTERY


QUIZ


1.  Which is the most important division of the Bible?

2.  When and through whom was the old covenant (or testament) made?

3.  When and through whom was the new covenant made?

4.  What is the main subject of prophecy?

5.  What form of government will prevail in the Messianic kingdom?

6.  Where will the kingdom be set up?

7.  What great change will take place in Israel with the establishment of this kingdom?

8.  What will be the relation of the Gentiles to Israel in the Messianic kingdom?

9.  What is the main subject of the mystery?

10.  At what point in Israel's history did God begin to reveal the mystery?

11.  What is the relative status of Gentiles to Jews before God today?

12.  What is the relation between Jewish and Gentile believers today?

13.  Where is the believer's position and citizenship today?

14.  What erroneous method of interpretation have some theologians applied to the kingdom prophecies?

15.  What has caused them to adopt this method?

16.  How does this method of interpretation affect the rest of Scripture?

17.  What is the relation of this method to the prevailing heresies of our day?

18.  What is the solution to the problem which has caused some theologians to adopt this method?

19.  Name five basic distinctions between prophecy and the mystery.

20.  Give five Scriptures to show the importance of the mystery.
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« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2008, 01:37:33 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY

 
THE TWO-FOLD MEANING OF THE TERM


The Greek word musterion, rendered mystery in the Authorized Version, has a two-fold meaning.  It may mean merely what is kept hidden, or it may mean something understood only by the initiated.  It may also mean both at the same time.

The original word is perhaps closer in meaning to our word secret than it is to mystery in its modern usage.  We may speak of keeping a thing a secret, i.e., not telling it out, or we may speak of the secret of a man's success, i.e., the key, the clue to his success.

The great mystery revealed through Paul is spoken of in both ways--sometimes both together:

1.  The mystery is a truth which was intentionally kept hidden until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul: He says it was "kept secret since the world began" (Romans 16:25), "in other ages . . . not made known," "from the beginning of the world . . . hid in God" (Ephesians 3:5,9), "hid from ages and from generations" (Colossians 1:26).

2.  Now that it has been revealed it is still comprehended only by the initiated: Hence the apostle prays "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him" (Ephesians 1:17 and cf. Ver. 9), "that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding," "The mystery . . . now . . . made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles," "the full assurance of understanding . . . the acknowledgment [Gr. epignosis, full knowledge] of the mystery" (Colossians 1:9, 26,27, 2:2).  It is therefore of the utmost importance that we seek light and understanding from the Holy Spirit in the study of this great subject.
 

THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL
or
THE SECRET OF THE GOOD NEWS



In closing the most sublime of all his letters, the Apostle Paul writes:

"And [pray] for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL,

"For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19,20).

The precise wording of the phrase "mystery of the gospel" should be carefully noted. The apostle is not speaking here of the good news of a secret, but of the secret of, or key to, the good news. [1]
 

GOOD NEWS PROCLAIMED EVER
SINCE THE FALL



Along with the idea that the Old Testament saints trusted in the coming death of Christ for salvation, goes the notion, equally unscriptural, that there never has been more than one gospel.

This will be thoroughly discussed in a later chapter, but here it is necessary to point out the simple fact that ever since the fall God has proclaimed gospel, or good news, to sinners.
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« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2008, 01:39:05 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY

Was it not gospel, or good news, God announced to fallen Adam and Eve when He promised that Eve's seed would eventually crush the Serpent's head (Genesis 3:15)?  Was it not good news God proclaimed to Abram when He said that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:3, cf. Galatians 3:8 )?  Was it not good news God made known to David when He promised to establish his house and throne and kingdom forever (II Sam. 7:16)?  Was it not good news God revealed through the prophets, that peace and prosperity and blessing should prevail in the coming kingdom (Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:6-9, 35:1-7, Jeremiah 23:5)?  Was it not good news John the Baptist proclaimed when he introduced Christ and announced the kingdom "at hand" (Matthew 3:2,3)?  Was it not good news Peter preached when later he actually offered the kingdom to Israel, crying: "Repent ... the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you" (Acts 3:19,20)?

All this was gospel, or good news, but what was "the mystery of the gospel;" what was the secret of the good news?  How could a holy and righteous God proclaim good news to sinners?  How could He justly offer them good things to come when, as sinners, they deserved His wrath?

The answer to this is found in the epistles of Paul.
 

THE SECRET OF THE GOSPEL
PROCLAIMED BY PAUL



If anything is made clear in the Pauline epistles it is the fact that the secret of all God's good news to man is centered in Calvary.  It was because Christ was to die for sin that God could proclaim good news to sinners, whether it concerned the bringing in of the millennial kingdom, the blessing of the nations through Abraham's seed or the final defeat of Satan.

It was not until some time after the crucifixion, however, that the secret of the gospel was revealed to and through the Apostle Paul, and with it the best news of all: "the gospel of the grace of God."

The proclamation of "the gospel of the grace of God" was the natural accompaniment to the revelation of the cross as the secret of God's good news.  Indeed, the apostle calls his distinctive message both "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24) and "the preaching of the cross" (I Corinthians 1:18 ), for "the gospel of the grace of God" is "the preaching of the cross," i.e., as good news.  It is the proclamation of the over-abounding grace of God to man through the shed blood of Christ, and in the Pauline message everything centers in the cross.

According to the Pauline epistles "we have redemption through His blood" (Ephesians 1:7), we are justified by His blood" (Romans 5:9), "reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10), "made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13 and "made the righteousness of God in Him" because "God hath made Him to be sin for us" (II Corinthians 5:21).

The covenant of the law was abolished by the cross (Colossians 2:14), the curse of the law was removed by the cross (Galatians 3:13), the "middle wall of partition" was broken down by the cross (Ephesians 2:14,15) and believing Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God in one body by the cross (Ephesians 2:16).

Little wonder the apostle calls his message "the preaching of the cross"!
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« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2008, 01:40:47 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY

To the believer it is thrilling to see the cross as God's reply to Satan when, at first glance, it had appeared that the cross was Satan's greatest triumph.

Satan had, of course, worked long behind the scenes to prevent the coming of the Redeemer.  He had opposed it by seeking the destruction of all Hebrew male children in Egypt (Exodus 1:16,22), by seeking the annihilation of the whole nation by Pharaoh (Exodus 14), by seeking to wipe out "all the seed royal" through Athaliah (II Chronicles 22:10), by seeking the destruction of the race again through Haman (Esther 3:12,13).

When the deceiver was overruled in these and other attempts on Christ, and the Lord, after all, appeared on earth, Satan redoubled his efforts to destroy Him.  When but an infant, Herod sought the young child's life (Matthew 2); at Nazareth, His neighbors tried to throw Him over a cliff (Luke 4:29); a fierce storm on Galilee would have engulfed Him (Mark 4:37), etc.

Finally it seemed Satan was winning.  He had succeeded in turning Israel's rulers against Christ (John 7:48 ), then the masses (Matthew 13:13-15), then many of His own disciples (John 6:66,67) and finally even one of the twelve (Matthew 26:14-16).

Some suppose that Satan sought to prevent the crucifixion, but we must not presume that Satan understood how the cross would accomplish his defeat and our redemption.  We read distinctly that "Satan entered into" Judas (John 13:27).  Satan thought that the crucifixion of Christ would destroy Him.  How he must have congratulated himself on his success as our Lord died in shame and disgrace on Calvary's cross!

Doubtless it was a great shock and disappointment to him when Christ arose from the dead, but imagine his dismay when he discovered that he had tricked himself by crucifying Christ -- that God had actually paid for man's sins by the death of Christ so that He might save the chief of sinners and send him forth to offer "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace"! (Ephesians 1:7).

Thus Satan reached the climax of his career of deception when he deceived himself at Calvary.

In the light of this it is not strange that Satan hates and opposes the message of grace, the preaching of the cross, more bitterly than he ever hated or opposed the prophetic program.  Nor is it strange that it is God's purpose:

". . . that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10).
 

THE SECRET OF THE GOSPEL NOT
REVEALED BEFORE PAUL



We must be careful not to assume that predictions concerning the crucifixion are the same as "the preaching of the cross" or that "the preaching of the cross" has nothing to do with the mystery simply because the crucifixion itself was prophesied.

Predictions concerning the death of Christ are to be found in numerous Old Testament passages as well as in the four records of our Lord's earthly ministry, but never were the merits of Christ's death proclaimed as the ground of salvation until Paul.  The difficulty is that so much has been read into these passages which is not there.

How much, for example, could Adam and Eve have understood about the plan of salvation from the statement recorded in Genesis 3:15?  If they even understood from this that the coming Redeemer would die, they understood more than the twelve apostles did 4000 years later while working with the Lord Himself and preaching "the gospel of the kingdom" (Luke 9:1-6, 18:31-34). [2]
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« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2008, 01:42:15 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY

Does some reader suppose that the plan of salvation must have been explained to Adam and Eve?  Such a supposition would be entirely gratuitous.  In fact, the record would rather indicate the opposite.

It is now clear that the Holy Spirit had the death of Christ in mind in Psalms 22, but who would have dreamed, until Christ died, that it depicted His crucifixion or that its opening cry would be that of our crucified Savior?  Indeed, the passage was not even written in the form of a prediction!

And what about Isaiah 53?  Is Christ not portrayed here as bearing the sins of the world?  Those who suppose so have again read something into the passage.  Verse 6 reads: "All WE like sheep have gone astray . . . and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of US all."

Since the prophet says "all we," the thoughtful student of Scripture will naturally inquire, "all who?" And he will find in verse 8 that Isaiah speaks as a Hebrew prophet concerning his own people:

"For the transgression of MY PEOPLE was He stricken."

So, first of all, the prophet speaks here of Messiah's death only as it relates to the nation Israel. [3]

It is true, of course, that we Gentiles have also gone astray and that the Lord has also laid our iniquities upon Christ, but that is not the question here.

The tone of Isaiah 53 is another factor which must not be overlooked.  The prophet does not proclaim the death of Christ as good news, or offer salvation through its merits, as it is our joy to do today.  On the contrary, he begins with a tone of disappointment.  Who will believe his report?  A tender plant . . . a root out of a dry ground . . . no form nor comeliness . . . no beauty that we should desire Him . . . despised . . . rejected . . . a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."

Who wants tender plants or roots out of dry ground?  Dress a man in gorgeous apparel, put a crown on his head, set him on a throne in a palace with a thousand rooms, and men will come from the ends of the earth to kiss his feet.  But such a character as Isaiah describes; who would do homage to him?

But, continues the prophet, He is bearing our sins.  We are the guilty ones, yet He goes as a lamb to the slaughter.

Note, in all of Isaiah's prediction there is nothing about trusting in the merits of the Crucified for salvation.  There is substitution, to be sure, (which some consider the very acme of Christian truth) but substitution in itself is not good news.  Many an innocent victim has unjustly borne the penalty for the crime of another.  Was this something to be rejoiced in or boasted about?

Isaiah points out, indeed, that when Messiah comes He will be rejected and slain, taking the blame for Israel's sins, but this is still quite different from proclaiming the merits of Christ's death in an offer of salvation to be accepted by faith. [4]

Finally, we remind our readers that even this was but a prediction, which the prophet himself obviously did not understand (I Peter 1:10-12) or he would surely have filled his book with the glad message.

But did not John the Baptist know the secret of the gospel when he said of Christ:

"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh [beareth] away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

If he did, why then did he proclaim "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins"? (Mark 1:4).

In Matthew 3:1,2 we are given the theme of John's message:

"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

"And saying, REPENT YE: FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND."
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« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2008, 01:43:57 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY

If John understood what we now do about the death of Christ, why was not that his theme?

We must not forget the background of John 1:29.  John had been baptizing repentant sinners, and Jesus had come among them, also to be baptized.

"But John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?" (Matthew 3:14).

But Jesus insisted on being baptized.  Though perfectly sinless, He came as a sinner and was "numbered with the transgressors." Is it strange that John, who realized that he himself and the multitude were the ones who needed repentance and cleansing, should describe Christ as the Lamb of God, bearing away the sin of the world?

We say again that if John the Baptist even understood that Christ would die he knew more than the twelve did after working with Christ Himself for the greater part of His earthly ministry.  But the fact that John preached what he did indicates that he probably knew no more than they did.

Even after the crucifixion, the apostles did not immediately see the death of Christ as the secret of the gospel.  Peter, as we have seen, referred to the crucifixion, but did not offer it for salvation.  He blamed his hearers for the death of Christ and demanded repentance and water baptism for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:36,38 ).

No, even Philip did not preach the cross to the eunuch as the secret of the gospel.  The eunuch had been reading Isaiah 53.  Philip then preached Christ from that passage, proving from it that the crucified Jesus was the Messiah, whose coming Isaiah had predicted.

Read the record carefully.  Nowhere does it say that Philip instructed the eunuch that Christ had died for him, or that the eunuch should trust in His death for salvation.  Philip simply identified Jesus as the Messiah from that passage, and baptized the eunuch when he confessed:

"I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).

But it may still be objected: Does not Paul say, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures?" Yes, Christ's death for sin was in accordance with the Scriptures, but we insist that it was not until Paul that His death for sin was proclaimed as good news and seen as the secret of all the good news that had gone before.  The fact is, simply, that the prophesied death of Christ turned out to be the secret of the gospel.

Thus the fact of Christ's death for the sins of others was "testified beforehand" (I Peter 1:11), but Paul, by revelation, makes it very clear that the eternal purpose of God in that death and the offer of salvation to all through its merits was to be

". . . TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME, whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle . . ." (I Timothy 2:6,7).

Whereas Peter at Pentecost had accused his hearers of crucifying Christ and had demanded repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:23,36,38 ).  Paul proclaimed the crucifixion of Christ as good news (I Corinthians 1:18 ).  With Peter at Pentecost it was a matter of shame; Paul gloried in it (Galatians 6:14).

It was through Paul, and no one before Paul, that Christ was "set forth to be a propitiation THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD" (Romans 3:25).

It was Paul who first explained how men had been

". . . kept under the law, shut up unto THE FAITH WHICH SHOULD AFTERWARDS BE REVEALED" (Galatians 3:23).

And it was Paul who was first sent forth to proclaim that faith.
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« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2008, 01:46:01 AM »

THINGS THAT DIFFER
by Cornelius R. Stam - Chapter III.
THE TWO-FOLD ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY

It was Paul who first said:

"BUT NOW the righteousness of God without the law is manifested . . ."

"[We] declare, I say, AT THIS TIME, [Christ's] righteousness: that [God] might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:21,26).

It was Paul who first said:

". . . One died for all . . . wherefore HENCEFORTH KNOW WE NO MAN AFTER THE FLESH . . ." (II Corinthians 5:14,16).

Paul, the chief of sinners, saved by grace, offers the cross as the sole ground of remission (Romans 3:24); he boasts in it (Galatians 6:14); he exclaims:

"[He] loved ME and gave Himself for ME!" (Galatians 2:20), "[He] loved THE CHURCH and gave Himself for it!" (Ephesians 5:25), "The love of Christ constraineth us . . . He died for ALL" (II Corinthians 5:14,15).
 

THE MYSTERY (OR SECRET)
OF GOD'S WILL



We proceed now from "the mystery of the gospel" (Ephesians 6:19) to "the mystery of God's will" (Ephesians 1:9); from the secret of the good news to the good news of "the secret," i.e., the purpose kept secret until revealed to and through the Apostle Paul.  This is what he refers to in the words:

"Having made known unto us THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:

"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him" (Ephesians 1:9,10).

In this passage, as in many others by Paul, the will of God refers to His eternal purpose, not merely His will in some particular detail, or His will for our lives.  Thus he exhorts: "Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17. See also Ephesians 1:5,11, Colossians 1:9).

As we have pointed out, the mystery of God's will is the gathering together of all in heaven and earth in Christ.  This, however, is His ultimate purpose.  All God's own were not gathered together in Christ at once.  Thus the mystery of God's will involved the unfolding of a new program, a new dispensation.

In brief, the mystery as it relates to the present, is the glorious truth that God has concluded both Jew and Gentile in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all (Romans 11:32) and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross (Ephesians 2:16).

The heavenly position of this "one body," its spiritual blessings, its present responsibilities, etc., will be discussed in subsequent chapters, but it should here be stated that God's eternal purpose, so long kept secret, is directly bound up with the secret of the gospel, for the carrying out of this purpose is the historical demonstration of the fact that the Christ who was crucified on Calvary is Himself the secret of all God's good news.  Indeed, it was by the unfolding of His long-hidden purpose that God made known the secret of the gospel.
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