1Corinthians 2:6-9 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature. yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
A mystery, in Scripture, is a truth which was previously hidden, now uncovered. Most of these are intended for the edification of more mature believers. The only mystery Paul teaches the Corinthians is the rapture of the church in 1Cor 15:52-53, which will be considered in future lessons and in my upcoming book on the topic.
Paul does discuss deeper mysteries in letters to more mature churches. We will look at a few of these.
The first mystery concerns our mortal enemy, the devil, and his cohorts. But this mystery is also a mystery of God, for the devil can do nothing without His go ahead.
2Thess 2:7-12 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonder, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
The mystery of lawlessness is already at work in the world, just as is the mystery of godliness. When the one who restrains this mystery from coming in full force is taken out of the way, then the lawless one, the man of sin, the embodiment of the mystery of lawlessness, will be revealed. When he comes, he will come with signs and powers – even to calling down fire from heaven according to Revelation, and wonders that will promote the lie, bringing unrighteous deception to the world because they did not receive the love of the truth for salvation.
On a more limited scale we can see these lying wonders active in the world today. Sometimes miraculous healings occur through various new age techniques. Occasionally a witch’s spell will really do something. And some psychics can really know things they should not be able to know. But all of these wonders are performed by channeling demons and through demonic powers.
And if we pay attention it is evident that the enemy is doing everything within his power to prepare the world for the arrival of his ultimate deception, the Anti-christ, the Beast of Revelation – and the world, and even many professed Christians, will follow him. TV shows and movies abound which promote magic and psychic powers. Think this doesn’t really affect the way people think? On one occasion the Lord put me in a position to witness to a 13-year-old girl. She had been to church some and thought she was a Christian, and knew that witchcraft was basically evil. BUT… she also thought that there were some good magic spells, such as friendship and love spells. Attitudes like this leave the world wide open to the deception of the devil, and can even affect those who profess Christ.
And the devil has infiltrated the church, too. I’m not just talking about the ultra-liberal churches which call Christ a mere good moral teacher, or that defend moral practices the Bible condemns such as homosexuality. I am talking about more conservative churches which still hold to Scripture and Christ as Lord.
As one example, there is a new age religious practice based on Hindu and Buddhist practices Called Transcendental Meditation. This involves blanking your mind and focusing on a word or phrase which is repeated over and over until you enter into an almost hypnotic state. I have heard of a practice in some churches from someone who has seen it firsthand, where people are told to just blank their minds and repeat some spiritual, biblical prayer word over and over, such as the name of Jesus, to open themselves up to the spirit of God. Sounds the same to me!
In contrast to this, we are told that our praise should be active praise with our minds set on Him, and that our meditation should be on God’s word and the great things He has done for us. Prayers likewise are to be active, using the Lord’s prayer in Matthew chapter 6 as an example, not just repeat a passive prayer word or pre-written prayer. Other examples would be the power of positive thinking, and the high self-esteem movement which often negates the humility to which believers are called.
Thus we find that the mystery of lawlessness is working overtime not only in the world, but also in the church. When the Anti-christ comes, many will be open to his deception, as will those who have totally rejected the truth.
But all of this serves the purposes of God, which is part of the mystery, or revealed truth. 2Thess 2:11-12 says God Himself will send a strong delusion to those who rejected Christ and true holiness in favor of their sinful desires. It is common in some end times teaching to promote a great revival during this time frame, especially among those who believe in the any-moment, pre-tribulational rapture. Such teachers love to promise how those loved ones who have not put their trust in Christ for salvation before the rapture will have a second chance afterward. It is not my purpose in this article to debate the timing of the rapture, but to tell you that such end time revival teachings are contrary to clear Scriptural truths in a number of passages. Those who heard the gospel and rejected it will not likely receive another chance if they live during the tribulation period.
In contrast to the mystery of lawlessness, turn over a couple of pages to 1Timothy 3:16 to read about the mystery of Godliness. Just as the mystery of lawlessness will culminate in the Anti-christ, so the mystery of Godliness is embodied in the person of Christ. He was justified in the Spirit. He lived a perfect, sinless life and fully abided in the Holy spirit.
This brings to mind Romans 8:1, which says that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh nature, but according to the Spirit. We walk in Christ’s justification when we let the Spirit have His way in us and we abide in and follow Him. Thus we are justified by our faith in Christ. James Chapter 3 teaches that we are justified by a faith that produces works of righteousness, and Paul taught that these works are produced as we learn to walk in the Spirit. As Jesus always walked in the Spirit, He always walked in justification, and no true accusation could be brought against Him by the enemy. If we abide in Christ, the shedding of His innocent blood justifies us even in our weaknesses, so the enemy cannot successfully bring accusation against us. Christ is our justification.
Ephesians 5:22-32 (not quoted). In this passage Paul compares the relationship between Christ and His church to the relationship between a husband and wife. Just as a husband and wife ought to love, cherish, and nourish each other, so should the Church relate to Christ. In verse 32, Paul tells us that this is a GREAT mystery regarding the spiritual joining of Christ with His church as in marriage. Of the number of mysteries called so by name in Scripture, only 2 are called great mysteries. The first is the one we looked at in 1Timothy, how Christ’s righteousness can be imputed to man. The second is the comparison of Christ and the church to marriage. To understand this mystery, check out my January 2011 post on the Bride of Christ.