Summary: This article was written and published March, 2015: When God set Israel aside and ended the Jewish dispensation, He began a new work in the world by the sending down of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit gathers in the church, the body and bride of Christ. But this new work, this new planting by God, was never predicted in the writings of the Old Testament. It was the mystery of God hidden from the prophets. The full understanding of this revelation and work by the Holy Spirit is one of the most important truths needed to be mastered by the Christian believer.
The article before this one (#19) spoke of the character of bible prophecy. It is God’s dealings with the earth, with Israel as His earthly calling, and His governmental workings in the earth. We showed how these three subjects, usually mixed together and related with each other, form the major theme of all prophecy. We also made note of how the church, the body of Christ, isn’t found in the prophetic writings. When we look for the church in prophecy all we can find is Christ. The body, and the mystical union of this body to its glorified Head in heaven, is not to be found in the Old Testament scriptures.
When the Jews were acknowledged by God as His people, Jehovah lived on the earth in the midst of Israel. God ruled the world from His throne in the tabernacle, or later from Solomon’s temple when it was built. When God refused to acknowledge Israel as His people (Hos. 1:9), His presence left the earth, His throne was removed, and world civil government was given over to the Gentiles. The Gentiles now had the principle of government and they were responsible to the Most High God in heaven. For God’s purposes Israel was set aside concerning this principle. We may look to the future and see the glory of Jehovah return to Israel and fill the rebuilt millennial temple (Ez. 43:1-7). It will be a time at the beginning of the millennium when God will again acknowledge Israel as His people (Ez. 37:21-28). God will rule the earth again from the midst of a restored Israel. This will be the return to Israel of the principle of God’s government of the earth – when the glory and presence returns to the earth and their temple.
There was another biblical principle associated with the nation of Israel for an even longer period of time than was the principle of government. Government only stayed with the Jews to the time of Jeremiah and the Babylonian captivity. But “calling” is a biblical principle, and Israel was recognized as having the calling of God from the time of their deliverance out of Egypt to their rejection of Messiah. When they would not have Him as King, Israel was set aside as for this principle.
We can note some interesting facts and events that are related to these principles, and to whether God acknowledges Israel or not. The Jewish dispensation lasts from the Jews coming out of Egypt to the time of Messiah being sent to them. The principle of calling stays with Israel this entire time. As we said above, the principle of government stays with the Jews until the captivity. What is remarkable is that when Israel was set aside by God concerning either principle, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed marking both occasions. Israel was set aside both times; the city and the temple were destroyed both times; it just was for a different biblical principle that judgment came. As long as God does not recognize Israel as His people, and until He takes them up again in the end, Israel will remain set aside and desolate.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Until they see Jesus again as their Messiah and King, Israel remains a desolate house. This is what I mean by the Jews being set aside by God. When the Babylonians destroyed the city and temple, Israel was set aside concerning God’s principle of government. When the Romans destroyed the city and temple, the Jews were set aside concerning God’s principle of calling. If Israel is set aside, then prophecy is set aside. If prophecy is set aside, then God isn’t dealing with the earth, nor is time being counted. If Israel is set aside, then Messiah and the promises are all set aside. The Jewish dispensation has truly ended; another and different dispensation has begun.
Allow me to explain in more detail. God sent Jesus Christ to the Jews as their Messiah. This was according to the promises made by God to their fathers and according to the prophecies given to them. They rejected their King. When they did this they rejected their Messiah, who by definition is King of the Jews. By doing this they rejected the promises and prophecies – all the things that would come to them through their Messiah. God has set Israel aside. They are a desolate house. God does not acknowledge them as His people, and He will not be their God at this time. If prophecy is about Israel and they are set aside, then prophecy is set aside as well. If time being counted on the earth in prophecy revolves around Israel, and God has set them aside, then time isn’t being counted any longer in prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). If Israel is God’s earthly calling and prophecy is about Israel and the earth, then God isn’t dealing with the earth as well. The earth, time, prophecy, Israel, the promises, and Messiah – all set aside by God in His present dealings. Further, the Jewish dispensation has ended. A different dispensation has started. The kingdom of God was taken from Israel (Matt. 21:43). With Messiah rejected how could they have a Messianic kingdom in unbelief?
With all these things set aside, what is God doing? What is it that God is dealing with, so to speak? The new dispensation is the kingdom of heaven in mystery (Matt. 13:11). It involves Christendom as the spoiled crop of wheat and tares in the field of the world (Matt. 13:24-30, 37-43). (I discuss in detail the transition between the two dispensations in my fourth book, How to Better Understand the Bible – Dispensationalism Made Simple, which should be available on Amazon by May, 2019)
But there is no revelation in Old Testament prophecy that there would be a new planting by God (Matt. 13:3). There was no indication in the prophecies of a crop in the field of the world (Matt. 13:24-30). As a corporate body Christendom was unrevealed and a mystery. What God is currently doing is not found in prophecy. It is hidden from the prophets of old and all their writings. It is not related to the government of the earth, and has nothing to do with Israel as a people and nation. What God is doing now through sovereign grace and the redemptive work of the Son of Man is His very own mystery. It is that which He has purposely kept hidden. Further He does not reveal His mystery until after the Son of Man was glorified, and the Holy Spirit sent down (John 7:39, 16:7).
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The mystery that God had hidden in ages past is the body of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). The fellowship of the mystery is the manifold wisdom of God being made known by the church. God would form through redemption a mystical body, gathered on the earth by the Holy Spirit, but united and in union with the glorified Son of Man in heaven. It would be a body that has a heavenly calling. It would have a heavenly citizenship. God would have it sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and He would bless it with every spiritual blessing. Many members are united as one to the Head in heaven by the baptism of the Spirit (I Cor. 12:12-13). This is the body of Christ. It is the mystery of God, and it was unthinkable to man and completely foreign to any Jewish thought. Yet this is what God kept hidden in Himself for ages.
Now here is a great truth and understanding that God kept hidden – based upon the work of the cross, God would form a body founded on the breaking down of the middle wall of parition between Jew and Gentile. To do this He would have to put Judaism aside, because it was maintained by the existing wall of separation. The Jewish system, the Jewish dispensation, all depended on the existence and maintenance of this wall. But it does not exist in Christ. It does not exist in Christianity. And it never will. Jesus abolished in His flesh and by His death the law of commandments and ordinances (Eph. 2:15). He wiped them out, took them out of the way, and nailed them to the cross (Col. 2:14). The cross effectively put an end to the law and Judaism. The destruction of the temple and city by the Romans in 70 AD was the physical demonstration of this truth by God. In Christ the wall does not exist. And this certainly was a mystery God kept hidden to be revealed at the right time, that is, in His timing according to His eternal purposes (Eph. 3:10-11).
There are numerous truths and important understandings found in the above quoted passage (Eph. 3:1-11); important in seeing clearly and comprehending by the Spirit. These I attempt to bring out in the list below and then add more scriptural support.
1.) The mystery was God’s and He kept it hidden and unrevealed from (before) the foundations of the world – “…which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men…which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God…” Note: The mystery was hidden in God, and the prophets of old would have no possibility of discovering it, or be able to speak concerning it.
2.) Although hidden in God, the mystery existed in God’s counsels and plans before He created the world – “…according to the eternal purpose…”
3.) The mystery was kept hidden by God until the work of redemption was finished. After the Son of Man was glorified and sat down, the Holy Spirit was sent down to bring forth this revelation of the mystery – “…as it has now been revealed by the Spirit…to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known…”
4.) The mystery was specifically given to Paul to reveal by the Spirit, as a personal stewardship of the grace of God, a dispensation of the mystery of Christ – “For this reason, I, Paul,…if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery…my knowledge in the mystery of Christ…of which I became a minister…to me…this grace was given…and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery…”
5.) This mystery of God’s is now revealed by the Spirit with the purpose of being understood and comprehended by the individual believer. It is not to remain hidden any longer – “…by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery…to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery…”
It is not just found in the book of Ephesians. Paul speaks of the mystery in other places (Rom. 16:25, Col. 2:2-3, Eph. 1:8-9). But the Spirit of God uses only Paul to speak of the church, the body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5, I Cor. 12:12-30, Eph. 1:22-23, 2:11-21, 4:1-16, 5:25-32, Col. 1:18). Others have individual references to localities and churches in their writings, and Peter has a vague allegory of it as a temple being built with living stones, but it was Paul who was made minister of the church. It was Paul who taught its doctrine. It was Paul who was given the stewardship of it. And with this mystery now revealed to him by the Spirit Paul is given the privilege to complete the word of God.
“I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
There are other things included in the mystery. Here we see that Christ, in the individual believer, is the believer’s hope of glory. Jesus said, “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) That day refers to when the Comforter would be given and individually we would be sealed with the Holy Spirit. It would require the Holy Spirit’s presence to reveal these things (John 14:25-26, 16:7, 16:13-15, I Cor. 2:9-16, Eph. 3:5). Christ in us is our life. For the believer to live is Christ. And Christ in us is the promise to us of being with Him and sharing His glory (John 17:22, Col. 3:4, Rom. 5:1-2, 8:18). Again, these truths were hidden from prophecy, and were never conceived of in the Jewish mind.
(Author editing note, May, 2019: If the church, the body and bride of Christ, is the main part of the mystery God kept hidden, then it is reasonable that everything associated with the church was part of the mystery and likewise hidden from prophecy. Christianity, Christendom, the Christian dispensation, and the preaching of the gospel to all nations – all these things were hidden from the prophets and bible prophecy. The Old Testament only speaks of the Jewish dispensation and the future millennium. It never directly spoke of what God would bring in to fill the gap between the two dispensations that were so well documented in the prophetic writings.)
As the mystery, the body of Christ is hidden from prophecy. What we see is that prophecy jumps over the mystery. What we see is that time being counted in prophecy does not apply to the mystery. The body of Christ is a heavenly body, and time is not counted with heavenly things. The church is a heavenly timeless gap in the world’s history, while God says to Christ, “Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Ps. 110:1) When God does this for Christ, earth’s history, and the Jews, and the counting of time, begin again. But before then the church will have been taken out of the scene of the earth. The body of Christ has a heavenly calling, and is not connected to the earth as is Israel. Prophecy is about the earth and therefore bypasses heavenly things such as the church.
This next statement may upset some, and so I apologize if it does. We shouldn’t be looking for prophetic signs and prophecy being fulfilled today. It is a mistake to take God’s providential acting as prophecy being fulfilled. Here is a sound statement and biblical understanding: All prophecy points to the end for its real and complete fulfilment – to the tribulation and the millennium. Besides, at this present time God is dealing with the mystery that was hidden from prophecy. Prophecy has been set aside just as sure as Israel has been set aside. And we should not mistake God’s providential acting in 1948 for fulfilling the prophecy of a nation born in one day (Is. 66:7-11). As long as God still acknowledges the heavenly calling of the church He will not turn back to Israel and their earthly calling. In His purposes He does not deal with two different callings at the same time. All of prophecy awaits the rapture of the church in order to begin again. It is then that God will deal with the earth and world in judgment and by known prophecies.
It might be of interest to us to take a closer look at the prophecy in Isaiah:
Isaiah 66:7-11 (DARBY)
Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child.
Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Can a land be made to bring forth in one day? shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her sons.
Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith Jehovah; I who cause to bring forth, shall I shut the womb? saith thy God.
Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all ye that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn over her: because ye shall suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; because ye shall drink out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
This passage speaks of Israel in the purposes of God, almost in the same way that Rev. 12 does – the woman is Israel in the counsels of God in both passages. Her travail in Isaiah corresponds to the last 3 1/2 years that she spends in the wilderness persecuted by the devil cast out of the heavens (Rev. 12:13-14). Early in both passages she gives birth to a man-Child. This is Jesus Christ in His humiliation. In the Revelation passage the man-Child is caught up to God and His throne (Rev. 12:5) – here you have the hint that His body is caught up with Him. Yet both passages jump over the time of the mystery. Prophecy will always do this, skipping over the time of the church on earth. In Revelation, as soon as the man-Child is caught up, war breaks out in heaven. If the church is caught up, then there can be no place found for Satan in the heavens. He must be cast down to the earth, which brings his wrath upon the woman. In the Isaiah passage verse seven is Jesus in humiliation, but verse eight jumps to Jacob’s trouble and the last 3 1/2 years. Now Zion will travail, and God will bring forth a nation at once and in one day. But when this actually happens by the hand of God, you see that the children born of the woman will be rejoicing with abundance and joy, and will be basking in the glory of Jerusalem. This was not true in 1948, nor is it true today. But the complete fulfilment waits for the end of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennium – not 1948. It is easy to get confused between providence and prophecy being fulfilled. Also it is easy to be confused between man’s works and doings compared to God’s work in fulfilling prophecy.
My final point concerns a characteristic of the believer/church. In Christ and with Christianity we have a walk of faith. We do not walk by sight or follow after signs, prophetic or otherwise. Paul said, “For Jews request a sign…” He doesn’t say that so Christians would start doing the same. Rather it is to be entirely avoided by the saint. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). “…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” Believers are not to be looking for prophetic signs to be fulfilled. By faith we see the unseen, which is Christ hidden at the right hand of God. The world cannot see Him; the Jews cannot see Him; but with the eye of faith we see Him (Col. 3:1-3). And when He appears, we will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4).