CONCLUSION – Gospel for Today
The Gospel Paul proclaimed is for the Church today – There is no other.
God’s Mystery – the Secret
Romans 16:25 (KJV) 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, which was kept secret since the world began,
Mention of the secret may seem peculiar to those who have not studied the prison epistles carefully. Paul reveals the mystery which was kept secret by God from the beginning of the creation. This mystery which was shut up in a secret is now revealed. The mystery consists of the new dispensation granted after the total rejection by Israel of their Messiah. It has been made known to us in this era of grace.
The word “mystery” in our Bible is translated from the Greek word musteerion, and denotes a previously hidden or concealed truth, a divine secret, which is now revealed or made known.
Col. 1:26 (KJV) Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Eph 3:9 (KJV) And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Of the nine epistles to the churches only the three prison epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians—contain the secret and the explanation. The earlier ones were written during the transitional period prior to Acts 28:28.
It is in Paul’s prison epistles that we find insight previously undisclosed and not found anywhere else in Scripture. It is in the captivity in Rome that Paul calls himself “the prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Eph 4:1). It is then that he writes of the Secret Economy. Paul’s final epistles were written at his prison home in Rome. Paul dwelt two years in his own hired house and preached to many that came to him. He preached the gospel with confidence and with no interference. During this time he wrote Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians and Philippians. These are sometime referred to as the prison epistles. They have to do with the gospel of grace.
The prophets and apostles were only concerned with the restoration of the earth and anticipation of the millennial kingdom and the new creation. None of them were given a vision of God’s plan revealed in the three prison epistles. They had no idea of our heavenly (celestial) destiny.
Peter and James and John show conclusively, by their epistles, that they never received the truth contained in Paul’s prison epistles. It is evident that this mystery was neither sent to the twelve apostles nor received by them. The epistles of James, Peter, and John, do not acknowledge it at all. Only Peter hints at it, but he found it “hard to apprehend” (2 Peter 3:16).
The Circumcision, represented by Peter, found these things “hard to apprehend” (2 Peter 3:16), not because they lacked intelligence or spiritual understanding, but because the mystery is outside the sphere where their own blessings are found. If it needs a special spiritual enlightenment (Eph.1:17) for us to perceive these great truths, how difficult and practically impossible is it for those beyond the bounds of its operation to get more than a glimpse of the greatest of all of God’s revelations!
The secret was withheld until after Paul’s imprisonment and the setting aside of Israel. So long as God was still dealing with the nation of His choice, he could reveal only so much of His grace to the nations in preparation for the transcendent revelations which were to follow. But it would have been most confusing and unwise, as well as unfair to Israel, to announce the new administration while the hope of the kingdom was still held out to them. Paul could not reveal this secret when passing by Ephesus, and it is for this reason that he qualifies his statement by the word “expedient”. He did not inform them of everything, but everything which is expedient.
The body of Christ or a body of Christ is not mentioned any place in Scripture except in the Pauline writings. The body of Christ is not even mentioned in the book of Acts. There are unquestionably elements of both the body and bride figures in the pre-prison epistles. But even the slight allusions to bridal relations are a far cry from the writings of the earlier prophets.
Read these passages of Scripture carefully and see how little scriptural foundation there is for the assumption that the twelve apostles belong to the body of Christ, or had anything to do with establishing the body of Christ. The body of Christ and the bride of Christ are not the same thing. (An article is coming to explain the difference.)
The body of Christ, was to have a separate sphere of blessing, independent of Israel and the kingdom of God This was kept a secret until judicial blindness was pronounced upon Israel at the close of the Acts period, whereupon Paul, in his prison epistles, revealed this secret and its associated truths.
There are differences shown by the presence or absence of words. Jew, Israel, covenant, circumcision, Abraham, tongues, baptize, and such like words, occur with considerable frequency in the earlier epistles and rarely or not at all in the later. These omissions are not by accident, even allowing for differences in greater part between the two groups of writings. They are due to the fact that a change of dispensation had made necessary a measurable change of content. In several of the cases where matters of uniquely Jewish interest are mentioned in the prison letters they are mentioned in a downbeat way; as, for instance, the single occurrence of the word Jew, in Colossians 3:11, which reads, “Where there is neither Greek nor Jew.”
What is the end result of those who are of the body of Christ in this era? At the resurrection we who are of the dispensation of grace, will NOT inherit the earth, but rather the heavens.
Notice this remarkable truth, both from the King James Version, the Emphatic Diaglott and the Concordant literal Version.
1Cor. 15:49 (KJV) And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
1 Cor. 15:49 (CLV)And according as we wear the image of the soilish, we should be wearing the image also of the Celestial.”
1 Cor. 15:49 (Diaglott) and even as we bore the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly.
The word heavenly in the King James Version and some others is from the Greek ἐπουράνιος (G2032). In some other versions, it is also rendered:
in the heavenly sphere
the sphere of spiritual activities
There is no English word that gives a precise thought for the Greek word. So the best that the translators have done is use one of the words above. I suggest that either heavenly, heavenlies or celestial are acceptable. But celestial or celestials is preferred. In its singular form it is a little better than heavenly, but in its plural form it comes very close to the meaning and usage of the Greek.
To be told that our blessings are among the heavenlies (celestials) without any previous preparation would invite incredulity and scepticism. It is similar to the idea of the resurrection from the dead which Paul preached in Corinth (1 Cor.15:35). In answering the question to the Corinthians, “With what body are they coming?”
The apostle prepares us for the heavenly destiny now revealed. He does not stop at saying the resurrected body is incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual, but goes on saying a still greater change will occur than these words suggest. It will no longer be earth bound, but celestial. It is no longer to be a terrestrial body. We are to put on the image of the heavenly (celestial) (1 Cor.15:39-52). This much he made known to the Corinthians long before the secret of Ephesians was revealed.
Paul is the apostle who most frequently refers to our ultimate destiny among the heavenlies. Here are a few of the scriptures referring to this marvellous truth.
(KJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
(CLV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ,
(Rotherham) Blessed, be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenlies, in Christ,
(KJV) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
(CLV) and rouses us together and seats us together among the celestials, in Christ Jesus,
(Rotherham) And raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies, in Christ:
(KJV) And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(CLV) The Lord will be rescuing me from every wicked work and will be saving me for His celestial kingdom: to Whom be glory for the eons of the eons. Amen!
(Young’s Literal Translation) and the Lord shall free me from every evil work, and shall save me —to his heavenly kingdom; to whom is the glory to the ages of the ages! Amen.
It is evident that very little, indeed, is said concerning the celestials in the Scriptures. There are several good reasons which suggest themselves. First, there is our innate inability to understand what is not human. The language of mankind is not a fit vehicle for celestial things. Our Lord mentioned this in His interview with Nicodemus. “If I tell you of the terrestrial and you are not believing, how shall you be believing if I should be telling you of the celestial?” This is often typified by those who seek to define the earth’s relation to the heavens by earth-born phraseology. They do not realize its inadequacy.
We are to be focused on the celestial, not the terrestrial. Paul’s later letters deal with the heavens, and more particularly with the channel through which God purposes to bring His blessings to the heavenly spheres—the church which is Christ’s body.
Our Head is already glorified in heaven. He is not despised or rejected there as He is on earth. And our destiny is that celestial realm, where He is exalted as Christ Jesus.
Not merely are our blessings to be among the celestials (Eph. 1:3), but Christ Himself is given the place supreme. He is to be the Head in the heavens as well as on the earth (Eph.1:10).
The full force and special significance of “God who works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph.1:11) is lost if we do not see its peculiar application to the Jewish remnant who became a part of the body of Christ. They are certainly entitled to a place in the millennial kingdom on earth. Paul deserves the best place in the earthly kingdom. What explanation has God to offer for changing Paul’s destiny to heaven and thus causing him to forfeit his place in the kingdom administration on earth as a king or priest (2 Pet. 2:5; 9)? It is, this, that He is operating the universe, not only in accord with His revealed counsel, as proclaimed so far, but according to the counsel of His will, which includes the secrets now made known.
Our blessings, then, are indeed in heavenly places, but far more than that, they are among celestial beings, that is, those who are on the heavenly bodies as we are on the earth.
Let us rejoice in our privileges and prospect. The heavens are higher than the earth and we are highest in the heavens. Those who become lowest in this celestial exaltation would not want to exchange this glory for anything, including a position of ruler ship in God’s millennial kingdom. The highest dignitaries in the universe will gladly bow before the members of Christ’s body, which will have the ultimate place, not only in rule, but in the dispensation of God’s favour and in the reconciliation of the celestial throng to Him. We who were last have become first. Such is the power of God’s grace!
After the revelation of the celestial (heavenly) allotment for those associated with Paul’s ministry, the status of the nations, or gentiles, is changed from subordination to the Circumcision to full equality. Together, both are raised to the highest place in the universe. “To Him be glory in the ecclesia and in Christ Jesus for all the generations of the eon of the eons!
It is astonishing what a veil is lifted from the scriptures when we apprehend the great fact that ALL is concerned with Israel EXCEPT Paul’s epistles. The earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, the preaching of the twelve apostles in the Acts, the epistle to the Hebrews, and the letters of James, Peter, Jude and John, including the book of Revelation, all bear unmistakable signs of being written to and for the same people who were addressed by the prophets of old, that being the House of Israel.
If Paul’s epistles were eliminated from the Scriptures, we would have a complete record of the Hebrew revelation. It is all about Israel (the Circumcision).
But, Paul’s epistles set forth the fantastic grace which was not revealed prior to God’s calling him. His commission comes as a result of Israel’s failure, rather than through their salvation? There is no inkling of such powerful grace in the Hebrew Scriptures. If, then, we consider the bulk of the Greek writings as a continuation of the Hebrew we may look upon Paul’s epistles as a magnificent addition.
Paul tells us repeatedly that he is the minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles (nations) (Rom.15:16).
The letters of Paul are complete in themselves and so unique that it refuses to mix with the teaching of the rest. It would be absolutely false if applied during the impending judgment period when Peter’s epistles are in place. Just so Peter’s epistles cannot be applied now without adulterating and debasing the present grace.
Let us think deeply about this: Paul’s epistles present to us truth for this era: they cannot be applied to the past: they will not fit the future. The corollary of this is equally important. Today, anything outside Paul’s epistles has no place at the present time: it is for the future, in the coming age when Christ returns. May the application of this great principle bring us much joy and blessing!
The UNIVERSAL headship of Christ over all in the heavens as well as on the earth is found only in Paul’s epistles. It should be taken to heart far more than it is.
Another web site providing more information on this topic is http://spiritualblessings.org/the-dividing-line-acts-28/
Thus our study reveals Paul to be the chosen vessel, called, separated and given over to the grace of God for the nations, leading them from glory to glory unto maturity and full assurance of understanding in all the will of God. All the evidence shows that Paul wrote to the gentiles (nations), and that all of his epistles are for us and about us, laden with the riches of God’s most glorious grace. Yet God alone can open up hearts and understandings to receive His gracious Word.
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