In late September, if things go as planned, I’ll teach a 6 week class on the word “mystery” in the Bible. Years ago, in my youth, I often remember sermons and such on the mysteries of God, but in recent years? Actually most of my adult years? Nothing. Several years ago (2014), I was excited to see this academic book come out by Beale and Gladd: Hidden But Now Revealed: A Biblical Theology of Mystery. Using this book as a primary source, I’m going to take the class through the key mysteries of God. I decided to make a handout for the introduction the first week, and I will share it below. I will tweak it a bit more, but here it is for your perusal. Input welcome. If something does not make sense, let me know. Do remember, this is just an introduction!

Hidden but Now Revealed,

A class about the word “mystery” in the Bible

The way we use the word mystery in modern language is not how people in the first century world would have thought of this word. The word mystery is found in Daniel chapters 2 and 4 in the Old Testament, and 28 times in multiple New Testament books. Mystery involves core truths of our faith making it a relevant theme.

Why take this class? Ways it may be helpful:

  • To better understand the relationship between the Old and New Testament, and the idea of both continuity and discontinuity between the Testaments. Ignoring the background is like watching the sequel to a movie but never the original!
  • Ever wonder how it is that the disciples were so slow to understand some of the teachings of Jesus? Or how the religious leaders, who were well studied in the Old Testament, failed to see how Jesus was fulfilling prophecies? Were they dumb, and we are smart? No. Mystery is part of it! When certain things were fulfilled through Christ, there was an unexpected or new dimension to it. This applies to us too. We can fail to see God at work because God’s plan unfolds in unanticipated or counter-intuitive ways.
  • To sharpen our understanding of topics such as: the kingdom of God, the Incarnation, the crucifixion of Christ, and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. A sharpened understanding will remind us of how counter-intuitive the Christian faith is, challenging us to consider how this should affect our day-to-day life.

So, what is a mystery? In Romans 16:25-26 , Ephesians 3:3-5, and Colossians 1:26, the apostle Paul provides several explanations of mystery. You’ll notice the idea of “hidden but now revealed.” Summary thoughts about mystery…

  • It is a truth previously hidden in the Old Testament that is revealed and made widely known through Jesus Christ. We’d tend to think of these truths as prophecies from the Old Testament that point to aspects of the first or second coming of Christ.
  • The truths were there but sometimes veiled, or their fulfillment had an unexpected or new dimension to it. It did not play out as anticipated, or it happened in a way that – on the surface – seemed contradictory to certain Old Testament expectations.
  • Perhaps certain prophetic truths seem obvious to us, but fulfillment brings understanding, and we have the advantage of living after their fulfillment. Some prophecies about the second coming of Jesus remain in the future, and we too need to humbly consider that aspects of the second coming of Jesus may not play out as we anticipate either.

Class outline (that could have slight revisions):

Week one: Introduction. A look at Daniel in the Old Testament. Possible brief look at “mystery religions” of first century times. This will help us better understand the word mystery from the perspective of the original audience.

Week two: Mystery in Matthew 13, the Kingdom of God.

Week three: Mystery in 1 Timothy, the Incarnation and godliness.

Week four: Mystery in 1 Corinthians, the cross and resurrection.

Week five: Mystery in Ephesians 3 and Romans, Jews and Gentiles in the church.

Week six: Mystery in Ephesians 1, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians – the cosmic rule of Christ, Christ the true wisdom of God, and the anti-Christ.