The Father had a sovereign purpose to take certain creatures into His own glory, to share in that glory. He desired also that these should know Him in His nature as Love, and be with Him, before Him, in that blissful atmosphere of pure love, forever. These happy creatures were not to be taken from among the “elect angels” (1Ti 5:21)—holy blessed beings that these are.
It was the Father’s purpose to manifest Himself, all that He is—not in holiness, righteousness and truth only, but in His infinite Love, Grace, Mercy, Tenderness, Gentleness and patience. He therefore sent His Son, and lo! God was manifested! The Lord Jesus declared the Father—all that He was, which had never been done before to any of His creatures. But, after revealing the Father’s love, mercy and gracious tenderness towards sinners, the Son of God goes to the Cross; and there is revealed the eternal unchangeable holiness of the Father in hatred of sin, together with that love capable of giving the Son of His delight to bear sin for a world that rejected and despised His Son!
But the mystery of which Paul speaks was not yet revealed. There is prophecy in the Psalms and prophets, and a witness in the types of all the sufferings, that the Son of God, the Messiah, would suffer, and that for human sin. Thus it is written in the law, the prophets and the Psalms, that Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day (of which none of the 12 Apostles understood until He appeared to them – Jn 20:9), as our Lord said to His disciples in Luke 24:44-46. While “the mystery” had been “hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:9 KJV)—hid “from the ages and from the generations” (Col 1:26).
What then, is the mystery? It is wrapped up (though not revealed) in our Lord’s words in His great heavenly prayer of John 17; for here we find Him praying for a company given Him by the Father out of the world. Our Lord asks four things for them in John 17: (1) That they may be kept in the Father’s name, from the evil one (vs 11-15); (2) That they might be sanctified—as not of the world, first in truth, and second by our Lord’s identification with them—“for their sakes I sanctify Myself (vs 16-19); (3) That they may be “one,” “perfected into one,” and that in a wondrous union to be defined “as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they may be one in Us” (vs 21-23); (4) That these may be with Him forever, where He is, to behold His glory into which He would enter upon His ascension (vs 5, 24).
Now in verse 22 our Lord Jesus says plainly, “The glory which thou gavest Me I have given them.” So that this glory in which Christ was to enter was to be shared with these whom the Father had given Him. This, then, is the foundation for the revelation of “the mystery.” Certain were to be brought in Christ, into the divine glory (the divinity of course not imparted, but “partakers” of its justification - 2Pe 1:4 - in shared glory concerning being within the son-ship of God, as Christ is the Son—NC)! They were to be manifested with Him in glory, at His “appearing” (1Jo 3:2). But that would be because they had entered into a glory never before given creatures. It was not given to angels, seraphim or cherubim, but the Blood-bought sinners as members of Christ!
Nor was such a union proposed to earthly Israel (Jews disbelieving in Christ, yet they who believed in God - Jn 41:1- will inherit the new earth after seeing Him during the Millennium; just as believers in Christ inherit the new heaven—NC). Redeemed Israel will indeed, “see the glory if God,” “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty,” is promised to that beloved, then restored nation (Isa 33:17); and also to that restored Jerusalem the glory shall be spread a covering (Isa 4:2-6). There never was a hint in the Old Testament, but much in the New, that there would be a heavenly calling—a company who would enter into that glory, be glorified with this glorious One.
This is the secret, the mystery, kept in silence through times of ages (Col 1:26), the unfolding of which Paul declares will establish the saints. For it must involve the revelation to us that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). That we were foreknown and “predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Ro 8:29). That we, having a sinful heritage in Adam the first, would not only have our “sins put away,” in God’s grace, by the Blood of His Son (Heb 9:26); but would be so identified with Him, by God’s astonishing act, as to be cut off from all connection with the first Adam and be recreated in His Son, now risen from the dead.
That we would not only be enlivened in Him, but also raised up with Him, and made to sit together with Him in the heavenlies—thus passing out of earthly connections and becoming citizens of heaven. That, in the riches of the glory of the mystery, Christ would be in us, dwelling in our “hearts by faith” (Eph 3:17), in the energy of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Col 1:27; Eph 3:14-21). That thus, our hearts being as a “mirror,” we would behold the glory of the Lord, and be transformed into His image “from glory to glory,” here below (2Co 3:18).
That, at our Lord’s coming for us, our bodies would be in an instant redeemed (1Co 15:51-53); so that these bodies of humiliation would be, by Christ’s fashioning them anew, at once conformed to the body of His glory; so that we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is “ (Phl 3:20, 21; 1Jn 3:2). “That in the ages to come, God will show the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).
That, as Eve shared with the first Adam the dominion given him, being one with him - Gen 2:24 - she having been taken out of his side, and even sharing with him his name Adam (Gen 5:2); just so the Church, the wife of the Lamb, as one with Christ, having been recreated in Him and sharing with Him His name (1Co 12:12), will share His dominion (Christ and His body are called the Church—NC). That thus Christ and His Bride, the Church, shall be forever: That they may be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me; and the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given unto them (Jhn 17:22, 24). Creatures—only creatures we forever will be, but given the highest position which the Word of God gives to creatures (higher than the holy angels—NC): For we are members of Christ’s Body and, “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Ro 5:2).
Now, although on the Day of Pentecost God baptized into Christ in glory those in the upper room, and all believers thereafter; and although it is true that God thus in their experience made known “unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,” this mystery of Christ “which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men” (Eph 3:5); yet He chose Paul to open out before saints the doctrine of this heavenly mystery or secret, and to write in “all his Epistles” these things for us (2Pe 3:16).
All the apostles knew, for example, on that Day of Pentecost that Christ had been glorified in heaven and that they were in the boundless joy of the revelation of this glorious Lord Jesus to their souls. They had all entered into the enjoyment of the blessedness belonging to this great thing concealed by God from all creatures before that moment. But it was Paul to whom the risen Lord revealed the whole doctrine of the mystery.
No one is able to read, understand, believe and meditate upon this great secret of God concerning our heavenly calling, our identification with Christ Himself and with the glory that shall be revealed, without becoming himself heavenly minded. So that the heralding of Jesus Christ according to the unfolding of the mystery is the teaching by which the Father establishes His saints. For if indeed we are heavenly; if our “citizenship” is in heaven; if our worship is by the Spirit; if through Christ by that Spirit we have our “access” to the Father (Eph 2:18)—unto God in heaven—how utterly unable is any religious earthly system to establish us! Nay, says Paul; “We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” (Phl 3:3).
We would remind the reader that unless this “revelation of the mystery” (Rom 16:25) becomes indeed revelation to his own soul, he must fall short entirely of understanding what the present dispensation is; and what is the Church’s real character, calling, destiny and walk. As the prayer of Paul for us is realized in us, “that you may know what the hope of His calling is” (Eph 1:18 – Christ’s calling to the saints—NC), that these things will be brought to pass in you and me.
We see ourselves vitally in union with this heavenly Lord Jesus, so that we have been received in Him as belonging to heaven, “even as He”; that we are the righteousness of God in Him and that we are loved even as He, as our citizenship is in heaven. Our hearts must be convinced that these things are facts, not figures of speech, or things to be realized in some far future. We wait, indeed, for the redemption of our bodies, but we ourselves are already in the new creation, and for us old things have passed away.
Wm R Newell