First Foursome to the Mystery
Sequence of Paul's Letters.
It can benefit researching Bible readers if they keep an eye on the order of Paul's Letters. Many believe that that is the order in which they are given to us in the N.T.. Romans is at the forefront, Hebrews in the back. But that is not the time frame. This puts everything in a different light. Before we check this, we give some preliminary comments.
1. We can not give exactly the years in which Paul's Letters appeared. The statements vary slightly. The dates we give here are taken from the Companion Bible, but once again they are not absolutely certain. They have been approached. What we are certain of, however, is Thes., Cor., Gal., Rom. are written before Acts 28 and Eph., Php., Col. 2 Tim. there after.
2. We place Hebrews with Paul's Letters even though the Scripture does not say that he is the writer. We do not know the order of that Letter. We place him behind 2 Thes., Where he always appears in the oldest manuscripts.
3. We do not know exactly the order of 2 Cor. and Galate.
4. We do not know exactly when I Tim. and Titus are written. It is also assumed that they were written before Israel's spiritual rejection. We set them apart, as did Philemon, which was written after Paul's arrival in Rome, but does not belong to Paul's doctrinal Letters.
Keeping an eye on one and the other we get the following:
Paul's Epistles (including Hebrews) can be divided into two series with a view to his journey to Rome: The one he wrote before he was in Rome, the one he wrote from there or later. This is important in view of the dual dispensation in which Paul worked, namely that before Acts 28 and after that, that is: before and after his imprisonment.
In the first dispensation he wrote (with Hebrews) seven Letters, namely.
These 7 Letters are Paul's Oldest Letters, written in a period of about 7 years, during the time that the Book of Acts describes. This was the time of the Pentecostal dispensation for Israel.
Now there is a time of rest for Paul's pen. About 4 years. During that time Paul does not write to the churches. He was 2 years in Caesarea and some time in Rome. There he pronounces the judgment on Israel outside the Land, for the time being he closes the door of the Kingdom of Heaven for Israel. He quotes Isaiah for the third time, 6:9 and 10, something the Lord Jesus had already done twice before (Matt 13:14, 15 and Joh. 12:40). This puts an end to the Pentecostal time. Israel has been put aside, the national differences cease. The « first the Jews » (Romans 1:16) disappears (Eph. 2:14, Col. 3:11). In addition, the preaching of the kingdom to be set up to Israel and the gifts, languages, signs, wonders, prophecies, and so forth stop. The body of 1 Cor. 12, that what « in part » and could only exist as such also ceases. Now comes the perfect, 1 Cor. 13:8 — 11. By way of introduction, God gives new servants Eph. 4:8 — 11. They only stayed until one came to the perfect man.
From now on it is proclaimed that Christ is Head over all things, Eph. 1:19 — 23, 2:5, 6. A new dispensation began, that of the mystery Eph. 3:1 — 11 (in v. 9, one reads for: fellowship: dispensation) or the grace of God, 3:2. This dispensation of the mystery is never foretold in the O.T., the Gospels and Paul's Oldest Letters (the 7 already mentioned). It was hidden in God, Eph. 3:9, Col. 1:25 — 27, that is: nowhere in anyway revealed in Scripture. And only for the first time to Paul.
For that dispensation or with a view to it, he wrote 4 other Letters. The others are more separate, aside, something that can not be unfolded here. These Letters with their possible dates are:
These are Paul's later Letters, possibly also written in a period of 7 years. Eph.-Col.-Php. open the new dispensation and deal with Body, Head and New Hope. 2 Tim. speaks of history, opposition and task of the leaders in the new dispensation. In addition, possibly the introduction or preparation, Titus and 1 Tim:, speak about the common faith. Philemon gives a view of Paul's feelings and affections and is: To follow.
Why is it needed to know this. In order not to come to the idea that e.g. 1 — 2 Thessalonians is written after Romans or Ephesians. In Paul's Letters one can see a going from glory to glory as far as spiritual truths are concerned, a transition from hope to hope and a transfer or lifting of practical matters concerning walk and congregational design.
We check this shortly as well.
The death of Christ for sin in 1 Corinth, passes into dying and rising with Him in Romans, and being put in the over-heavenly in Ephesus.
The hope of the taking up of 1 Thess. 4 turns into the hope of Ef. 1:18 and 4:4, being set with Him in the over-heavenly (Eph 2:6) and appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4); the appearing before Christ's judgment seat from 2 Cor. 5:10 is now to be made holy and blameless without spot or wrinkle before Him; while the prize of 1 Cor. 9:24 is replaced by the prize of the high calling of God (Philippians 3:14).
The practical municipal regulations of 1 — 2 Cor. are replaced by those of Eph.-Col. Finally, the position of him to whom the faith of Paul's words is entrusted as a faithful man is signed in 2 Tim. We also learn that Paul has won the prize and achieved it to be conformed to Christ's death. This leads to being with Christ, by far the best. (2 Tim. 4:6 and Php. 1:23).
Jew, Gentile, Church of God,
Church who is His Body. ↑
Most differences arise from not paying sufficient attention to the things that differ, and the misplacement of the truth. There are those who identify everything and therefore have no perspective. Others see differences but not enough. Still others do not pass it through. This creates all sorts of divisions. We want to see some things that can clarify one and the other.
In 1 Cor. 10:32 Paul gives a threefold division for that time. He speaks of the Jew, the Gentiles, and the Church of God. With « the Jew », he means Israel, with the Gentile the Gentile nations, with the Church of God the believers of both, who were made believers in Christ. What is for the « Jew » must remain for the « Jew ». Christendom has unlawfully appropriated many promises for Israel, and has lost sight of the higher promises that have been made to it.
For the « Jew », most O.T. promises. For them is the Land, Gen. 13:15, 15:18 — 20, are the « promises unto the fathers », Rom. 15:8, for Jerusalem is the city of the great King, Mat. 5:35, for them is the glory, the covenants, the law, the service of God, and the promises. Rom. 9:4. For them is the Kingdom of Heaven, with Christ as King on the throne of David, Luke 1:31 — 33. All this formed the content and background of the Gospel of the kingdom, a term that occurs only three times, and only in Matthew; see Mat. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14. Before long comes the time that Israel will request its rightful share in the scriptures. That share is rich and broad and includes Law, Prophets, Psalms, Gospels, General Epistles and the Revelation.
For the « Gentiles » there is a blessing by the « Jew », the Gentiles will once be blessed in Israel, Gen. 12:3, 22:18. Israel will confess God among the Gentiles, Rom. 15:9, they will be merry with His people, Deut. 32:43. The Root of Jesse shall cover the Gentiles, Rom. 15:12. The Gentiles will go up to Jerusalem to worship the King the Lord of hosts. Zec. 14:16. « ... for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more » Isa. 2:3, 4. More still. « O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee », Psa. 67:4, 5. « The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen », Psa. 98:2. Christ shall be light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel, Luke 2:32.
There are other promises for the « Church of God ». It consisted of Jews and Gentiles in Paul's day. The Jew had priority over preaching, Rom. 1:16, both were similar to God in the spiritual state, all have sinned, Rom. 3:23. God is not only a God of the Jews but also of the Gentiles, Rom. 3:29. He justifies the Circumcision by faith, the Uncircumcision through faith, 3:30. Both are blessed with the believing Abraham, who is a father of Circumcision and Uncircumcision, Rom. 4:10, 12, Gal. 3:9. Those who are of faith are Abraham's sons, Gal. 3:7, they are heirs of the world, Rom. 4:13, that is, the heavens and the earth; they become like the stars of heaven, Gen. 15:5, 1 Cor. 15:41, they will bear the image of the over-heavenly, v. 49 and Rom. 8:29.
This Church of God was in various places a body, when it had all signs, wonders, languages, etc. that are mentioned in 1 Cor. 12. These miracles were not permanent to this group, but temporarily to provoke Israel to jealousy. They were not proof of spiritual perfection, for Paul calls the owners young children in Christ, 1 Cor. 3:1, fleshly, the perfect thing was yet to come for them, 1 Cor. 13:10.
For the gospel for the Church of God, especially called the gospel of God, which is the power of God for salvation, every one who believes, Rom. 1:16, Paul is separated. The Gentile is grafted on Israel's olive tree, Rom. 11. The Roman letter contains the most comprehensive exposition of this group in terms of position and dispensation. Spiritually Jew and Gentile are in the same line, there is no Jew nor Greek, bond or free, male or female, all are one in Christ, Gal. 3:28. As for the earthly conditions, the Gentile is behind Israel, there is a middle wall of partition, the outer forms of the law, the whole ceremonial service.
For the Church of God is 1 — 2 Thess., 1 — 2 Cor., Galate, Romans, Hebrews.
« The Church that is His Body », is a revelation that Paul received after he had written 1 Cor. 10:32. This group is a certain election and consists of persons from all of humanity. Gentiles as well as Jews. They become not only a new creation, 2 Cor. 5, but a perfect man Eph. 4:13. Christ is the Head of this group. The members of the body are connected to him through a living organic relationship. This is not expressed in that of bridegroom to bride, but in that of head to members. A new woman (the Bride) does not arise, but a new man, Eph. 2:15. There is a new hope, the fellow-sitting (sugkathizo) in the over-heavenly (epouranios), Eph. 2:6. This Church has been an absolute mystery in God, never foreseen, never shadowed. The number of members has been determined beforehand. To that extent, Calvin was correct. His not seeing of the groups declared by Paul in 1 Cor. 10:32 is the cause of the confusion.
Eph., Col., Php. is acting on this group and also 2 Tim. Paul's line is a rising line. As Israel lags behind, he rushes forward. Christendom has believed that Israel's line has passed on to her, that she has become the Israel of God. An image may take away this thought. There is a mountain near a valley. In the valley there are houses, churches, schools, etc. There is a mountaineer. This one does not come to examine the layout, construction and style of the buildings, but to take observations on the mountain, to take in panoramas. So he does not speak about the houses below him, he gives new perspectives. From above.
That is how Paul is to be seen. He leaves the O.T. prophecy for Israel to give a higher vision. He does not deny the fulfillment. On the contrary, he speaks of it (Rom. 11). But he brings something different on the whole, not something that lifts the previous one, but looks at it from a different sphere. For him, there is the Jew, the Gentile. But as third the Church of God.
And it does not stop with this. Paul still sees a higher sphere through the Spirit: The mystery of all aions. Is now perhaps the second canceled? Not that either. Behind the top of that, God reveals him an even higher top. Paul leaves everything behind for that. But precisely because he leaves it behind, it has not been canceled, but remains in place. Paul's doctrine does not cancel but rises. Far above everything else. With that he confirms the other, but looks at it in a different light. Those who see Paul in this way can understand the Scriptures. The blessings remain but have been postponed humanly. They will come to God at a certain time. Jew, Gentile, Church of God and Body of Christ are in the future the 4 major factors, which will emerge in creation.
The « Bodies » of Corinth and Ephesus. ↑
Many believers have no right insight into the difference between Corinth and Ephesus, especially between the bodies mentioned there. We want to give a brief explanation.
Paul served in two dispensations. (See for this: Order of Paul's Letters). If the revelation given to us in Ephesus was hidden in God until the time that it was revealed to him in Rome, the Body of Corinth can not be the Body of Ephesus. The Body of Corinth is part of the counsel of God, Acts 20:27 and this includes things from the casting down (KJV foundation) of the world. The Body of Ephesus dates from before the casting down and spans the purpose of the aions (KJV eternal purpose, Eph 3:11).
The Body of Corinth is elaboration of what was already revealed in the O.T., namely that God would provoke Israel to jealousy by those who are not a people, Deu. 32:21, it is a part of the blessings already promised to Abraham, Gen. 12 that in him and his seed all nations should be blessed.
So God did a double thing: He raised Israel to jealousy and began to fulfill the Abrahamic promises. Both were revealed. The Body of Ephesus however, has not been revealed in the O.T. nor in the N.T. until Paul, it was hidden in God.
The Body of Corinth was only a Body in so far as it was a grouping of believers who all had one or more gifts that other groups did not all have in fullness or in persons. Paul could best illustrate this group through an earthly, human body. The head of it was formed by the apostles, so was plural, the other members were prophets, teachers, powers, gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues and other gifts. 1 Cor. 12:28. The next parallel can serve.
When all these gifts occurred in one congregation and it wasn't lacking in gifts, 1 Cor. 1:7, then there could be being baptized into a body and having many members. There were more such « bodies » at that time, see Rom. 12:5. By « bodies » are meant a whole whose members were harmoniously arranged and who needed each other to form a « body ». All those local « bodies », the believers of all those congregations together, formed a group for God. This was not the Church that is His (Christ's) Body, but the Church of God. The Scripture reader does not let himself be confused by the KJV which in 1 Cor. 12:27 says, « Thou art the body of Christ ». It reads: You are body of Christ and members in particular, that is; in part, the same word as in 1 Cor. 13:9. This means: You are a Body that belongs to Christ, that is His. It is not said that they are the Church that is His Body, but that they are a body, that is, a group that belongs to each other and that belongs to Him. (See Galatians 3:29 « of (be) Christ »). The « head » of Corinth is not Christ, but the leading apostles among whom Paul and Silas were the first.
The Body of Ephesus has only one Head, Christ. It is not a local or earthly community, but a spiritual unity of Members who often do not know each other by name and person, but together already form an invisible unity and all have one Head and once, when revealed, form a unity. They are often prepared separately by the Spirit, have one faith, one hope, one baptism (that of the Spirit) and look forward to the sphere of glory, where Christ now is, far above (Greek: over above) all things.
Bodies like Corinth do not exist anymore. The gifts may have worked out gradually, the unity and combination was no longer there. Paul says in 1 Cor. 13:8, that prophecies, tongues, knowledge, all would cease, and this when the perfect would come, v. 10. That perfect came after Israel's setting aside in the revelation of the Ephesian truth.
The Body of Ephesus opens a new dispensation. In it God stands without any intermediary mediation of a people, priest, ministry, but only by His Spirit, in communion with those called to His marvelous light. All ordinances have been abolished for them, Col. 2:20, one must only hold on to the Head, Col. 2:19, the twofoldness of the past, of Jew and Gentile, has disappeared.
The Body of Corinth is a mystical group that are Brothers of the Lord, Rom. 8:29, that of Ephesus is a perfect Man, Eph. 2:15, 4:13, is the mystical Christ Himself.
The Body of Corinth is not called the Body of Christ, but: Body of Christ. This term only occurs in 1 Cor. 12:27: You are Body of Christ (Greek). As it is said, that the woman is body of the man, because both are a unity, but she is not yet the body of the man, that group is called: Body of Christ, not: the Body of Christ. This term: the Body of Christ we find in Eph. 4:12 we find the Body in Eph. 4:16, 5:23, His Body in Eph. 1:23; 5:30, one Body in Eph. 2:16, 4:4; fellowbody (sussomos) in Ef. 3:6, the whole Body in Eph. 4:16, together 9 times.
The Body of Corinth is a group for the heavens, it gets to dwell in the house of the Father, is like the stars of heaven, Gen. 15:5, is blessed by Christ with the believing Abraham, Gal. 3:9, is Abraham's spiritual seed, Gal. 3:29, belongs to the Jerusalem that is Above, Gal. 4:26, it goes to meet the Lord in the air, 1 Thess. 4:13 — 17, becomes the heir of the world, 1 Cor. 6:2, Rom. 4:13. For this group are written the Letters to the Thess., Cor., Gal., Rom. and Hebrews.
The Body of Ephesus has its position in the over-heavenly, source text of Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12, over above all things, source text Eph. 1:21. It has a calling for Above, source text Php. 3:14. For this chosen group is, Eph., Col., Php., Philemon, and 2 Tim. written. (As input and preparation for it, Titus and 1 Tim.).
In the Body of Corinth are signs and gifts. 9 are mentioned, which are canceled, not because of no longer being necessary or of forfeiting them, but because God did the perfect come. It, had blessings for the earth.
In the Body of Ephesus are no gifts. They are completely absent as a body. It only receives spiritual blessings, in Christ, in the over-heavenly, Eph. 1:3.
In the Body of Corinth there is guidance by Spiritual gifts, by revelations, prophecies, etc. 1 Cor. 12, Gal. 2, in the Body of Ephesus there is Spiritual Guidance, being filled with the word of Christ, Col. 3:16, a speaking of the mystery of Christ, Col. 4:3. The rightly dividing of the Word and the contact through the Spirit with God are the highest gifts for this group.
The Body of Corinth belongs to the sphere in which two dispensations run parallel, namely the Pentecostal dispensation for Israel and the dispensation of justification for all who see in Christ the end of the law and the Seed of Abraham; see, 2 Cor. 3, Rom. 10:4, Gal. 3:16. It finds its good tidings in the gospel of God.
The Body of Ephesus belongs to the dispensation of the mystery. It finds its ministry in the gospel of the grace of God, Eph. 3:2 introduced by the gospel of the glory of Christ, 2 Cor. 4:4.
The Body of Corinth is the elaboration of the counsel of God, Acts 20:27. This includes the world of mankind.
The Body of Ephesus is elaboration of the purpose of the aions (KJV = eternal purpose, Eph. 3:11). This intention spans the entire universe.
The Body of Corinth waits for the day of the Lord, for the revelation of Christ, 1 Cor. 1:7, 1 Thess. 4:13 — 17, 2 Thess. 2. It can only arise again when Israel comes to expect the return of the Lord in its land, so the hope of Israel becomes alive again, for the taking up to meet the Lord is part of the Lord's return.
The Body of Ephesus expect to sit together in the over-heavenly, Eph. 2:6. This is done in the day of Christ, Phil. 1:6, 10, 2:16. For the prize winners has the hope, the being with Christ, already been realized by the out-resurrection, Phil. 3:11 (KJV: resurrection). That is becoming disbanded and being with Christ.
The Mystery in God. ↑
Never has God in fullness worked out the promises made to Abraham. These include: Abram and his natural seed receive all the land of Canaan for all eternity, Gen. 13:15, 16; 15:18 — 21; 17:6 — 8; in him, that is, in his person, by himself, and also by his spiritual seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed, Gen. 12:3; 15:5, 6; 17:4, 5; 22:16 — 18.
The Reformation believed that the Church was a continuation of Israel: the national bands had been discarded. She could do so only by spiritualizing the prophecies and not leaving to Israel what God promised. Thus a chaos has arisen, which can only be avoided by unconditionally accepting the Scriptures and the fulfillment of the O.T. promises and prophecies in a later period. Between Israel's rejection and adoption, Rom. 11, God has put in a dispensation of which He never spoke before, the dispensation of the grace of God, Eph. 3:2 or the mystery, Eph. 3:9 source text (fellowship must be: dispensation). This began when God, through Paul, set aside Israel in Rome and will end when God again recognizes Israel as His people, which is still future. She thus fills the time of Israel's hardening.
In this dispensation of the mystery, God prepares a group from all the nations who are put with Christ in His right hand above all things. In themselves, other than convicted sinners, God bestows this group with the highest mercy, which is why He speaks of the dispensation of grace, the dispensational sphere of His grace. This differs from grace in general by being at its highest and sets everything over above it. The unfolding we find in the Letters to Ephesus and Colossus and further in Philippians. This position was not yet taken by the Church of God of 1 Cor. 10:32. This waited for the revelation of Christ. The « Ephesian body » is waiting to be revealed with Him, Col. 3:3, 4. This expectation is confused with the taking up of the congregation of 1 Thess. 4.
Christianity in general thinks that there is only one Church. It then includes all believers from Adam to the last chosen one. This is not the case however, there are different groups. The group that is Body of Christ was a mystery in God, never revealed before. No O.T. believer belongs to it. This Body could first be formed after Christ had been seated at God's Right Hand and after God had revealed that absolute mystery to Paul. This happened in Rome in his imprisonment. That was after 1 Thess. 4 was written.
One will ask us to which one then the other O.T. and many N.T. Believers belong. The answer is this: they belong to the families of the heavens when they are blessed with the believing Abraham, or to the families of the earth, when they are blessed in Abraham, Eph. 3:15, Gen. 12:3, 22:18, Heb. 11:11, 16, 1 Cor.15:40. It is important to remember that although all are retained in the same way, namely through Christ's redemptive work, not all are being called to the same sphere or glory.
The Body of Christ is a group chosen before the foundation, Greek: casting down, of the world. The members are turned by the Holy Spirit from glory to glory, to be finally taken up to Him in glory. A single word of explanation will be needed here, because there is great confusion due to the not rightly dividing of Scripture. Many feel something of that glory, but they work it out wrongly. Let us check.
The inclusion in glory sees Russellism take place on the deathbed (but only since 1874), Darbism Calvinism, Lutheranism and Catholicism (if the faithful soul at least does not go to purgatory), also at death. All lose sight of the fact that only after the resurrection one can be with the Lord 1. So they come short to the doctrine of the resurrection. This is also done by Maranathaism. Furthermore, Darbism moves the end of the Body to 1 Thess. 4 and must therefore violate Scripture by learning things, not specific to Scripture, e.g. by putting the judgment seat of Christ in the air where it's not, by learning that the Restrainer is the Holy Spirit or the Church, what the Scripture does not say, by setting the taking up of 1 Thess. 4 before the wrath to come will begin, what Scripture doesn't teach either.
1 This is what Paul clearly says in 1 Thes. 4:16, 17. In addition, the dead are in the Hades and Christ is no longer there.
Russellism confounds the group of Thess, and Cor. with the Body and teach unscriptural things about Christ's return; it means that He will be and remain invisible. Calvinism etc. does not distinguish the groups and does not separate the lines.
For the members of the Body, who with Paul may reach the end, who may attain spiritual perfection in Christ, there is something else. No taking away, but the bodily fellow setting in the over-heavenly, Eph. 2:6 before Christ takes up the group of 1 Thess. 4. All members first die like their Head, and there is no taking up of the living in that group.
We do not deny the glory that the dying see or hear, we deny the fulfillment, not once, but at death. Just as there isn't already a new heaven and earth, even though John saw it already 19 centuries ago, the vision of the dying does not immediately become reality, even though the dying may see glorious visions.
One will ask whether anyone is « disbanded and with Christ ». We reply with a complete yes to this, but this is only obtained by the hunt for the prize of the calling of God above. That is the out-resurrection, called in the KJV resurrection, the personal resurrection shortly after death, achieved by hunting to it Phil. 3:10, 11. This prize can be attained by steadily seeing on the Author and Finisher of our faith, Christ, by a killing of the members who are on earth, and an indwelling of Christ in the heart who fulfills all fullness. This leads to a steady clearing and an increase in the Head, an elaboration of what God is working in, a working out of ones own salvation with fear and trembling, a hunt for perfection, a apprehend to which one is apprehended.
The Mystery in God therefore has two sides. It is a dispensation in which God forms the Body of Christ and a group that with the Head is in living communion and that is set with Him over all things and that also offers a prize in the prospect, being disbanded (depart) and being with Christ. That being disbanded is not the separation of soul and body, but it is being released from the dead shortly after death. Thus this mystery is richer than the taking up, more consistent to Scripture than Russellism and Calvinism, etc., and more to the glory of God, Who leads to the Head through death. It is far above all revealed in the past, in all respects.
So one distinguishes. In the Corinth group the main thing is: the change in a point of time and to meet the Lord, either alive or after being resurrected first. The prize is allowed to shine in the greatest glory of the stars, to keep seeing the work for Christ's judgment chair fully preserved, 1 Cor. 3:11 — 15. In the Ephesian group the hope is to be set with Christ in the over-heavenly kingdom 2 Tim. 4:18 source text. Eph. 2:6, 7. That has already been done before He will reveal Himself, because the Body must first be with Him before He returns, to become visible with Him (Col. 3:4). The prize is the out-resurrection, the conformability to His death, to which Paul hunts, Phil. 3:10, 11 and what leads to a soon resurrection. That is being disbanded and being with Christ.