Third Foursome to the Mystery
The two mysteries of Ephesus 3.
So far, we have drawn a few main lines and indicated the three spheres in which the groups can be positioned positionally. 1. the earth for Israel and the Gentiles, 2. the heavens for the Abrahamic believers where all are one in Christ and 3. the above-heavenly in which the Body is or will be placed with Christ, now the final sphere can be explored a bit further in connection with the two mysteries mentioned in Ephesians 3. Therein is mention of the mystery of Christ and the mystery of the Body, which Paul in Eph. 5 calls the great mystery. First we read Eph. 3:1 — 7.
« For this cause », namely for the in chapter 2 already to some degree being discussed of being set with Christ in the over-heavenly, « I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles; if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward, How that by revelation he made known unto me this mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, ... and now one must connect with this v. 6 and 7 ... that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and fellow-body, and fellow-partakers of his promise in Christ) ». This mystery has never been revealed, but we find a promise in Abra(ha)m, Gen. 12:3; 17:4, 5, but here is the promise of God in Christ, of which the O.T. reveals nothing, there is nothing to be found of it, this is something that is unsearchable.
What did God promise to Christ? First of all, that He would be heir of all things, Heb. 1:2. But that's not all. He also promised Him that a Body would be added to Him that would share with Him to His highest glory, that they be fellow-heirs, fellow-body and fellow-partakers with Christ. That now has never been revealed in the O.T., nor ever in the N.T. up to Paul's last letters. And that was not only for the Jew, that was for the Gentiles, all the nations. Also for the Jew, but without any national privilege, only for those among Israel who have renounced in the spirit of those privileges and know that their circumcision has become foreskin.
Now there is still a mystery in Eph. 3, namely the mystery of Christ. We are reading about this in v. 4 and 5: « Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ. Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit ». This mystery is something else. It has not been revealed as before in Paul's days and concerns Christ's exaltation. It was then better understood or better known by apostles and prophets, after it was first revealed to them. However, that was not the mystery of which Paul was the unique direct recipient. Of that he says in v. 7 — 9: « ... Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the dispensation (not fellowship, same word as v. 2) of the mystery, which away of (Greek: apo) the aions hath been hid in God, who created all things » (by Jesus Christ, missing in the oldest manuscripts).
Both mysteries have to be distinguished. One shares Paul with others, although he will have the deepest insight into it. The other is only revealed to him and then made known by him 1. The first concerns Christ's exaltation (see 1 Pet. 3:22), the other the Body of Christ. The former was previously known to some extent, but it was not so clear to see the others have always been hidden. The first sees Christ placed in God's right hand as a reward on His labor, the latter sees sinners, reconciled by His death and cleansed by the bath of water (which is not water baptism), put there by grace. There may be more points of difference. One especially keeps an eye on the main difference: This mystery and the mystery of Christ, v. 6 and the following verses connect with v. 3. V. 4 and 5 are an intermediary. In this way — and the text gives all the ground for this — much will be clarified.
The great mystery cannot be revealed in the O.T.
First of all, not because Christ had not yet suffered and had not yet become part of flesh and blood, had not yet changed this to higher modes of existence. Secondly, because before the Head was there, no Body could be formed. He could only become Head by being born first from the dead. Third, because God first had to give Israel its course. Fourth, because the duration of Israel's hardening could not be revealed; Paul discusses this mystery in Rom. 11. Fifth, because something had to be kept hidden from Satan in order not to stand in the way of God's purpose. Sixth, because it should prove that Christ's faith far exceeds that of Abraham. Seventh, because God's Spirit would be fully glorified in the great work of redemption. This came only after Christ's exaltation, but first works out in this dispensation at its richest.
The great mystery is also spiritual very deep. What in Adam was in germ, but never developed, has reached maturity in the New Man, and this is done by the Spirit and in spirit in the members of the body. The fellow-setting in God's right hand is not done mechanically, but not because one believes this with the « intellect », but through the complete action of God. It is God who works in us. That must be worked out by us. This creates a living organic connection, an ever deeper communion of life between Christ and the members of His Body and with that between the Father and that Body. This is then the deeper mystery: Christ in us.
For this mystery God has opened a separate dispensation, the dispensation of the mystery or the grace of God. This began during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. The duration is unknown. In this entirely independent dispensation, God prepares the members of the body. They are learning how to see more and more on the Superior Leader and Finisher of Faith. Which is for them Head above all things. All forms, ceremonies and visible unity, whether for a confession or a symbol, fall away. All of this is shadow of the things to come. The Body of Christ is put above it. The members of it seek what is Above, where Christ is. They wish to be hidden in God in order to be revealed with Christ, their life. Indeed — the mystery is great. It is rightly, the unsearchable richness.
When is the taking up? ↑
There are three spheres of blessing: Israel that will bless the nations, Abraham's spiritual seed, which has its place in the heavens, is the generation of the heavens, Eph. 3:15 and the Body set with the Head above all things in God's Right Hand. Two main lines are nowadays seen: one speaks of Israel and the Church. By the latter one understands the group that will be taken up to meet the Lord in the air, 1 Thess. 4. However, it is not evident that, just as there is a difference between spirit and soul, there is also a difference between the group of 1 Thess. 4 and the Body revealed in Ephesus. If both are the same, Paul can not speak in Ephesus of something that has been hidden in God.
That the groups of 1 Thess. 4 and Ephesus differ, is be most evident if one considers, when 1 Thess. 4 is fulfilled and which is the expectation of the Ephesian group, which last expectation is in Col. 3 expressed: to be manifested with Him in glory. The taking up does not take place before but after the great tribulation. We will examine what the Scriptures say in this. That something else is learned is because both groups have not been distinguished. And just as people often made no difference between Israel and the Church, so the Maranatha teaching did not make a distinction between 1 Thess. 4 and Col. 3. See here what is written about the Thessalonians group.
1° Redemption OUT OFF (not from) the wrath to come, 1 Thess. 1:10. This group therefore goes through, as Israel was released from the plagues and Jonah from the fish. We have the words « out off » in the Greek text of this verse: Christ comes out off the heavens, is now in it, He rose out off the dead, He lay in the heart of the earth (Mat. 12:40), He delivers out off the wrath to come, so one is in it.
2° The group is not taken up before the Lord comes with Michael (the archangel), 1 Thess. 4. Nowhere does Scripture teach two occurrences of Michael, one for Israel and one for « the » Church. There is only one coming off Michael. And this is after the great tribulation. Dan. 12:1.
3° Paul writes to the Thessalonians about the day of the Lord, 1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Thess. 2:2 basic text. If this group had nothing to do with that, why did they need that instruction? The Thessalonians thought that that day was already there, proof that they were counting on it that they would live through that day, 2 Thess. 2:2 (it says: « as if the day of the Lord were present »). That day comes when the Antichrist is revealed, thus oppresses.
4° The clearest proof that this group is going through the tribulation is 2 Thess. 1:7, 8. « And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels ». So this relief comes first when the Lord comes with His angels. And more: « In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God ... », v. 8. The Scriptures know nothing about a taking up long before the day of vengeance. The taking up takes place when the Lord comes with His angels and retaliates with flaming fire. Not sooner. When does the Lord come with His angels? That teaches us Mat. 24:29 — 31. After the tribulation of those days (i.e. the great tribulation, see v. 21) Only then He sends His angels, v. 31. There is no mention of a double coming, one without, one with His angels. When He comes with Michael (and that is one time), He also comes with His angels. And then first comes the relief. So the Lord can not come back at any time to take up the « Church ». That taking up is closely linked to His coming for Israel. One will point to Rev. 3:10 saving from (not: away from) the hour of temptation. On this basis it is believed that the taking up takes place before the great tribulation. Two errors are made here. First of all, one forgets to show that Rev. 3 must be fitted into the Pauline line. The Revelation is a Book for Israel, for the Circumcision, a point that is too broad to work out now. Second, it is forgotten that Christ teaches the disciples of Israel to pray for deliverance from evil. Does that mean that they are taken away before the day of the evil or that they must be kept for him?
5° The taking up and change takes place in the last trumpet, source text 1 Cor. 15:52. That is for us the last of The Revelation, so against Christ's return. Who distinguishes two groups, that of 1 Thess. 4 and Col. 3, can come to more clarity. The group of 1 Thess. 4 is taken up after the great tribulation, but the Body is revealed with Him in glory. From this it follows that it must already be with Christ. But that happens in a different way than one thinks, namely nor by a collective taking up before the great tribulation, nor by « meeting » Him, nor by dying. And that other way is revealed to us in Philippians, a letter to the Mystery. It is by becoming conformed to His death and coming to the out-resurrection out of the dead.
III. The mystery and the resurrection. ↑
The meaning of the Mystery with its prize can only be properly understood by those who understand the doctrine of the resurrection. This doctrine has been robbed of power by practically all Christendom through the doctrine of the separation of body and soul. What is then the need for the resurrection? Now we admit that the exposition of this doctrine is wide and offers many difficulties and it is much easier to accept the opposite view. But this leads to Scriptural rape, neglect and great inconsequence at more than one point.
With the doctrine of the mystery belongs that of the resurrection. That is why we devote a few pages to it. Our first comment in this is that one generally thinks that God has breathed into Adam an immortal soul. That is not what the Scripture says. Adam has become a living soul. He did not receive it from God like that, but became a living soul.
The Scriptures also speak of dead souls. One can say that they seem to indicate corpses, it still says dead souls. And should one now say that this is terminology, then one gives the right to also interpret as terminology: her soul went out, etc.
Man consists of three « natures », of spirit, soul, and body. 1 Thess. 5:23, Heb. 4:12. The soul, in general, keeps the middle between the other two. She is the product of that. If the spirit withdraws completely, the soul dies and the body disintegrates. If the body is mutilated too much, it can no longer be the bearer of the spirit, then the spirit also withdraws and the soul dies likewise.
Neither the body nor the soul nor the spirit can exist in itself as an independent being. They are only fixed in the self. And it is this ego that God, in a way unknown to us, saves after death. The place where these I's are, is clearly indicated by Scripture: in the sea, in the hades (the great common grave) in death (in places other than those mentioned in Rev. 20:13, e.g. on mountains, on earth etc.). Christ speaks of those who are in the graves, Joh. 5:28. This word alone had to be sufficient to teach us that the dead rest in the dust of the earth (in general, exceptions are drowned, burned, etc.).
The question is: How and when do they come from sea, hades or death? The answer is: Through and at the resurrection. As Christ Himself inserts into Abraham's mouth: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose (so he is lying down) from the dead (thus in general, good and evil).
And that now: the not believing Moses and the Prophets also in this respect either (and they did not speak of heaven or paradise, but of the sheol, they did not know of hades divided in two, but saw all the dead in one place) is still everyday's business. One names the resurrection, but robs it of its power through the doctrine of separation of body and soul, while Scripture speaks of dead souls. One thing is to be kept in mind here: death is not destruction, God preserves the « I », the essence of man.
Against this doctrine comes opposition from as good as the entire Christianity. Even men who have a more free way of dealing with Scripture than the orthodox, pass here on the line of pagan philosophy of the immortal soul. They are victims of Satan's lie: « Dying, ye do not die ». According to them, the human being dies to the body, but not to the soul, and if it is pointed out to them that the dead are asleep, they call it — bewildered as they are in the vain philosophy of Plato — the doctrine of soul sleep. They defend their doctrine with the endless repeating of quoting the text: To day shalt thou be with me in paradise 1, while the Lord has said He would be in the heart of the earth, Mat. 12:40 and the prophet Isaiah, that He should be with the rich in His death, Isa. 53:9 and Psa. 16:10, that His soul that is His entire Person would be in the sheol or hades (see Acts 2:27, 31). They always come up with Luke 16:19 — 51 as proof that the Hades is divided into two halves 2, while Job. 10:21 and 22 says that the sheol or hades — the one great grave containing all graves — is a pitch black land, without any order, that shines like the darkness.
Now it must be that either Job is wrong or Luke 16 must be explained differently. In Luke 16 the rich sees Abraham and Lazarus, there is « ordination ». And not only is Luke 16 in contradiction with the traditional statement of Job. 3, but with the entire O.T. revelation in this. Job wishes to be hidden in the grave (the sheol), 14:13. Hezekiah teaches that one descends into the pit, Isa. 38:17, 18, Ethan asks who will deliver his soul from the violence of the grave (Hebrew sheol), Psa. 89:48, David says that no one gives thanks to God in the grave (sheol), Psa. 6:5 (see also Psalm 49:15). Psa. 115:17 says that the dead will not praise the Lord. And yet it is always read that after death the believer « cheers before the throne », walks in the lanes of paradise, « flies to a better land », thus making God's word invalid by the teachings of Satan. God did not create man immortal. Eternal life is a gift of grace, Rom. 6:23. It is in Christ, not in us, 1 John 5:11. It is in promise, not yet in reality, for it is first given personally in the aion to come, Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30. The dead (not their souls) sleep in the dust of the earth, Dan. 12:2. There is no other way to life than the resurrection. All doctrine that teaches something different is pagan philosophy or blindness of Satan, who has the violence of death but inspires that one actually lives on, so — does not come into his power. One distinguishes well in this matter.
In our day one has come to learn that the wicked go to the grave and the believers to paradise. The believer would thus have « eternal life ». Only then remains unexplained, why he has to die physically. And also, that 1 Thess. 4:13, 14 teaches that they which are asleep. And also that they must first stand up. « And the dead in Christ shall rise first; Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them ... and so shall we ever be with the Lord ».
The dead believers are thus not yet taken up 1 and not yet with the Lord. That is why the Thessalonians were lamenting as those who had no hope. For the unbelieving dead, it is even more difficult to maintain that they are alive, they certainly do not have eternal life, not even in hope.
We can only briefly mention a few things. It should be noted that in the Hebrew O.T. nowhere the word « hell » occurs. That is only translation. Everywhere in O.T. « Hell » is in Hebrew: sheol, which word in other texts is translated by grave. In the N.T. it says 10 times hades, always translated by hell, but very wrongly. It also means grave, subterranean, better still: common burial place. The rich man in Luke 16 came in the hades. This hades is under the earth and the same as the sheol (see Acts 2:27 — Psalm 16:10) which is also said to be under the earth (Gen. 37:35, 42:38, Job 17:13; 21:13). In it there is no work (not even what Lazarus should do for the rich man), no redemption nor science nor wisdom, Ecc. 9:10. But the dead know not any thing, Ecc. 9:5. Luke 16 is not the appearance of reality, but the representation that the Pharisee made of the post-mortem condition and that Christ uses to smite them.
The other texts that are invoked to prove a conscious life after death appear to be taken out of context or incorrect. In any case, with a view to the doctrine of the resurrection, they can be explained very well otherwise and much better. Then it appears that Scripture teaches that the dead go to the grave and lie down there unconsciously until the day of resurrection. « So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep » Thus Job. 14:12. And thus the vision of O.T. believers.
IV. The out-resurrection ↑
We believe the resurrection of the dead. As Paul did: a resurrection of righteous and unjust, Acts 24:15. We do not, however, believe in a simultaneous resurrection of all, as many Church confession writings teach this. The Scripture says something else. We want to check out something about that.
In Acts 23:6 Paul says that he is called in question about the hope and resurrection of the dead. He is in that respect on the side of the Pharisees, is a Pharisee as he says. This is the general term: the resurrection of the dead. Martha believed in the resurrection at the last day, John 11:24. This base may not be rejected as the Hebrews did Heb. 6:1, 2 « ... not casting down (not laying) again the foundation ... resurrection of the dead ... » Whoever does that, either to the left, to the rejection of the judgment, or to the right , to the separation of soul and body, violates the doctrine of the resurrection.
The resurrection of the dead, however, is only a basic starting point, because Scripture teaches more. The disciples also believed in this. Yet they were surprised that the Lord Jesus said He would rise out of the dead, Mark 9:9, 10. They asked among themselves what it was: to rise out of the dead. They did not understand that this meant that the Lord would rise before the others rose. As we say: « the meeting goes out » if we mean the whole, and also that one can « get out of the meeting » if one does this alone or at least in a limited number, so the resurrection of the dead means something other than: rising out of the dead. This term: to rise out of the dead, thus leaving behind the others, with the lying down of the others, we also find in Luke 16:31, the already mentioned verse.
As Christ has risen from the dead, God will also raise the Corinthian-Thessalonian-Hebrew group from the dead, that is, before the others. 1 Cor. 6:14 says, « And God hath both raised (egeiro) up the Lord, and will also raise (exegeiro = out-raise) up us through his own power » This happens with the taking up just before the Lord is on earth. The living are then changed, 1 Thess. 4:13 — 18, 1 Cor. 15:51. Until that resurrection the Apostle urges forth in Hebrews, that is the « better resurrection » of Heb. 11:39, 40. Those who participate in it receive aionic (eternal) life. As Christ rose from the dead with others, Mat. 27:52, 53, so many will arise from the dead at His coming. So the others remain, they do not stand up. Then Christ has the eye in Luk. 20:35: It is they who are deemed worthy to attain that age and the resurrection of the dead. The Greek has as much as: that resurrection that is out of the dead. These will not marry again, they are changed. However, this does not happen before the Lord's return when He comes with the Archangel Michael.
One will ask: If this is so, thus the dead are in the grave until the day of resurrection, if Christ's word is to be accepted in full reality; if it's true what He says to Lazarus: « Come out » (i.e. not with your immortal soul from heaven, but entirely from the grave), if it's true, that if there is no resurrection of the dead, even they are lost who have fallen asleep in Christ, 1 Cor. 15:18, do all believers still rest in the grave? For Christ has not yet come again.
The answer to this would have to be a wholeheartedly yes, if there were not the mysteries of the ages, the teaching about the Body of Christ. What is the case? In the mystery, and not out of it, God reveals another resurrection, the out-resurrection that is out of the dead. This word only occurs once namely in Php. 3:11, where it is unfortunately translated by: resurrection. Paul has hunted to reach it. He had the better resurrection in Christ as a believer. But when he got the revelation of the mystery, he did not yet have the out-resurrection that is out of the dead. He also wants to achieve that. Then he does not have to rest in the grave until the Lord's return, then he will not be found « naked » in the sense that he is only like a bare grain (same word in 2 Corinthians 5:3 and 1 Corinthians 15:37) lies in the earth, i.e. stripped of the normal body shape, « undressed ». He is conformed to Christ death, that is, he stands up again after a short time. That is « to depart, and to be with Christ ». To depart is in Luk. 12:36 translated by: return. Just as that gentleman in that verse had gone to a wedding and was returning now, Paul first goes to the grave or comes into the dead to come back thereafter and then be with Christ. No more than that gentleman in Luk. 12 he was already home from the wedding, nor was Paul that when he left. The time of his « departure » was yet to come. Then he also received the crown of the Righteous Judge, 2 Tim. 4:6 — 8.
When one asks us whether all believers are « in heaven », we answer: no, because that is done first at the taking up, 1 Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15. And that also tells us laterally John 14:1 — 3: Christ has gone to prepare a place in the Father's house. He must first come again to take His own to Himself. That does not happen in death, because Christ does not return there. It can only be at His return in glory. The dead must wait until He returns. If one asks if there is not yet a single believer with Christ, we answer: There are, namely them who have attained the prize of the calling of God, the out-resurrection out of the dead. Paul is there and possibly Luke and Timothy and others. One can therefore go to Christ but only by a resurrection. Not through death one is united with Him, but through the resurrection. Paul did not desire the unclothed, but the departure and being with Christ, 2 Cor. 5:4, Php. 1:23. Both can not be the same. Paul does not desire something that he does not desire at the same time. He does not want to be unclothed, that is the state of death, he does desire the departure. That is the release from the grave. And he has obtained that, 2 Tim. 4:6.
If one overlooks everything, it appears that the O.T. believer was expecting the resurrection « at the last day », that is, at the end of this aion. Then he would enter into the God-promised land of Canaan, Gen. 13:15, 17:8, then « eternal life » began. Those who saw further and knew that after that aion came another, whose expectation was New Jerusalem, hoped for the better resurrection. This implies, according to Paul's teachings, a meeting of the Lord at His return and thus a resurrection before the other believers who inherit the Land of Canaan. Both, however, at Christ's second coming. The members of the body who become prize winners do not have to wait for Michael to arrive, putting their hopes on 1 Thes. 4 (although they believe this to be true for others). They are hunting to be conformed to Christ's death (please note, not His suffering or dying) in order to come to the out-resurrection. This is to be disbanded and to be with Christ. And that is by far the best, says Paul.
One should beware of Php. 3:10 for two misconceptions. The first is to become « conformed » to Christ's death in a purely physical sense. Then one should have a spear wound in the side and lie with pierced hands and feet in the grave, also with horsewhipped back, like this even Paul did not lie down. The other is that it is conceived of as a spiritual life experience that Paul wants to have, thus placing the conformed in this life. A word about both.
The Greek has two words: to become equal in outward and inward form. The first, susschematizo, is e.g. in Rom. 12:2, the second summorphoo, only occurs here. To be conformed to Christ's death is to lie down in death in such a « form », that is, inner mode of existence, as He lay down in it. It therefore refers to the inner state, the mode of existence in death. It is known that death is not destruction, but the passing on to an unknowable mode of existence, Christ's « form » in death was such that a speedy resurrection had to follow.
Those who believe that Paul is referring here to a spiritual experience in this life have more than a misconception. First, they confuse Rom. 6:5, which has in Greek: certain correspondence with the conformation of Php. 3:10. Rom. 6 concerns a spiritual experience, Php. 3:10 the situation in death. Secondly, in Php. 3 Paul does not want to be dead of sin, for this had already taken place in him in Rom. 6. Thirdly, Php. 3 is not dealing with a spiritual death, for Christ has not been a sinner and we can not therefore be conformed to His dying. He is made sin, we are sinners. Fourth, it is forgotten that « death » does not mean « dying »; Php. 3 refers to Christ's laying down in the Hades. Fifth, it says in v. 11, that Paul wants to come to the out-resurrection out of the dead. The word resurrection indicates the rising of the body, likewise is the out-resurrection.
The members of the body who are the prize winners go in expectation that they will go to Christ through the grave. They do not have to wait for Christ's return, they come to Christ after a short time. They expect him to conform the body of their humiliation to the body of his glory upon their return, Phil. 3:21. Hence Paul's hunt when he saw the dispensation of the mystery. It is seen that the doctrine of resurrection remains perfectly intact in this view.
The mystery is an eminent case, namely to get up shortly after death and to go up to Christ to be put with Him physically above all things. This is partly one of the unsearchable riches that God can fall to man in the dispensation of grace. In this way the body becomes part of the promise in Christ; a promise that appears to encompass all the promises of God in Christ for revelation and fulfillment as the superior and perfecter of faith. « Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the over-heavenly in Christ ».