Andy Woods The Coming Kingdom
4-5-17 Ephesians 3:5 Lesson 13
Good evening everybody. Let’s take our Bibles, if we could and open them to the Gospel of Luke, Luke 19:11. And I’m hoping that you’re seeing a sense of the whole Bible through this study. This forces us to put the whole Bible together as we’re looking at what does the Bible say about the kingdom? Of course, the whole story begins in Eden, where God ruled through a man, Adam, who ruled creation on God’s behalf and that’s what you see in Genesis 1 and 2 and then that’s lost in Genesis 3 when Adam stops ruling creation for God and starts listening to creation. And the moment that happens the fall takes place and the kingdom of God disappears. So God sets aside a nation called Israel and we know that through Israel this kingdom that was lost in Eden is going to be restored to the earth, and that’s where Israel is given certain promises through the Abrahamic Covenant which she will always own and can never divest herself of.
Then you go to the Mosaic Covenant and that’s when a condition is introduced; if the condition is met then Israel doesn’t become the owner but the what? The possessor of her blessings and that’s when the kingdom comes. Now of course that Mosaic Covenant, the condition of it ultimately points to who? Jesus!
Then the kingdom is divided and the north is swept away, the south remains, which is okay because the south is the most important because there’s a real important tribe in the south called the tribe of Judah and we know from the prophecies we’ve looked at that that’s where the kingdom comes from. The south is taken into captivity in Babylon and that’s what starts the times of the Gentiles. And the times of the Gentiles start with the last reigning king on David’s throne is deposed by Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s prophecies during that time period tell us that the kingdom won’t materialize on the earth until the times of the Gentiles ends.
So the times of the Gentiles is the period of time when the nation is subjugated by various Gentile powers, Daniel names them by name, and it’s only after the antichrist’s empire is overthrown by Jesus in the future in the tribulation period that the kingdom will come. So as long as the times of the Gentiles are occurring and we’re still under them today, the kingdom is in postponement but we’re not to lose hope because the Old Testament prophets function as a light shining in a dark place telling us what the world is going to look like one day when the kingdom arrives.
And then the nation of Israel comes out of Babylonian captivity and they go back into the Promised Land under Persia, and they rebuild their temple, they rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem. The book of Ezra and Nehemiah cover that time period. And so the nation of Israel is in the land for 400 years, which is a long time, right? And the times of the Gentiles just keep on marching on; Babylon is replaced by Persia, is replaced by Greece, is replaced by Rome, Rome is that empire that’s in power when Jesus shows up. And that’s when Jesus shows up and He offers the kingdom to the nation of Israel on a silver platter. So all the nation of Israel had to do was enthrone the King on His terms and the times of the Gentiles, hypothetically, would have ended and the kingdom of God would have materialized, and that’s what’s called the offer of the kingdom. We’ve traced that.
We know, though, that in the last maybe three or four studies we’ve done that that offer was turned down; that’s the great tragedy, is the nation of Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom, and the turning point… anybody recall the turning point, which chapter? Matthew 12, once they attribute Christ’s miracles to the devil the offer at that point is taken off the table and it won’t be reoffered till the tribulation period.
Now a lot of you have probably been thinking that’s a lot of Jewish stuff, a lot of Israel stuff, what about us in 2017 in Sugarland? Where do we fit into the whole thing? And that’s what we start talking about tonight under number 10, where Jesus starts to describe an interim age of time. Now that the offer of the kingdom is off the table, now that the nation of Israel is under discipline, now that it’s very certain that the kingdom is not going to come until the distant future in the tribulation period, does that mean that just because we’re not in the kingdom age now that God is sort of not doing anything? And nothing could be further from the truth because what Jesus starts to describe is an interim age of time where God is very active; it’s the age of time that we’re living in now but it’s not to be confused with the kingdom.
So this interim age has two parts to it; the first part is what’s called the interadvent age, and you say well what does the interadvent age mean? It means the age between the two advents of Christ, His First Coming and when He will reign from David’s throne in the Second Coming. So that age of time has been going on for 2,000 years, right, and I don’t know how long it will continue, maybe it will continue next week, maybe it will continue another hundred years, I’m not a date setter, I don’t know. But the unique age of time is graphically depicted for us in Matthew 13 through eight parables which all things considered we’ll start looking at those eight parables next week. In other words, if you want to understand the course of the present age Matthew 13 and the eight parables that Christ gives fill in that picture for us.
And then we continue on into the New Testament and we discover something else that’s happening during this interadvent age is the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus has already hinted at a coming church in Matthew 16:18, remember what He said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” So what is this church? Who is a member of the church? And those kind of issues also begin to be explained, developed, in the interadvent age.
So to understand what’s happening between the two advents of Christ you have to study, number 1, the eight parables that Jesus gives in Matthew 13 to explain this time period and then you also have to study the church, what is the church? Why does the church exist? And what is God’s purpose for the church? So that’s the direction we’re going in. So next week, assuming we complete this list, will start looking at the Matthew 13 parables and then after that we’ll begin looking at the church.
But even before we get to those subjects tonight I would like to make five preliminary observations about the interadvent age to help us understand it a little bit better. So before we get to the Matthew 13 parables in the church I want to give you five preliminary thoughts about the interadvent age, just to help us understand it and orient our thoughts toward it. And that’s what I tried to do in the book in chapter 9.
So here are the first of the five preliminary thoughts and before I even get to that let me back up just for a second. Right now the nation of Israel is the owner but not the possessor of the blessings. Therefore the kingdom was never established on the earth. The opportunity for the kingdom to be established on the earth will not be reasserted until the tribulation period when the offer will be re- given, Matthew 24:14. [Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”]
So our belief on the kingdom is that it is in a state of postponement. So you might call this postponement theology. Now that’s very different than Judaism. If you ask an unbelieving Jew, do you think Jesus was your Messiah and they’ll basically tell you no. And you say why don’t you believe He was your Messiah? They will say because He failed, He never brought in the kingdom. In our vantage point he didn’t fail, it’s the nation of Israel that failed. He would have given them the kingdom but Israel never met their conditions. But in the minds of Judaism in general they will reject Jesus as their king today because they don’t see the kingdom. So in their minds that means Jesus failed in His mission.
On the other end of the stick if you were to be sitting in the Reformed type of church under a Reformed theologian they will basically tell you that Jesus succeeded in bringing in the kingdom. And you say well how in the world did Jesus succeed in bringing in the kingdom, I don’t see kingdom conditions. And they’ll say it’s happening now spiritually. So they take all of the earthly promises about the kingdom and sort of rewrite them and repackage them so that they become spiritual realities. So you say well, how come the Lord hasn’t brought in the kingdom and how come they haven’t beaten their swords into plowshares and they’ll say oh, you’re taking that too literally, that’s just Jesus reigning in our hearts and giving us peace. And you say well how come the Dead Sea never came back to life the way Ezekiel 47 describes it. And they’ll say oh, you’re taking that too literally, the Dead Sea coming back to life is just a symbol of the believer trusting in Christ and going from death to life spiritually.
So if you want to spiritualize all of the promises I guess you could argue they’re happening today. So Reformed theology basically says Jesus succeeded in bringing in the kingdom; He actually established the kingdom in the first century. But you see, our method of interpretation, which is a consistent literal approach, won’t allow us to rewrite those prophecies. So we don’t believe He succeeded in bringing in the kingdom. We also don’t believe He failed. We believe the nation of Israel in the first century failed. Our belief is the kingdom is not in a state of cancellation, it’s not in a state of fulfillment, but in a state of postponement. So that’s kind of the angle that we’re coming from and it’s your literal approach to the Scripture which kind of pushes you in that direction. So since the kingdom is postponed we don’t believe that God is doing nothing today; He’s very active in this interim age and the eight parables in Matthew 13 and the teaching on the church that we’re going to get is the New Testament shows us exactly what He’s doing.
But having said all that let’s make five preliminary observations about this interim age. The first one is this is an authentic age, in other words, it’s a real period of time that God said would come. You don’t have any real hints of it in the Old Testament, you don’t have any real hints of it as the kingdom was being presented to first century Israel. But once you move beyond Matthew 12 you start seeing more and more hints that the Lord gives of this interim age. And that’s why I had you turn to Luke 19; this is the parable of the minas and this is how the parable begins.
Luke 19:11, it says, “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem,” and look at this, “and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” So they’re still thinking kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, they’re not paying attention to the fact that the leaders have rejected the offer of the kingdom and so He’s got a group of people around Him, a believing remnant, and they don’t know anything about an interim age and they believe the kingdom is going to materialize any second. And to that group He gives them the parable of the minas, it’s Luke 19:11-27, and the idea is He’s going to be going away now for a long time and in the interim, while he’s away for a long time He’s entrusting people certain minas, or talents if you will, it’s very similar to… a mina is very similar to a talent which is a monetary denomination. And His servants are to do what while He’s gone? They’re to invest it properly.
And as He’s explaining this He begins to hint at this interim age where He’s going away for a long time but one of these days He’s going to come back and hold people accountable for what they did with the money that He entrusted to them. [Luke 19:12, “So He said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.  And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’  But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’”]
If you go down to Luke 19:15 it says, “When he returned, after receiving the kingdom,” so this is after a long period of time has elapsed, “he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.” So it’s the story, and you all are familiar with it, that he goes away for an extended period of time; at the end of this extended period of time He’s going to come back and He’s going to hold people accountable for how they invested the Master’s money. And the reason I bring up this story of the parable of the minas is the context of it is they thought, verse 11, the kingdom was going to appear immediately. And here he basically says no it’s not, there’s going to be a lengthy age of time where you’re entrusted by God with certain things; it’s not going to be the kingdom but one of these days when He comes back and establishes His kingdom He’s going to hold people accountable. So this is really your first hint of this interim age in the teachings of Jesus.
Arthur Pink, in his excellent book, The Prophetic Parables of Matthew Thirteen, says this, and I think accurately. He says: “Because Israel rejected their King, He” that’s Jesus, temporarily rejected them; in other words, the nation is in unbelief, the nation is in discipline, and therefore the setting up of His kingdom on this earth was what? Postponed. That’s our belief. He didn’t succeed in bringing in the kingdom; the kingdom is in a state of postponement. And then he says, “The King would depart from this world and be absent for a lengthy season, before He returned again and set up His kingdom” and look what he says, “see Luke 19:12, 15,” the parable of the minas which was specifically given to folks who thought the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately and instantaneously. So in essence what we’re talking about here is an authentic period of time that God Himself, Jesus Christ Himself, teaches on.
The second preliminary observation I want to give you about this interim age is number 2, this age was caused by Israel’s unbelief. The reasons that this age started, this interim age, is because Israel fell into unbelief and didn’t receive the offer of the King or his kingdom. So notice if you will Daniel 9:25 written way back in the 6th century. Daniel predicted that this day would arrive and he writes this: “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.  Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”
Notice here in this prophecy, written 600 years before Jesus shows up that Jesus is called “the Prince,” He’s not called the King because to be the King the nation of Israel would have had to submit to Him, which they never did. So currently Jesus is not reigning as King because of the nation’s response. And Daniel specifically predicted that after seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, which is a very specific time period, beginning with the decree of Artaxerxes, all the way back in Nehemiah 2, going forward to the Sunday that we’re celebrating this Sunday, which is which Sunday? anybody know? Palm Sunday, that day was identified in Daniel’s prophecies to the exact day. So Jesus would show up, He would present His Messianic credentials to the nation on Palm Sunday but they would reject Him. He would be cut off, that’s a reference to His crucifixion, and then notice what this underlined portion says, “the Messiah will be cut off and have” what? “nothing,” why does the Messiah have nothing? Because He never inherited the what? The kingdom, so He stayed a prince, not a king, He inherited nothing.
So what caused this age of time that we’re in now is Israel’s unbelief. Israel’s unbelief in the first century led to the interim age of time that we’re in now where the kingdom is in postponement. So God used a genuine offer to the nation of Israel to bring in something that has never been described anywhere in the Bible, this interim age that I’m trying to talk through and develop.
So Lewis Sperry Chafer puts it this way: “God not only knows beforehand the choice His creatures will make, but is Himself able to work in them both to will and to do of His own good pleasure. The Scriptures present many incidents which disclose the fact that the will of God is executed by men even when they have no conscious intention to do the will of God. . . . Was the death of Christ in danger of being abortive and all the types and prophecies respecting His death of being proved untrue until Pilate made his decision regarding that death?” [Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 5, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 347-48.’]
And Chafer’s point is this, God used the free moral will of His own creation to bring in the next phase of His plan, and this is how God works. God is so big, He is so brave that He can actually use one of His creatures decision to reject Him to bring in the next phase of His plan. So God takes lemons and turns them into what? Lemonade. So God took their decision to reject Him and turned Him over to the Romans for execution, to, number 1, pay the sin debt for the whole world. And number 2, to bring in an age of time that God always wanted to bring in but had never been disclosed in the Old Testament and that’s this interim age.
So when we talk about this interim age we have to understand that, number 1, it’s an authentic period of time that Jesus starts to describe. And number 2, it’s an age of time caused by Israel’s unbelief; in fact, God used Israel’s unbelief to bring in this age of time which was always part of His plan. So I know some of this is hard to wrap your mind around but the wonderful thing about God is no matter what decision people make it never throws His game off. People reject the things of God and God just uses it to bring in something that’s part of His plan. So this age of time, as I’ll be showing you, was always part of His plan. But He used the instrumentality of Israel’s belief to bring it into fruition.
This takes us to the third preliminary observation which is as follows: The present age is a mystery age. So take a look, if you could, at Matthew 13:11. This is where Jesus starts to develop this interim age in eight parables. “Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the” what? “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” So He specifically describes this age of time as a mystery, or mysteries. Now the two phases of this age are the eight parables and the church, and both are described as mysteries. When Paul really gets down to business and starts to explain the church age he uses the term mystery as well. Notice Ephesians 3:9, “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things.” So both the elements of Matthew 13:11 and the eight parables which explain the interadvent age and then the second element to the mystery age, which is the church, both of these are specifically, by the Scripture, called a mystery.
So the big question becomes what is a mystery? And the word mystery remains a mystery to a lot of folks because they use the English word mystery in defining it and not the Greek word. Vine, in his Complete Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words defines a mystery properly as follows; he says: “In the New Testament, it [mystērion]” now mystērion is the Greek word translated mystery in those two passages that I referenced earlier, “”In the New Testament it [mystērion] denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those who are illumined by His Spirit.”
So the first thing to understand about mystery is just forget the English definition of it. In English a mystery is something that has to be searched out with great diligence. If I’m reading a mystery novel I don’t really know who the bad guy is until the last chapter. If I’m watching a mystery movie I don’t know who the bad guy is until the final five minutes, and that’s not what the Greek word “mystery” means. When the Greeks used the word “mystery” they didn’t use it the way we use it, as something that has to be searched out. A mystery is something that has been newly disclosed by God. You couldn’t know it other than through God but God has made it now in plain view. So He’s taken something that in prior ages was veiled or hidden or unknowable, that the greatest philosophers on planet earth, they couldn’t understand it either because only God can make it known, and suddenly at the right time God pulls back the curtain, He pulls back the veil and you can clearly see what it is that’s been hidden but now disclosed.
So in Greek the word “mystery” basically means something hidden now disclosed. And that is what the church age is that we’re living in now. It’s a mystery. Ephesians 3:9 says, “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things.” So there is something happening today that has never happened before prior to the day of Pentecost when the church began and that’s what the mystery is. And we, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are part of that mystery.
So what is this new thing? Take a look at Ephesians 2:15-16, and we start to get a hint of this mystery. Generally it’s the writings of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians that best explains this mystery of the church age. And here’s the mystery, “by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,  and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.”
What is the mystery? The mystery is there is a new man, a new spiritual man, called the church. That new man consists of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles united together on equal footing as co-heirs of the things of God. There is no more a national division between Jew and Gentile because you see in the Old Testament age to get right with God you had to believe in the God of Israel and then to grow as a new believer you had to convert to Judaism. So in the prior age Israel was always on top. Israel was always the preeminent servants of God. What is new now, what the mystery is beginning in Acts 2 is everyone that is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, everyone that has believed in the very Messiah that Israel rejected is taken by the Holy Spirit, called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and is united to this new man called the church. And no more can it be said in the present age that the Jews are the preeminent servants of God; everybody is equal, everybody is on the same footing, everyone is a joint heir in this new man. And that is something brand new and totally new and you can read your Old Testament until your eyeballs bleed, you’ll never find that concept in the Old Testament… never!
And even into the ministry of Christ you don’t find this concept. Galatians 4:4 says that Jesus ministered, or was born unto law, he was ministering when a time when Israel was still preeminent. [Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,”] And he’s hinting at this age that’s coming but the shift doesn’t happen until Acts 2 when the church is born. And Paul really doesn’t fully explain it, something that’s already started, until he writes the book of Ephesians and he begins to describe Jews and Gentiles, Paul himself being Jewish, understanding that just because he’s Jewish doesn’t make him more elevated at all in the church; we’re all on equal footing, we’re in the new spiritual man reconciled (see that) in one body, the church. That’s the mystery. That’s something brand new that’s never been disclosed.
Paul, in Ephesians 3, take a look at that for a minute, verses 3-6, starts to unpack this mystery concept. And he says this, “that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.  By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,” see, he uses this word musterion twice there,  “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles” plural “and prophets in the Spirit;” so he’s describing something that God has shown not just him but the other apostles, the mystery of the church. And then he says, verse 6, “to be specific” meaning here’s what it is, here’s the mystery, “to be specific, that the Gentiles” that’s non-Jews, “are” what? “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
So Paul is saying in this new age of time I, a Jew, am no longer a preeminent servant of God, I am on equal footing with many other believing Gentile, as all of us have been brought into this one new man called the church. That is the mystery.
If you go over to 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 he doesn’t use the word “mystery” here but he unpacks a little bit more what the mystery is. He says this: “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” So he’s describing a new spiritual man with different body parts. Now we all are called to play different roles in this new man, I don’t have two left feet, I’ve got a left foot and a right foot that play different functions, so in the same way now two of us are gifted exactly alike. If two of us are alike then one is unnecessary I guess. So God is a God of great diversity; He’s a God of great variety, He gifts us all differently to do different things. But only as my physical body works in harmony can my entire being be effective. So in the same way everybody in the body of Christ is on the same footing; we’re all on equal footing, it doesn’t matter if we’re Jewish or Gentile, there’s no preeminent nation right now as there was in Old Testament times.
And in essence what God is doing is He is gifting us all differently to play different roles in His body, the Church. So we’re all part of one body, it doesn’t matter whether we’re Jew or whether we’re Greek, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized” now “baptized” means identification and most people when they look at that word “baptized” they think of water, and there are contexts where he is talking about water baptism but this isn’t one of them. This is talking about something that God has already done the moment you placed your faith in Christ. The water baptism just symbolizes the outward reality. But he’s not even talking about water baptism, he’s talking about spirit baptism, baptism means identification. The moment you trusted Christ the Lord reached out and connected you to the body of Christ, the church, and He gave you an individual gift mix to use for the benefitting of His church but it’s something that God has done and it doesn’t really matter where you go to church in terms of denominational affiliation. You could be Metha Cathol Bapterion or a Bapticostal Fundamatic or whatever you are, the point of the matter is you’re part of the body of Christ. That’s the big picture. And you have been connected to His body, the church, and you have the same standing as a Jew who’s a believer. So no preeminent nation anymore at least in the current age.
Now let me tell you something; that is not how it worked in the Old Testament. If you wanted to be saved you had to believe in the God of Israel and if you wanted to grow as a new believer you had to convert, if you were a Gentile, to Judaism. And these folks were called proselytes. The most famous proselyte in the Old Testament is probably Ruth, she was from Moab. Moab is the nation adjacent to Israel, east of the Jordan River in Old Testament times. And you remember the story of Ruth, how her mother, Naomi, left Bethlehem and went to Moab and eventually through a whole series of events Naomi became Ruth’s mother-in-law. Ruth, the Moabitess, wanted to return with Naomi back to the land of Israel; remember what Ruth said, “But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go” what” “I will go.” If you go back to Israel I’ll go back to Israel with you, “and where you lodge, I will lodge.” You want to lodge in Bethlehem, or Jerusalem I’m going to lodge there with you physically. “Your people shall be” what? “my people, and your God, my God.”
So that’s how it worked all the way through the Old Testament. A Gentile had to become a proselyte; to grow in the things of God they had to convert to Judaism. And what Paul is saying here with this mystery is that’s not how it works any more. You don’t have to convert to anything to grow as a believer in Christ, you just have to believe in Christ and as you believe in Christ you’ve already been united to this new man called the church. And if you’re Jewish you have the same standing in the church as the Gentile.
And this, to be honest with you this whole concept freaked out the apostles, they didn’t get the whole thing for a while because what happened is a guy named Cornelius got saved in Acts 10 and they had to have a big pow-wow in Jerusalem to ascertain is this true? I mean, can a Gentile really get saved? And then what really freaks them out is when Paul goes off on his first missionary journey there beginning in Acts 13 and he goes into Southern Galatia, outside of the land of Israel and Gentiles start getting saved like crazy. The early church leadership is still Jewish and they’re trying to figure out, what are we going to do with these Gentiles; do they have to convert to Judaism to grow, as it’s always been in Old Testament times. So they had another pow-wow about it in Acts 15 called the Jerusalem Council and they looked through a series of verses and they said you know what? To grow as a Gentile Christian you no longer have to become a Jew because that’s how it may have worked in Old Testament times but we’re in a brand new age now called the church age.
So this is the mystery. This is something that has been hidden but now has been brought into full disclosure. So the reality of the situation is the church, as I’m describing it, you do not find in the Old Testament. Now people get upset with that sometimes and they like to quote Acts 7:38 which is Stephen’s speech and Stephen, a Jew, reviews Old Testament history and in Acts 7:38 he makes this statement: “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.” And when he talks about the “congregation in the wilderness” in the time of Moses he uses the word “church,” which is the Greek word ekklesia, which is the Greek word translated church. And people say well there it is, it says the church in the wilderness, there was a church in the Old Testament.
But what I want you to understand is the word ekklesia is not a technical word. Remember what a technical word is? It’s a word that always means the same thing everywhere it’s used. When Stephen uses the word ekklesia to describe the gathering in the wilderness he’s just talking about synagogue; he’s talking about a bunch of Jews getting together in the Old Testament. When Paul uses the word “church” he’s not talking about a bunch of Jews getting together; he’s talking about something totally different, where Jew and Gentile have equal standing in the body of Christ in one new man. Paul takes that word “church” and infuses into it a meaning that Stephen was not using here in Acts 7:38.
So yes, you can find the word “church” in the Old Testament but not the meaning that Paul gives it when he’s describing the mystery. This new mystery man, mystery nature of the church is something that the Old Testament never revealed; it is something that Jesus doesn’t even talk about it, He makes maybe a few hints at it. It’s not something that started until Acts 2 and even though it started in Acts 2 Paul really doesn’t start to unpack its meaning and explain exactly what’s happened until Acts 28 when he wrote the book of Ephesians. So are we clear on what is meant here by “mystery”? A new truth never before been disclosed.
Now we have today in the body of Christ and it grieves me to even talk about it because a lot of this has come into existence largely through the influence of my alma mater that I have two academic degrees from, Dallas Theological Seminary, but around the 1980’s a younger group of scholars began to emerge. The three principle spokesmen for what’s called progressive dispensationalism would be Darrell Bolk, Craig Blaising, both at Dallas at that time, Darrell Bolk is still there, and out on the West Coast Robert L. Saucy who passed away recently. But they began to espouse this idea of progressive dispensationalism and they began to move away from the traditional dispensationalism that we believe here and that I was basically trying to articulate earlier and they began to say well, what mystery really means is that the church was revealed in the Old Testament, it just hadn’t been realized yet. So they’re arguing that the church actually exists the way I’ve described it, in the Old Testament, it just wasn’t realized yet.
I’m giving you a totally different definition. I am saying that the word “mystery” means unrevealed. The Old Testament does not reveal the church in its mystery dimensions. And these guys are coming along and they’re basically rewriting the word “mystery” and trying to make it sound as if the church really is there in the Old Testament but it just hadn’t been realized yet.
So Robert Saucy writes this, he says, “The evidence from the Old Testament prophecies and in some cases their later Jewish interpretation shows a relationship between what was promised and what is now revealed. Specifically, the promises concerning the salvation of the Gentiles along with Israel, a certain solidarity between the promises concerning the Messiah and his people, and, perhaps most important, the prediction of the indwelling Spirit of God, make it difficult to deny some connection between this Old Testament hope and the mystery of the union of Gentiles and Israel in Christ found in Ephesians 3.” [Robert L. Saucy, “The Church as the Mystery of God,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for a Definition, ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 149.]
See, everything I’ve been saying before is Ephesians 3 and Ephesians 2 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 is a totally new idea. Not only is it unrealized it’s unrevealed. Well you have progressive dispensationalism coming along and they’re trying to kind of rewrite this theology and they’re trying to get rid of too strong of a distinction between Israel and the church that they believe existed in traditional dispensationalist, like Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, even people like myself. And they’re saying well the church really was there because look, the Old Testament reveals salvation of the Gentiles, doesn’t it? And the Old Testament reveals the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit doesn’t it?
May I just say to you that the Old Testament does reveal the salvation of the Gentiles; it does reveal the Holy Spirit, but those are truths that are going to be fulfilled when? In the kingdom age. The Old Testament never foresaw what Paul is talking about, of Jew and Gentile having equal standing in one new man. Yes, there’s salvation of the Gentiles in the Old Testament predicted; no problem! Yes, there’s a great indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit predicted in the coming kingdom; no problem! But show me one little passage anywhere where the Old Testament anywhere revealed Jew and Gentile, equal position, in one new spiritual man. The concept isn’t there. That’s why Paul has to spend time explaining it in Ephesians 2 and in Ephesians 3.
They quote Isaiah 49:6 and all Isaiah 49:6 says is salvation is going to come to the Gentiles one day. “He says, ‘It is too small a thing” Isaiah “that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make you a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’” No problem. I mean I know that salvation of the Gentiles through Jesus is predicted in the Old Testament but that’s kingdom age stuff. See that? Does this verse ever say that Jew and Gentile are going to be on equal footing in one new man called the church? It doesn’t say that at all.
I have no problem believing in the work of the Holy Spirit and how that’s revealed in the Old Testament as well. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says this: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” Now what is this speaking of? The work of the Spirit when? In which age? The kingdom age! Does this verse here talk at all about Jew and Gentile being united in one new man called the church? It never refers to that at all.
So progressive dispensationalists, by arguing that there are references to the church in the Old Testament, I think they’re completely and totally wrong on this. That’s one of the reasons I am not a progressive dispensationalist; I am a traditional dispensationalist. The doctrinal statement of Sugar Land Bible Church, the way it’s written, is a traditional dispensational doctrinal statement. We don’t believe that the church is in the Old Testament; we don’t believe the church is in the life of Christ. A lot of people think Jesus, in His earthly ministry, started the church; that’s completely inaccurate, Jesus, Galatians 4:4, was born under the Law. [Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,”] He functioned during the prior age of Israel under the Law. He gave hints here and there, not very many hints I might add, of a coming church age but the church age that we’re in now, this mystery age doesn’t start until Acts 2 and it isn’t even fully explained until the Apostle Paul begins to develop these ideas in the book of Ephesians.
You might wonder why God had Paul in jail so frequently; have you ever wondered that? I mean he’s in jail in Rome twice, he’s in jail in Caesarea, other places. Now we’re talking about a first century prison; you don’t have a tattoo bar, you don’t have cable, you don’t have a weight room. What do you have? You have nothing but you and the Lord and the Lord speaking to you. That’s why God had Paul in jail so frequently, because Paul needed time to receive these truths from God and to record them.
And let me tell you something; if we didn’t have our 13 letters from Paul probably the most important on this subject is the Book of Ephesians, if God hadn’t sovereignly worked in Paul’s life in this way, by incarcerating him, allowing him time to receive and record mystery truths, what would we know about the church today? Almost nothing. Even from the ministry of Jesus Christ we hardly know anything about the church. Now Jesus does make some prophecies where He says in the Upper Room, I think about three times, “I have many things to say to you but you’re not able to receive, but when He, the Spirit of truth comes He will guide you into all truth.” [John 16:12-13, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”]
And what is He hinting at? He’s hinting at Paul who’s going to show up on the scene. Now Paul, contrary to the doctrine of hyper dispensationalism, did not the start the church; the church started in Acts 2. I’ll be showing you that’s where the baptizing work of the Spirit started, that’s when the body of Christ started. That’s when the Holy Spirit started the body of Christ and started taking subsequent believers and identifying them to the body of Christ. That’s when the whole thing started. But it’s not until Paul that we get a full explanation of what started in Acts 2. See that? And had God not worked sovereignly and strategically in Paul’s life by allowing him to be in jail, to be given time to receive and record these truths, we wouldn’t have these 13 letters, we wouldn’t have the Book of Ephesians, I mean, Ephesians is one of his prison letters, isn’t it. Isn’t he chained to a Roman guard the whole time? He talks about it in Ephesians and Philippians and other books that he wrote around that same time. See, that was such a strategic time in Paul’s life because God was giving him this revelation of the mystery of the church and he was faithfully writing it down.
We think our most productive times are times we’re out being active. In reality when God side-lines you through unemployment, or an injury, that could end up being perhaps the most productive time in your whole ministry because most of us are too busy to sit and receive things from God. I know in my personal life that the times I’ve grown the most is not when I’m out active but when I’m sidelined by God because of some circumstance, and there’s when I really start to learn. See, that’s what God did with Paul, He sidelined him and He put him in this place of incarceration and he had nothing to do but receive and record and in the process we have these 13 letters which fill out all of this mystery doctrine and here we are in the year 2017 in southwest Houston, Sugar Land, Texas, being edified by what Paul said. So that’s the significance of Paul. And the things that Paul is talking about are not found in Ezekiel. They’re not found in Isaiah. They’re brand new things which is what the word “mystery” means.
Now one other thing and with this I’ll close. When Paul uses the word “mystery” he is using the word based on its Old Testament usage. The word “mystery” shows up in the Old Testament in only one book, the book of Daniel. And I think it’s the word [can’t understand word] if I’m not mistaken, which is an Aramaic term, which Daniel 2-7 as we’re studying on Sunday morning, was written in Aramaic.
What you have to understand is the Old Testament was translated into Greek 200 years before the time of Christ, and which series of books am I thinking of? Anybody know? The Septuagint. So 200 years before Jesus ever showed up you have a Greek translation of the Old Testament; you have a Greek translation of Daniel 2-7. And in that translation that’s the only time the word “mystery” is used, in Daniel 2.
I have all of the references to mystery underlined here. [Daniel 2:18-19, 27-30] It says,” so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. [Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven;  Daniel answered before the king and said, ‘As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.  However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.  As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.  But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.”]
He keeps saying mystery all the way through here, Daniel 2; does anybody remember what mystery he’s talking about? We’ve studied it on Sunday mornings, haven’t we? Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Remember what Nebuchadnezzar saw, a giant statue, head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze; legs of iron, feet of iron and clay, we’ve worked all the way through that on Sunday mornings. And remember what Nebuchadnezzar said to his wise men? They said, “Tell us the dream and we’ll interpret it.” [Daniel 2:4, “Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: ‘O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.’  The king replied to the Chaldeans, ‘The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap.”’]
Nebuchadnezzar said no, you tell me both the dream and its interpretation. Therefore that’s what the word “mystery” means. It means something that is totally unknown, something that is totally undisclosed, something that could be known only if God Himself pulled back the veil. This the only time the Greek word mustérion is used in the whole Septuagint in Daniel 2 and in Daniel 2 when you know the context where Nebuchadnezzar says to his so-called wise men I’m not going to give you the dream so you can interpret it, you give me the dream, you start to understand what the word mystery means. The word mystery is not something, as progressive dispensationalists like to say, something revealed but unrealized. That’s not the way the word “mystery” is used here; it’s something totally unrevealed! Daniel understood this because God told him what it was and what it meant. And had God not made that disclosure Daniel wouldn’t have known anything about it; he wouldn’t have known the dream, what it was or its interpretation.
So when Paul, in Ephesians over and over again keeps saying mystery, mystery, mystery, mystery as he’s describing the church he’s dialing back into that Old Testament term. He’s saying this is something not revealed but unrealized, contra progressive dispensationalism, he is saying this is something unrevealed completely and totally.
Now next week, on this word mystery, I’ll be taking you to two battleground passages, Ephesians 3:5, there’s a real debate on that, and then over to Romans 16:25-26.
But the only thing I want you to see thus far is this new phase of time that we’re in, this interim age is: number 1, an authentic age, it’s a real period of time that the Lord started to describe. Number 2, it’s an age of time caused by Israel’s unbelief. And then number 3, it clearly is a mystery age, not something revealed already but unrealized but something totally unforeseen that could only be grasped if God revealed it, which He did, the fall. Anyway, not too bad tonight, I stopped at 8:05 so I’ll stop talking at this point.