One Book...Rightly Divided
By Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
(Section II of III)
By Dr. Douglas D. Stauffer
(Section II of III)
The Apostle Paul Reveals the Mysteries
If, over 5,000 years ago, a person or group was commanded to follow Noah and, much later, others were to follow Moses, why should it seem odd that God would have a specific spokesman for the Christian believer of today? God deals through a spokesman and we had better listen and take heed to what our primary spokesman has been led to say to us. The Apostle Paul wrote that they were stewards of the mysteries of God (I Corinthians 4:1). God even called Paul His chosen vessel (Acts 9:15) for this Church Age.
From his epistles we find out that Paul was chosen to reveal mysteries kept secret since the world began. He was to make “known unto us the mystery of his will” (Ephesians 1:9);that is, God’s will.God’s will is to give His Son a Body and a Bride to work out His will on this earth. These few verses clearly emphasize the mysteries in Paul’s epistles.
Romans 11:25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
Romans 16:25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
Ephesians 3:3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
Ephesians 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Ephesians 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 6:19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
Paul is our primary God-given spokesman. He is used of God to teach us that we are saved and sealed forever by the Holy Spirit. He reveals the various truths that had remained a mystery prior to the penning of his epistles. The mystery program today concerns spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3, 2:6; Colossians 3:1-3). For further study of the mysteries of Paul’s epistles, consider: Colossians 1:26-27, 2:2, 4:3; I Timothy 3:9, 3:16.
The final mysteries after the Church Age will be fully revealed by the seventh angel of the Tribulation. The Bible states that he will finish the mystery program at that time (Revelation 10:7). With so many mysteries existing prior to the revelations given to the Apostle Paul, why do so many preachers still teach that those living prior to the cross were simply looking forward to the cross?
Looking Forward to the Cross?
When one reads the Old Testament, it is sometimes hard for the New Testament Christian to comprehend how those in the first century refused to accept Jesus as Messiah. The Bible student quickly encounters and easily identifies numerous Old Testament pictures and types of Christ. How could Israel have missed truths so evident to the Church today? The answer is rather simple. The pictures and types are clearly recognizable only in light of the revelation of the New Testament obscured prior to that time. God chose Paul to reveal these mysteries.
Without question, David, Joseph and Isaac are magnificent pictures and types of Christ. However, it is very unwise to teach that the Old Testament saints grasped the same truths so visible to the Christian today. In fact, the Bible teaches that the Jews read the Old Testament with spiritual blinders on. Therefore, contrary to the teaching of the majority of seminaries, those living prior to the cross could not simply have been looking forward to the cross. In fact, the Bible says that there was a veil over their minds preventing their seeing the very truths we hold so dear.
II Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.
The veil is only removed in Christ. The Bible also plainly teaches that the veil was not taken away until after the cross. For this reason, the dishonest Bible “scholar” is hard-pressed to reconcile the truth with his teaching of Old Testament saints looking forward to the cross for salvation. Consider these four points which prove that not even the leader of the twelve disciples was looking forward to the cross for his salvation.
• Peter rebuked the Lord when He foretold His death, burial and resurrection (Luke 8:32).
• Peter fought to stop the soldiers from taking Jesus ultimately to the cross (John 18:10).
• Peter thought that the resurrection account was an “idle tale” (Luke 24:11).
• Peter wondered as he looked in the sepulchre what had happened to Jesus’ body (Luke 24:12).
Could the other apostles have been looking forward to and trusting in the cross for their salvation if even their leader Peter was not? Absolutely not! If a person wishes to somehow make all of the Bible to apply equally to all generations throughout history without exception, then the following verse would mean that everyone who ever had the gospel hidden from him would be spiritually lost. Right?
II Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
There is no arguing with this truth! The Bible says that the lost have the gospel hidden from them. Consistent Bible application using the method of Bible study most seminaries employ would mean that all of the apostles were lost! Yet, it is a grave doctrinal and historical error to claim that any of the apostles apart from Judas Iscariot (the son of perdition) was ever lost. Otherwise, Jesus was a liar or the Bible contains contradictions and errors.
John 17:12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
If the pastor, preacher and teacher allows the “scholars’ union” or his own alma mater to determine what to believe and teach, complete spiritual infidelity will result. It is impossible to teach the traditional “everyone was looking forward to the cross” doctrine without explaining away the seemingly contradictory information. In the next passage, Jesus clearly communicates the gospel to the twelve. He tells them that He is going to be put to death and rise again three days later. That is, the Gospel as defined in the first four verses of First Corinthians chapter 15).
Luke 18:31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.
No one can argue that this passage fails to record Christ’s prophesying His own death, burial and resurrection. He foretells the gospel that would be the basis for everyone’s salvation. However, notice how the passage continues below. The writer says that the twelve apostles did not understand what He was saying. In fact, the Bible says that the gospel (the death, burial and resurrection) was HIDDEN from them.
Luke 18:34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
Were all of the twelve apostles in fact lost? Was Jesus a liar? Does the Bible contain contradictions? No, on all three accounts. If the so-called biblical scholars retroactively apply II Corinthians 4:3 (quoted earlier) to the apostles situation, they have just created a glaring contradiction in the Bible. This should be unacceptable for all those that love the word of God. Because many Bible teachers and preachers refuse to apply the Bible passages dispensationally, they pile error upon error and the world remains in a state of utter confusion. Christians become increasingly disillusioned with Bible study because it becomes impossible to believe in something that teachers continually spiritualize (that is, something they fail to apply literally).
Anyone that teaches that those prior to the cross were simply looking forward to the cross for salvation may be unwittingly calling Jesus a liar. It is impossible to be honest and claim that everyone before the cross is looking forward to the cross. Consistent application requires that one rightly divide the word of truth. Bible teachers need to be consistent and honest by studying the Bible using God’s method of Bible study or else risk the disdain of God Almighty.
Although nobody gets to heaven apart from the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, how this blood is applied differs from one period (or age) to the next. We cannot apply how God deals with man today to all other periods of time. As we have seen, the period covered by the four Gospels is a prime example.
The Kingdom Gospel
The subject of the Kingdom Gospel, introduced here, will be more fully developed in Chapter 4. Let us consider Peter for a moment. During the earliest part of Peter’s ministry, his primary focus was not to preach the Gospel of the Grace of God. Rather, he preached about the future Kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ and John the Baptist preached the kingdom message also. They were announcing the promised kingdom to the Jewish nation. One cannot read the next verse and be ignorant of this truth without simply rejecting the plain truth.
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The Lord Jesus Christ preached about the kingdom. He preached that the “kingdom of heaven is at hand.” At hand, in this context, means within reach. Israel did not accept the Lord while the kingdom was within their reach. Instead, they crucified their future King. Therefore, the kingdom will not be established until after the present Church Age and future Tribulation. The kingdom is a synonymous designation for the 1,000-year (Millennial) reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is yet to come (Revelation 20:4).
The chart depicts how the Gospel of the Kingdom was preached. However, the actual beginning of the kingdom would not occur until thousands of years later, following the Second Coming. We know that almost 2,000 years have transpired since the Lord’s first coming. Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry. He instructed His apostles and disciples to do the same.
Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
No Bible-believing preacher today preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom. He preaches instead the Gospel of the Grace of God. In later studies, the critical distinctions between these two gospels will be examined. The differing features between the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24)are sometimes readily apparent.
"The story of the kingdom was called ‘the gospel,’ that is, good news or tidings, while the kingdom was said to be at hand. Jesus preached ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ (Matt. 4:23; Matt. 9:35) as long as the kingdom was at hand."
John R. Rice, The Coming Kingdom of Christ (Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord, 1945), p. 76.
Understanding the difference between the Kingdom Gospel and the gospel preached today would clarify many other issues as well. For instance, the Kingdom Gospel included the healing of all manner of sickness and disease as a sign to the nation of Israel.
Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Mark 1:14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
The Kingdom Gospel preached in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John will go back into effect after the Church Age. These four gospel books proclaim the Kingdom’s various features as do portions of the last nine books of the Bible (Hebrews through Revelation). Anytime we read from a doctrinal perspective, we must consider to whom the passage is being addressed. We must consider what period of time is being covered.
"However, the gospel of the kingdom is to be preached again during the tribulation period and just before Christ returns to set up His kingdom…IN THOSE DAYS OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION, THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM WILL BE PREACHED AGAIN!" (Emphasis in original).
John R. Rice, The Coming Kingdom of Christ (Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord, 1945), p. 77.
The Church is taken out of this world at the Rapture, prior to the time when the Kingdom Gospel (as referred to in Hebrews 2:3-5) goes back into effect. This Gospel (of the Kingdom) must be preached “in all the world” before the end comes.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
This “end” refers to the Second Coming, not the Rapture. This “end” is contingent upon the full preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom and not to the preaching of the Gospel of the Grace of God. Therefore, the whole world will hear the Gospel of the Kingdom prior to the end (of the Tribulation). When God’s revived Jewish nation finds itself in the midst of the Tribulation searching for answers, what is the first New Testament book that might arouse their interest?