Vol. 15 No. 11
Eph 3:3, “That by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief.”
Paul received the revelation of the mystery of the Church and the mystery doctrines of the Church Age by direct communication from God / Jesus Christ.
“That by revelation,” is HOTI KATA APOKALUPSIS. The Accusative Singular Noun APOKALUPSIS, ἀποκάλυψις means, “revelation, disclosure, unveiling, or manifestation.” It is from APO, “separation from, out from, etc.” and KALUPTO, “to cover or hide.” So it comes to mean that which is unhidden, uncovered, or revealed, as the corresponding verb APOKALUPTO also indicates. It is one of the most prominent words in the New Testament, used 26 times, for conveying the Biblical concept of Divine revelation, and is the same word used for the title of the last book of the Bible. Here it denotes God’s tangible self-revelation to Paul. Cf. Eph 1:6-10; cf. vs. 17.
This word was rarely used in common Greek in religious contexts, but is used prominently in the N.T. Yet, it was a very common term to people of that day. For example, it was used of the unveiling of a statue the public had not seen until that time. Likewise, the Septuagint rarely understands this word as having any theological meaning. So here, again, we see Paul using a rather ordinary word to convey significant religious meaning, as we encounter the phenomenon that the new spiritual realities of Christianity are explained with this word. Therefore, in the N.T., APOKALUPSIS means, “something undiscoverable by humans unless God makes it known to them.” In addition, “revelation” in the N.T. is more concerned with the content of the revelation than with the phenomenon itself.
And finally, the new revelation of the N.T. is Jesus Christ Himself and our unique relationship with Him, Col 1:26-27.
“There was made known,” is the Aorist, Passive, Indicative of the Verb GNORIZO, γνωρίζω that means, “make known, reveal, or declare.” The consummative Aorist is for past tense, viewing the entirety of the action with a focus on the completion of the action. The Passive Voice, means Paul received the action of being educated to the fact of the mystery doctrines for the Church Age, which is also emphasized in the phrase, “to me,” the Dative singular of EGO; MOI. The Indicative Mood of GNORIZO is for the reality that Paul received this information, (this mystery of the Church, the Church Age and its accompanying doctrines), by means of Divine revelation.
“The mystery” is the definite Article HO, with the subject Nominative Noun MUSTERION, μυστήριον that means, “mystery, secret, secret teaching, anything hidden, or unrevealed.” This word had special meaning for Paul to use with the Gentiles, as it was also used in regard to the various pagan religions from the 7th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. Even the Gnostics misused this term in their false teachings. The LXX of the O.T. uses MUSTERION for the Hebrew word RAZ in Dan 2:18-19, 27, 30, 47, regarding the revelation of a mystery to Daniel from God. The important factor is that in Daniel we have evidence of the transition MUSTERION makes from the notion of just simply a “secret” to a “revealed secret.” And that is what we have in the N.T. usage. In the Biblical sense, the mystery is not some unexplainable puzzle; rather, the “mystery” has now been openly revealed and can be potentially known by all. Therefore, “mystery” does not mean something mystical, but something that is incomprehensible until God chooses to reveal it.
Of the 27 uses of MUSTERION in the N.T., 20 are attributed to Paul, 3 are in the Gospels, and 4 are in Revelation.
Under the first mention principle, we see MUSTERION in Mat 12:11-15 and Mark 4:11f. In those passages Jesus disclosed the secrets of the kingdom of God to those who came to Him in faith, where the reception of such mystery is firmly tied to repentance, Mark 4:11ff. Yet, unwilling ears will not hear the Kingdom’s secrets, and covered eyes will not see them, Mat 13:11-15, because the message of the Kingdom is a call to repent and believe. And to live the Kingdom life, is to persevere in the face of adversity, Mark 4:17; Luke 8:15.
Therefore, the greatest Divine secret of all time, is the now revealed mystery of Christ, who has come to redeem the world through His death on the Cross, 1 Cor 2:1-2; cf. vs. 9-10. Another essential factor to this mystery is the “radical” revelation that this salvation is offered to both the Jews and Gentiles on the same basis, which “has been made known” to Paul and is reflected in his preaching, e.g., Eph 2:1f; 3:3-4ff, especially vs. 6. Paul regarded this revelation of the universal scope of God’s redemption as his purpose, the reason he has received this “stewardship” from God, Eph 6:19; Col 1:26-27; 4:3, as the “apostle of the Gentiles,” Rom 11:13.
Eph 1:9 “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.”
In 1 Tim 3:9, 16, the “mystery of the faith” and the “mystery of godliness” are linked to the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Note that following the statement “great is the mystery of godliness” we have the famous Christ-hymn that summarizes the gospel story of Jesus.
As we noted in Eph 3:2, Paul being a prisoner of Christ Jesus, endured undeserved suffering for blessing, in 2 Cor 12:7, “because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,” he received from God regarding the Church Age dispensation with its mystery doctrines.
2 Cor 12:7, “And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, to keep me from exalting myself!”
In fact, Paul credited all of His spiritual wisdom and knowledge, especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to “a revelation of Jesus Christ,” Gal 1:12. That is, the direct communication of the mystery doctrine for the Church Age by Christ Himself. In Gal 1:13-24, Paul relays the story of how he received the revelation; first by Christ’s direct appearance on the road to Damascus, and then in Arabia where he spent an undisclosed amount of time. Then 3 plus 14 years later, he began his greater ministry. So over a period of 17 plus years, the Lord was revealing Himself more and more to Paul in preparation for His great missionary journeys. Then, after the 17 plus years were completed, Paul received another revelation from God to go to Jerusalem and witness the gospel to the leaders of the early Church, Gal 2:1-10.
Once on the mission field, Paul prayed that we too may receive a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him (Jesus Christ),” Eph 1:17.
Finally, in the Book of Revelation, the idea that “mysteries” are now “revelations” is also represented. John explained the “mystery” of the seven lampstands, Rev 1:20, being the 7 churches, which each would receive the following short epistles. Likewise, in Rev 10:7, the mystery of God that is “finished / completed,” refers to the eschatological program in the rest of the book, which has already been heralded by the prophets and is destined to reach its fulfillment.
And finishing our verse, Eph 3:3, Paul reminds them that they have been taught theses mystery doctrines previously, as he states, “as I wrote before in brief,” KATHOS PROGRAPHO EN OLIGOS. This could mean several things; 1) What Paul wrote in Chapters 1-2. 2) What he wrote in the book of Galatians or even Colossians. 3) That Paul had previously written a little epistle of Ephesians that contained this same information.
Doctrine of Revelation
1) Definition: The Greek word APOKALUPSIS means, “revelation, disclosure, unveiling, or manifestation.” It is from APO, “separation from, out from, etc.” and KALUPTO, “to cover or hide.” So it comes to mean that which is unhidden, uncovered, or revealed. The words “revelation” and “reveal,” imply an unveiling or disclosing of things unknown that are coming into view. In Scripture, it is defined as God making known to man what is otherwise unknowable. It tells us that God speaks, in various ways, to His creatures whom He has made quite capable of such communion. In its theological usage, the term revelation is restricted to the Divine act of communicating to man what otherwise man would not know.
Rom 16:25, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past.”
A Divine revelation is accomplished whenever any manifestation of God is discerned, or any evidence of His presence, purpose, or power is communicated. And through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, they are discernable so that man may know God and enter into a relationship with Him. As such, God reveals Himself to man in many ways. There are seven modes by which we receive Divine revelation:
- God revealed through nature, Psa 19:1-6; Rom 1:19-23; Gen 3:18-19; Rom 8:19-21.
- God revealed through providence, Deut 30:1-10; Dan 2:31-45; 7:1-28; 9:24-27; Hosea 3:4-5; Mat 23:37; 25:46; Acts 15:13-18; Rom 8:28; 11:13-29; 2 Thes 2:1-12; Rev 2:1-22:21.
- God revealed through preservation, Mat 6:31-33; Phil 4:19.
- God revealed through miracles, Mat 11:20, 25.
- God revealed by direct communication, Num 12:8; Deut 34:10.
- God revealed through the incarnation, the Living Word, Isa 40:5; John 1:1-2, 14, 18; Rom 9:5; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Cor 1:24; Heb 1:1-2; 1 John 5:9.
- God revealed through the Scriptures, the written Word, 2 Tim 3:16.
God, having made man in His Own image and having endowed him with the capacity to commune with Himself, created man as such to exercise a relationship with Him, where in due time, God would disclose to man truth concerning Himself and His purposes, as well as man’s true place in the Divine plan of creation: e.g., his relation to God, to eternity, to time, to virtue, to sin, to redemption, as well as to all other beings in this universe. Man is the object of that creation. Therefore, communication from the Creator to mankind is to be expected, and that communication from God to man is called revelation. So the noun APOKALUPSIS implies unveiling, disclosure by God Himself regarding things previously unknown and things that cannot be explained.
As we have noted and will see, Divine revelation comes in many forms, but God has specifically chosen the Bible during the Church Age, to be the specific and essential feature of Divine revelation. Although nature tells us there is a God, nature cannot give us one iota of information about God’s purpose or will for your life, the way of salvation, or any other factor. Only the written Word and the living Word, Jesus Christ, can reveal God to us and His will for us.
2) Back in the Garden of Eden, God came to man in the cool of the evening and imparted knowledge and wisdom to him. If unfallen man needed the impartation of knowledge, how much more does fallen man need to be taught of God and His plan for mankind. To this end the Bible has been written, and the revelation to man of that great body of truth, which man could not acquire for himself, and which the Bible discloses, is its sublime and supreme purpose.
3) In God imparting His Word to man, there are three categories that are distinct but sometimes confused; Revelation, Inspiration and Illumination. These three must concur or converge to one point in securing the infallible communication of the Bible. The Bible is not only a revealed body of truth, but is THE ONLY revealed body of truth. It is a supernatural interposition into the affairs of men. Therefore, three Divine operations are necessary for the delivery of Divine truth:
a. Revelation, which is the direct Divine influence that communicates truth from God to man.
b. Inspiration, which is the direct Divine influence that secures an accurate transfer of truth into language so that others may understand.
These two at times operate concurrently, but other times independently. For example; by revelation Joseph was warned by God in a dream that he should flee into Egypt with Mary and the infant Jesus. Yet, he was not inspired to record the revelation for the benefit of others. That occurred through the apostles and the writers of the Gospels many years later. Those men were inspired to present facts with an accuracy which only inspiration could secure, which facts were not, strictly speaking, revelations which they personally participated in.
c. Then we have a third aspect of God’s impartation of Divine truth called Illumination. Illumination is the influence or ministry of the Holy Spirit that enables all who are in right relation with God to understand the Scriptures. For example:
- Of Christ it is written that He “opened” their understanding of the Scriptures, Luke 24:32, 45.
- Christ Himself promised that when the Spirit came He would “guide” them into all truth, John 16:13.
- Likewise, Paul writes in 1 Cor 2:12, “We have received . . . the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
- John states of the Spirit in 1 John 2:27 that He “teaches you of all things.”
Likewise, under the Common Grace Ministry of the Holy Spirit, even unregenerated man can come to discern God that can lead to salvation. Therefore, illumination is plainly being given the understanding and comprehension of the Scripture, or sometimes just God consciousness, by means of the Holy Spirit.
d. There is reference to all three in one passage, 1 Cor 2:9-13, to revelation vs. 10, to illumination in vs. 12, and to inspiration in vs. 13.
1 Cor 2:9-13, “But just as it is written, ” THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 10For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God,13which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual with spiritual.”
4) Other than the Gospel, unregenerated man does not receive the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and therefore cannot understand the innumerous truths found in the Scripture, 1 Cor 2:14.
1 Cor 2:14, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
5) With the combination of revelation, inspiration and illumination combined with the Grace Apparatus for Perception, (GAP), which is the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit to the believer of spiritual truths, the believer develops a Spiritual I.Q. to understand the spiritual phenomenon that is God and His Word, 1 Cor 2:12-13. As such, the believer is not restricted to his human I.Q. to come to understand the things of God. He is not restricted to the sphere of his own being in which he was placed by creation. With the combination of Human I.Q. and spiritual I.Q., the way is open for him to move on into realms celestial and to know, even now, something of the exalted privilege of “fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” being In Christ, to possess eternal life, and to anticipate a final conformity to Christ.
Divine revelation is the making known to man of all he must come to know, which lies between the zero point of Divine knowledge in which we begin our lives as a creature, and the finality of understanding who God is and our relationship with Him, because of being redeemed, which means we will hold uninterrupted communion with God in heaven and respond intelligently to the things of God in the eternal realm. Therefore, Divine revelation is thus supernatural, and the message given is the pure Word of God.
6) As we will see later in Ephesian Chapter 3, the value of the incarnation revelation, while existing quite apart from any written records, has become a message of infinite riches extending to all the knowledge of God and the way into, and assurance of, eternal life. The life and death of Christ are indisputable facts of history, but the Divine blessing is assured to all those who believe the record God has given concerning His Son, 1 John 5:9-12.
7) Therefore, we can conclude that the Bible is a specific and essential feature of all Divine revelation. It presents seven important features:
- Divine revelation is varied in its themes. It embraces that which is doctrinal, devotional, historical, prophetical, and practical.
- Divine revelation is partial. It is written, Deut 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God: but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”
- Divine revelation is complete. As to the Son, He is the PLEROMA “fullness” of the godhead bodily, Col 2:9, and as to the final salvation of all who believe, they are PEPLEROMENOI, “complete” in Him, Col 2:10. Though complete in Him now, they are yet to be conformed to His image, Rom 8:29; 1 John 3:2.
- Divine revelation is progressive. Its plan of procedure is expressed by the words in Mark 4:28, “First the blade, then the head, after that the mature grain in the head.” Each book of the Bible lends itself of the accumulated truth that has gone before, and the last book is its consummation, like a vast union station into which all the great highways of revelation and prediction converge and terminate. No complete understanding of revealed truth can be gained apart from its consummation in that book, and that book, in turn, cannot be understood apart from the apprehension of all that has gone before. The last book of the Bible is the revelation supreme. Likewise, Dispensations are similar in the progressive revelation of God: His nature, plan, and purpose.
- Divine revelation is primarily unto redemption. Its progress of doctrine develops hand in hand with the doctrine of redemption. God has spoken to the end that man may be “wise to salvation,” 2 Tim 3:15. God has caused a record concerning His Son to be written and men who believe that record are saved, and those who do not believe that record are lost, 1 John 5:9-12.
1 John 5:10, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.”
1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”
- Divine revelation is final. It incorporates the truth, Jude 1:3, “Which was once delivered to the saints.” From it, nothing is to be taken, nor to it, is anything to be added, cf. Rev 22:18-19.
- Divine revelation is accurate to the point of infinity. 2 Tim 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” and is God’s Word written.
If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#’s 16-033 & 16-034
A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!