No, this will not be like some supermarket tabloid newspaper or magazine displayed near the checkout counter. It is simply an explanation of how the Bible defines “mystery” and then examines some of the Bible’s main mysteries. We’re not going to look at mysteries like a detective attempts to solve mysteries. If you want the tabloid type of mysteries, you’ll have to find those near the checkout counter in your favorite supermarket or grocery store. I hope you’re clever enough to know that most of those types of mysteries are as phony as a six-dollar bill.
First, depending on which translation of the Bible you read, the word mystery occurs only in the New Testament portion of the Bible: 28 times. It does not occur in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. The chief use of the word is found in the writings of Paul in the New Testament. Paul knew the thought-world of the people of his day—and about their numerous “mystery religions” with all their secret rituals and mysterious potions.
I deliberately decided to make this teaching less tedious by not citing all the Bible references I have used for this teaching—scores of them, if not hundreds. Including those would make this teaching very difficult to read and would be very distracting. I assume that you are capable of looking up for yourself (using any good Bible Concordance) the 28 references to “mystery” in the New Testament.
Here are the two main definitions of “mystery” in the Bible: 1. First, it refers to a symbol, allegory, or parable which conceals its meaning from those who look only for the literal meanings. For example, there is the symbolic “mystery” of Jesus and his church revealed to Paul; a concept not known by anyone but God before He revealed it to Paul. Jesus used many, many parables in his teachings, using everyday things known by his hearers to illustrate what He was teaching; in fact, in one instance the Bible says He didn’t teach anything without using parables.
2. The second most common use of mystery is that of a truth once hidden but now revealed by God in the Bible; thus, God’s mysteries are revealed by Him disclosing them in the Bible. The Bible has no secret doctrines or teachings as did many of the “mystery religions” of the world at the time the New Testament was written. Nor does the Bible have any secret rituals or liturgies such as “secret societies” like the Masons or various types of fraternal organizations use.
The overarching Bible mystery revealed by God is his overall purpose of eventually redeeming, reconciling and restoring ALL creation—including ALL humanity!—to Himself.
The first Bible mystery we will examine is that of God: his Person, character, nature, works, and purposes. The Bible teaches that God is a mystery, but that we humans are to learn as much as the Bible teaches about Him, and be good and capable witnesses in sharing with others the mystery of Who God is.
Way back in the beginning of the creation of humanity, God revealed Himself to humanity primarily in two ways: 1. in the cosmos…and 2. by implanting eternity in the hearts of all humans. Later, He revealed Himself in a third way: the Old Testament portion of the Bible. Still later, in a fourth way He revealed Himself in the person of Jesus and in New Testament writings shortly after the time of Jesus. So, God has revealed Himself to humanity in creation, by implanting eternity in the heart of every human, through the Bible, and through Jesus. In a sense, there is a fifth way: through the church, the living Body of Jesus.
The Person, character, nature, works, and ways of God are no longer a mystery! God has very clearly and plainly revealed Himself to every human in five ways noted above…if they are open to his revelation of Himself. Underlying all God is and does is the fact that He is love; that is Who God is at the very core of his Being. He loves every human equally and simultaneously, and reveals his love personified in and through the Person and nature of Jesus, God the Son. Everything God does flows from his eternal love for all his creation and for all humanity.
One of the inexplicable, inscrutable, unfathomable ways God reveals Himself to us in the Bible is that He is One God Who manifests or displays Himself as three separate—yet equal—Persons: Father, Son, Spirit: commonly called the Trinity. Do I understand that aspect of God? No! Can any human understand that aspect of God? No. God has all the characteristics of a sentient Being who claims to be God, the supreme and authoritative Ruler of all He has created: He is all-power-full, all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-where simultaneously.
If God is really God with all the characteristics God should possess, then He is also infinite, having no boundaries and no limitations in time or space; He is outside of and beyond time and space–and yet He is wholly within everything in all creation. Humans are finite, and thus not able to fully comprehend the infinite God. We can only know God’s Person, character, and nature to the extent He chooses to reveal Himself to us. Otherwise, He would be unknowable. Period!
There’s another mystery about God the Bible teaches; it’s about Jesus. On a number of occasions, Jesus, God the Son, told his listeners that if they truly see Him, then they have seen the Father—that He and the Father are one. Can anyone understand that? No. Do I believe that? Yes. Why? Because I have come to know Jesus personally as one of his followers, and I trust and respect Him as being completely honest. If He says He and the Father are one, I believe Him. Jesus did (and still does) whatever the Father tells Him or asks Him to do—all flowing from their eternal love for all creation, including all humanity. Jesus’ main mission was and is to draw every human being to Himself (thus to the Father) with an unbreakable, threefold cord of eternal love, mercy, and grace. No human will forever remain beyond the reach of Jesus and his great salvation!
Yes, the Bible clearly teaches that all humans need to invite Jesus into their lives and enjoy a lifelong and eternal relationship with Him. But in a greater sense—the greater reality: Jesus has already received us into his eternal LIFE—the exuberant, active, joyful LIFE of the Trinity!
Another mystery from both the Old and New Testaments: Holy Spirit, one of the three Persons of the tri-une God. God is Spirit, Spirit is God. When any human chooses to become a follower of Jesus, Spirit (Jesus in his “unbodied other form”) comes to dwell eternally within the spirit of that person; Spirit and human spirit join, meld, and coalesce together and they become one spirit for all time and eternity. The Bible promises that Jesus in his Spirit-form will never leave or forsake a person once He comes to dwell in that person.
God is a mystery, but in the Bible He has revealed to humanity enough of his tri-une Person, nature, and character so that any human can invite Him to take up permanent residence in their lives and begin an eternal journey with Him. Have you begun your journey with Him yet?
The next mystery we will examine is that of humanity. The Bible is clear that the first human, Adam, was created by God. He formed Adam out of dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath (Spirit) of life…and Adam became a living being called “man.” Later, God fashioned woman, Eve, from components of Adam’s body. Some feel that God may have created proto-humans before He created Adam and Eve, but that is open to question. Suffice it to say that God created Adam and Eve, and they became the progenitors of all humanity. Humanity did not self-create and evolve over millennia of time!
The natural question arises, “Why did God create humanity?” the Bible really does not answer that question per se. Throughout the Bible, there are hints about why God created humanity, but no specific statements to that effect. Some say that God created humanity because He was lonely and wanted humans to be his friends; the Bible does not teach that. Some say that God created humanity to love God and glorify Him forever; the Bible does not teach that either…in so many words. The Bible simply isn’t clear in answering that question, although many theories have been postulated through the centuries of time since humanity was created.
Perhaps it can be simply stated that since God is love…his love requires an object of that love: something or someone to love. Humans are three-part beings as God is a three-part Being. Humans consist of body, soul, and spirit: three parts, one being. One being, three parts. Perhaps God created humanity as someone to love…and to love Him in return throughout all the ages of time and then in the state of being beyond time called eternity. Love calls out to love and be loved…and only love responds fully to being loved. Love always want to share love. Perhaps God created humanity simply to share in his eternal love…and then for humans to share his eternal love with other humans. God’s love is not static; it is fluid, always growing, always expanding, always reaching out to love others and enfold them within the vast, boundless creation. Someone has aptly said “God is a verb!”
However, to speak of the mystery of humanity we cannot overlook the entrance of sin into humanity and its subsequent downward pull away from the love of God. There are a number of definitions of sin in the Bible. I have boiled them down to this: sin is to be self-centered and self-absorbed instead of God-centered. Sin is to want my own way, not God’s way. Sin is to rebel against God. Sin is about “me” instead of about God. Sin is to reject God’s love. Sin is to reject God from controlling my life. Sin is me, me, me…
From the very beginning of humanity’s creation, however, God—being God—was fully aware that humanity would succumb to sin for various reasons—and He devised a remedy for sin before humanity was ever created. God the Son, Jesus, would—when the fullness of time came—become a God-man and sacrifice Himself as a fully efficacious propitiation (complete and full “payment”) for all the sins of all humanity. On one occasion, John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus and exclaimed: “There is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!” You must answer for yourself whether or not Jesus did, in fact, do that. Jesus did all that is necessary for God to redeem, restore, and reconcile all humanity to Himself!
Incidentally, in my personal view much religion and religious activities keep saying “do, do, do,” what Jesus has already done. Jesus says “Done!” Religion says “Keep doing,” thus negating what Jesus has already done. Jesus exclaimed “It is finished!” Did He or did He not finish all that is necessary for the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of all creation, including all humanity? You must answer that question for yourself.
Now let’s just very briefly examine the nature of that full salvation Jesus provided for all humanity. On April 12, 27 A.D., on a craggy hill on the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem, Israel, Jesus the God-man died at 3: 00 p.m. on a cruel Roman cross, after asking his Father to forgive his murderers and then releasing his spirit to God. His death paid the penalty for all humanity’s sin. Exactly 72 hours later on Saturday April 15th at 3: 00 p.m., Jesus was brought back from the realm of the dead by the power of God the Spirit. That event released humanity from the power of sin and death. When Jesus returns to earth to consummate his Kingdom, that event will release humanity from the presence of sin. Sin shall be no more!
The traditional view is that when Jesus was being crucified, God was pouring out upon Jesus his wrath toward all humanity’s sin—so that Jesus’ death would assuage God’s wrath. No so! God was pouring out his love through Jesus to a suffering humanity; God was in Jesus redeeming, reconciling, and restoring all humanity to Himself. The wrath of God is when God turns humanity over to suffer and reap the consequences of their own self-centered, self-indulgent sin. God has never been angry at humanity because of their sin! He has loved humanity fully since their creation…in spite of their sin.
That brings us back to an aspect of the tri-une nature of God. When Jesus was on the cross, Holy Spirit was fully present in Jesus, as was the Father in accomplishing God’s purposes for humanity. Since the cross-event, Holy Spirit’s major work has been to inexorably put into effect in every human all Jesus accomplished for them by his birth, life, death, resurrection, and return to heaven. He will not cease that work until it is completed in every human. Holy Spirit makes the intentions of Father and Son on the cross a reality among sinful humanity. He is the important part of the Trinity bringing about and accomplishing whole-person salvation for all humanity.
Almost from its very creation—due to sin—humanity has sought to divide itself into many factions based on skin color, beliefs, religion, creeds, geography, culture, languages, the influence of leaders…and just plain old meanness because we want our own ways and we want to do our own me-centered things in our own ways. It seems clear that God has simply let that happen, knowing full well the results of such behavior. He has simply allowed us to go our own self-centered ways so that for his inexplicable reasons we would learn the consequences of such me-centered behavior: sin and death.
However, there will come a point in time when God will fully restore humanity to one-ness, when all humanity will once again willingly choose to come under God’s full, loving control.
The principal way God is restoring all humanity to oneness and unity is through Jesus’ church through whom He is breaking down walls of division among people as each person enters into a personal relationship with God and begins their eternal journey with Jesus. The Church is one of the greatest mysteries recorded in the Bible. It is not an organization; it is an organism: a living entity Jesus is constructing on earth using living “building materials”: you, me, millions of people during the past 2,000 years, now, and in the future until the last mortal human is born. As people are drawn by Holy Spirit and fitted by Jesus into the church, the church spreads across time and throughout the world. I define “church” as “All people, everywhere and everywhen in whom Jesus permanently abides in his unbodied form of Holy Spirit.”
Although the church is a living entity, an organism, humans have attempted to impose an organizational template upon the organization; that has never been successful and never will. Humans have attempted to be “in charge” of Jesus’ church. Jesus is the only Person in charge of the church He is building; He has never delegated his responsibility or authority over his church to any one person or group of persons.
It is true that the church for 2,000 years has been scarred by “spots and wrinkles” (as the Bible puts it), and with flaws and failings; nevertheless, Jesus is relentlessly, inexorably, constructing his church with living building materials until at long last the church on earth and the church in heaven will blend into his beautiful bride whom He will wed when He returns to consummate his Kingdom on earth. The ensuing wedding feast will be the most lavish celebration ever seen in the entire universe! Then…at last all humanity will all be one in Jesus—in his church, his bride, with Him as the undisputed Head of his church and of all creation!
The great mystery of the church, the living Body of Jesus, will no longer befuddle humanity. The mystery will finally be known by the entire creation.
The next biblical mystery we will examine is that of human suffering. If Jesus suffered and died on behalf of all suffering humanity, why does humanity suffer? Why has humanity suffered for eons and centuries through sickness, disease, illness, injuries, wars, natural calamities, pandemics, holocausts…? Are there answers to such questions? Yes, I believe God can fully answer all such questions, but so far He has not done so. But we can get brief snippets of his answers in various places throughout the Bible.
Rather than duplicate what I have written elsewhere in another teaching on this website, I invite you to read my teaching titled The Killer God. In that teaching I don’t even pretend to know more than tiny snippets of why humans suffer, but it’s my attempt to make at least a little sense out of the ages-old mystery of human suffering. After reading that teaching, if you have any thoughts or additional information about why humans suffer, please send me that information. If I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll include your information in my updates of that teaching and give you appropriate attribution.
Another mystery I want to address in this teaching goes something like this: “If Jesus saves us when we invite Him to take up permanent residence in our lives, why doesn’t He just take us to heaven at that time and save us all the suffering and grief we’ll endure throughout our mortal lifetimes?” It’s the mystery of why are we here? What’s our purpose? What’s our raison d’etre (our reason for living)?
That question (and other similar ones) is very astute, and deserves some type of answer. I could easily take a few pages to teach what I believe the Bible teaches about God’s purposes for each of our lives, but fortunately two famous authors wrote two books about this very issue about 20 years ago. God has used those two popular, New York Times best-selling books to transform hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of lives around the world, including my life. I couldn’t do anything better than to recommend you read and study those two books; if you’ve already read them, re-read them. Both books can be purchased new or used on amazon.com. I’ve given away hundreds of copies of both books. They are The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. Also, there is another teaching on this website I invite you to study: Creating My Future.
Next to last, I want to teach a little about the mystery of the Kingdom of God (synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven) that Jesus spoke of a great deal; in fact, Jesus spoke of the mystery of God’s Kingdom just about as much as He spoke about anything. Again, I could teach about that mystery in a few paragraphs, but, instead, I invite you to read another of my teachings on this website: The Kingdom of God.
The final Bible mystery I want to address in this teaching is the mystery of the future. What does the Bible really reveal about the future of humanity? First, I want to state this very clearly: I am not afraid to trust my unknown future into the hands of my known God; I choose not to live in fear about the future!
As it is with the purpose for our lives, I have already written some teachings on this website about the future of humanity; you may or may not agree with my findings and conclusions, but I invite you to read and study those three teachings about your own future and the future of all humanity. The three teachings are: Beyond The Far Shores of Time, Hope In Death, and Revelation Unveiled.
There are a few other mysteries mentioned in the New Testament that I won’t cover separately in this teaching because I have already incorporated them into this teaching and in other teachings on this website. Those few other mysteries are: mystery of the wisdom of God, mystery of death and resurrection, and mystery of the Gospel.
I conclude this teaching about mysteries in the New Testament with two statements. 1. The Bible teaches that if I should somehow understand all mysteries but don’t love God and others, all my understanding amounts to nothing! 2. In the Book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, it is stated clearly that all mysteries have been revealed by God; there are no more mysteries per se yet to be revealed by Him in the future. Yes, God will continue to reveal new truth and other information throughout the remaining ages of time and in Eternal Realms, but they will not be in the form of biblical mysteries addressed in this teaching.
Revised and Updated January 2023