Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mysteries: The Mystery of Iniquity

NOTE: THE NOTES from this study are not in the bound notebook any longer where they were originally, there are only partial notes.  I am having to reconstruct of few of these studies from 2 or 3 years ago, and ask for your patience.  In the meantime,  please pray for those who are basically harrassing and stealing from this ministry:  it is unconscionable.

When we consider 'mysteries' we most often begin with the more eminent in Scripture: the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Mystery of the church or other of the mysteries known to most believers. Yet one of the less eminent, is a critical point for doctrine, though hardly discussed as doctrine apart from the notion of sin: The Mystery of Iniquity.

Second Thessalonians contains the one passage with the direct naming of this mystery:

2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.

What is the mystery of iniquity? For 27 years I have stayed in the word of God, and like others, I equate it with ‘sin’: so often the iniquity mentioned has to do with some failing of Israel, or of individuals, so we tend to pass over the concept anduse it as a synonym for sin. Delving into the Word though, one finds a broader concept, a more detailed aspect of God dealing with man. Further, the general concept of Iniquity is mentioned in many shades, while the concept of the “Mystery of Iniquity” refers to a specific process, which begins early in the Scriptures, (Gen 15:16)

Gen 15:16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites [is] not yet full.

It is interesting that the first mention of iniquity in the scriptures refers to:

1. A gentile nation, and

2. A process, that grows to fulfillment

Already, we see the weaving and wafting through God’s history with man, involving a mystery of a process which will grow over time, and which effects both Israel and the nations.

The last mention in the Scriptures, is Rev 18:5

For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

which intertwines the mystery of iniquity coming to fulfillment, in the Mystery of Babylon, as ‘mystery Babylon’, the ‘great harlot’ which has devoured God’s world and saints, is judged. Nations of a false god(s) seem to provide a root for the growth of iniquity.

The direct mention though, to the Mystery of Iniquity is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians by Paul, thusly:

2Th 2:7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way.

This hidden process of iniquity, which flowers and blooms into a world system which poisons and taints all world systems and individuals, is held in check by some restricting act ,process or policy, which is normally taken to refer to the power of the Holy Spirit in limiting the degree to which evil can grow, to which iniquity can go in its destructive and entropic force, as long as the Holy Spirit and the saved of the earth are still on earth.

At some point, most consider, that the great evil attendant since the Garden of Eden which has grown steadily, is still at the outside reaches limited by some unseen bounds. When the ‘mystery of Iniquity goes too far, there appears to be a point of quenching and grieving the Holy Spirit that is so great, that the limit is removed. It could be that the Holy Spirit turns away; it could be that the Word of God is finally removed entirely from the earth, though for now the exact way the scriptures are fulfilled is unseen.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Mysteries

As Jesus, (Yshua) walked through the region of Galilee, he took time to teach those who would listen (the number grew to thousands) about the Kingdom of God. In the course of his teaching, he almost always used parables to teach the principles of the Kingdom of God, as well as other 'mysteries'. The parables were not just moralistic stories as some presume, but they taught what the Kingdom of Heaven was, they employed metaphors of faith, and they showed what was expected of man by God. The teachings were so astounding, that before his ministry on earth was fulfilled, he was acclaimed by his disciples and others as having 'the only words of eternal life',

Jhn 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

so much so that even the more difficult teachings were received readily, and with faith.(e.g. Luke 22:19)

Jesus was very clear in his reason for teaching in parables, the mysteries
of the Kingdom:

Mar 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all [these] things are done in parables:

Mar 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and [their] sins should be forgiven them.

Mar 4:13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

The heart of man is in the hands of man and God, and parables provided a way of teaching the mysteries of God laid forth in the scriptures, while maintaining a vail across the eyes of those without faith, who refused to seek it. He notes in 4:13 that the disciples understand the parables, but others hear them only as stories.

Mystery in the Word of God

By definition, a 'mystery' is a truth that is either fully or partially hidden from view, or from the understanding of many. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary describes the biblical concept thusly:
Mystery [E]

Scripture frequently describes God as one who knows all things, even that which the human mind could never know or finds incomprehensible. Thus he sees the secret intentions of human hearts ( Psalms 139:1-4 Psalms 139:23 ; Matt 6:4-6 ; Rom 2:16 ; 1 Cor 4:5 ; 14:25 ; Heb 4:13 ), comprehends the seemingly unfathomable mysteries of the universe ( Job 38:1-39:30 ), and, most important, understands the meaning of human history. God understands human history because the events that comprise it correspond with his own intentions: he wills all that happens, and does so to accomplish his own purpose ( Dan 2:37 ; 5:21 ; Rom 11:25-36 ). People, on the other hand, both because of their sin and because of their human limitations, remain ignorant of God's purpose when left to their own reckoning ( Daniel 2:27 Daniel 2:30 ; Mark 4:10-12 ; Luke 19:41-44 ). God graciously responds to this human inadequacy by revealing his purpose to his people. When God's purpose is revealed in this way, the Bible frequently refers to it as a "mystery."

The content of the divine mystery is painted in broad strokes in the Old Testament, takes on greater detail in the Gospels, and receives its finishing touches in Paul's letters. In Daniel, where the term first appears (raz in Aramaic, always translated with mysterion [musthvrion] in the LXX), it refers to God's understanding of the symbols in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, symbols that stand for the rise and fall of human empires and to the eventual establishment of God's own, eternal kingdom ( 2:44 ; cf. Rev 1:20 ; Revelation 17:5 Revelation 17:7 ). The details of these events, however, and the nature of God's kingdom, once established, remain sketchy in Daniel. The mystery of God's purposes gains greater specificity in the Gospels, where Jesus, particularly in his parables, reveals the "mystery of the kingdom of God" ( Mark 4:11 ; cf. Matt 13:11 ; Luke 8:10 ). Paul also identifies the divine mystery with the revelation of God in Christ ( Col 2:2 ; 4:3 ) but gives the concept even greater clarity in three ways. First, he equates the divine mystery with the gospel of Christ's atoning death on the cross ( 1 Cor 2:1 ); second, he describes it as God's plan, through Christ's atoning death ( Eph 2:13-16 ), to include the Gentiles among his chosen people; and third, he defines it as the reconciliation of all things to God ( Eph 1:9-10 ). Thus, Daniel described the divine mystery in general terms as the eventual establishment of God's eternal kingdom; Jesus defined it more specifically as his proclamation of God's kingdom; and Paul described it more specifically still as the constitution of a new people, from among both Jews and Gentiles, through the atoning death of Christ on the cross.

This understanding of divine mystery illustrates three aspects of God's character. First, it emphasizes God's omniscience. After God revealed the "mystery" of the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream to Daniel, Daniel thanked God in prayer for his wisdom and power ( 2:23 ; cf. 2:20 ) and described him as a God who "knows what lies in darkness" ( 2:22 ). Paul, similarly, after revealing the mystery of God's plan to include the Gentiles among his chosen people breaks into praise of the "depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God" ( Rom 11:33 ).

The word comes from the Greek "Mysterion" According to Thayer's lexicon it denotes something hidden, secret, mysterious, (particularly of a religious nature), or 'secrets hidden from mortals'. The concept of mystery in the Word may refer also to the secret will or counsels of God for the righteous, hidden from ungodly men. Mysteries, as some prophecies are seen as revealed in visions, dreams, or other similitudes. Rabbinical approaches may include the sense of something mystic or hidden. Vine's dictionary describes the word as deriving from 'mustos' which refers to 'the initiated', or muco, initiate. 'Mucomal' is rendered "I have learned the secret".

The mysteries of the Word of God are sometimes directly referred to, and occasionally implied. Theologians may differ on the number of mysteries discussed in the Scriptures, but the following are this author's count (verses are representative samples):

1. The Mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:10)
2. The Mystery of the Kingdom of God (I Cr 4:1, Mark 4:11)
3. Mystery of the Kingdom of Christ (Ephesian 5:5)
4. Mystery of the blindness of Israel(slumber) (Rms 11:25)
5. Mystery of the Salvation & Preservation of the Saints (Rm 16:25)
6. Mystery of the Wisdom of God (Logos) (I Cor 2:7)
7. Mystery of the Rapture (catching away) and transformation (I Cor 15:51)
8. Mystery of his (God's) Will (Ephesians 1:9)
9. Mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4, Col 4:3)
10. Mystery of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:2)
11. Mystery of the Gospel (Eph 6:19)
12. Mystery of Iniquity (2 Thess 2:7)
13. Mystery of Faith (I Tim 3:9)
14. Mystery of Godliness (I Tim 3:16)
15. Mystery of the 7 Stars [spirit of the churches] (Rev 1:20)
16. Mystery of the Woman and the Beast (17:7)
17. Mystery of the Gathering of all things in Christ [All in All] (I Cor 15:28)

One of the foremost mysteries, is the Mystery of the Jews, and their meaning, purpose and role in God's Word and House. While the word 'mystery' is used only a few times, the Mystery of the Jews is eminent among the set. In this bible study, we will take time over the next few weeks to more fully explore each of the several mysteries which are revealed in the Word.

As a peripheral comment, there are a few other times when mystery is expressly brought forth in the Scriptures. "Mystery Babylon" refers to spiritual/religious and invisible system behind the systems of the world which oppose Christ, or the Messiah. While there was a tangible place and kingdom 'Babylon', "Mystery Babylon" is the real but intangible force or entity behind the warfare against the Word of God, the Kingdom of God, the House of God, his Messiah, belief,faith and love. It is a hidden but warring faction aligned with the power of 'Shatan' or satan, which stands opposed in all ways to the Kingdom of Heaven, but which may manifest itself differently in different centuries, times and cultures. The term comes from the passage in Revelation which states:

Rev 17:3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

Rev 17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:


The force of Mystery Babylon represented by the woman in purple (royalty and earthly sovereignty and riches) and scarlet (the blood of the saints and other innocents) rides on the blood colored beast full of 'names of blasphemy' and is characterized often by those seeking world domination and the emulation or replacement or erasure of the right sovereignty of God.

There are other allusions to mystery (ies) as well such as the 'fellowship of the mystery', referring to the sharing and partaking of the Gospel and attendant mysteries, and to the 'mystery of all things', and creation and salvation.

The parables, as mentioned at the outset, were the means by which Jesus taught mysteries. Those who would receive truth, understood readily, and the rest must have thought it some religious fables. By the time though of Pentecost and beyond, as the church took root and grew, the understanding of 'all' mysteries was seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit, one often neglected today even among those expressing the gifts.

And though I have [the gift of] prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. I Cor 13:2
1Cr 14:2 For he that speaketh in an [unknown] tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth [him]; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

The role of Mystery is foundational and fundamental in the understanding of doctrine, in walking in faith, in 'putting on the Mind of Christ' and in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the latter rightly taking its place as mystery as well.

Over the next few weeks, we will look at each of they mysteries, a key and critical exercise in comprehending the fullness of the Gospel and our role in the divine battle. What is hidden, in faith becomes known, what is secret is revealed, and the vail is lifted, when we find that man does not die, 'seeing God'.

1Cr 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory
Deu 29:29 The secret [things belong] unto the LORD our God: but those [things which are] revealed [belong] unto us and to our children for ever, that [we] may do all the words of this law.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Overcoming: Taking Ground for the Lord in Love

This week's Bible study on Overcoming: Taking Ground for the Lord in Love, through prayer.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

God and Flamingoes

A little decorative flamingo sits on my desk right in front of me while I work. I grew up in Florida, where flamingos are not strangers: almost every tourist attraction in the pre-Disney days sported at least a few flamingos and several, such as Busch Gardens in Tampa had whole sections of these beautiful birds. Florida and the rest of humanity though, took this wondrous bird and turned it into kitsch, a 'cheap thing', a plastic lawn ornament, or a campy college joke in the dorms. Flamingos in the minds of many became and have stayed, campy kitsch. They are the 'bad taste' lawn ornament and desktop decoration, along with lawn jockeys, and little statues of old women bending over tending their gardens and the like.

I hold without objection, that the flamingo is not only not the symbol of cheap bad taste, but is one of the most exquisite evidences of God in the World.

One has to first look for the first time authentically at the flamingo. The graceful s-shaped smooth feathered neck, is crowned with a perfectly elliptical head with a beauteous beak often sporting several colors, but certainly a deep saturated golden yellow and shiny black. The feathers of the body are plump and luscious, and gracefully fold in small waves across the sides, held up by the crane like legs and webbed feet. Most exquisite is the coloring of flamingos: it is a blushed rose pink with a slight orange, so peculiar to the bird that we call a certain color 'flamingo pink'. Its tuft is a soft white blending into the rose orange.
If the bird were only another animal, a product of some random design, one would not expect its grace and agility of movement to match the delicate but vivid coloring. One might expect function: since adaptation to the environment would certainly come forefront, but one would hardly expect a blithe creature of intense hue that looks as though it walked out of Eden: what would be the purpose? The coloring alone would immediately call the bird to attention from predators: the rich hues would place the bird at risk from its enemies: in what some call millions of years of adaptation, the effervescent, airy aesthetic of the thing would hardly have lasted, if the species lasted at all.

Evolution has no criteria of beauty. And yet the exquisite design of the flamingo, suggests among the finest art or rendering of design one can see. The flamingo speaks of creation by an artist, who has an intrinsic concept of design, color and the understanding, that there would be other creatures, other creations, which could attend to and appreciate, even drink in wonder. The flamingo is not for food, the flamingo does not add greatly to the workings of any eco-system anymore than any bird, but the flamingo creates in the observer a sense of astonishment and satiation of splendid aesthetics. One almost drinks it in. Beauty for beauty's sake: there to admire and satisfy a need for the beautiful and wonderful.

While the flamingo is not directly mentioned in the bible, there is little doubt at least a form of the modern flamingo was in the area: some consider its biblical mention to the that of an egret, or crane or ibis: it is from the web footed general 'duck' family, and bears a familial resemblance also to swans. Forms of egrets and cranes were used in Egyptian fishing boats to retrieve the catch, and certainly practices of that sort remained effective in the general region. The lack of an english word translation does not mean there was not a type nor kind, only that they are not as far as I can tell directly mentioned. Yet somewhere in the heart of artists portraying the Garden of Eden, one finds them often wandering around.

The heart of the issue, though, is creation. My son and I discussed the other day the wonder of a hard drive. He had a corrupt drive he decided to break open with a hammer to see the internal workings. Explaining the metal disk, the magnetizing of filaments, the miniscule 'needle' which translates our complex commands into a positive or negative charge was mind boggling that not only could it have been constructed, but that one would have ever conceived of the process at all. I looked at the confounded thing and thought of the utter genius of the contraption on which we place so much hope and trust, and on the utter fragility. I did not think, "Oh, I'll wager that came from a big bang somewhere, where all of a sudden the universe snapped and produced a biochemical event that came together and created modern information storage." To think that about a hard drive would require men in little white coats and transportation in a van. And yet we so glibly consider when gazing on the wondrous flamingo, defying natural selection in many regards, that it might not have had a creator.

Perhaps the flamingo is merely a random product which only delights the mind and eye out of some random consequence or some subjective solipsistic concept of beauty: the logic does not pan out, for all share that concept, and though we may say 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' there is a certain degree of 'beauty' which we all desire and admire, having never met one another nor discussed the philosophy of beauty. Somehow the maligned flamingo fits the bill.

It is not only the flamingo though that bears this distinction. Consider some birds directly mentioned in the Bible

1Ki 10:22 For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
2Ch 9:21 For the king's ships went to Tarshish with the servants of Huram: every three years once came the ships of Tarshish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.
Job 39:13 [Gavest thou] the goodly wings unto the peacocks? or wings and feathers unto the ostrich?

God challenges Job with his sovereignty asking him if he gave 'goodly wings unto the peacocks?' Does the peacock fit the bill (pardon) of a wondrous creation so unique it defies random adaptation?

Or the Ostrich:

The 'hoopoe' or the kingfisher, or the halcyon floats in a nest on the sea---the dove is perfectly sculpted and used as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit---the flora and fauna of the Song of Songs or the rest of the Bible are so exquisite, so beyond imagination, so intricately MADE that even one species by random chance on a general principle might be seen as a statistical improbability, but the thousands of variations speak to an unfathomable possibility that the whole of creation would occur by random events. Creation speaks to a creator. There is no other logical possibility. Some creatures show adaptive qualities, perhaps all, but they also show qualities which defy 'function' and utilitarianism. Some features may attract a mate, and engender the furtherance of the species, but at the same time make the fellow more noticeable and thus endangered. The magnificence of creation excludes random self-creation. That indeed requires not only a foolish 'faith' but a form of delicate idiocy.

With these thoughts, I propose the great elevation and promotion of the Flamingo (or hoopoe, ostrich, peacock or even an occasional giraffe) to an emblem (not idol) of God's sovereign design in Creation. Never let a flamingo be taken as a simple thing.

E. K. Best more next time.

One could name a hundred more.

1 Bodenheimer, S.F. Animal and Man in Bible Lands.

Saturday, March 12, 2011 is offline for a short time

Due to enormous difficulties in attempts to takeover the ministry of Judah's Glory, founded in 1987, I have taken the site down for a short season to repair and restore damage done to it by hackers, and move the site.

Judah's Glory Bible Studies are still available through:

and this one as well.  Pray for the protection and truth regarding this labor intensive but homebased ministry to prevail, and for fellow Christians who at least profess the name of the Lord to be respectful toward my work and right to work.  Thanks to all who have helped make Judah's Glory a useful ministry over the years.  When I return to the net, I will have easy access downloads to Bible Studies and other materials in audio and pdf format.   I am considering also at least a weekly Bible Study in streaming video,  though i am older and less beautiful than my esteemed colleagues.  ekbest