“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (2nd Corinthians 12:1-4)
Saul of Taurus, who became Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, (Romans 11:13) was a remarkable man who lived a remarkable life in the service of Almighty God. Being transformed from the greatest enemy of Jesus Christ, Paul became the greatest evangelist and God’s greatest servant at a point in God’s timing where God’s focus and plans took on a dramatic shift from focusing on Israel as the source of blessing to the world, to focusing on a mostly Gentile body, known as the Church. It was Paul’s God given mission to establish this church, and the church began with him. To him, we owe a debt of gratitude that he was sold out to God and God used him to bring us the truth of God’s Word.
In the verses above, Paul speaks of a time when a man, (I believe Paul was referring to himself) was caught up to heaven and heard revelations and what Paul spoke of as “mysteries” that were not revealed to any other prophet, or even the twelve apostles of our Lord. It was not spoken of in the Old Testament, and was not spoken of in the New Testament until Paul arrived and was given the mysteries of the plan for mankind that were revealed to him alone by the risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You ask, “When did this happen?”.
Remember what happened after Paul was given his sight by Ananias? According to the account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 the Lord stated twice that He would show Paul what to do and what would happen to him for the Gospel’s sake. However, Paul immediately began to show from scripture that Jesus was the Christ and apparently displaying his capability to communicate well to the Jew, but his ministry ultimately was to the Gentiles. This was something that would not go down well for some one trained in the sect of the Pharisees and the Jews did not receive the message Paul preached. So if Paul was to go Arabia how do we understand what is written in Acts 9. Verse 23 states that “After that many days were fulfilled”the “after that” would refer to Paul’s showing the Jews that Jesus was the Christ many days past? This would work in very well with Paul’s travelling to Arabia when rejected by the Jews. Here we will discuss a few of those mysteries, that God gave Paul, and the Apostle Paul gave to us.
God in the form of the Risen Christ, instructed Paul by revelation on the “mysteries” that had not been revealed in times past, but only hinted at when Isaiah wrote similar language as did Paul, about what we can expect in the near future.
19 “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.
20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
21 For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” (Isaiah 26:19-21)
Many people read right over this passage above and don’t see what Isaiah was telling us. The Apostle Paul fleshed it out for us in 1st Corinthians and 1st Thessalonians, when he made known the “mystery” that was hidden from the understanding of those in Old Testament times. Paul made known to us, many mysteries of God.
Paul was being commissioned to take the Gospel of salvation through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and that it was by grace that we are saved:
8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Paul stayed for three years in the Arabian desert. Paul didn’t go to the Apostles, but was led, much like Jesus was led into the wilderness, to be instructed by God Himself on “secrets” that had not been revealed prior to the calling of Paul on the road to Damascus.
THE MYSTERIES OF GOD
The word “mystery” is a confusing translation, as it can mislead the reader of what mystery means and what Paul is talking about. Is it “weird, strange, or an enigma” which is the common interpretation of the word in the English language? No, the word is Greek (μυστήριον ) It means a “secret”-something kept hidden, something previously not revealed. Paul used the term to describe the body of doctrines the risen, ascended, glorified Lord revealed to him. God alone can keep a secret and He had kept these revelations hidden until He chose to disclose them. I believe God waited until Jesus had ascended on High with God our Father and chose Paul as His minister to share this truth of God’s Plan for Mankind. Paul called these doctrines “secrets” for this was what they were. What were these secrets that Peter and the other apostles knew nothing about?
As the opening scripture speaks of, Paul was taken away, translated via the Spirit of God into the Third Heaven, and heard words that were not lawful for a man to hear. At least not in regular Judaism, as they were Holy and revealed by the most Holy God, Jesus the Christ. Let us briefly touch on a few of these mysteries, or “secrets” that our risen Lord revealed to Paul and to him alone to change the focus of the Lord’s plan for the redemption of mankind, by setting aside Israel for a predetermined span of time, until the fullness of the Gentiles had come in which has been going on for the last 2000 years.
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.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”(Romans 11:25-27)
THE SECRET GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD
Paul preached what he called “his Gospel” that focused on the mercy and grace of God, instead of the coming Kingdom of God. He said it many times in his epistles to the churches of his day. Did not the Apostles preach this Gospel? No, not until Paul taught them as a new revelation, that salvation came but by grace.
Paul declared his gospel was, “kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested.” Paul wrote that by revelation he went to Jerusalem to communicate the gospel that he preached:
2 “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” (Galatians 2.2).
It was a “secret” until the ascended Lord revealed it to Paul. What was the gospel John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Twelve proclaimed? They preached the “gospel of the kingdom of God” (Matthew 4.23; 9.35; Mark 1.14-15) The focus of the Gospel before Jesus was risen and ascended back to the Father in heaven was to preach to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
This was the content of the Gospel preached by Jesus and the 12 apostles. It was even preached upon the conversion of Paul for a time, as he declared that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Each of the apostles believed that the Kingdom of God was imminent in their life-time and they would be a part of that Kingdom. Nowhere in the scriptures do the Apostles preach the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, until Paul came and taught them upon returning from the wilderness experience with our Risen Lord, Jesus our Messiah. Read the scriptures for yourself, and you will find that no one but Paul introduced salvation through faith. Beforehand, the apostles preached salvation through repentance and baptism which is what Peter proclaimed in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost:
37, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38, Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:37-38)
But even Peter did not emphasize the finished work of the cross through the blood of Jesus Christ, as the cross was deemed a curse. Now each are necessary that the Israel believe that Jesus was the Messiah, to be baptized out of obedience to the example of Jesus Christ, but Paul preached a “mystery” that there is nothing we can do by doing this or that, as salvation comes only by faith and the pardon of our sins is a gift of God. It is a bestowing of the mercy and grace and unmerited favor that is imparted to those who believe on Jesus Christ and His finished work when crucified, resurrected and ascended back into heaven’s realm to sit at God the Father’s right hand.
There is no action, no work, no tradition, no ceremony that one can do what is required for the remission of our sins, but the blood sacrifice of Jesus for payment of the sins of the world and our justification, finalized with the Lord’s resurrection, leading to our sanctification that takes our whole lives to be refined into the image of Christ, and for our future glorification along with Him.
Paul wrote the Corinthians,
1 “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15.1-4)
This “secret” mystery was a total change in the concept of salvation as Paul preached salvation through faith alone
THE SECRET OF THE BLINDING OF ISRAEL
God laid the groundwork for His creation of a new race of people, the Jews, with His calling of Abraham. Through the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God began to reveal Himself. From that point until the time when the ascended Lord commissioned Paul, God dealt with mankind through the nation of Israel. To the Jews belonged the adoption, glory, and covenants, etc. (Romans 9.4; Ephesians 2.12; Acts 3.25). God revealed His prophetic plan through the Jewish prophets. But because Israel rejected the timing of the visitation of their Messiah, the Kingdom would be given to another to bear the fruits thereof. But at the end of the Age, all Israel would be redeemed.
What had been unknown was the when and the how. Paul revealed that following Israel’s rejection of their Messiah that the nation’s salvation would not occur “until the fullness of the Gentiles is come in.” Jesus proclaimed to them prior to Paul, when the apostle Matthew wrote about Jesus scolding the Pharisees:
42 “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” (Matthew 21:42-45)
Nowhere in scripture does it make mention of the temporary blinding of Israel and God’s creation of the Church, the body of Christ, during this blindness. These truths are found nowhere in the Old Testament. Why? Paul declared these things were a secret of God. A partial hardening-not total and not forever-would last until the fullness of the Gentiles occurred, and until the body of Christ was complete.
24 “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
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.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes.”(Romans 11:24-28)
After that, all Israel, the entire nation, every single Jew alive on earth who will recognize Jesus as the Messiah, will be saved …so much for Replacement Theology. This heresy of Replacement theology flies in the face of what Paul revealed to the world through his Gospel that the Jews, all of them alive would be saved.
At the end of the Tribulation, at the end of the great Day of the Lord, all Jews will believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. They will go into the promised kingdom (Acts 1.6; Romans 11.16 cf.Isaiah 66.8, Matthew 6.10). Unlike the generation of Jesus’ day who failed to repent and experience the kingdom, the Tribulation generation will respond and believe Jesus is Messiah (Matthew 23.39, cf. John 10.16). God is sovereign and has promised through his prophets that Israel would enjoy the kingdom (Romans 9.29 cf. Deuteronomy 28.1-14). God will keep His word.
THE MYSTERY OF THE HARPAZO OF THE CHURCH.
This mystery of the return of Jesus Christ for His church was something that no one in all of the pages or verses of your Bible was given this revelation. It was given to Paul the Apostle exclusively through Jesus Christ our Lord when Paul as previously mentioned, was in Arabia and experienced the “translation” into the third heaven to hear words that should not be uttered quoted at the beginning of this message. Why was it a “secret”? Because the return of Jesus Christ, our Lord after the Day of the Lord, called His Second Advent, was common knowledge in the Old Testament prophets. Like the prophet Zechariah:
“3, Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4, And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
5, And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” (Zechariah 14:3-5)
Not only Zechariah, but many of the minor prophets like Amos, Joel, or Haggai, and the major prophets made mention of the coming of the Lord to set up His Kingdom at the end of the age. So this was not something new…this was not a secret, as it had been clearly revealed prior.
This snatching away, (the before not mentioned revelation of the removal of the church, some call “rapture”) is the resurrection of the Church, the body of Christ. In this divine event members of the body of Christ will receive their resurrection bodies. When the body of Christ has been made complete God will take His body unto Himself. Paul called this occurrence the “fullness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11.25) since the body of Christ is composed primarily of Gentiles. The word Paul used for the Rapture was ἁρπάζω which is the word HARPAZO, which literally means “to seize” or “to snatch away by force.” Our English word “rapture” comes from the Latin “rapiemur” which is the word Jerome used in the Latin Vulgate to translate ἁρπάζω. Paul revealed the secret of the Rapture when he wrote the church at Corinth:
51 “ Behold, I tell you a mystery [secret]; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”(1st Corinthians 15-51-53)
Paul went on to elaborate when he wrote the church in Thessalonica about the order of this resurrection:
13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18).
IN the passage above Paul gives the sequence of the “catching away” of the body of Christ. The dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are alive and remain will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye”…both groups will meet the Lord in the air, meaning those who are alive and changed will never experience physical death, but given immortal spirit bodies right along with the resurrected saints who have died in faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The words for “moment” and “twinkling” are ἄτομος and pιπή. The thought here is that this will occur instantaneously.
This return of the Lord is an entirely different event from His return to save Israel and the nations at the end of the Tribulation. As Jesus told us that the end of the age will be as in the days of Noah, or people going about their everyday routines of life, not knowing that their destruction is at hand. At the end of the Tribulation, men and women will NOT be going about their everyday lives, but trying to survive in a world gone mad. It will be no secret that judgement has come and Jesus will not come as a Thief in the night. In the first return, the Lord will meet the body of Christ in the clouds (a heavenly return for a heavenly people, Ephesians 1.3). Some scoff and label is an “escape hatch” from the coming Tribulation, but I prefer to call it “victory in Jesus” over this world. In the second return, the Lord will return to earth, (an earthly return for an earthly people, Zechariah 14.4). God our Lord Jesus will claim what is His and bought with His own blood, and will rule the world with a rod of iron. The Rapture is the “blessed hope” of the body of Christ
13 “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14, Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2.13-14)
And the coming of the Lord was Paul’s personal hope:
“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
10, That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11, If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:9-11)
Concerning this doctrine, Paul had to correct false teaching, when one posing as Paul or preaching a different Gospel proposed that the Day of the Lord had already happened, and that Nero was the Ant-Christ. This false prophet refuted Paul’s teachings concerning this “catching away” of the saints and the people were sorely afraid, as they thought and believed erroneously that they had missed the return of Christ and were heading into the Tribulation. Paul wrote them to admonish and refute this false notion in the second letter to the Thessalonians:
1 “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?”(2nd Thessalonians 2:1-5)
Even today, people try to rationalize what God is going to do and that Bible prophecy is a non-starter and everything has been accomplished. They are what are known as Preterist and have a problem explaining what the book of Revelation has to reveal.
No one spoke of this “secret”, this mystery of the “catching away” of the church, the fullness of the Gentiles, until Paul revealed what Jesus had told him alone in revelations, being taught by Jesus personally. Jesus never mentioned it in his earthly ministry and the Twelve never mentioned it in their writings. That changed when the glorified Jesus Christ told the Apostle John in Revelation 3:10 that we would be taken “OUT OF” the coming Tribulation, not experiencing the event or going through and enduring the time of God’s wrath, which I have covered in past messages. All non-Pauline writings of Christ’s return speak of His return to earth at the end of the Tribulation found in the Old Testament, that is unless you discern what John wrote in Revelation, and the Lord God revealed to him about 30 years after Paul was slain by Emperor Nero.
All the prophets from Ezekiel, Isaiah, to Zechariah, Malachi, Amos and the rest of the minor prophets spoke of the coming “Day of the Lord” where God would come in wrath to take revenge on a God rejecting world, in favor of worshiping a false god, the Anti-Christ during the Tribulation.
THE DAY OF JESUS CHRIST
But the Apostle Paul spoke of a different day. He called it the “day of Christ” or the day of the Lord Jesus. The “day of Christ” is a day of deliverance, not a day of judgment. The “day of Christ” is the return of Christ for his body, the Church, or the Rapture (the HARPAZO). Associated with this day of deliverance is judgment of the believers works. Paul wrote the Corinthians about this :
10 “According to athe grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.
11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,
13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.
14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as through fire.”(1st Corinthians 3:10-15)
This is the Bema Judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not a day of judgment , but a day of rewards for the saints of God that have done deeds for Christ and are receiving rewards for their service, or the lack thereof, but “being saved as though by fire”.
Paul spoke of many more mysteries, “secrets” that I will address in a part 2 of continuing this message, but I’ll leave it there for this time.
As you read these “secrets” that Paul shared with you and I today, our time of the soon coming of our Lord is an event that Paul looked down the annals of time and knew not when they would happen. All he knew is that Jesus had commissioned him a preacher of the Gospel of the risen Lord and to establish His church on this earth. His work survives and the words he wrote from what he saw and heard, are with us for our own salvation through faith and belief in the Son of God, crucified, buried, and resurrected the third day according to the Scriptures. What I have witnessed to you, is a salvation message in a nutshell and a rewards banquet that is fast approaching.
Will you be at that Bema Judgment seat along with all of have believed by faith, not of works, lest any one of us should boast? Will you stand with me, as we all hold hands and raise them in worship to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, my God and yours, Jesus Christ, the Lord God Almighty? It all is encapsulated in the whole point of this message and the point of the whole of the Bible:
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, That whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17, God sent not His Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved,
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. “ (John 3:16-18)
I’ve given you three powerful, witnessed mysteries (secrets and there are more) that was revealed only to Paul and no one else. He wrote the major portion of the New Testament of the Christ who changed him from Saul, the persecutor of the saints, into Paul, the faithful, powerhouse witness of the saving Grace and Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father. Now my last witness (plea) I want to leave you with “What will you do with these mysteries (secrets) given to us by the Apostle Paul? Will you embrace them for the salvation of your soul, or will you put it off and think you can do it another day, or if at all? Don’t wait another day, as you are not promised tomorrow.
8 “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:8-11)
This is Pastor Mike Taylor, praying you receive the Lord Jesus as personal Savior today. If you need counseling, prayer, or just a listening ear, drop me an email to [email protected] , or visit me online at www.pastormiketaylor.blogspot.com , for more on Bible based teaching on Prophecy and the Salvation through no other than Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. God bless you all,