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The Mystery Revealed
Through Jesus
Copyright © Tim Warner

Many Christians are aware of some difficulties regarding the interpretation of Old Testament passages by New Testament writers. Probably the most famous problematic passage is Matthew's quote of Isaiah 7:14.

Matt 1:22-23
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Isaiah 7:10-17
10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
17 The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.

Isaiah 7:14 is a difficult passage regarding context. Yet, Matthew most definitely indicates that Jesus' birth is the fulfillment of this prophecy. How can this be when it is abundantly clear that Isaiah's prophecy concerned Ahaz and the Assyrian captivity? Some try to cut Matthew some slack, and claim that he really didn't mean to indicate the real fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. If so, he used a very poor choice of words, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying..."

This raises three possibilities.
1. Matthew was mistaken (the Jewish claim)
2. We are misunderstanding Isaiah's context.
3. Matthew knew something that Jews and most Christians do not know.

If #1 is correct, then the whole New Testament is suspect, and Christianity as a whole is cast into doubt.

If #2 is correct, it would mean that the normal grammatical/historical approach to interpretation does not work in this case. The literal grammatical/historical approach would indicate that this prophecy be fulfilled during the lifetime of Ahaz. But, according to Matthew, it was fulfilled centuries later. Therefore, there must be another hermeneutic involved besides the grammatical/historical approach, or else we are left with #1 only.

The answer is #3. Matthew knew something that Jews and most Christians do not know. That is the 'mystery' hidden in the Scriptures of the Prophets.

The Old Testament contains an additional hidden message besides the normal surface message. This hidden message is NOT seen using the normal grammatical/historical method. This is not to diminish the grammatical/historical hermeneutic. It is the foundation of all good exegesis of Scripture, both Old Testament and New Testament. And we are NOT at liberty to abandon it. However, we must also recognize a special hermeneutic employed by both Jesus, and the Apostles under the inspiration of the Spirit, in order to reveal the "mystery" from the Old Testament Scriptures. In order to hide the 'mystery' within the text of the OLD TESTAMENT, certain literary devices, which transgress the normal hermeneutical methods, were employed by God.

A good example of this is Psalm 22. There is no question that this Psalm is in reference to Christ's crucifixion. It was cited in the Gospels in connection with the crucifixion. But, a purely grammatical interpretation forbids this from being a prophecy of Christ, because David spoke in the first person singular. The normal grammatical reading of Psalm 22 indicates that David was describing his own sufferings. Ditto for Psalm 16:10, where David wrote, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption," speaking in the first person singular. Yet, Peter tells us in his first sermon that this was a prophecy of Christ, since David was dead and buried. Was Peter mistaken? Was he misinterpreting this Psalm while preaching in the power of the Spirit? From a purely grammatical standpoint, yes he was!

How can we account for these Messianic prophecies, where the NEW TESTAMENT writers seem to transgress the normal rules of interpretation? Were they all mistaken? Is Christianity really based on bad exegesis of the Jewish Scriptures? Is Judaism really the true Faith? Or is there something wrong with our use of the grammatical/historical hermeneutic? The answer is the latter.

Luke 24:13-48
13 And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.
14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.
17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?
18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?
19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:
20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.
21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.
22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre;
23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

The 'mystery' was hidden within the text of the OLD TESTAMENT Scriptures. It was not understood using the normal grammatical/historical approach to interpretation. There was a missing ingredient, REVELATION directly from the Spirit of God. Jesus had to OPEN their understanding so they could understand the Scriptures. The two on the road to Emmaus, received this revelation from Jesus as He expounded every OT passage to them that concerned the 'mystery.' Their hearts burned within them as He opened the Scriptures to them. Ditto for the rest of the disciples meeting behind closed doors. It was this revelation of the Mystery that enabled Peter to tie together many prophecies from the Psalms with Jesus Christ in His Pentecost sermon.

This begs the question, why would God hide the mystery within the OT writings? Why make something so obscure? Paul tells us why.

1 Cor 2:7-8
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

That the mystery was hidden in this manner was absolutely necessary for the Jews to reject Jesus, and for the crucifixion to occur. Even Satan didn't get it. The crucifixion of Jesus was inspired by Satan Himself, when he entered into Judas. By God's hiding the 'mystery' in the Scriptures, He was able to turn the tables on Satan. God actually used Satan as a tool to carry out the crucifixion.

Throughout the Gospels you can see that Jesus intentionally kept the Jews in the dark about what was really going on, while giving some light to His disciples.

Mark 4:10-12
10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
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:
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.

God drew only a remnant of the Jews during Jesus' ministry, the rest were hardened. They could not see the Messianic prophecies using the normal interpretive methods. Jesus spoke to them in parables, so they could not understand. Paul explained the reasons for this in his parable of the Olive Tree in Romans 11.

In hindsight, through the revelation of Jesus, we can perceive Messianic prophecies interwoven all throughout the Old Testament. Some are fairly plain, like Isaiah 53 (but not altogether, since Philip had to explain to the Ethiopian Eunuch what Isaiah was writing about). Others are quite obscure, like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 7:14. Some are seen in types, such as the sacrifices all being allegories of Christ. Others appear to combine Christ's first and second comings into one. Yet, to those willing to believe, the big picture comes clearly into focus through revelation, as we stand amazed at the flood of prophecy of Christ in the Old Testament. To the carnal minds, with a veil over their eyes, the Torah's and the Prophets' testimony to Christ remain hidden out of sight. That Jesus is the Messiah cannot be proven from the normal grammatical/historical approach to Old Testament prophecy. But, to those who have ears to hear, the evidence is overwhelming.

This is the 'mystery' that Paul speaks of so often in his epistles. Some claim that it was unique to Paul. Nothing in the Scriptures hints at such a thing. In fact, Paul plainly said that the Mystery was revealed to the 'Apostles' (plural), (Eph. 3:5).

John the Baptist was the first to shed some light on the Mystery, when he exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world," making the connection between Jesus and Isaiah 53. Jesus gave further revelation to His disciples, through personal instruction, and explaining the parables. But, not until after the resurrection did He open their understanding so they could understand the Scriptures, and expound every single prophecy in the Old Testament concerning His coming. From this point on, the Apostles were able to connect the Old Testament prophecies with Jesus' first coming. Peter's sermons in Acts 2 and Acts 3 are filled with these kinds of interpretations of Old Testament prophecy.

It was this hidden wisdom of God, hidden from the bulk of Israel but revealed to the Church, that caused Paul to erupt in thanksgiving!

Rom 11:33-36
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

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