Millennial Series: Part 20: Premillennialism and the Church as a Mystery -- By: John F. Walvoord
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Part 20: Premillennialism and the Church as a Mystery
In the previous study of premillennialism and the church, it was brought out that the church is a body of believers in this age distinct in character from the Old Testament saints. Further, it was shown that the present age is a parenthesis or a time period not predicted by the Old Testament and therefore not fulfilling or advancing the program of events revealed in the Old Testament foreview. The present study occupies itself with the positive revelation in the New Testament of the church in its character as a mystery.
The question is whether the main elements of the church in the present age which are revealed as mysteries support the conclusion that the church is a purpose of God separate from Israel. It should be obvious that this is vital to premillennialism. If the church fulfills the Old Testament promises to Israel of a righteous kingdom on earth, the amillenarians are right. If the church does not fulfill these predictions and in fact is the fulfillment of a purpose of God not revealed until the New Testament, then the premillenarians are right. A study of the mysteries related to the church which are revealed in the New Testament is an important contribution to the positive evidence in favor of premillennialism.
The church is never expressly called a mystery. The term mystery is used, however, of the distinctive elements of the truth concerning the church as the body of Christ. Contemporary with the apostolic age various mystery cults held
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sway. They were so called because their rites of initiation were mysteries or secrets to those not in the cult. Initiation consisted of various rites in which the novitiate was introduced to these mysteries. The word came therefore to be used of significant facts once hidden but now revealed.
This idea is carried forward in the New Testament in passages where pivotal truths concerning the church as the body of Christ are described as mysteries. The truths thus revealed are not incomprehensible or obscure, as is sometimes meant by the modern use of the word mystery. It is rather that the truth relating to the church was once hidden, i.e., in the Old Testament, but is now revealed in the New Testament. Edwards correctly defines the word mystery, “a secret imparted only to the initiated, what is unknown until it is revealed, whether it be easy or hard to understand.”1
The Mystery of the One Body
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