“THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” AND PAUL’S “MYSTERIES”—SAME OR DIFFERENT?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“I just want to know the difference between the Mystery which was revealed to Paul and the Mysteries of the Kingdom. And what are the mysteries of the Kingdom?”
Hello again, brother. Thanks for that question. Let us get to answering it. It can get a little complicated but I will keep it as simple as possible.
“THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”
The term “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” first appears in the Bible in Matthew chapter 13, when Jesus introduces parables. In verse 10, His disciples ask Him why He speaks to the multitudes in parables. He tells those disciples, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (verse 11). Was Jesus unfair to hide it from some? Not at all.
Firstly, the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” are actually all the parables that the Lord Jesus uttered during the latter half of His earthly ministry. Remember that He had spent approximately one to two years prior preaching to Israel in plain language. Most of Israel ignored Him, mocked Him, ridiculed Him, and so on. After Israel’s unbelief had reached a certain point, after they had rejected God’s Word to the limit, Jesus introduced parables to hide the truth from the masses who did not want to hear and believe. (Please see our study linked at the end of this article, “Why did Jesus forbid others from preaching that He was Christ?”)
Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds, but, later, in private, He explained those parables to His disciples (see Matthew 13:34-52). So, the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” referred to spiritual concepts that God hid from unbelieving Israel because they refused to learn what had been previously revealed to them in the Old Testament. All of these parables were various facets and principles that were true of Israel, her earthly kingdom hope, her covenants and promises, et cetera—prophecies whose beginnings can be found in Genesis through Malachi. Most of the Israelites of Jesus’ day had not been faithful in teaching their children to look for Messiah as found in the Old Testament. Some believed because they had passed down that sound doctrine, but most did not pass it down to the next generation and so there was great spiritual ignorance in Israel when Jesus showed up.
Note Psalm 78:1-4: “ Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:  Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.” (By Jesus telling the parables, He fulfilled verse 2, according to Matthew 13:34-35.)
Again, most of the Jews of Jesus’ day were in unbelief, so they did not see the Old Testament fulfilled in Jesus. The “kingdom of heaven” is a term used to describe Israel’s earthly kingdom. That is unrelated to Paul’s ministry and God’s heavenly kingdom.
By the way, if you want more details here, please see our related study, linked at the end of this article, that defines the term “kingdom of heaven” more fully.
THE MYSTERIES OF PAUL’S MINISTRY
The mystery and the mysteries associated with Paul’s ministry were not things descriptive of Israel and her kingdom program. These were truths that God had purposely withheld from everybody, until it was time to reveal them to the Apostle Paul. You can search Jesus’ parables to find nothing of the things the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul—Israel’s temporary fall, salvation by faith without the Mosaic Law, the formation of the Church the Body of Christ, a heavenly hope, salvation going to all Jews and Gentiles without distinction, the Rapture / coming of Christ for His Body, and so on (Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Ephesians 3:1-11; Colossians 1:25-27; Titus 1:1-3; 1 Timothy 2:4-7; et al.).
Remember, the “kingdom of heaven” was Israel’s earthly kingdom. In Israel’s program, there was a difference between Jew and Gentile. Israel was to be redeemed to minister to Gentiles. Paul preached no such thing as true today. Through Israel’s fall, without Israel’s kingdom, without redeemed Israel, salvation was going to Gentiles, and that salvation message was preached by Paul’s ministry (Romans 11:11-13). In stark contrast, the kingdom of heaven was (and is going to be) God’s way of using restored Israel to reach Gentiles in an earthly kingdom (Romans 11:25-29; Zechariah 8:20-23; Isaiah 60:1-3). Please read and study these passages in your Bible. We will not quote all them for time’s sake.
So, the “mysteries” of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the “mysteries” of Paul’s ministry are two different concepts. They should never be confused and conflated into one set of mysteries.
The “mysteries” of Christ’s earthly ministry were mysterious to Israel because she had ignored divine revelation previously given. Hence, Jesus introduced parables—to hide the truth from people who did not want to hear it and believe it anyway. Those who had hearts to believe, Jesus explained the parables to them in private. The “mysteries” of Christ’s earthly ministry were at least revealed to some people—Israel’s little flock of believers. Paul’s “mysteries,” however, were revealed to no one until Paul. The mysteries that Paul preached were secret in God’s mind until He revealed them to Paul in the book of Acts and onward, years after Christ’s earthly ministry in Matthew through John.
Paul’s “mysteries” were “hid in God” (Ephesians 3:9) because God had to let Calvary occur before He could reveal the mystery. Satan had to be caught by surprise (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). Although Israel had crucified Messiah, and refused to repent and accept Jesus as Christ in early Acts, God would use Calvary to go to the Gentiles through Paul without Israel. That is what shocked Satan. Satan assumed he had defeated God at Calvary by keeping Israel from becoming a kingdom of priests to reach Gentiles.
» What is the difference between “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of Heaven?”
» Who were the people who followed Jesus before Paul?
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