The Sacred Secret: God’s Gift to Us

For ages God kept a Sacred Secret. [1] He did not tell anyone (or even give any hints) about His secret until after the death of His Son, Jesus (1 Cor. 2:9). Now, however, He has revealed it to mankind (1 Cor. 2:10; Eph. 3:5; etc.). Why did God keep His secret until after Jesus died? Because what God has given us today was so crucial to His overall plan for mankind that if Satan and his demons had known about it, they would not have crucified Jesus.

1 Corinthians 2:7 and 8 (KJV)
(7) But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery [musterion, Sacred Secret], 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. [2]

Where would we look in the Bible to learn about the details and specifics of that which God kept secret for so long? Not in the Old Testament, because it was written before Jesus was crucified. Not in the Gospels, because almost all the events of the Gospels occurred before Jesus was crucified. We find these wonderful vital truths in Acts through Jude, which are the writings to the Christian Church. [3]

It would be convenient if all the unique and wonderful things that God has done for us as Christians were written in a list so they could be easily seen, but that is not generally how God reveals information. He wants us to take the time to read, study, and pray in order to learn about the blessings He has given us. God desires us to spend time with Him via His Book. Then, as we read and compare Scripture with Scripture, the spiritual blessings He has given us become clearer and clearer. God loved us enough to do these things for us, and now it is our turn to love Him enough to read the Bible carefully and discover what He has done. “Okay,” you ask, “what are we looking for?” We are looking for “secret” things, things that are unique to the Christian Church, things that were not revealed in the Old Testament or in the Gospels before Jesus died.

The Christian Church started on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and will end with the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:17). The time of the Christian Church, the Church Age, is known as the “…administration of God’s grace…” (Eph. 3:2). It is also known as “…the administration of the sacred secret…” (Eph. 3:9-Rotherham. We capitalize it, and call it the Administration of the Sacred Secret). God’s Sacred Secret so completely influences and defines the time period of the Christian Church that the entire Church Age is named after it.

During the ages (also known as “administrations” or “dispensations”) that came before the Church Age, God gave many blessings to mankind. However, we must accept and believe what God says about what we have today versus what He gave to people who lived in the administrations before us. [4] What does God say about the Administration of the Law, which came immediately before the Administration of the Sacred Secret? He says it was “glorious” (2 Cor. 3:7-KJV), but then He calls it “…the ministration [ministry] of death…” in the same verse. Furthermore, He calls it “…the ministration [ministry] of condemnation…” just two verses later. Then, in 2 Cor. 3:10 (KJV), Scripture tells us that the Law had “no glory” in comparison to the glory that we have today. Take a minute and read 2 Corinthians 3:6-10. Surely you can see that God has elevated the Administration of the Sacred Secret far above the Law Administration that was before us. He did that for His own purposes: both to show forth His wisdom (Eph. 3:10) and for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7).

There is hardly an area of a Christian’s life that is not influenced by the Sacred Secret. The various parts of the Sacred Secret fall into general categories that deal with salvation, the gift of holy spirit in us, our relation to others who are saved, and our hope. It is not the purpose of this article to expound on all these things. It would take a small book to set forth completely even the one truth that salvation in the Administration of the Sacred Secret is permanent. The purpose of this article is to give “the big picture” of the Sacred Secret so we can clearly see what God has done for our glory.

Arguably, the most important aspect of the Administration of the Sacred Secret is that salvation is permanent. Once a person becomes a Christian, he cannot lose his salvation no matter what he does. In contrast, before the Age of Grace started, and after the Rapture, a person’s salvation is not secure, he can lose it if he turns against God. But that is not the case in the Administration of the Sacred Secret, and there are many ways God shows us this truth. For one thing, God uses three different Greek words for “born” to show that a Christian is born into God’s family, and that his birth is permanent. [5] Once something is born, it cannot be unborn.

Besides using the word “born,” God uses the word “adoption” (Rom. 8:15, 23 and 9:4-KJV; Gal. 4:5-KJV; Eph. 1:5-KJV). Birth seems so much more desirable than adoption that it is fair to ask why God would even use “adoption.” The answer is that in the Roman world a naturally born baby could be disowned from the family, but an adopted child could not. Many early believers were Roman citizens, and using the word “adoption” was one of God’s ways to let the Church know that children brought into His family could not be taken from it. [6] There is no verse in the Old Testament that even hints that one day God would make salvation permanent. [7]

Another very important aspect of the Sacred Secret is how God’s love is shown to Christians. God is love, and always has loved. Nevertheless, part of true love is dealing with people according to the standards that have been set between the two parties. Before the Administration of the Sacred Secret, God dealt with mankind in the relationship of a Lord to those he rules. God gave the people commands to follow and made covenants with them. In a covenant, both parties agree to do something. Thus, the pattern we see in the Old Testament is that when people, even His people, turned from Him, He turned from them. When Israel, God’s chosen people, turned away from Him, He turned from them, finally so completely that in Hosea, He told them they were no longer His people (Hosea 1:9). Isaiah 50:1 and Jeremiah 3:8 speak the same truth, but in the analogy of a marriage—God gave Israel a bill of divorce and sent her away.

In contrast to the Lord-vassal relationship that God had with people in the Old Testament, in the Administration of the Sacred Secret the relationship God has with Christians is a family relationship. God never made a covenant with the Christian Church. [8] Instead, He gives birth to Christians, who then are His family, and family terminology is used liberally in the Epistles to the Christian Church. God calls Himself “Father” more than 70 times in Acts—Jude; He calls individual Christians “children;” “sons;” “brothers” of Jesus; “heirs of God;” recipients of His “seed;” partakers of His divine nature; “born” and “adopted” into His family; able to call Him “Abba;” and the list goes on. [9]

The family relationship is totally different from the covenant relationship. In a covenant relationship, if a person breaks the covenant, the blessings of the covenant are forfeited. But in a family, no matter how horrible a child behaves, he or she is still a member of the family. No wonder Romans 8:35 (KJV) asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…”, and then answers by saying that nothing will ever be able to separate Christians from the love of God (Hallelujah!). Was that the case in the Old Testament or the Gospels? No, it was not, and that point is made right in Romans 8 when verse 36 asks if it is today like it was in the Old Testament, and verse 37 says, “No.” In the Old Testament Lord-vassal relationships, God’s righteousness required Him to turn from His people when they turned from Him. That will never happen to Christians. We are God’s family in a literal and unique way, and we can never be separated from God’s love.

The “birth” in the Christian’s New Birth is not just a metaphor. It is a spiritual reality that involves spiritual “seed,” which is imperishable (1 Pet. 1:23). It makes God our Father and Jesus our brother (Heb. 2:10-12). As with any birth, the baby has the nature of the parent. Because our Father is God, who is spirit (John 4:24), our new nature is spiritual. We are “…partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Pet. 1:4-KJV).

Because every Christian is born again of spiritual seed and has a new and divine nature, each is a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17, cp. also Gal. 6:15). There are some versions that say we become a “new creature” instead of a new creation, but the point is that we are new. Parents understand this. Each new baby is a new creation, and when an unsaved person becomes saved, that person is a new creation, freshly “born” into God’s family.

At this point, we should stop and reflect about what we know about believers in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. They are never called new creations, they are never said to be born again (in fact, no Old Testament individual is ever called “born” of God at all), and they are never said to have incorruptible seed from God. Nor are there prophecies that indicated that God would do these wonderful things. In fact, that is why some Bible students have a hard time believing them. Many people think that God always deals with people the same way, and therefore the way He treated Moses, Miriam, Ruth, or David will be the way that He will treat us, but this is not the case. God makes the rules, and what He decided to do for the Christian Church was not “business as usual.” God has done something for us Christians that was never done before the Church Age, and it was something He kept secret until after Jesus was crucified.

The spiritual “seed” that we Christians receive when we are born again is another aspect of the Administration of the Sacred Secret. Each and every Christian is filled with God’s gift of holy spirit. [10] Bible students know that God’s gift of holy spirit is not new, God gave it in the Old Testament. But (and this is a huge “but”) in the Old Testament God gave it differently than He does now. Back then a person could sin and lose his holy spirit. Saul lost it (1 Sam. 16:14), and Samson did too (but got it back just before he died). When David sinned, he prayed for God not to take it away (Ps. 51:11). This is not the case today, because today we are “sealed” with the holy spirit (Eph. 1:13-KJV), which is born inside us and thus part of our new and divine nature. [11]

You can look all you want to in the Old Testament and Gospels to find someone “sealed” with holy spirit, and you will not find anyone. Before the Administration of the Sacred Secret, God’s gift of holy spirit was only “upon” people (Judg. 6:34 and 11:29- KJV, are typical examples). No one before Acts 2 was sealed with holy spirit. Furthermore, God never told anyone there would be a time when that would happen. He kept that as part of His Sacred Secret until after Jesus was crucified.

To further make the point that Christians cannot lose the holy spirit, God calls it a guarantee of our future hope (2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5; Eph. 1:14-RSV). [12] If a person could lose holy spirit, it would not actually “guarantee” anything. It is important to notice that nowhere in the Old Testament or the Gospels is holy spirit called a “guarantee,” because those who had it back then could lose it, so it did not guarantee anyone’s future everlasting life. That is not the case today, however. The Christian cannot lose his salvation, his everlasting life is totally secure, and so the presence of the holy spirit can honestly be called a “guarantee” of his future hope.

There are a few other points of difference between the gift of holy spirit we have today and the way God gave it in the Old Testament. One of them is that in the Old Testament some people got more holy spirit than others. Elisha, for example, asked for a double portion of the spirit that was on Elijah (2 Kings 2:9). That is never the case in the Administration of the Sacred Secret, because God gives every Christian “all spiritual blessings” that He has in the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3). He is not holding anything back. Besides, the holy spirit is the spiritual seed inside us and is the divine nature that we already read about. Surely one Christian would not have more divine nature than another. No, we all have been filled with holy spirit and are all new, divine creations.

Another difference between the Old Testament and the Administration of the Sacred Secret, when it comes to holy spirit, is that today each Christian gets holy spirit when he believes and is saved (Eph. 1:13). [13] In the Old Testament, God gave His gift of holy spirit to only a relatively few people. For example, out of all the millions of Israelites who came out of Egypt, only 70 leaders were given holy spirit when Moses asked that God give him helpers (Num. 11:11-17). Today, each person who becomes a Christian gets holy spirit (Acts 2:38). In fact, it is the presence of the holy spirit inside a person, which is spiritual seed and the divine nature, that makes him a Christian. A person is not a Christian because he goes to a certain church or reads his Bible. A Christian is someone who is an actual child of God by divine birth, having the seed of God (holy spirit) sealed within him, thus giving him a divine nature and making him a new creation.

Another difference between the holy spirit that God has given us as part of the Sacred Secret and the holy spirit that God placed upon people in the Old Testament is that Christians have two new ways to outwardly manifest it, ways that did not exist in the Old Testament or Gospels. We have the manifestations of speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues (1 Cor. 12:10, 14:2-5). These manifestations were not practiced or foretold in the Bible until after the resurrection of Christ. Satan did not know about them.

We have already made the point that every Christian is filled with holy spirit, and that God has not withheld any blessing from us. In order to communicate the fullness of the presence of the holy spirit within us, and the immense power that it has, God calls it “Christ” in us (Col. 1:27). Although we do not literally have Christ inside us (Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God), what we have is so powerful that it is called “Christ” in us, because it enables us to be like Jesus. Of the few Old Testament believers who had the spirit of God upon them, none were told they had “the Messiah” upon them. But God held nothing back when He gave holy spirit to each Christian, and it is so complete and powerful that each and every Christian is said to have “Christ” in him.

Another aspect of the Administration of the Sacred Secret deals with the reality that God has made all Christians together to be one body, the Body of Christ. There are many facets to this, and if we are going to appreciate all that God has given to us, we need to examine them. First, there is the fact that God did away with the Jew-Gentile distinction. He made every Christian equal in Christ. In a sense, every unbeliever is also equal in that each has the same Savior and the same way to get saved: Romans 10:9. [14]

Throughout the Old Testament God made the point that He considered the Jews “His people” and separate from the nations. It would take a lot of clear revelation to get people to believe that God had changed the way He was dealing with Jews and Gentiles and reverse all those years of separatist thinking, and Ephesians 2:11-22 and 3:6 are part of the revelation that does exactly that. There is no prophecy in the Old Testament or the Gospels that foretold that God would ever make Jews and Gentiles equal in Christ—their unity is part of the Sacred Secret. Jews and Gentiles were separate in the Old Testament and in the Gospels, and they will be once again after the Rapture, in the time period covered in the book of Revelation. But in this one administration, the Administration of the Sacred Secret, they are no longer two peoples, but “one new man” in Christ (Eph. 2:15-KJV).

Another aspect of the Sacred Secret is that all Christians are part of one body, the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:4 and 5; 1 Cor. 10:17, 12:12-27; Eph. 2:16, 4:4; Col. 3:15). The phrase “one body” does not occur in the Old Testament, Gospels, or the book of Revelation. The “one body” is a spiritual body, and a spiritual truth that does not exist except in the Church Age. The idea of “one body” communicates some wonderful truths. First, there is a connectedness in the body that did not exist in the Old Testament. Just as the parts of a physical body are directly connected and communicate fluidly with the head, the gift of holy spirit sealed inside each believer allows him to have intimate communication with God and Christ.

Also, just as the parts of our fleshly bodies are inseparably connected, our spiritual body is too. We are inseparably connected both to one another and to the Head, Christ. We are not in danger of being amputated from the Body and losing our salvation or the love of God.

The fact that each Christian is a part of the Body of Christ elevates each one to a position of importance. Scripture testifies that today, in the Administration of the Sacred Secret, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28-NASB). The same point is made in different language in 1 Corinthians 12:11-27.

Another part of the Sacred Secret is our identification with Christ. Because each Christian is part of the Body of Christ, when Christ went through something, we Christians went through it also. For example, we all know that Jesus Christ died on the cross. But in the eyes of God, when a person becomes a Christian and part of the Body of Christ, he identifies with what Christ went through as if he went through it himself. Thus we were crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6), we died with Christ (Rom. 6:8); we were buried with Christ (Rom. 6:4); we were raised from the dead with Christ (Eph. 2:6), we even ascended with him and are seated with him in heaven (Eph. 2:6), which is exactly where we will be after the Rapture.

Only by studying the language of the Old Testament, Gospels, and Epistles can one see how new and different the language of identification is from what had been before it. Jesus never told the apostles, “After I am crucified, because you believe in me you will be crucified with me.” But from God’s perspective, when a Christian gets born again, he or she was crucified, died, was buried, was resurrected, and was given a place in heaven with Christ. No wonder we cannot lose our salvation. How could someone be uncrucified, undead, unburied, unraised, and unseated? It just could not happen.

Another aspect of the Sacred Secret is the Rapture of the Church (1 Thess. 4:13-18). [15] At the Rapture, Christians will be taken up to heaven to be with Christ, and we will stay with him there until we come back down to earth with him to fight and win the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21). Neither the Old Testament nor Gospels tell believers that they will one day be in heaven. It says that they get up from the grave and live on the earth (Ezek. 37:12-14). Even after Christ died and was raised, the disciples, who did not yet know the Sacred Secret, asked if he were going to restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). They did not ask about going to heaven, because such an idea was not part of their theology or thinking. [16]

Because the Rapture of the Church is part of the Sacred Secret, no Old Testament prophet spoke of it, nor did Jesus mention it in his teachings. This has caused some theologians to doubt that it will occur, but that is exactly the point. No one knew about the Sacred Secret and all that it involves, including the Rapture, until after the crucifixion, so it makes perfect sense that the only place in the Bible where it appears is in the writings to the Christian Church, such as 1 Thessalonians 4.

The last aspect of the Sacred Secret that we will cover in this article is the new body that each Christian will receive at the Rapture. It was not a secret that in the First Resurrection, the Old Testament believers would be given healthy bodies (Isa. 29:18, 33:24, 35:5 and 6, etc.). Part of the revelation of the Administration of the Sacred Secret, however, is that at the Rapture, Christians will get bodies that will be like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21). Now that is something to look forward to! It would be one thing for me to be raised in my “John Schoenheit body,” healthy, but still having my fleshly limitations. But I can get seriously excited when I think that, though I will still be “John Schoenheit,” having my memory and realizing that it is still “me,” I will have a body like Christ’s glorious body.

Christians live in bodies that are perishable, but we will receive bodies that are imperishable (1 Cor. 15:42). Our fleshly body may die in dishonor, but we will be raised in glory; it may die in weakness, but it will be raised in power (1 Cor. 15:43). We have a natural body, but we will have a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44). What a revelation! No wonder God commands us to be thankful (Col. 3:15). We should be very thankful for all He has done for us. No wonder He says that the Sacred Secret is for our glory (1 Cor. 2:7). No wonder God says that the Old Testament revelation, which was certainly glorious, has “no glory” in comparison with what we have today. Fellow Christians, I appeal to you, read and study the writings to the Christian Church (Acts—Jude) to see all the wonderful things God has done for us. You will not find the great truths of the Sacred Secret anywhere else but there, and as you find them, you will indeed be blessed.

Endnotes

1. See “Mystery” or “Sacred Secret” for why musterion should be translated “Sacred Secret.” We do not have space here to expound on the fact that the Sacred Secret was in fact a secret hidden in God, but see Romans 16:25 and 26; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:5, 8 and 9; and Colossians 1:26.
2. Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible brings out the Sacred Secret more fully. 1 Corinthians 2:7 and 8: “But we speak God’s wisdom in a sacred secret, That hidden [wisdom], Which God marked out beforehand, before the ages, for our glory,––Which, none of the rulers of this age had come to know, For had they known, not, in that case, the Lord of the glory would they have crucified!”
3. The book of Revelation is about a period of time after the Rapture, and is not written to the Christian Church. For more on that, listen to our nine hour audio seminar, “The Book of Revelation.”
4. The administrations before the Administration of the Sacred Secret are 1) Original Paradise (Garden of Eden). 2) Conscience (The Fall to the Flood). 3) Civil Government (Flood to the Mosaic Law), and 4) The Law. See the chart on page 14 and our booklet Defending Dispensationalism.
5. For an exposition of this truth, see our book The Christian’s Hope: The Anchor of the Soul Appendix C, “The Permanence of Christian Salvation.” The three words are anagennao (Strong’s # 313), apokueo (Strong’s # 616), and paliggenesia (Strong’s # 3824). Also, Bible students need to be aware that although many versions use the phrase “born again” in John 3, the proper translation is “born from above” and it does not refer to the Christian’s New Birth at all. See The Christian’s Hope, Appendix H, “You Must Be Born Again.”
6. For a more complete treatment of adoption in the Roman world, see Charles Welch, Just and the Justifier (The Berean Publishing Trust, London), pp. 208-213.
7. Some people believe that a Christian can make the freewill decision to repent of his Christian faith and become unsaved, but this is not the case. There are some decisions a person makes that change him in a permanent way, and choosing salvation is one of them. When a person becomes a Christian, his very nature is changed permanently, and he cannot reverse that by another freewill decision. We accept this thinking when it comes to our flesh: if a person makes the freewill decision to blind himself, he cannot then make the freewill decision to regain his sight. The change is permanent. The New Birth permanently changes us, and cannot be undone by a simple freewill decision. Read our booklet 25 Reasons Why Salvation is Permanent for Christians.
8. Although Christians will be ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), that covenant was foretold to, and made with, Israel (Heb. 8:8-10; Jer. 31:31-34). Jesus ratified it in his blood before the Sacred Secret was ever revealed. The covenant blessings that were promised in the OT, such as perfect health, deserts blooming, no war, lions eating grass like oxen, are not yet realized, but will be in the Millennial Kingdom. No specific covenant was ever made between God and the Church.
9. Jesus instructed his apostles to pray using “Father” in the Gospels, but in the Eastern culture, “Father” was a term that was used in a variety of ways. Among other uses, “father” showed endearment or respect, or to refer to one who could give help and advice. Joseph was made a “father” to Pharaoh (Gen. 45:8); Micah asked the wandering Levite to be a “father” to him, but the Danites wanted him to be a father to them (Judg. 17:10 and 18:19); Elisha called Elijah “father” (2 Kings 2:12), Naaman’s servants called him “father” (2 Kings 5:13); the king of Israel called Elisha “father” (2 Kings 6:21); etc. The point is that the term “father” in the Eastern culture did not necessarily refer to birth. In the Old Testament God was a God to be feared and obeyed as a God of Judgment. Jesus changed people’s perception of God from that distant relationship to the more intimate relationship of “Father.” However, Jesus never taught that one day God would literally be a Father who would give birth in people and impart His very nature to them, making them part of His family, that was part of the Sacred Secret.
10. For the differences between Holy Spirit and holy spirit, see our book The Gift of Holy Spirit: The Power to be Like Christ.
11. For further study, see our 90 minute audio teaching “Saved, Sealed, and Secure in Christ” (Nov/Dec 95).
12. The word “guarantee” (RSV), “guaranteeing” (NIV), “pledge” (NASB), or “earnest” (KJV), are the translations of the Greek word arrabon, which originally was a Phoenician word used in their trading. It was a down payment or pledge of the full amount that was to follow. In our case, the holy spirit that we have now is the down payment of all we will get in the future: new bodies, everlasting life, etc.
13. Although each Christian receives the gift of holy spirit the moment he is born again, he may not manifest it outwardly (such as by speaking in tongues). Just because a person does not manifest holy spirit does not mean he does not have it. See “Must one speak in Tongues to be Saved?
14. “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9-NIV).
15. For much more detail on the Rapture, see our book The Christian’s Hope, pp. 21-34 and our booklet 23 Reasons to Believe in a Rapture Before the Great Tribulation.
16. To see that the believer’s hope is going to be on earth, not heaven, see our book The Christian’s Hope. For the fact that before the Rapture (for Christians) or the restoration of the Kingdom (for Old Testament and Gospel believers), the dead are dead and not alive in heaven, see our book Is There Death After Life?

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