A Holy Complexity: The Strange Work & The Mystery of God
"... There were components of this plan of redemption which were staggeringly veiled in holy mystery, so that none (not even of the prophets to whom the prophecies were originally given) would have been able to anticipate this entirely new, unexpected, and astonishingly protracted event..."
"Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."
– Rom. 16:25-27
This secret that God was keeping from the beginning of the world until the beginning of this new era of redemptive history (which was set in motion by the ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth: His life, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension), was suddenly revealed — when once the Lord of glory Himself apprehended, and seized upon this chiefest sinner to bring to light this long sealed matter in His heart! Surely the Lord had a plan in the sad event that His elect people (the Jews of the 1st century) would not receive His Son; yea, even that which from the beginning of time He was revealing to His holy prophets, and recording and inerrantly preserving through the scriptures of truth… Nevertheless, there were components of this plan of redemption which were staggeringly veiled in holy mystery, so that none (not even of the prophets to whom the prophecies were originally given) would have been able to anticipate this entirely new, unexpected, and astonishingly protracted event, called THE GENTILE CHURCH AGE! Take for instance:
—> All the prophetic utterances which comprised the body of doctrine concerning what God said the Messiah would do in judgment/war TO Babylon (THE DAY OF THE LORD UPON BABYLON), are now the fuel which propels the salvation of the Gentiles in the present dispensation!
—> All the prophetic utterances which comprised the body of doctrine concerning what God said He would do in judgment/war THROUGH Babylon (THE DAY OF THE LORD THROUGH BABYLON), are now the fuel which propels the salvation of the Gentiles in the present dispensation!
—> The foretold conversion of the Gentiles THROUGH the conversion, regathering, and restoration of the Jews is equated to the Gentiles being converted THROUGH the fall, and failure of the Jews to be converted, regathered, and restored!… Instead of their conversion being to the credit of the Jews, now it is at the expense thereof… This is, therefore, the reversing of the normal FLOW OF REDEMPTION!
Beholding Paul’s first missionary journey of his apostolic ministry, it becomes very clear what he had been revealed of the Lord in the knowledge of THE MYSTERY. In a holy complexity, this modern-era MYSTERY is equated to what in the past dispensation was called by the prophets, THE STRANGE WORK. I say a holy complexity, because the two do not exactly translate. THE STRANGE WORK was, definitively, that which God was determined to do THROUGH & TO Babylon for the sake of his people’s chastening and redemption — their salvation — of old time. This was manifested in various ways in past-time examples (Egypt, Assyria, etc.), but was most manifestly set forth in the divinely ordained and orchestrated vehicle of Babylon (through the Babylonian captivity)...
Now this divine past-time tutorial does have a direct translation into the New Covenant, namely, in the for to come wilderness experience of the future (also called: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT), which is being risen up for the beautifying of the Bride of Christ (the presently defiled Gentile Church), and for the slaying & saving of the presently apostate Jews of the 21st century (Rev. 12:6,11-14; 13:5-10; 14:8-12; 16:9; 17:1-8; 18, etc.). But there is also a present-tense, and even more strange, and offensive (to despisers), fulfillment of THE STRANGE WORK happening right now, and has been underway for the past two millennia! This is what we have come to commonly call THE GENTILE CHURCH AGE.
“Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you… And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
— Acts 13:40,41,44-48
Paul, in the above reference extracted from his first missionary journey, is declaring very important prophecies which represent a specimen for us of the revelation that the Lord had given unto him. On purpose, this is the longest recorded sermon of Paul in the New Testament, and is given at the beginning of the chronicling of his apostolic ministry, that the tenor of his gospel which he preached among the Gentiles (Gal. 2:2) might be set forth as a representation from thenceforth how he was declaring THE MYSTERY. Throughout the sermon he references very important Messianic prophecies which the Lord no doubt had clearly given him understanding in in application to the present work of the Messiah’s unprecedented redemption of the Gentiles.
For instance, before what is referenced above, Paul had just quoted Psalm 2, which is one of the most descriptive Psalms of what the Lord Jesus would accomplish upon His resurrection from the dead and ascension (as interpreted by the apostle Paul in Romans 1 & Hebrews 1), and which is one of the most shocking prophetic declarations of what Christ would call (to the untoward Jews of the 1st century) THE SIGN OF JONAS (Matt. 12:39)!… That is, when Christ arose from the dead in His own resurrection by the glory of the Father (Rom. 1:4; 6:4), that marked the moment when it was said of Christ by the prophet David, “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee,” and, subsequently, in his ascension, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion” (Psa. 2:6,7)! It was at that exact moment when it was prophetically declared by the Father unto His newly coronated Son, Christ Jesus, “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psa. 2:8)! This was not a mere coincidental quoting at random of the scriptures, that just so happened to merge seamlessly together to declare flawlessly the eternal purposes of God in His foreordained plan of redemption in all the world — to the Jew first, then also to the Gentile — NO! This was, rather, a thoughtful, premeditated portrayal of what the Lord had always intended (“God in the ways of God”, and from an eternal perspective) to do among the Gentiles, and yet was veiled in a formerly unknown, mysterious interpretation of the scriptures which he breathed into the souls of holy men of olden times!
Certainly, Paul was understanding what he was declaring and implying in what he was referencing! This is THE SIGN OF JONAS! Paul was literally standing right in the middle of THE SIGN being fulfilled, and was even (in a special and spiritual way) the vessel through which it was being fulfilled! After referencing Psalm 2, Paul ended this sermon by warning the Jews of Antioch (who were of that generation which was relentlessly heaping upon themselves, and their children, the wrath of almighty God through the bloodshed of his servants, and His own dear Son) with no other warning but that which was uttered of old time by Habakkuk — that trailblazing prophet — concerning THE UNBELIEVABLE WORK of the coming of the Lord, THROUGH the heathen nation of Babylon!
“Behold ye among the heathen, and regard, and wonder marvellously: for I will work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you. For, lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs.”
— Hab. 1:5,6
Paul’s warning to the Jews may appear to be ambiguous at first, regarding what what STRANGE WORK the Lord was being provoked to work among them, if they persisted to deny the Lord, but upon the coming of the next week, as the Jews were moved to envy at beholding the abundance of Gentiles flowing to the preaching of the gospel, and they began to contradict and blaspheme the Lord, the apostles were compelled to make the direct application of the solemn warning forespoken! “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:46,47). Do you see! Paul was standing in the heart of the great forsaking amongst the Jews of his day, and right in the middle of ground zero of the repentance of God towards the Jews of the 1st century! Thus he is led of the Spirit to warn them one Sabbath, and condemn them the next! This is truly dreadful to behold!
The full impact of Paul’s words cannot be fully grasped unless there is an understanding of the scripture he is referencing here. For, one may think that Paul is simply spiritualizing the text, in the sense that Paul and Barnabas are the “light” (in Christ, who is the Light) to the Gentiles, saying, therefore, “For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles…” (Acts 13:47). But Paul is actually stating in this verse the reason they are now turning from the Jews to the Gentiles!
“And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.”
— Isa. 49:6
Paul had said, “It was necessary” that they would have first declared the word unto the Jews, because of what is declared in the prophecy of Isaiah! Namely, that the Jews will be restored, and regathered, and then — and consequent thereto — the Gentiles shall be converted, and brought into the covenant. This text is most staggering, because in this one single verse THE FLOW OF REDEMPTION is definitively set forth! But what Paul is manifestly declaring, is that the Lord had revealed to him that He was reversing THE FLOW OF REDEMPTION, based upon the stubborn impenitence of the Jews, and the willing reception of the Gentiles! That is to say, redemption must flow on, whether the Jews will receive it or not! And because the time had come for salvation to go unto the ends of the earth, and the Gentiles will receive it, then they shall, even at the expense of the Jews, though it was originally declared that the Gentiles would be made the glad recipients of salvation through the Jews and for the Jews!
In conclusion, and moving forward, by this apostolic witness, we are able to behold that: THE STRANGE WORK, which was originally intended to be fulfilled historically in Babylon/Assyria, would then be spiritually applied by the apostles in the 1st century toward the Gentiles pressing into, and taking, the kingdom (see, Rom. 9-11); thereafter, and in futurity, these prophecies shall climax in the Great Tribulation: both SPIRITUALLY, as the Gentile Church arises as never before (by the special “mercy” — Ruhamah — of God, see, Rom. 11:31), to the effectual “provocation” (Rom. 10:19; 11:11,14) of the Jews, and LITERALLY, while Mystery Babylon the Great performs all of the sovereign purposes of wrath and mercy in the hand of the Lord of sabaoth. All this will amount to, essentially, the most unprecedented & unparalleled WILDERNESS experience of the Jews to date (see, Ezek. 20); which shall be employed in the hand of almighty God as the express means to execute the most unprecedented & unparalleled experience of sovereign mercy recorded in the annals of the history of the Jews — ALL in a most stunning display of the infinite majesty of the only wise God, and our Lord Jesus Christ!
“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!”
— Rom. 11:33
[Further Reading on The Strange Work: In the 1st Century & The 5th Trumpet]