This series of posts is intended to complement what I have set out in my book “The Fellowship of the Secret” the title being an abbreviated form of “the fellowship pertaining to the secret (plan) or mystery hidden in God through the ages” (cf. Eph3:9). That secret plan was somewhat inscrutably revealed by the apostle Paul, appropriately so for it concerned the reason for his calling as thirteenth apostle (Matthias having replaced Judas as #12 by Peter who had no real understanding of God’s purposes for the Gentiles until he received a personal revelation – Acts11:5-9;17-18). It was a secret or mystery (Greek: musterion) that pertained to the reconstitution of God’s “Holy Nation” by the establishment of a world-wide Church; something that was a revelation even to the authorities of Heaven (Eph3:10 strictly Greek). The enactment of this hidden strategy effectively subverted Old Testament prophecy, impacting also upon the interpretation of Jesus’ prophetic statements within the “Olivet discourse” (cf. Mt24). It not only explains why the gospel/church age has taken the intricate and protracted course that it has but also why Old Testament prophecy has usually been interpreted in an allegorised and spiritualised rather than literal sense. Paul’s intimations are more explicitly affirmed in Romans chapter11, verses11, 12, 15 and 30, but these have typically been taken to be another example of “Paul being Paul” rather than the possibility that he might mean exactly what he wrote concerning gospel salvation being made available to the Gentiles as a result of the Jewish rejection of their Christ. He had warned his fellow Jews in Antioch:
We had to proclaim the Word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, here and now we turn to the Gentiles (Acts13:46NJB)
The key word being “it” – i.e. Paul was not about to entrust this glorious invitation to the Gentiles because the Jews had crucified Christ but because they were rejecting the apostles’ message concerning it. The crucifixion had been foretold in scriptural prophecy and it led to the Jewish nation forfeiting its promised political peace and security as Jesus had told them (Lk19:42-44NKJV). However, their negative response to the message concerning the risen, ascended Christ had not been foretold and resulted in their forfeiting their status as sole inheritors of the Kingdom. This is just one of a number of areas in which the great apostle has historically been misunderstood by the Church, which I now understand to be in accordance with the path of discovery set for her. It does not directly affect the ability of the true Apostolic Church to have fulfilled her gospel mission throughout her history; it has however impacted negatively upon her understanding (and therefore teaching) concerning broader providence, i.e. how God regards and will ultimately deal with the vast majority of people who are not a part of that “holy nation and royal priesthood” which is Israel and the Church (Ex19:5, 6 cf. 1Pet2:9).
And here is such an example: typical of Old Testament prophecy concerning the restoration of the world through Israel had been set out in Isaiah:
It will happen in the final days that the mountain of Yahweh’s house will rise higher than the mountains and tower above the heights. Then all the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come to it and say, Come let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob that He may teach us his ways so that we might walk in his paths. For the Law will issue from Zion and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. THEN He will judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, no longer will they learn how to make war. (Is2:1-4NJB)
Such was God’s Israel Project: to establish a holy nation of kings and priests amongst whom He would personally reside, initially through His spiritual Presence in the Ark, later through the physical presence of His Son Emmanuel (God with us). The nations who had oppressed His people were to be judged, but as outlined in Joel, the Spirit would be poured out and the good news of the kingdom proclaimed as a witness to all nations before the final judgement came (Mt24:14). Many Gentiles would come to Israel’s light and kings to the brightness of her rising (Is60:3NKJV). That Israel Project was effectively aborted or more strictly deferred as a result of “the fellowship of the secret”. In Paul’s language, Gentiles were to be grafted into the good olive tree that is Israel AGAINST THEIR NATURE so as to put the natural branches to shame and make them jealous (Rom11:11). Yet, Paul affirms, this is to be a temporary state of affairs, albeit one lasting a couple of thousand years to date. It will continue a little longer until the full complement of Gentiles fitted for the Kingdom has been recruited (Rom11:15, 25).