The Divine Program
Why A Mystery?
by Charles T. Russell
Yes, I believe that we all agree that we have a personal Creator, infinite in wisdom, justice, love and power, and we also believe the Bible is the Revelation of the Divine Purpose, the question is: Why is the Holy Bible so difficult to understand? Why is it, to so large a degree, a Book of parables, symbolisms and dark sayings? Why isn’t it so open and clear that even the unlearned need not err therein? Why is it that Doctors of Divinity find it perplexing, mysterious, incomprehensible? What excuse can be offered for mysteries in connection with a subject in which everyone should be able to understand?
The answer to these questions opens the door to a proper appreciation of the Bible as the Word of God. As we shall see the Bible most distinctly declares itself to be a Book of Mysteries. Even the four Gospels of the New Testament, supposed to be the simplest and plainest portion of the Book declares that Jesus, the Great Teacher delivered His message in parables and dark sayings Matt. 13: 14 “Hearing they might hear and not understand; and seeing , they might see and not perceive.”
All around the world, whether in heathen or in civilized lands, we find some of the most intelligent people associating themselves in various secret societies. They are willing to let the public know about some of the charities they serve, but more than this we are not to know. Their secrets are carefully guarded by grips and signs and pass words and vows. And there is a reason for this secrecy, too.
It is to prevent the methods and operations of their societies becoming known to those who are not in sympathy with them who might seek to prevent them from achieving their goals.
What if we find that our Creator, for similar reasons, has kept secret from alienated mankind many of His purposes? And would it seem strange if we should find that those in fullest harmony with their Maker should proportionately be granted a knowledge of the Divine purposes hidden from others? We hold that these are the facts – that the Bible so declares.
In a word, from the Scriptural standpoint, Jehovah God was the organizer of the most remarkable secret society known to men up to the present time! The Jewish Church was a kind of Junior Order and prepared the way for the Gospel Church, which for nearly nineteen centuries has constituted the great Divine Secret Society. True, there are many nominally associated who are hypocrites and who have neither part nor lot in the Society, its privileges, its blessings and its secrets. Then there are others who have taken the first step or degree, and who are thus privileged to know the merest rudiments of the Divine Purpose. Others taken the second and subsequent degrees, and have grown in grace and knowledge, having become wise with the wisdom which cometh from above. Let us prove from the Bible that there are such secrets of the Divine Purpose, and that they are revealed to some and not possible to be understood by others. Do not the Scriptures declare that “The secret of the Lord is with them that reverence Him, and He will show them His covenant?” – Psa. 25: 14.
Did not St. Paul declare: “The mystery hid from all ages and gernerations is now made manifest to His saints?” (Col. 1: 26) Note well that this mystery is not made known to the world, but unto the saints-and in proportion as they are saintly. Note again that our Redeemer, addressing the Father, said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Hearken to His words again when asked of His disciples why He spoke to the people in parables and dark sayings; He responded, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.” Mark 4: 11, 12.
There is one prominent difference between the operation of the Lords’ Secret Society and the worldly ones. Those of the world have great difficulty in preserving their secrets while the Lords’ people have no difficulty at all. The Lords’ people may tell anything and everything they please, to the extent of their knowledge, respecting the Divine Mysteries but must understand that none can understand these mysteries unless they receive the spirit of enlightenment. The Apostle Paul explains this in 1 Cor. 2: 14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Proceeding, the Apostle shows the necessity for this secretiveness as respects the Divine Purpose 1 Cor. 2: 7 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.”
If the Divine program was generally known amongst men it would at times be interfered with. He tells us that none of the princes or prominent ones of the world understand this wisdom of God – for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.
Speaking of the world and quoting from the book of Isaiah the Apostle in the 9th verse of 1 Cor. 2 makes it very clear, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God had prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit”…….
There is a mystery connected with the Divine purpose, and it can be understood only in proportion as any shall come into harmony with God. We will proceed to show from the Bible additionally that the Revelation of this mystery, even to the “saints” was to be a gradual one, whereby the mysteries, the secrets, would become “meat in due season to the Household of Faith.” (Matt. 24: 25.) For instance, our Lord at His first advent declared to His followers: “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16: 12) In the same connection He promised that in the future, as due, these still hidden things would be gradually revealed according to the necessities of His followers. A full knowledge of the mystery of the Lord was not promised until the end of this Gospel Age, when, under the sounding of the seventh symbolical trumpet, “the mystery of God shall be finished,” which He hath kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 10: 7; Rom. 16: 25
This principle of keeping secret the Divine purpose, yet providing a key to its understanding, which would unlock it in due time, is like the time-locks commonly used in banks. The combination will not operate until the due time has been reached, and then it will yield only to those who have the combination, and who will use it.
We close this testimony respecting the mystery, the secret enshrouding the Divine purpose, with the account of Revelation, fifth chapter. Here a beautiful symbolism represents our Creator, Jehovah, upon His Throne of Glory, holding in His hand a scroll of manuscript, written within and on the outside, and sealed with seven seals. That scroll pictured the Divine Purpose respecting the human race. Not a seal had yet been broken. This confirms our Redeemer’s words that the Father had kept all things pertaining to His Divine Purpose in His own hands or power. Then we note the proclamation made throughout heaven: “Who is worthy to be granted the custody of the scroll, to open its seals, to know its mysteries, and to be entrusted with the honor of carrying them to completion?” A hush prevailed-silence in heaven! Apparently none was found worthy of so high an honor as to interpret and execute the Divine Purpose. The Revelator John says, “I wept much.” He had great grief that the wise and gracious Program of the Almighty must remain sealed and unfulfilled, because no competent agent was to be found.
But the scene changed. An angel touching the Revelator, said: “Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the scroll, by loosing the seals thereof.” St. John wiped his tears and looked again. A fresh symbolic picture met his eye. He beheld a lamb as it had been slain, to whom the scroll was entrusted, and he heard in symbol the united voice of the heavenly host declaring the Will of God, “Thou art worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals thereof.” Here we see, then, that great and honorable as our Redeemer had been before He left the glory which He had with the Father before the world was, He had not then proven Himself worthy of this great glory and service, represented by the giving to Him of the scroll of the Divine Purpose, with authority and power to carry the same to completion. Nor did He reach this climax during His earthly ministry. It was after He had finished the Sacrifice, after He had died on Calvary as the Lamb of God, after He had ascended to heaven. Then He was highly exalted. In the Apostle’s language, He was “Given a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Phil. 2: 9,10, 11.
And the voices of thousands and thousands of angels were heard proclaiming, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” Rev. 5: 12
After His resurrection and ascension the scroll was given into His hands to be opened. This means that the Divine Plan as a whole was here made known to Him – for He already had knowledge of much of this – but all things were given to Him to unloose.
A part of the plan was written on the outside of the scroll and a part was written on the inside. The things that were sealed were not proper to be understood by our Redeemer until He had received all power, after His resurrection. The execution of Gods’ plan was then given into His hands.
The opening of the seals has progressed during all the Gospel age. The whole plan of God is represented in this book – the scroll. It has required all of the present age and will require all of the next age to complete the plan. The plan of God includes the “restitution of all things spoken.” We are now able to see these wonderful things and to tell about them, because each of the seals as it has been opened has made the plan a little clearer. We may suppose that the Lord Jesus was made aware of all its features after His ascension to the presence of Jehovah. We who are God’s people are seeking to know these things more and more fully. The Master declared that as the Father revealed them unto Him, so would He reveal them unto us; but this revelation has been gradual, as the successive seals have been broken.
Brethren, beloved in Christ, realizing that our God has hitherto counted us worthy to look upon the wondrous scroll of His great plan, which has been unsealed for us by Jesus our Lord, let us continue to prove ourselves worthy to look therein and to comprehend the glorious things of His word, by faithfulness, obedience and loyalty to this plan in everything! Let our appreciation continually increase for our wondrous privilege in being permitted to share this blessed ministry of bearing Divine Truth to other hungry hearts, that they also may rejoice in the Lord and in the power of His might!