Mysteries in the Bible

Glimpses of God

What is A Mystery in the Bible?

A “mystery” in the New Testament is something that had at one time been hidden but is now revealed to God’s people. Jesus spoke of “the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11, NAS) that He was at that point revealing to His disciples. The apostle Paul used the word mystery 21 times in his Epistles. In each case, the “mystery” involved a wonderful declaration of spiritual truth, revealed by God through divine inspiration. A mystery is that “which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). The mystery of God’s will is that “which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:9–10; cf. 1 Corinthians 2:7; Revelation 10:7). The mystery of God is the consummation of God’s plan in bringing His kingdom in Christ to fulfillment. The kingdom had long been prophesied, but the how and the when and the by whom was not clear until the time of Christ. It is in Christ that God has been manifested to all of mankind. As Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Paul said that he had been commissioned to preach “the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people” (Colossians 1:25–26). That is, it is through the apostles that we have been given the capstone of Scripture; their writings, all of which point to Christ—represent the final disclosure of God’s Word to mankind. There is no understanding of God apart from a personal relationship with His Son (Matthew 12:50; John14:23; 2 John 1:6). Christ is the “mystery” revealed to those who believe—as is the mystery of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The key to having the “full riches of complete understanding” (Colossians 2:2) is to be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).  Paul tells us that, “beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great.” Then he records what may be an early hymn of the church: “He [Jesus] appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). In that short paragraph, the Bible reveals the heart of the gospel, the mystery of “true godliness.” The secret of being godly was hidden but is now revealed. It is to those who believe in Christ that the mystery is made known (1 Corinthians 2:7–14; Colossians 1:27). We come to learn that we of our own volition cannot please God; we must depend on Christ (2 Corinthians 3:5). As a man, Jesus lived a perfect life (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:21), and so He is a perfect example of how to live. As God, Jesus gives us the power to do what is right. It is possible to live a godly life—through the power of Christ (Philippians 4:13).

God has revealed His complete Word to His saints (Colossians 1:26) who have “heard and learned” the gospel (John 6:45; cf. Romans 10:17 and John 3:16–18), and it is they alone who fathom “the glorious riches of this mystery” (Colossians 1:27). In its fullest sense, the “mystery of God” is God’s plan of salvation through Jesus. We would never have been able to comprehend the way to eternal life without the coming of Jesus, His death and resurrection.

What Is a Biblical Mystery

July/August 2023

David M. Levy

A mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. It has a secret quality whose meaning is puzzling or unknown. A mystery is not comprehensible until its meaning is revealed.

In Scripture, mystery refers to God’s secret thoughts (Deuteronomy 29:29; cf. Job 38—39), plans, and dispensations, hidden from human reason and comprehension.

Some secrets will never be revealed. Others are revealed when God desires through Old Testament prophets, Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 18; Heb. 1:1–3), or apostles. God chose the apostle Paul to be a steward of His mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1). A mystery in the Bible does not refer to something puzzling but a truth known to God in eternity past that He has kept secret until He chooses to reveal it (2:6–16). 

One mystery from the Old Testament is Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2:1–44). God enabled the prophet Daniel to reveal the dream and its interpretation to the Babylonian king (vv. 19, 28–30).

In the New Testament, Paul wrote that it is both God the Father and Jesus Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Thus, all mysteries of divine truth are revealed by the Father through Christ, who revealed their meanings to the apostles through the Holy Spirit.

The words mystery and mysteries are mentioned 27 times in the New Testament, including 21 uses by Paul. Here are five New Testament examples of God’s mysteries:

1. The mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, or the Kingdom of God (Mt. 13:3–50; Mk. 4:11; Luke 8:10). These mysteries cover the time between Christ’s first ministry on Earth and His Second Coming.

2. The mystery of the church. The church is made up of saved Jews and Gentiles joined as one body of believers. It was hidden in the past but revealed through Jesus Christ and Paul during their ministries (Ehesians 2:11–13; 3:1–11).

3. The mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). Righteousness, godliness, and the truths of salvation, hidden in the Old Testament, were revealed by Christ and taught by Paul. Believers in Christ who walk by faith become godly by following and applying New Testament teachings to their lives. 

4. The mystery of the Rapture of Christ’s church. This mystery is an event that will occur before the Tribulation and Christ’s Second Coming (1 Cor. 15:51–52; 1 Th. 4:14, 17). 

5. The mystery of lawlessness (2 Th. 2:7–10). This mystery is Satan’s evil plan of lawlessness during the Tribulation using the Antichrist and the False Prophet, whom Christ will destroy at His Second Coming. 

Biblical mysteries illustrate that God is omniscient, sovereign, and has a gracious plan for man’s redemption.

David M. Levy is a Bible teacher, author, former pastor, and the retired director of International Ministries for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.


(Strong's #3466 — Noun Neuter — musterion — moos-tay'-ree-on )

Primarily that which is known to the mustes, "the initiated" (from mueo, "to initiate into the mysteries;" cp. Philippians 4:12, mueomai, "I have learned the secret," RV). In the NT it denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illumined by His Spirit. In the ordinary sense a "mystery" implies knowledge withheld; its Scriptural significance is truth revealed. Hence the terms especially associated with the subject are "made known," "manifested," "revealed," "preached," "understand," "dispensation." The definition given above may be best illustrated by the following passage: "the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to His saints" (Colossians 1:26.)

It is used of: (a) spiritual truth generally, as revealed in the gospel,  1 Corinthians 13:2; 14:2 (cp. Timothy 3:9 ). Among the ancient Greeks 'the mysteries' were religious rites and ceremonies practiced by secret societies into which any one who so desired might be received. Those who were initiated into these 'mysteries' became possessors of certain knowledge, which was not imparted to the uninitiated, and were called 'the perfected,' cp. Corinthians 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 1 2, 13, 14, 15, 16, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 where the Apostle has these 'mysteries' in mind and presents the gospel in contrast thereto; here 'the perfected' are, of course, the believers, who alone can perceive the things revealed; (b) Christ, who is God Himself revealed under the conditions of human life, Colossians 2:2; 4:3, and submitting even to death, 1 Corinthians 2:1 (in some mss., for marturion, testimony), 7, but raised from among the dead,  1 Timothy 3:16 , that the will of God to coordinate the universe in Him, and subject it to Him, might in due time be accomplished, Ephesians 1:9 (cp. Revelation 10:7), as is declared in the gospel, Romans 16:25; Ephesians 6:19; (c) the Church, which is Christ's Body, i.e., the union of redeemed men with God in Christ, Colossians 1:27); (d) the rapture into the presence of Christ of those members of the Church which is His Body who shall be alive on the earth at His Parousia,  1 Corinthians 15:51; (e) the operation of those hidden forces that either retard or accelerate the Kingdom of Heaven (i.e., of God), Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; the cause of the present condition of Israel, Romans 11:25; (g) the spirit of disobedience to God, Revelation 17:5,7; cp. Ephesians 2:2 ."  To these may be added (h) the seven local churches, and their angels, seen in symbolism,  Revelation 1:20; (i) the ways of God in grace, Ephesians 3:9 . The word is used in a comprehensive way in 1 Corinthians 4:1 .

What is Revelation from God?

Glimpses of God

What is the Mystery of God Referred to in the Bible? (


Stewards of the Mysteries of God

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ
and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
( 1 Corinthians 4:1-2)

From Ray Stedman

A minister of Christ is to be a steward entrusted with what Paul calls the mysteries God has revealed,that secret and hidden wisdom of God, these valuable truths which are only found in the revelation of the Word of God and nowhere else. Ministers are responsible to dispense these truths continually to the congregation so that lives are changed and lived on the basis of these remarkable truths. These are truths about life, about our families, about God, and ourselves. These truths lie beyond all secular research and opinion polls; they are undiscoverable by natural reason or observation. These mysteries, when understood, are the basis upon which all God's purposes in our lives are worked out.

Paul says that stewards are to be found faithful. Faithful at what? Faithful at dispensing the mysteries so people understand them. You may fail at many things as a teacher, a preacher, a leader of a class. You may not make it in many areas, but do not miss it in this one. Be sure that you are setting forth the mysteries of God. That is what stewards will be judged on.

What are these mysteries? Here are some of them: There is the mystery of the kingdom of God, (Mark 4:11 KJV). What does it mean? It means an understanding of God at work in history, how he is working through the events of our day and of the days of the past, and how he uses these events that fill the pages of our newspapers to carry out his purposes. There is the mystery of iniquity (2 Thessalonians 2:7 KJV), of lawlessness. This is the explanation we desperately need to be reminded of continually, of why we are never able to make any progress when it comes to solving human dilemmas — why every generation without exception repeats the struggle, problems and difficulties of the previous generation. Then there is the counteraction to that — the mystery of godliness, (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV). This is the remarkable secret that God has provided by which a Christian is enabled to live right in the midst of the pressures of the world with all of its illusion and all of its danger, not to run away from it but to refuse to conform to it and do so in a loving, gracious way. What is the secret? It is the secret of an imparted life — Christ in you, the hope of glory, (Colossians 1:27b RSV). Christ in you, available to you — his life, his wisdom, his strength, his power to act available to you — to enable you to do what you do not think you can do at the moment, but, when you choose to do, you find you have the strength to perform. That is the mystery of godliness, the most life-transforming doctrine that has ever been set before man, radical in its effect. Then there is the mystery of the church (Ephesians 3:1-6), that strange new society that God is building which is to be a demonstration of a totally different life style before a watching world, and which is to repel the impact of the world upon it, and, instead, be an impact upon the world around to change it. Those who are called to teach this in a church congregation are stewards of that mystery, entrusted with it to set it out and to help people to face the facts of life without fear and favor so that all can experience both the ecstasy and the agony of Christian experience.

The "mysteries" are the sacred secrets that God knows about life, which men desperately need to know. Think of this! This is what Paul says we Christians are -- beginning with apostles, and including everyone who names the name of Christ -- we are servants of Christ, and stewards, responsible servants, given the responsibility of dispensing the mysteries of God, of helping people understand these great secrets which explain life and make it possible to solve the difficulties and problems of our human affairs. To us is committed this responsibility. This is how Paul sees himself -- as a steward of the mysteries of God.

Thank you, Lord, for these insightful words that help me to understand how the church functions. Help me to support those who teach and preach and hold them up in prayer before you.

The Great Mystery, by Ray Stedman

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