Mystery of the Ages Synopsis, Part 1: Who and What Is God?
Herbert W. Armstrong felt that his book Mystery of the Ages was the second-most important book on Earth next to the Bible. It is so important because it is a synopsis of the entire Bible. Of the 96 books and booklets copyrighted by the Philadelphia Church of God, Mystery of the Ages receives the most requests by far. Thousands of people have said that this book gives their lives real meaning and real happiness.
The Bible is a coded book, a mystery to this world—to science, education and even religion. The cover of Mystery of the Ages asks, “Did you ever ask yourself: ‘Who am I? What am I? Why am I?’ You are a mystery. The world about you is a mystery. Now, you can understand!”
This is the first in a series of articles I am writing to summarize Mystery of the Ages and to inspire you to study the life-changing truth in this book. Let’s start with the first chapter, the first mystery: Who and What Is God?
God’s Absolute Authority
Human beings have made impressive developments in industry and technology. Yet our world of advancements is also full of alarming and appalling evils. So adept at solving challenges with solids, liquids and gasses, mankind has no clue how to solve their problems with each other.
Mr. Armstrong lived for 93 years and personally met dozens of prime ministers, presidents, kings, princes, emperors, ambassadors, legislators, judges and other world leaders. He also met thousands of ordinary people and those who were illiterate and in poverty. In his relationships with those he knew, he focused on life’s most important questions.
But Mr. Armstrong started out as clueless as anyone else. He grew up attending a Protestant church that never explained these important questions plaguing mankind. He saw mysteries everywhere he looked. He tried to read the Bible and reason out these mysteries, but he remained bewildered.
As a young man, Mr. Armstrong drifted away from religion because he couldn’t find any answers. But God jolted him with a dual challenge. In the Author’s Statement of Mystery of the Ages, he wrote:
It all started with the question of the theory of evolution and the religious question of Sunday observance. I knew that the Bible was the world’s number one selling book. Yet to me it had been an enigma. I could never understand it. I said, “The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt observe Sunday.’” I was asked how did I know? Had I read that in the Bible? I answered that I knew because all the churches observe Sunday and I supposed the source of their teaching was the Bible.
But my marriage was at stake on the question. I was forced into an in-depth study and research into the Bible and also into the theory of evolution, which was at that time rapidly gaining acceptance in the field of higher education. …
No longer was the existence of God taken carelessly for granted because I had always heard it or been taught it. I found absolute and positive proof of the existence of the Supreme Creator God and also of the absolute authority of the Holy Bible as the Word of God—the revealed message and knowledge of God for mankind.
How many people are forced to prove their beliefs like Mr. Armstrong was? He discovered that the Bible has God’s absolute authority behind it!
Mr. Armstrong discerned a common flaw in most people’s reading of the Bible. The Bible is not a book that you can read cover to cover and truly understand! He wrote:
Instead of putting the various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle properly and sensibly together, it has become the practice and custom to read an already-believed false teaching into each particular scripture, taken out of context. In other words, to interpret the Scriptures to say what they have already been taught and come to believe. The Bible needs no interpretation because it interprets itself.
The Bible interprets itself! God tells us not to rely on an educational institution or a scholar for understanding (Isaiah 28:9). Don’t trust in men; trust in God!
“[T]he Bible was a coded book, not intended to be understood until our day in this latter half of the 20th century,” he continued. God only intended for the Bible to be fully understood today, in the time just before the return of Jesus Christ to the Earth to teach this truth to the whole world!
“I learned that the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “thousands of pieces that need putting together—and the pieces will fit together in only one way. Then the picture becomes crystal clear to the one willing to believe what God our Creator says. … As you read and reread this book, compare constantly with your own Bible.” Don’t trust in men! Meditate deeply on Mystery of the Ages as you read it. Prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Why is the vast majority of mankind incapable of solving the mystery of God?
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24). Mankind today is cut off from the tree of life, or else he would eat of it and live forever in an unrepentant state. Mr. Armstrong wrote:
Even in these past 58 years I had not fully and clearly realized the significance of the fact revealed in Genesis 3:22-24—that, in fact, God had closed the Holy Spirit and eternal life to mankind in general until the removal of Satan at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Traditional Christian teaching had always assumed there is a contest between God and Satan—that God has been trying desperately to “get the world saved,” but in this great controversy Satan has been winning. In other words, God had sent Jesus Christ at his First Coming to try to win this ongoing war against Satan. Traditional Christianity has taught that “whosoever will may come” and be “saved” through Jesus.
Mr. Armstrong finally understood the depth of this truth when he was 92 years old, not long before his death in 1986. God and Satan are not struggling for human souls today! The reason why the world wallows in darkness is because God cut human beings off from the tree of life thousands of years ago! God calls only a few to do His Work in this age.
Mankind in general does not have access to God because we won’t submit. We have followed the example of Adam and Eve. We enjoy the godless theory of evolution or the lawless platitude of false religion. No wonder most people don’t grasp the mystery of God!
Laden With Lawlessness
The greatest relationship man can have is with his Creator. But mankind today is so far from God that this relationship is actually his worst. Without being close to God, people just can’t understand the seven mysteries revealed in Mystery of the Ages:
1. Who and What Is God?
2. Mystery of Angels and Evil Spirits
3. Mystery of Man
4. Mystery of Civilization
5. Mystery of Israel
6. Mystery of the Church
7. Mystery of the Kingdom of God
Through this series of articles, you will understand how each mystery builds on the one before it. Understanding who and what is God is the foundation of all the other mysteries!
The number one problem facing humanity today is that of human survival. Nuclear weapons are proliferating all over the world. Physical human beings have no way to solve this deadly problem. The cause of this problem is man himself! We must solve the problem of human nature first.
Mankind could have a relationship with God, but they refuse it! Mr. Armstrong had an experience in India that made this sad truth more real. He wrote in Mystery of the Ages:
I was returning to my hotel in New Dehli some years ago from a private conference with the late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India. Ever since arriving in India I had noticed cows and oxen wandering through the streets. I had never seen such animals straying loosely through city streets in any other country.
“Don’t these cattle stray quite a distance from home?” I asked of the car driver.
“Oh yes,” he answered.
“But when,” I asked, “they wander all over the streets so far away, how do their owners find them, to drive them back home for the night?”
The car driver smiled. “The owners don’t. But the cattle and oxen know their owners and where they live. They find their own way home in the evening.”
Immediately I thought of the scripture in the first chapter of Isaiah, which I had never understood so perfectly before this living explanation.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with [lawlessness], a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward” (Isaiah 1:2-4).
This is one of the most horrendous pictures in the Bible. Only the nation of Israel knew God anciently. Only the descendants of Israel—including America, Britain and the Middle East Jews—know God today. Only they could turn away from God like this! God says that even a dumb ox or donkey knows his owner better than Israel knows Him!
The nations of Israel are heavily weighed down with sinfulness and lawlessness. Our people are made grievous with sins! Only God can heal sinful mankind.
They Became Fools
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:18-22). We should be able to clearly see proof of God’s existence all around us. God condemns the self-proclaimed “educated” fools who purposely suppress the truth.
Something is horribly wrong with human nature! Why doesn’t man want to learn about His Creator and the most important relationship he could have?
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge …” (verse 28). People would rather learn about evolution or other theories. The Chinese and the Russians comprise over 1 billion of the 7 billion people on Earth, and most of them are openly atheistic! They don’t know who and what God is. They don’t even want to know.
The Apostle Paul preached the truth of God to the Gentiles, who were steeped in deception and paganism. “Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, to the unknown god. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:18-23). Anyone who will listen can uncover the mystery of God! Isn’t that amazing?
Anyone with an open mind can at least prove that God exists. Educational institutions today overwhelmingly point to evolution as the cause for human life. A rare few might believe in God, but only as a first cause. They do not want to know God! They entrench certain beliefs into the minds of their students instead of teaching how to think. God gave humans a mind like His own! Use it.
“The system of modern education has become entirely materialistic. The modern scientific concept denies the invisible and the spiritual as having existence. Yet all our seemingly unsolvable problems and the evils in this world are spiritual in nature” (ibid). Problems on Earth that are seemingly physical in nature actually have a spiritual cause: our human nature. It is naturally hostile toward God! (Romans 8:7). Because of human nature, people are passively, if not actively, hostile toward their Creator. Science will never discover that. The only way to get rid of human nature is by getting and using God’s Holy Spirit.
God Is a Family
The book of John records the earliest chronological point in the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4). This is the earliest revelation of who and what is God!
Before the angels, the universe, Earth and mankind, God and the Word existed; there was nothing else. The Word was the Spokesman of the God Family, or the God Kingdom at this point. He submitted perfectly to God’s will. These two eternal Beings lived in absolute peace and harmony.
But then, something changed between these two Gods. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (verse 14). God became the Father; the Word became the Son, Jesus Christ.
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (verse 18). Christ came to Earth to declare His Father and the Family of God. The Father and the Son are preparing for the birth of billions more sons into the God Family. There is no third God called the Holy Spirit. There is no trinity.
Christ prophesied that so-called Christians in the end time would talk about Him instead of about His inspiring message about an endless family revolving around the Father (Matthew 24:3-5). Even God’s own people have failed to honor their Father! (Malachi 1:6). There is no bigger crisis in this age.
The Word transformed from spirit divinity to human flesh, begotten as a mortal human being inside Mary’s womb. He was crucified and killed by evil men who did not know who and what God is! His death and resurrection opened up the God Family to all mankind! All who have ever lived will have an opportunity to choose eternal life.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Genesis 1:26). Image means God’s character and mind. We are in God’s likeness, or physical appearance, already! God has a face and eyes and a nose and ears and hands and legs and feet and toes and hair. Jesus Christ looked like any other man. We look like God. Why? Because God is recreating Himself in us!
God challenges us to be led by Christ and to eradicate human nature. He expects us to become perfect just like He is! (Matthew 5:48). Life is wonderful when you develop God’s giving character. It will add real meaning to your life and fill you with joy and understanding.
Christ is the firstborn Son of countless more to be born into the God Family. Those who do God’s work before His Second Coming will even be the Bride of Christ! By knowing who and what is God, you can begin to grasp your incredible potential.