Chapter 1: Declaring the Mystery—Again
By Gerald Flurry
When the Apostle John was imprisoned on the isle of Patmos, it was a very trying time. He was all alone as far as we know; all the other apostles had been killed! So you might think John would have been sad and discouraged—but that was not the case at all. It was under those conditions that John wrote the book of Revelation. It was there that John wrote about our commission to prophesy again.
Down through the centuries, people have talked about prophesying again and wondered about this commission discussed in Revelation 10:11. When you study what people thought it meant, you see how deeply confused they were. But here we are at the end of man’s rule on Earth, and God’s “little flock” understands for the first time ever what it means to prophesy again. We are not guessing—we know. God has given us abundant proof.
We have only a tiny span of time to deliver God’s message to all the world. In the process, we experience some serious trials. That is not uncommon for God’s people. At one time, Jeremiah was very troubled and bogged down by his trials. But he said, That truth was in my heart like fire in my bones, and I couldn’t let go (Jeremiah 20:9). That is the stage God wants us to reach: where His truth is like fire in our bones and nothing can put out the fire—nothing can stop us from delivering this message.
Let’s take a closer look at our commission to prophesy again.
The book of Revelation contains spectacular scenery. It is precisely ordered and planned. It discusses seven Church eras, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven plagues, seven resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire and three woes. The Apostle John wrote about war between Christ and the armies of the Earth. This book describes angels and God’s own throne. We see the chronicle of prophecy ushering in the return of Jesus Christ. We see how, after the Millennium, God the Father will come to Earth with new Jerusalem.
We see wonderful harmony and unity in God’s master plan. The more you study it, the more you understand the mind of God. And as we grow in depth, we marvel at how little we understand about the magnificent and expansive thought processes of the Creator God!
In the midst of these prophecies—some about terrifying world conditions—you find a little group of God’s very elect right in the center of the storm. They are there to give meaning and hope to a dying world. Already we are experiencing the outer edges of this unparalleled storm. That’s where we are today. Revelation discusses Satan and the fierce opposition God’s very elect faces from the great false church. In the middle of these 22 chapters is a prophecy about the little book and Mystery of the Ages. God tells us there that we should prophesy again.
This is living drama. God has given us many revelations about this commission to prophesy again.
The Mystery of God
“And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not” (Revelation 10:1-4).
The seven thunders of this little book are about God’s rebellious people who “cast down the truth to the ground” in this end time. These thunders are about Mystery of the Ages and Herbert W. Armstrong’s other works being cast down and destroyed! These thunders are about what is happening to God’s truth inside God’s Church. God is always most concerned with His people, but the world also must come to understand this calamity.
“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be [no more delay]” (verses 5-6; see the Revised Standard Version).
In the King James Version, verse 6 ends with a colon. The thought continues in verse 7: “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to [or, rather, is about to] sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”
The seventh angel discussed here is the seventh trumpet angel (Revelation 8:2; 11:15), not the angel of the Laodicean era (Revelation 3:14). Before that seventh trumpet sounds, something has to happen on Earth. According to the Companion Bible and the Greek interlinear, “shall begin to sound” would be better translated “is about to sound.” Chapter 11 unfolds as that seventh trumpet is about to sound.
Verse 7 dates this prophecy. There isn’t much time left. The urgency keeps intensifying. The seventh trumpet is about to sound, and there is an accelerated work going on in a short span of time—and it all revolves around the mystery of God.
Here, the angel is talking about prophesying again—in the specific context of a mystery. God is profoundly concerned about the mystery being taught and the message being delivered before He brings the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord upon the world. God conveys extreme urgency by letting us know that the seventh angel is about to sound!
In the midst of that period of “no more delay,” God’s very elect deliver a message about the mystery of God. This is what God has commissioned us to do: Proclaim this mystery to the world.
The little book, Malachi’s Message, reveals the great falling away from God’s truth and what the very elect’s commission is. (Request our free booklet The Little Book for scriptural proof that Malachi’s Message is this book.) That work is done amid the worst trouble ever on Earth and, in terms of numbers, probably the most sweeping rebellion ever in God’s Church.
The expression “should be finished” correctly reads “shall have been finished” (see the Companion Bible). This is a work that shall have been finished by God’s loyal people before Christ returns.
The Laodiceans refused to fulfill the commission God gave to the Philadelphia Church. Malachi’s Message explains their failure.
Revelation 10 reveals the connection between Mystery of the Ages and Malachi’s Message. They are both tightly bound to the same Elijah work. This chapter shows that the little book and God’s Work today are directly connected to Mystery of the Ages and God’s Work through Mr. Armstrong.
The Work must be finished when the seventh trumpet begins to sound. In other words, the Philadelphia Church of God will not finish God’s Work unless it fulfills this commission!
That puts a lot of pressure on God’s very elect to deliver Mystery of the Ages to the world now!
Under that kind of pressure, our human nature pulls against us. But like Jeremiah, we have to say, I couldn’t falter because that truth was like fire in my bones!
Mr. Armstrong finished Mystery of the Ages only six months before he died. He said this book was the second most important book on Earth, after the Bible. It is a synopsis of the entire Bible. The Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle, and the Christian world does not know how to fit the pieces together. Mr. Armstrong’s book clearly shows how to work the Bible puzzle.
He stated passionately that his church “must reach the largest audience possible” with this vital book.
However, the church he was used to raise up refused to publish Mystery of the Ages. So it should be obvious that God would raise up another work to finish the job.
That is where our commission enters the picture. We must “prophesy again,” with the emphasis on warning the world (Ezekiel 33:7-9), which faces the worst crisis ever. Also we show people that there is awesome hope in God’s mystery.
“And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11). We are to “prophesy again” to the whole world. This commission applies specifically to reaching the largest audience possible with Mystery of the Ages.
When God commands us to prophesy again to the world about the mystery, that is a direct command to deliver Mystery of the Ages! Revelation 10:7 refers specifically to Mr. Armstrong’s final and most important book. No other book on Earth today clearly explains what the mystery of the Bible is. It removes the mystery from the whole Bible, and that’s what this world needs to understand right now more than anything else!
Now we own the copyrights to that book and 18 other works by Mr. Armstrong—because a little group of people trusted God, and He delivered them in the court battle! (For more information, request our free booklet on Habakkuk.) God gave us those works; the courts certainly didn’t.
The little book and Mystery of the Ages tie directly to the seventh trumpet angel—when Jesus Christ will return to Earth! That truth ought to electrify all of God’s people!
When Christ comes, what is He going to do? He will need kings and priests, and He’ll need textbooks to put into colleges and people’s homes so they can learn how to live. When Christ gets here, we’ll begin to educate the world. This world will be God’s world very shortly.
It is primarily through delivering Mystery of the Ages that we keep the lamp of the Laodicean era burning—for the world, not the Laodiceans. That is our job. If the lamp were to go out, this world would be in total darkness. Only the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG) gives light to this world. And Mystery of the Ages is the major oil supply for the lamp.
Dispensation of the Mystery
Just what does it mean to prophesy again about the mystery?
Ephesians 3:9 contains some astounding truth about this: “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”
The word fellowship is not a good translation. Lange’s Commentary translates it dispensation, as do some Bible translations—the dispensation of the mystery. Dispensation means to dispense or distribute something: to dispense or distribute the mystery!
The Companion Bible also says it’s dispensation, and adds that “fellowship” came from the translators actually rendering the wrong Greek word!
It also says that dispensation equals stewardship. In other words, for something to be dispensed, somebody has to do it. You must have people who are willing to declare the mystery to the world, not just possess it for themselves. God’s very elect have been given that responsibility.
There is a lot in this verse that we need to think about!
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says the word mistranslated “fellowship” means “to dispense now … what heretofore was a mystery hidden in His counsels” (emphasis mine throughout). God’s firstfruits have to proclaim His message now. Every time God calls people and brings them into the truth, there is a fantastic work to be done. All seven Church eras had that responsibility. Most of them failed!
Now, look again at that verse. It doesn’t just say we should deliver this mystery—something we certainly have been commissioned to do. It says we should make all people understand that this mystery needs to be dispensed, or declared, to all mankind. On the surface, that doesn’t seem to make sense. Though it was pretty brazen of them, I’m sure that is why the translators changed that word.
There is far more to this verse than we have seen in the past. God has revealed a deeper meaning to this Church.
What is this mystery God is talking about? What is it God wants us to understand? That He is actually re-creating Himself in mankind. It is a truth so wonderful that the world says, No—that can’t be! That’s blasphemy! But that is what the Bible says, and it’s what the mystery is all about.
Revelation 11:1 talks about the temple (Greek naos), or inner temple, where God dwells. That’s where the mystery is. When Christ died, the temple veil in front of the holy of holies was ripped in two and we gained access to God the Father. That event also symbolizes our access to the entire universe! This is what the mystery is about.
Astronomers say that the universe contains some 2 to 3 trillion galaxies. How many stars is that? The best they can figure is a 70 with 21 zeroes after it—probably more than the number of grains of sand on Earth. And yet, God calls the stars all by name! (Isaiah 40:26).
Light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second. And the light from the other side of the universe hasn’t even reached us yet! These numbers give us some insight into how overwhelmingly vast the universe is. They help us to see what an omnipotent Creator God we have.
And God, in this mystery, is telling us that we are going to rule the vast universe.
Ephesians 3:9 says all men must see that the mystery of God needs to be declared. Think about that statement. God will give all the people of this world a vision like they have never, ever seen before! Perhaps He wants to show them that they are going to have to get that mystery out to the universe—and perhaps to other men and women that God will create on other planets. Ephesians 3:9 certainly does allow for that. Is God’s mystery going to be dispensed on and on and on—where men elsewhere in the universe will have this mystery revealed to them after they go through some experience like we have on Earth? I don’t know exactly what God has in mind. But the word dispensation has mind-staggering implications! The mystery must be dispensed, or declared, to every son who enters God’s Family.
It shouldn’t surprise us if the awesome God had some stupendous plan that we haven’t fully understood. Is He conditioning our minds more and more to understand what we are going to do in those 2 to 3 trillion galaxies? That’s a lot of real estate! Is it possible that God really is, after Operation Earth, going to create even more sons of God?
Suppose God does intend to put more inhabitants out there in those 2 to 3 trillion galaxies. That almost sounds unbelievable, but let’s not limit God. His mind is a creative power to put you in awe! That’s why it is such a terrible sin for little men to stand up and defy Him!
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder …. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David …. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7). We have speculated as to what these two verses mean, but if you just look at what the passage says, it says a lot. It says there will be no end to the increase of God’s government and peace.
First, you must have God’s government, which brings peace. You don’t need to bring peace to an empty planet or galaxy, do you? You need to bring peace to where there are inhabitants—maybe angels, maybe men. If there’s nothing out there but a wilderness, and it’s going to remain that way, why would you need to increase the government and the peace forever and ever? God has a purpose for every inch of His creation.
The Good News of June 1974 said: “God the Father and Jesus Christ are reproducing themselves. They are enlarging their God Family. [The Father is] begetting sons. Real sons. Literal members of the God Family. That’s the purpose of human life. That’s the purpose for this Earth. And that very well could be the purpose for the entire universe. … So we cannot be dogmatic. We are journeying, at least in part, into the realm of possibility.”
We have speculated—as Mr. Armstrong did—that this verse may mean God’s Family will expand forever. If that’s true, it gives you some idea of the work ahead of us.
The Bible does say there will be an end to sorrow, crying and pain. That could apply to God’s Work on this Earth only. Again, this is speculation, but I believe these two passages in Ephesians and Isaiah strengthen that speculation.
Whatever God has in store, you can be sure it will be phenomenal.
Hidden for Eons
Notice something else about Ephesians 3:9: “And to make all men see what is the [dispensation] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.”
The expression “hath been hid in God” is a weak translation. The Anchor Bible says, “hidden from the ages in God,” and ages actually means eons—literally, eons and eons of time, an immeasurable or indefinitely long period of time. It is talking not just about this world’s time, but a time before human history when God only dealt with the angels.
You can see that the translators didn’t understand very much about this verse!
For eons and eons of time, this mystery has been hid in God’s mind. This is not speculation. God’s plan to re-create Himself wasn’t something He threw together haphazardly. This mystery could have been hidden in His mind for millions and millions of years!
Lange’s Commentary says, “[S]ince there were men and angels, it has been revealed to none of them.” This is correct to a point. It helps us see the meaning “hidden from the ages in God.” However, after one third of the angels rebelled, then God revealed His plan for man to the angels. And this mystery has been hidden from this world to this day. It has been revealed only to God’s “little flock” throughout the ages. That’s exactly what this verse is saying. At the time God created them, the angels did not understand that He was going to re-create Himself in human beings if His plan with angels didn’t work out! God created the angels with a backup plan. They didn’t learn about Plan B, God re-creating Himself in man, until God saw that Plan A did not work. (This is thoroughly explained in our free book The God Family Vision.) This transcendental truth was in God’s mind before and during His creation of the angels, but He didn’t reveal it to the angels; perhaps He thought it would distract or discourage them.
This gives us some insight into God’s deep, deep mind. He doesn’t reveal everything to us. We are given all of the essential truth, but some knowledge would not be good for us at this time. God knows what to reveal to us and what to withhold for the time being—and what He withholds can be astounding!
Just imagine what God may still have to reveal to us when the time is right!
“Unto whom [the prophets] it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy [Spirit] sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:12). The word desire is present tense. The angels are still fervently impassioned to learn more deeply about God re-creating Himself in mankind as the plan unfolds.
This is God’s ultimate master plan.
If the angels, who will never be gods, have this intense interest, shouldn’t the depth of our passion at least match theirs? We are going to be Gods—sons of God!
The word translated look implies that the angels are bending over, stretching and straining, trying to figure out what God is doing. They are asking and answering the big questions: What is God doing? We must learn about this. What does this mean, that God is re-creating Himself in men?
The angels are mighty and powerful beings—so we don’t have to feel sorry for them—but they are absolutely dazzled by what God is doing with man! They’re excited and exhilarated, and they want to know what this profound mystery is all about!
And yet, most of God’s people today are not even interested in this mystery because they are so blind!
God is evaluating our level of interest in this mind-staggering plan.
For eons of time, this idea has been hidden in the mind of God. He knew there would be great risk; the one who became His Son risked everything and suffered as no man ever has because God and the Word wanted a family. Jesus Christ had to endure a lot of trouble on this Earth. He had to be perfect. One sin would have ended it for all of us—there wouldn’t be a Family of God! Man would shortly destroy all human life and that would be the end.
Sometimes we suffer and have problems and difficulties as we try to follow in Christ’s footsteps. It’s rough at times to obey God. But realize why: God wants to give us this incredibly awesome future as sons of God! Of course it isn’t easy! God is not trying to save us physically. He wants us in His Family for all eternity! He’ll give us some tough trials.
Instead of pitying ourselves when we face trials, we need to get this vision into our minds and get it so deeply that we would never give it up, no matter what! That’s exactly the thinking God wants in our minds. That’s character. You and I must choose to rejoice in our trials even when it gets awfully hard.
This vision ought to get our attention. You will never, ever have another opportunity like this. Even the angels, as brilliant and as fiery as they are, don’t have this opportunity. Some of the scholars know there’s something extremely deep in these verses, but they still don’t understand.
Do we truly get it?
Is Earth going to be a launching pad into the infinite universe for growth in God’s Family forever? I don’t know. But when I see scriptures like Ephesians 3:9 and Isaiah 9:6-7, I have to say that something wonderfully majestic is on the horizon—something out of this world—something hard to even imagine!
“The largest audience possible” could be our battle cry forever!
This understanding of Ephesians 3:9 is powerful, mind-staggering new revelation from God to this Church. Let’s make certain that we rejoice in God’s amazing depth concerning this mystery!