The day before Christmas, the little pine glows with bright lights and glistens with spinning ornaments. Beneath it sits a stash of neatly stacked presents each wrapped with a ribbon and bow. The anticipation and excitement cause the mind of the most curious to swirl with misguided and misdirected possibilities. With irresistible curiosity, the boldest inquisitors resort to shaking and knocking the packages in an effort to understand the things that are hidden beneath the wrapping paper. Even the most indifferent must confess a measure of intrigue regarding those things not yet seen but soon to be revealed.
This is one way that we can understand the nature of Old Testament prophecy. God spoke through the prophets to the people, but the people did not always fully understand. At times, even the most curious had no way to understand what God was speaking through the prophets. Like a present wrapped up and hidden, the glistening future was nothing more than a cloaked mystery, a shape and a form packaged neatly beneath the tree. The only way to fully understand the mystery was to unwrap the package. But even the most holy saint of the Old Testament never had the opportunity to clearly see and understand the truths of prophecy. The very nature of prophecy was that it would be fulfilled in a future date, oftentimes a future date that would come after the lifetime of those who first heard it.
Prophecy was a hidden mystery that was not clearly seen. That is, it was not clearly seen until the day that it was fulfilled. And this further revelation was the purpose of the New Testament. The time came when the main character and hope of the Old Testament, the promised One, the Messiah, and the Christ, eventually showed up. Through the first couple of chapters of each of the gospels the ribbon was unlaced from the package and the bow was removed. The mystery was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all of the veiled prophecies. Now, we can see clearly that prophecies like Psalm 22, and Isaiah 53 are so plainly speaking directly of what Jesus accomplished in His life and ministry. Reading the Old Testament, we see promises of blessing and hope, and we can now clearly understand in light of the New Testament that there is little mystery left in regards to whom that is about.
With the present fully unwrapped, we see clearly now, what was little more than a hazy mystery to those who lived in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the promises included blessing for the Gentiles, but it was unclear how that would ever be possible. Now, in Christ, through the unity of faith, both Jews and Gentiles are joined together by God’s grace. This was such a mystery before, but now, in Jesus, the package has been unwrapped. No longer is there separation between the two, but because of God’s grace, it is clearly seen that the Gentiles can join in the blessings of God.
In Ephesians 1, Paul explained how we were chosen in God in time past. Then, in Ephesians 2, he continued by explaining that we join God’s family through faith, and that in doing so, we are drawn into unity and love one for another. There is no longer distinctions that divide, rather, in Christ, all are brought together. Now, in Ephesians 3, Paul explains that many of these things were mysteries to the saints of old, but now, we see them plainly an clearly, because God in His grace has revealed them. We get to come along after the presents have been unwrapped. The mystery has been revealed, and we get to enjoy the full fruits of that revelation.
Reflect: What is the mystery that Paul speaks of in these verses, and how was it fulfilled?