My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Mystery is defined as something that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding of man. Relating this to the elusive knowledge of God in the way He does thing. Some facts that are divinely revealed through the Bible are incomprehensible to the reasoning and knowledgeability of man. There are bundles of example of this in the Bible. Most especially, the life of Jesus Christ is a mystery. Mystery surrounded His conception, birth — especially the incarnation. His miraculous works on earth, His passion for the salvation of sinners, His death and resurrection are all mysterious. Our focus is not on this today, but we are looking at other issues in the Bible that always puzzle the mind of man and often we do not always have answer to it.
WHY DO THE WICKED PROSPER
Many people are making their living in destroying the lives and properties of others. These types of people are reckless and brutal in all facets of life far beyond human imagination. They engaged themselves in despicable activities ranging from arm robbery, drugs ring, adulterous living, woman/child abuse, idolatry, and evil inordinate ambitions that lead to deliberate killing of human beings in order to have control of their evil cartel and so on. Crooked live seems to be a normal life to these type of people, godliness seems to be a strange thing in their ears. They live a flamboyant life perhaps because of the fact that they did not labor for their wealth, or partly because they perceive that their recklessness will end in death one day. They seem not to care about what befall upon them because they do not place value upon the precious lives of others. Their philosophy about life is myopic; to them, life is a consumable item, eat whatever you can as you may not have an opportunity for the same tomorrow. They have families, although they despise the family. They have children, although they are not a good role model for their children. Ironically, they are very popular in the community not necessary because of their recklessness but because they have a lot of money to throw around to buy respect from the rotten society they belong to. The few righteous people among them who are fully aware of their method of operation will wonder and ask this question: Why do the wicked people prosper?
The question is not challenging the righteousness of judgment of Almighty God. The question is seeking for knowledge and understanding why God allows them to continue in their wicked without suffering any mishap. The servants of God pondered upon this issue. Prophet Jeremiah asked, “You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jeremiah 12:1) It was like Jeremiah perceived that judgment was due upon the wicked yet it was not forthcoming from the righteous God. Job, a righteous man, also asked in his agony, “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7-21) Habakkuk was complaining that justice delayed was justice denied. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? (Habakkuk 1:1-4)
A prospered wicked man is a living demonic sermon of Satan to ensnare the unstable individual, man or woman that they do not need God, nor need to walk according to God’s precepts in order to be blessed on earth. A prospered wicked man is also a challenge to the godly to test their uprightness whether they will sway and follow the wicked ways of the world. There is no portion of the Bible that exonerates a sinner. “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4) “For the wages of sin is death, …” (Romans 6:23) No sinner will go unpunished, unless the sinner turns round from his or her wickedness, repents of the sins and asks God for forgiveness. A prospered wicked man who thinks in his deceitful heart that he has arrived will not only be destroyed suddenly, he also amasses judgment upon his generation. “. . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” (Exodus 20:5) “God stores up a man’s punishment for his sons.” (Job 21:19)
Heaven may seem to be silent. This must not be misconstrued to be denial of justice. The lamp of the wicked will soon be snuffed out. Calamity will soon come upon the wicked. They will soon become like a straw before the wind and like chaff swept by the gale. On the other hand, the Bible reveals that the mercy of God endures for ever. It may be that God is giving a sinner a long rope, that is, an opportunity to repent his sinful ways. We must remember that God does not desire the death of sinners; rather He wants them to repent. Further still, the way of the Lord is different from our ways. The temper of man is very short, but long suffering is an attribute of God. Man sees a situation from his self-centered narrow point of view, but God sees with clarity of vision. That is why God emphatically told us in Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9) Flow in the wisdom of God to deal with the issue injustice when you know that the Righteous Judge, Jesus Christ is in the Heavenly throne of Justice.
MIRACLE OF THE NEW BIRTH
There are two types of new birth – physical birth and spiritual birth. Miracle and mystery surrounded the two types of birth. No one can pinpoint the very moment a woman conceives a baby in the divine laboratory of God called womb. No one can decipher how a baby grows in the womb. Although the physicians of our time claim some knowledge of this, whatever their knowledge may be, it cannot still explain the intricacies of growth of a baby in the womb – from absolutely nothing visible to the naked eyes to a whole dynamic human being. And lastly, no matter the knowledge of the gynecologists, they cannot pinpoint the very moment, that is, the date and the time to the nearest minute when a normal delivery of a baby will take place. They can only estimate the period of birth – usually plus or minus two weeks from the time of conception. This is the process of physical birth and every step in it brings forth glory to God.
The spiritual birth is completely outside the wisdom of man. It is a divine spiritual transformation that brings about an awesome change of a whole man. The change does not affect the physical appearance of man but can affect the physical behavior of man. Some people brag about the fact that they preached to a certain individual and the person believed and become a born again child of God. Far from their narrow perspectives, they are more like a sower sowing seeds. They do not determine where the seed will fall on, whether it falls on the good ground, or on the rock. The wind that blows at the time of sowing determines where the seed will fall. Secondly, the germinating seed needs rain and sunlight which only God Almighty can make available for the growing seed. This was the perspective of Paul in his epistle to the brethren in Corinthians when he said to them, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters it is anything but only God, who makes things grow.” (I Corinthians 3: 6-7)
God knows how to reach the untouchables among men. The powerful people that are in the highest cadre of life can be touched at any time, because the heart of the king is in the hand of God and He directs it like a channel of water. Nicodemus was one of the high ranking Pharisees. He was touched by the words and the miracle of Jesus Christ. Under the cover of the night he came to Jesus Christ to identify himself with Jesus. And at the very moment, Jesus Christ gave him the key to spiritual birth, He said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus, a wise man with no understanding of the things of the Spirit said, “How can a man be born again when he is old?” Jesus Christ decoded his words and said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8) The anecdote of the sower mentioned in the above paragraph may seem to be a metaphor but it is a reality of spiritual birth. The wind that determines the direction where the seed falls is the manifestation of the power of Holy Spirit. It empowered the word that came forth from the mouth of elect of God to become meaningful to the hearers. The Holy Spirit process the word of God in their hearts to convince and convict them of their sins before they became transformed inside out.
When a baby is born, the child will be given a name for whatever reason name is given unto man on earth. Perhaps for the purpose of identification, registration in the book of record of a county of a certain state in a certain country, and so on. The same way, when a spiritual birth takes place, the name of the spiritual baby will be recorded in the book of life. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12, 15) The names of believers are recorded in the book of life. The book of life symbolizes God’s knowledge of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and have been washed in the water of baptism.
Without a doubt spiritual birth is a mystery to mankind. One may still wonder, “How can believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God set you apart as beloved of the Lord? How can baptism make difference between the candidate of the Kingdom of God and those that are doomed into the eternity in the hell fire? The spiritual birth affects the real man in the house of clay that we called flesh; it does not affect our outward appearance. It reflects in good works of man and in his peaceful utterances. It enhances our relationship with God and encourages us to point others to Jesus Christ the Savior. Whatever is hidden to man is known by the Spirit of God. The purpose of the spiritual birth might not have been known by man, but it is the ultimate plan of God to deliver mankind through salvation. The Bible says, “No eyes has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,” but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (I Corinthians 3:9-11) If you are not born of the spirit you cannot partake in the work of salvation that is perfected by the Spirit of God. If you are not born of the Spirit you are outside the plan of salvation, and as a result you are a candidate of the Hell, unless you repent before the appointed day of reckoning when the work of man will come under the judgment of God.
MYSTERY OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
In the effort of man, we try to account for unaccountable situations around us. It is said that the population of man on earth is getting close to 6 billion inhabitants. This is an estimate and that is the only thing that man can try his hands on about the universe. Have we ever thought about the wisdom of God in meeting the needs of each individual person on earth? Happily the parents accept to take over the responsibilities of their children. What the family will eat; the clothes they would wear; the place they live in and sleep in when the night comes is known and accepted as their home. We know and accept a simple fact that there is a different home for different family and different home for different creature. A home for fish is the natural habitat for this creature in the depth of the ocean. In the depth of the sea God meets the needs of the creature in the deep. A home for mammal is the place that nature had sojourned them and a place where the needs of the mammals living on the land are met. A home the birds called their own is the nest they meticulously weave together using the natural materials the nature provided for them to raise their offspring.
Happily the local government takes over the governmental responsibilities of its community. The local government is daily making provision for conducive living; making provision for educating both old and young and provides health care facilities for the community. The state considers the protections of lives and properties within her territory as her primary responsibility. Administration over the country to ensure law and order, maintain peace and stability and efforts are in places to control known disaster and at the same time prepare for the unknown ones. The leaders administers over the finances of the state for equitable distribution of the wealth of the nation. The country makes provision for infrastructures like ports, road and other means of transportation, communication facilities. In addition to all these, the country makes efforts to link her activities to other nations around in order to mutually exchange benefit from each other. The minister of God in each church of Christ accepts responsibility of meeting the spiritual needs of the members in the church in terms of feeding them with the word of God and teaching people Christian living.
Behind all these intricacies of interwoven activities, there is God Almighty that is divinely causing man to function according to His will for the benefit of humanity. “O the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? (Romans 11:33-34) All these activities that man participates in happily and voluntarily are the responsibilities of dominion that God has committed into the hand of man at the beginning.
In addition to these and yet far beyond human comprehension are the divine activities of God that is sustaining all the living things in the universe. Man can imagine how God is providing for an estimate of 6 billion inhabitants of the earth. Can any body estimate the population of the insects upon the globe? Who can give account of the birds flying in the air and the fishes in the ocean? Who can account for the domesticated animals and the ones in the wilderness? Who knows the number of the infinitesimal bacteria both useful and harmful ones growing on the surface of the earth, functioning and manifesting according to the will of Almighty God? “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. (Psalm 40:5) Mysteriously, God is sustaining every living thing in the universe. God gives every living creature a measure of wisdom and element of divine responsibility to live within the divine provision of Almighty God.
God gives increase to the grains in the field and to the stemming plant in the soil that had been the source of food for humanity. Not all water is drinkable. As vast as the sea water is, it is salty and not drinkable. But the Creator makes available to mankind enough drinkable water from the spring. In the thickly populated urban area where the spring water is not in abundant, God gave people wisdom to convert salty water from the sea; even the dirty collection of erosion water from rain be processed to drinkable water. Imagine the volume of oxygen that is sustaining all the living things across the globe and yet never in short supply. “O Lord, how great are thy works! And thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not neither doth a fool understand this. (Psalm 92:5-6) The miracle of divine provision is another way God reflects His glory upon humanity. Through this alone unbelieving loved ones can glaringly see the mightiness of God and draw closer to God.
MYSTERY OF FUTURE LIFE OF BELIEVERS
The statement was very clear but the understanding was very difficult to decode, yet it will come to pass because it is the word of God. Paul, a man filled with the Holy Spirit revealed as follow.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? I Corinthians 15:51-55
At the time least expected, a change will take place. The change that will shock and baffle the whole world will occur. There will be no scientific explanation to it, the news men will only report the mysterious change but will not be able to fathom it. This change is known as “Rapture.” A trumpet will herald the divine transformation. The dead body of believers will be first raised from the grave in an incorruptible new body. Why should this happen? First of all, Jesus said, “the elects will be gathered from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other,” (Matthew 24:30-31) The purpose of the gathering is the fulfillment of the parable of gathering the wheat at the harvest time into the barn of the householder. On the other hand, the tare, that is, the product of the wicked will be subjected to eternal judgment in hell fire. “In the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)
Secondly, man was created in an immortal body. Although man blew it in the Garden of Eden, but God made a way of escape for man through repentance of our sins and the grace of God launches the redeemed of the Lord unto salvation. Therefore, salvation through Jesus Christ clothes the believers with imperishable body. When a believer passed away and buried, the body will be in the grave temporarily waiting to be quickened by the trumpet of the archangel. (“Temporarily” in this context is a time line that will surely come to an end one day. It may be 5000 years or less than few days as the case may be. Remember that the Bible reminded us that a thousand years is like a day before God.) The redeemed of the Lord will appear before God in a glorious body. These transformed bodies have no business again on earth. They are heavenly bound. The believers that are still living at the sound of the trumpet will not die anymore, but they too will be transformed into an imperishable and glorious body and be caught up in the cloud with the quickened bodies that the grave gave up. This is not a science fiction story, it will surely happen and all eyes will witness it.
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
There are supernatural examples in the Bible that gave us assurance that this mystery will take place at the appointed time of God. In II King 2:11 we see how Elijah, the servant of God, was taking to heaven by heavenly transportation in a chariot of fire. His body did not see corruption. Jesus Christ, the resurrection and life called out certified dead Lazarus from the grave, four days when, obviously his body must have decomposed. His decayed body was transformed and he walked out of the grave alive to the amazement of the people that witnessed the miracle. (John 11:38-44)
The hand of God was upon Ezekiel and he was taken to the Valley of Dry Bones in the spirit. The Lord asked to prophesy upon the dry bones which he did. Divine transformation took place. The bones joined to bones and sinew (muscle and skin) covered the bones and became a lifeless body according to the prophecy of Ezekiel. God again asked him to prophesy that the breath of live may enter the lifeless bodies. The lifeless bodies were quickened and received strength. They all became alive. (Ezekiel 37:1-10) Our Lord Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, our redeemer, the author of our salvation died on the cross of Calvary. He was buried in a sepulcher. In accordance with the prophecy, he resurrected from the grave after the third day. His resurrection is the brilliant evidence of our belief. It is also an assurance that the mystery of the future live of believers will surely come to pass.