By Hank Hanegraaff
God’s purpose now and to the ages of ages is to perfect a bride. This is the mystery of the ages. “A great multitude that no one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” cry out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9–10). Even the angels desire to deepen their vision of the glories God has in store for creation (1 Peter 1:12). Thus, as one body we sing in doxology, “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages.” Indeed, the very word A-G-E-S is an apt reminder of the ancient creeds, the gospel, the essentials for which the martyrs shed their blood, and the Scriptures, which in symphony dis- close the mystery of the ages.
ANCIENT CREEDS. The Apostles’ Creed points to the one God, Maker of heaven and earth, who is revealed through “the profound mystery” of “Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). For its part, the Nicene Creed—arguably the most important of the ancient creeds—combats ancient heresies such as Arianism that sought to undermine the divine Christ in whom we are one. The Chalcedonian Creed refuted heresies challenging the two natures of Christ by which the church is both redeemed and represented. The Athanasian Creed codifies the truth concerning the Triadic One and affirms Christ’s incarnation, resurrection, ascension, and second appearing. Together, these ancient creeds combat heresy, distinguish between essential and secondary doctrines, and unveil “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26–27 NKJV. Now and forever and to the ages of ages, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NKJV).
GOSPEL. Like the ancient creeds, the gospel reveals the mystery “that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6). This good news is at the heart of the Christian faith. Communicating it must become as second nature as reciting the ancient creeds. The gospel begins with the recognition that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Apart from this realization, there is no need for the declaration that Christ, not Caesar, is Savior and Lord. As such, the gospel entails repentance. Jesus said, “Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). True belief involves a willingness to receive—to trust in and depend on—Jesus Christ alone.
ESSENTIALS. The mystery of the ages is rendered meaningless if it does not rest on the firm foundation of essential Christian doctrine. From the deity of Christ to the certainty that He will appear a second time to judge the living and the dead, essential Christian doctrine is foundational to the faith delivered to the saints once for all (Jude v. 3). All other religious systems compromise, confuse, or contradict these essentials. Muslims, for example, dogmatically denounce the doctrine of Christ’s unique deity as the unforgivable sin of shirk—of putting something created on the same level as the Creator. They readily affirm the sinlessness of Christ, but adamantly deny His sacrificial death upon the cross and subsequent resurrection. While we may debate nonessentials without dividing over them, there must be unity when it comes to the essential Christian doctrine. Hence the maxim: In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.
SCRIPTURE. At one time the mystery of the ages was so buried in layers of tradition that it was unfathomable to Peter that anyone could be of Christ apart from full assimilation into Judaism. To penetrate his hardened heart, thrice God showed Peter a vision of clean and unclean food. Thereafter Peter unpacked the mystery to those assembled in the house of Cornelius: “God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Indeed, said Peter, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34–35). This, then, is the mystery of the ages: irrespective of genealogy or gender, “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). In sum, Scripture from first to last reveals one chosen people who form one covenant community connected by the cross and beautifully symbolized by the apostle Paul as one cultivated olive tree (Romans 11:11–24).
Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.
Romans 16:25–27 NKJV
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code: Find Out What the Bible Really Says about the End Times . . . and Why It Matters Today (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2007).
**Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***