Mysteries Mentioned in the Bible
The Holy Scriptures elevate the word “mystery” to the highest place. The fulfillment and the contexts in which they refer to “mystery” vary. There are human and divine mysteries. For example, when the Old Testament, such as in Judges 3:19 or Proverbs 25:9, the word “mystery” refers only to ordinary human secrets, i.e., confidential information that one would not want to disclose to many other people. However, in the verses to be mentioned, it is easy to see that certain facts or events were secret for some people or for a particular generation. There are also God’s mysteries which people have never understood fully, such as the mystery of God and the miracle of His eternal existence, His unlimited power, and many other magnificent properties:
“Are you the first man ever born? Were you brought forth before the hills? Do you listen in on God’s council [mystery]? Do you limit wisdom to yourself?”
“When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret [mystery] of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables…’”
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.’”
“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him…”
“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed…”
“In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.”
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”
“The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”
As the above verses demonstrate, the Biblical writers use the word “mystery” in reference to the teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead. “Mystery” also alludes to the future salvation of Israel.
“Mystery” depicts the rise of Babylon, which according to many evangelical interpreters is materially rich yet spiritually bankrupt. Babylon symbolizes religion that is far from God and derives from tradition based not on the Bible but from rules dictated by men. Through the centuries, Babylon in the name of protecting orthodoxy has persecuted true followers of Jesus and brutal murdered them.
These verses show that the apostles emphasized that mysteries had been secret or hidden to people in the past, but now they have ceased to be secret once the Gospel of Christ was written down.
To repeat once again, the New Testament does not use the term “mystery” for such things as baptism, communion, marriage and other “spiritual institutions”, even if Orthodoxy calls them “Sacraments” or “Mysteries”. However, we must admit that such ordinances, in spite of the clear definition of the Holy Scriptures, truly remain a “mystery” to some. They remain hidden to some for the simple reason of their own misunderstanding and spiritual apostasy.
Now let us examine baptism, the first of the sacraments listed in Orthodoxy.