Finishing the Mystery of God
The Purpose for Chapter Three Explained
I have included this chapter for the following reasons:
- It gives some knowledge that is needed to understand a very significant prophecy in Revelation, which helped the early Adventists to discover that the judgment began in 1844 and that the Second Coming of Jesus was to be soon.
- It shows that how soon Jesus returns depends upon man’s cooperation in the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 14:6-12. If early Adventists had understood this, they never would have set a date for Christ to return.
- It brings us to an understanding that Christ wanted to return shortly after 1844, but that it became necessary for Him to delay His return.
- 4. It reveals who is responsible for creating the need for Jesus to delay His return.
This chapter sets the stage for later chapters which outline necessary changes that we must make to hasten Christ’s return. We will be using the Bible, Ellen White’s writings, and writings from other early Adventist pioneers in our study.
2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Now, let’s begin by studying some passages of scripture in Revelation 10 and 11.
The Seventh Angel: God’s Final Warning to Planet Earth
The book of Revelation has many sevens. Seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven seals, seven trumpets, etc. The trumpets in Revelation are some of the most difficult passages in Scripture to interpret. Even among Adventist Bible scholars, there is not universal agreement in the interpretation of every aspect of the seven trumpets in Revelation. All Adventist scholars, however, agree upon one thing: the seven trumpets are warnings of judgments, during seven historical periods, that sequentially span Christian history from the first century A.D. to the end of time. The seventh and last trumpet, found in chapters 10 and 11 of Revelation, is the last warning message to all who dwell, that the final (investigative) judgment that precedes the Second Coming of Christ has arrived.
Revelation 11:15, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are becomethe kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
If you read Revelation 11:15 by itself, it is easy to get the impression that there is no time interval between the sounding of the seventh trumpet and the return of Christ. There is no mention of anything happening between the two events. For some, this could lead them to set a time for Christ’s return. Comparing scripture with scripture, however, we gain greater understanding. Revelation 11:19 gives more information about the warning of the seventh trumpet.
Revelation 11:19 tells us, “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”
In verse 19, we find a scene in heaven resembling the Old Testament sanctuary with the Holy and Most Holy places. The Most Holy place was where the ark of the testament was located. The High Priest was the only person who could enter the Most Holy place. He was permitted to enter it only once each year on the Day of Atonement—a day of Judgment for Israel.
Ellen White helps clarify Revelation 11:19 in Great Controversy, page 433. “’The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament.’ Revelation 11:19. The ark of God’s testament is in the holy of holies, the second apartment of the sanctuary. In the ministration of the earthly tabernacle, which served ‘unto the example and shadow of heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5),’ this apartment was opened only upon the great Day of Atonement for the cleansing of the sanctuary. Therefore the announcement that the temple of God was opened in heaven and the ark of His testament was seen points to the opening of the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844 as Christ entered there to perform the closing work of the atonement.”1
From this, we understand that the sounding of the seventh trumpet announces the commencement of the antitypical Day of Atonement; the beginning of the investigative judgment which occurs before Christ returns. It is the pre-advent judgment which began on October 22, 1844 and is still taking place in heaven today. This judgment will finish just before Christ’s return. Until then, the eternal destiny of each person who has ever lived is being decided. For those currently alive, their eternal fate could be forever decided even while they are going about their daily activities. The fact that Christ entered the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844, to perform the closing work of atonement, is a well-established fact in the Adventist church. It is unquestionable and beyond doubt for faithful Adventist believers.
The Seventh Trumpet: The Mystery of God
Now, let’s look at Revelation 10:7. We will discover something that takes place during the sounding of the seventh trumpet—something that must be “finished” before Christ returns. Revelation 10:7 “But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.”
What is the “mystery of God” which should have been finished during the time that the angel was beginning to sound? The seventh angel has been sounding the trumpet for a very long time—more than 170 years. We are many years past the beginning. What has happened? Was the “mystery of God” finished in the days “when he shall begin to sound”? It is essential that we understand what “the mystery of God” is because it defines our duty as Christians today. The Bible tells us how to discover the meaning of scriptural passages in Isaiah 28:10, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”
The apostle Paul’s letters to the Romans, Ephesians, and Colossians contain the meaning of the “mystery of God” in Revelation 10:7.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
In commenting on Romans 16:25-26, Ellen White wrote, “Before the foundation of the world the Son of God was given to die, and redemption is the mystery that was ‘kept in silence through times eternal’ (Romans 16:25, R.V.).”2
“Throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity, God the Father and God the Son knew of Satan’s ultimate apostasy and rebellion. They knew that Satan would plan to tempt Adam and Eve and plunge this world into misery and death. The vast, divine love of the Father and Son was manifest in the plan of salvation before this earth was created. The plan of salvation was known only by the Father and the Son - ‘kept in silence through times eternal’ (Romans 16:25, R.V.).”3 It was even hidden from the angels but was revealed when the knowledge of the plan of salvation was needed – when Adam and Eve sinned. The plan of redemption, salvation in Christ, is the “mystery” that must be preached to the whole earth before Christ returns, thus giving all humanity the opportunity to be saved. It will be “finished” when God’s people fulfill Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore
in a few words,
4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is
now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
The “mystery of God” in Revelation 10:7 is the same thing as the “mystery of Christ” in Ephesians 3:4. The Gentiles can only be “fellow heirs” after they have heard the preaching of the Gospel. It was a mystery to the Jews because they did not properly understand that salvation in God’s kingdom, was to be equally shared by Jews and Gentiles alike. While it was revealed in symbolic form in other ages (Adam, Abraham, Jacob, etc.), it had not been revealed in the same way that it was revealed in the time of the apostles (Peter’s experience with Cornelius, Paul’s Damascus Road experience, the day of Pentecost, etc.) Even the apostle Peter would have never gone to the home of Cornelius to share the gospel if God had not given him the vision of the unclean beasts in a sheet.4 Therefore, finishing “the mystery of God” in the last days of earth’s history is finishing the duty of preaching the message of salvation to every person on earth. It began in the days of the apostles and will finish just before the Second Coming of Jesus. “The messages of Revelation 14 are those by which the world is to be tested; they are the everlasting gospel and are to be sounded everywhere.”5 For Adventists today, it means fulfilling the preaching of the Three Angels’ Messages to the entire world urgently and rapidly, while asking for the help of the Holy Spirit. Revelation 14:6 says, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” After this happens, then Jesus will return.
In Ephesians 6:18-20 and Colossians 4:2-3, Paul give more light on the meaning of the “mystery of God.”
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
3 Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:
Why was Paul “in bonds” (prison) multiple times? He was in prison because he had been speaking “the mystery of Christ” (the gospel), to the Gentiles. The reason Paul was in prison is the same reason that many ministers in different parts of the world have been sent to prison. They have gone to dungeons and prisons, enduring torture and even death by neglect or execution; for preaching the message of salvation in Christ to the world.
Paul also speaks of “this mystery” in Colossians 1:25-27, a familiar text which many people often think about when defining the “mystery.”
25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Notice that the “mystery” had been hidden in ages past but was now being made known to “his saints.” That which was being made known to “his saints” was “the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.” When a person accepts Christ as his personal Savior, he is also promised the opportunity to have the Holy Spirit working in His life; to give him a Christ-like character. This is what it means to have “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Ellen White commented on this in the book Education, pp. 171-172.“...the Bible; when its principles have actually become the elements of character, what has been the result? what changes have been made in the life? ‘Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’ 2 Corinthians 5:17. In its power, men and women have broken the chains of sinful habit. They have renounced selfishness. The profane have become reverent, the drunken sober, the profligate pure. Souls that have borne the likeness of Satan have been transformed into the image of God. This change is itself the miracle of miracles. A change wrought by the word, it is one of the deepest mysteries of the word. We cannot understand it; we can only believe, as declared by the Scriptures, it is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ Colossians 1:27.
“A knowledge of this mystery furnishes a key to every other. It opens to the soul the treasures of the universe, the possibilities of infinite development.”6
Elsewhere she says, “If Christ be in us the hope of glory, we shall walk even as He walked; we shall imitate His life of sacrifice to bless others; we shall drink of the cup, and be baptized with the baptism; we shall welcome a life of devotion, trial, and self-denial, for Christ’s sake. Heaven will be cheap enough whatever sacrifice we may make to obtain it.”7
The Gentile could not have Christ in them, “the hope of glory,” unless Paul and others were preaching the Gospel to them. Similarly, this can only happen in our day if we are preaching the Gospel to the whole world. The Three Angel’s Messages, the Gospel, “the unsearchable riches of Christ”8 must be preached “to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”9 Giving them the Gospel will give them the opportunity to be saved; to have their sins forgiven; and allow them to have the sanctifying, life-changing power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives. They will be enabled to have Christ in them, “the hope of glory.”10 Then, and only then, can it be said that the “mystery of God”11 has been finished.
The finishing of the “mystery of God” in Revelation 10:7, is clearly established as the preaching of the gospel to the whole world. This verse, however, presents a problem for us today.
But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.
In this passage, the Bible indicates that the preaching of the gospel to the whole world should have been finished when the angel was beginning to sound, which started in 1844. “When he shall begin to sound” implies that there is a period of time during which the angel would be sounding the trumpet. It does not indicate a single blast of the trumpet. The words “should be finished,” are linked to the time when the trumpet was beginning to sound. A “day” in Bible prophecy equals one year (Numbers:14-24, Ezekiel 4:5-6, Daniel 9:24-27, Genesis 29:27-28). Because Revelation 10:7 tells us that the “mystery of God, “should be finished” in the “days” when the angel “shall begin to sound,” it indicates that this would be a period of years, but not a long period of years.
Some may wonder if something is wrong here. The Bible prophesied that the preaching of the gospel to the whole world was supposed to be finished in the days when the angel was beginning to sound, starting in 1844—but the preaching of the gospel to the whole world was not completed during that time. Jesus has not returned, and we have not evangelized the world as a whole even after all this time. What went wrong? Is our understanding of the prophecy incorrect or is something else wrong? The answer is found in the correct interpretation of the phrase, “should be finished.” For those who want to know more about the Greek in the text, see the footnote.12
The words “should be,” which appear in the King James Version of the Bible, are not found in the Greek text. They were added to give us the same meaning found in the original Greek text. The passage was to direct the remnant people of God who lived during the 19th century to finish the proclamation of the gospel to the entire earth “in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound” (Rev. 10:7). They were to work quickly and decidedly and be finished soon after 1844. The verse does not say that the “mystery of God” would be finished “when he shall begin to sound,” but that it “should be finished” during that time. Whether or not the “mystery of God” would be finished at the predicted time, was dependent upon those who were living at that time. The evangelization of the world began in the days of the apostles, and it was to be finished by His remnant people shortly after 1844. Matthew 24:14 had to be fulfilled first, as a condition for the timely fulfillment of Revelation 10:7.
This is an example of something called conditional prophecy, similar in some ways to the prophecy of Jonah. In the book of Jonah, the prediction of the destruction of Ninevah was not fulfilled at the prophesied time because the people repented and God granted them mercy. Similarly, God’s justice and mercy demand that the inhabitants of the earth receive the last warning message before probation closes and unrepentant sinners are lost forever. They must be given the opportunity to repent and be saved. The duty of providing them with that opportunity has been given to the church. By failing to warn the world quickly, we have played a significant role in delaying the return of Jesus. As a result, many people have been lost, and many are still being lost every day. Let us confess and repent of our sin of neglecting to proclaim the message of salvation to the world promptly. There are some in the church who have been faithful to their duty of sharing the Three Angels Messages without delay. The words of Daniel 5:27 however, may apply to far too many of us—“Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” Let us dedicate or rededicate our lives to hastening the return of Jesus.
Questions for Consideration
- What can I do to help reveal to the world “the mystery of God,” thus hastening the second coming of Christ?
- Do I fully understand the mystery of God, myself? What questions do I have? It is essential to be able to answer our own questions, that we might be better able to answer the questions of others.
- How has accepting Christ as my personal savior changed my life? Share these testimonies! They create a fire within new believers; a desire to follow Christ and be more like Him.
- In what ways can I become more welcoming to a life of devotion, trial, and self-denial for Christ’s sake?
- Who do I know that would help me reveal God’s mystery to the world?
- What kinds of activities could I plan in order to share God’s mystery?
- Ellen White, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911) 433.
- Ellen White, In Heavenly Places: (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1967) 291.
- Acts 10:1 – 11:18.
- Ellen White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 17: (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1987) 15. Written on November 8, 1896.
- Ellen White, Education: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association) 171–172.
- Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2: (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1871) 72.
- Ephesians 3:8
- Revelation 14:6
- Colossians 1:27
- Revelation 10:7
- In Revelation 10:7, the word “finished” is τελέω“teleo” in Greek. “Teleo” is defined as:
“1 to bring to a close, to finish, to end...2 to perform, execute, complete, fulfil...2a...to carry out the contents of a command. 2b...to do just as commanded, and generally involving the notion of time, to perform the last act which completes a process, to accomplish, fulfil.” (Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.) This information was obtained from Logos Bible Software.
“Teleo” in this passage is written in the subjunctive mood. The Greek language can indicate “mood” in the spelling of a verb. Not all languages have that ability. Some languages add words to indicate “mood.” The Greek subjunctive mood is defined in this way: “The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.” (Pierce, L. (n.d.). Tense Voice Mood. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.)
It should be noted that the New Testament in the King James version of the Bible was translated from the Greek manuscript called the Textus Receptus. In Revelation 10:7, the Textus Receptus has the word “teleo” written in the subjunctive mood. In many of the modern versions, however, different Greek manuscripts were used as the basis for translation. In those translations, “teleo” is not in the subjunctive mood in Revelation 10:7, thus giving a different meaning such as “will be finished,” etc. The early Adventist pioneers used the King James version as they discovered prophetic Bible truth.