The mystery of Christ includes the preaching of the cross (1 Cor 1:17-18). What was prophesied about Christ also includes his death. One act in history taught two different ways, for two different purposes.
Those new to right division find the death and resurrection in old or new testament books and jump to the conclusion that what Paul taught was the same as the prophets. They couldn’t be more wrong.
The death, burial, and resurrection was a part of both prophecy and mystery of Christ. One cross accomplished two things: one was prophesied, the other was kept secret.
What is a mystery cannot also be prophesied. Prophecy does not speak about the mystery of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, but it does speak about the death, burial, and resurrection.
The Prophesied Death of Christ
Christ’s death was prophesied since the world began:
“I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. “ – Genesis 3:15
The death of Christ can be found in popular passages such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 16, and other places in prophecy.
Jesus himself said, regarding his own death, that he came to fulfill all that the prophets spoke concerning him (Luke 24:44).
“Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:…” – Luke 24:44-47
The Lord had already told them about his death and resurrection before it happened, though they did not understand it at the time (Luke 18:31-34). The disciples were ignorant of the cross while they were preaching their gospel of the kingdom, but Christ did not keep his death a secret from them.
Afterward, Peter wrote that Christ’s death was necessary to fulfill the prophets:
“But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” – Acts 3:18
The death and resurrection was prophesied. The mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection was not.
Christ’s Death Needed for Prophecy
Christ’s death was a part of prophetic scriptures. His death was necessary to fulfill prophecies ultimately leading to the king and his kingdom on the earth.
Who would be the suffering servant? Who would be the sacrificial Lamb? With what blood would the new covenant be ratified? (By the way, the new covenant was also prophesied and thus is not part of the mystery (Jer 31:31-34)).
The answers to all of these prophetic questions is in the death of Christ.
Christ’s death was the means to the prophetic end which was the coming of the king and his kingdom to the Earth.
The Mystery of Christ’s Death
Though Christ’s death was a necessary part of the prophetic purpose of God, what was prophesied about it does not complete the whole will of God. There was a mystery about the death, burial, and resurrection that was first revealed to Paul by the Lord.
The mystery of Christ starts with the preaching of the cross, albeit the preaching is not as something to be repented of (Acts 2:38), as a national sacrifice, or a murder indictment (Acts 2:23), but something in which we trust and glory in for the salvation of our souls.
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” – Gal 6:14
Paul glories in Christ crucified as the basis and source of all spiritual blessings to the new creature, a new one body of Christ made of Jew and Gentile.
“…for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:… “ – Ephesians 2:15-16
Whereas the death of Christ according to prophecy was a fulfillment of the law, the mystery preaching of the cross is the presentation of the death, burial, and resurrection for salvation without the law.
Whereas the prophesied death of Christ was a means to an earthly end, the mystery of Christ’s cross was the foundation upon which a new creature would be destined for heavenly places.
The death of Christ was a fulfillment of the prophets, as explained by Jesus, Peter, and John.
Peter preached the death of Christ as that which was necessarily prophesied regarding Israel’s king and kingdom.
Paul preached the death of Christ as that which was unknown regarding his people and purpose in heavenly places.
The preaching of Christ’s death according to the mystery was kept hidden since the world began, not once revealed to man as it was hid in God from the beginning of the world:
“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:” – Eph 3:9
By one cross God would accomplish two things: 1) provide the means to fulfill the prophetic purpose; and 2) provide the means to reveal the mystery of Christ to accomplish his heavenly purpose.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” – Ephesians 1:11
For more study on this topic please listen to our 1 Corinthians lesson 40 on the phrase “according to the scriptures”.