The Bible describes a two-fold plan and purpose that God has for the universe. The difference between these dual programs inside God’s purpose resides in the information that was ‘spoken by the mouth of the prophets since the world began’ and that which was ‘kept secret since the world began’ (Acts 3:21, Romans 16:25). We mark the difference between the two programs by calling one the subject of prophecy, while the other is the subject of the mystery revealed to Paul (Eph 3:1-5).
We can further distinguish these programs by their sphere of dominion. The prophetic program is promised a future dominion on earth, while the program which was kept a mystery is promised a dominion in heavenly places. These two programs describe what will fulfill God’s single purpose for eternity – that all things would be in Christ (Eph 1:10).
God began to reveal his plan for the earth almost immediately to Adam, Abraham, and eventually to the nation Israel. However, he kept the information of his heavenly program a secret from the foundation of the world (Eph 3:9).
The aspects of God’s program for the earth can be summed up with the following characteristics:
These aspects stand in stark contrast to the aspects of God’s mystery program, or God’s program for heavenly places (see “What is the Mystery?”). Today we who are saved are not participants of God’s program for the earth, but rather we are ambassadors of God’s heavenly purpose residing on earth to do his will (2 Cor 5:20, Eph 2:6).
Understanding the difference between the Prophecy and the Mystery in the Bible is a key to understanding what God’s will is for us today. This basic truth can help us better understand our Bibles and the purpose of our Lord and Savior.