One of the incredible things about humans is our bright minds and imaginations. With such things we have come to find ourselves surrounded by all sorts of artistic expressions. From your favorite song this week to your favorite blend of drink, from the design of the clothing you wear to the lights, architecture, and billboards that fill the city air, the creations of our imaginations permeate nearly every aspect of human existence.
Consider one of the most powerful forms of artistic expression, literature. Every few years a book comes out that takes the population by storm, gripping our hearts and minds: Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey are a few of the more notable in my lifetime. Some books help define their generation. Others have a greater impact. Diary of Anne Frank, Shakespeare, The Art of War. These help define their age, and leave reverberations throughout history.
Written works, and especially story, have long been held with deep regard in the human heart and continue to do so with ever expanding form and reach. Even things like TV shows, comedy routines, Youtube programs all typically derive from written works (ideas organized on paper) and carry some narrative aspect.
There are many reasons why we have such an affinity for story. Story serves to expand our imaginations and brings new people, places and moments to life. It provides an escape from more mundane parts of living, allowing us to become the characters in a sense. Story allows us to learn, grow and relate through others. In a way, we extend the capacity of our lives by doing so.
We also teach lessons by story. Some things are hard to put in words, for fear of retribution or for incapacity to execute meaning in plain language. Yet story can speak without saying. It can reveal without telling. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Peter Pan, and Hansel and Gretel all come to mind. In some cases, generosity can lead to a never ending cycle. People that refuse to grow up are predictable in the image of their life. That which is comforting and satisfying, as to soften you up, will eventually come to devour you. Much of the insight and truth in story can only be vaguely sensed until discovered by revelation, meditation, or contemplation.
Begin Bible Talk
Now that we have briefly discussed great literary works and the role of story I would ask you to turn to the most enduring composition of literature, the Bible and the mind most greatly credited to this book, the Ultimate Mind, God. The people that find comfort, power, rest in the Bible typically subscribe to the view that God dictated these works, at least in part, through selected prophets, or messengers. If this is in fact true and some greater mind illustrated the stories brought to life in the Bible then we can expect it to be a book that far surpasses the human mind. We can expect it to be a book that masterfully executes meaning, the human language and all tricks of the pen in a way that stretches our understanding to its outer range. We can expect it to be a book full of mystery, allegory and hidden meaning. And that is what I would like to explore today.
I would like to explore the idea that the Bible may be more than it appears to be, containing mystery and hidden wisdom. That there are things that are revealed only when reading with a pure heart, often being conveyed via parable and symbolism. I’d like to point out some Scriptural references to support these statements.
We begin at Romans 16:25. “Now to Him who has the power to strengthen you… according to the revelation of the sacred secret kept silent for long ages, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God… to Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Notice that this sacred secret (or mystery) has been kept silent for “long ages.”
We see this theme repeated in Ephesians 3:9. “This grace was given to me… and to shed light for all about about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”
And again we see a parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 2:7. “We speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, which God predestined before the ages for our glory… Now God has revealed them to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God.”
Now all three passages indicate that there is a mystery that was hidden somewhere for ages. The question is: what is it and where has it been hidden?
Luckily The first chapter of Colossians (1:25) spells it out for us. “Whereof I am made a minister… to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 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.”
So the answer to what the mystery is, is Christ. And the answer to where it has been hidden for ages and generations? In You! The mystery has been hidden IN you. The “revelation of the sacred secret kept silent for long ages” is Christ! Christ IN you! Our relationship with Christ, and therefore the Father, is one of deep intimacy. Christ is present in each and every one of us.
Jesus also refers to “the mystery of the Kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11) and “mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 13:11)
And in a comparable fashion, Jesus also points to an internal experience. He states “The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
Veiling of Message
We can also highlight passages that indicates layers, or levels, of teachings. The writer of Hebrews (5:11) states that he has “a great deal to say” but its “difficult to explain, since you have become slow to understand.” He goes on to compare his teachings to them as milk compared to solid food, as if to say they are infants in what they are capable of digesting.
The same point is expressed in 1 Corinthians 3:1 “I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were not able to receive it. In fact, you are still not able because you are still fleshly.”
Ephesians 4:18 tells us that a darkened understanding results from ignorance and a hard heart. “They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts.”
In a similar vein Paul states, “But their minds were closed. For to this day at the reading of the old covenant; the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside [only] in Christ. However, to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts but whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed.” (2 Corinthians 3:14)
Both passages portray a misunderstanding of Scripture resulting from degraded conditions of the heart and mind. The good news is that the veil “is set aside in Christ.” I take this to mean people who have adopted the principles of the life of Jesus Christ as their own. In doing so cleansing their heart and transforming their mind, the veil is removed.
Interestingly, Luke 24:45 explicitly states the power of Jesus to illuminate minds, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” implying the meaning of the Scriptures comes from knowing the resurrected Jesus.
Bible as parable
On one final note I would like to explore the idea of the Bible as symbolism and parable. Although there are some readers that claim the Bible, in all it’s wisdom, is to be taken solely as a literal account of events. The following passages of the Bible refute that understanding.
Psalm 78:2 “I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark [hidden] sayings of old. Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength, and His wonderful works that He has done.” He then goes onto recount the stories of the Bible.
Paul explains Old Testament story in a similar way. “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants…” Here Paul is saying that the two covenants were already being communicated in the Old Testament through allegory!
The New Testament even describes regulation in the Old Testament as being symbolic. “The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the holy of holies had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing. This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience.” Hebrews 9:8
1 Corinthians 9:9 also communicates a symbolic sentiment. “For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain. Is God really concerned with oxen? Or isn’t he really saying it for us? Yes, this is written for us, because he who plows ought to plow in hope…”
One interesting take to consider is that in the Gospel of John, Jesus is “The Word made flesh.” Lets look at how the The Word communicates.
“Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables, and He would not speak anything to them without a parable.” Matthew 13:34
“And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples.” Mark 4:34
If we also consider the Bible to be the “The Word of God” and Jesus is “The Word” then, by transitive property, the Bible speaks to crowds only in parables. It also means that the Bible will explain things plainly only to its intimate, disciplined followers. I admit that this is an unusual way to think about both Jesus and the Bible, but I believe it must be the case. After all, how many “The Word”s can God have?
I’d like to wrap things up by stating the obvious: the Bible is many things to many people. For some it is an old relic and not much more than that. To others the Scriptures are rich beyond measure, an ever-giving well. Yet, regardless of where you lie in between these extremes, the passages we’ve reviewed are crystal clear and we have been able to uncover three consistencies.
A) There are clear mysteries referred to in Scripture, Jesus himself references these. Furthermore, the mystery that has been hidden for ages and generations is Christ IN you, the hope of glory. God offers us a relationship of unity through Christ.
B) There are levels to understanding Scripture. There are darkened and veiled understandings brought upon by an ignorant mind and a hard heart. Also, there appears to be a spiritual milk that is given to fleshly people. Finally, there is solid food which is meant for spiritual people.
C) Lastly the Bible itself self-references as being symbolic and parable in a number of ways. This was shown both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. This fact is also alluded to in the identity of Jesus and his methods of teaching.
I hope that I have done a sufficient job in outlining some of my thought processes and reasoning when it comes to the passages I presented. I implore you to review each passage in its context and read each book for yourself. I would also challenge you to assess how your own understanding and relationship with Christ compares to the one we revealed today.
Is your relationship with Christ an inward experience or an outward one?
Has he lifted the veil from your heart? Has he opened your mind to understand Scripture?
Are you able to grasp what God is trying to reveal, through his Word, to his disciplined followers?
Or are you like those in John chapter 10? In which case, as you try to seize Him, he eludes your grasp.
Lastly if you feel called to, I encourage you to dive into Scripture. I encourage you to read for yourself! But if you are seeking some inspiration I have included links to a few sources that, although less traditional, have been an incredible inspiration to me. I hope they will shake up your understanding enough to inspire you to dive in and explore for yourself. These speakers have certainly helped challenge and develop my understanding. I know that reading is not always the easiest thing which is why I’ve provided links below, but if you made it this far then Hey Great Job! All Done! 😀
Heaven is Now by Aaron Abke
Jamie Englehart @ Hand Of God Ministries
Path of the Spiritual Warrior by Aaron Tomlinson