I received the following questions:
I have some questions regarding Rom 16:25-26
25. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past,
26. but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith;
Q1: It seems that Paul is saying that the gospel had not been made known in the past by the prophets, but has now been made known. It seems to me that that this makes the mystery as described in Ephesians the same as the gospel. That is to say, the thing that made the gospel distinct from the Ephesian’s mystery was that the mystery had not been revealed in times past, but that the gospel had been, as far as I understood things. If both had not been revealed in times past, they could be seen as the same. While I see that Romans 1 talks about the gospel being in prophecy, it does not speak of these things being made revealed (i.e. made to be understood). How then is the mystery found in Ephesians different than the salvation gospel?
Q2: It seems that Paul is saying that this revelation has been “made known to all the nations”. How is this so?
Allow me to present these verses in Sellers’ Resultant Version that I think more closely represents what the Greek is saying here.
25. Now to Him Who is able to establish you in accord with my gospel, and the heralding of Christ Jesus, in accord with the revelation of a secret, hushed in eonian times,
26. Yet manifested now, and through prophetic Scriptures also, in harmony with the command of the eonian God, being made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.
Q1. While “for long ages past” is an inventive translation of “in eonian times,” I do not believe that it properly renders the Greek “chronois aioniois” at all. I believe eonian times to be when God will be flowing out to the world in a greater and fuller way than He ever has since the creation of the world: the kingdom of God. What this verse is saying is that the gospel that is proclaimed now, and which was proclaimed in the Acts period as well, will be hushed when eonian times come. In other words, there will be no salvation in believing the gospel message we believe today in the kingdom of God, because the things that we take by faith now will have become sight then, and everyone will know Who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross. Therefore, the gospel proclaimed now will be hushed, as it will no longer apply. These verses have nothing to do with whether or not the gospel was proclaimed in the past or not.
The secret of Ephesians and Colossians, in particular, is that all nations are now considered on an equal basis before God, as is declared in Ephesians 3:6, and that Christ is now acting among all nations equally, as in Colossians 1:27. The thing that was revealed in past eons was that all nations of the earth were to someday be blessed. However, it was always declared that these blessings were to come through Abraham and his seed Israel (Genesis 18:18, 22:18, etc.) It had never been revealed that they would be blessed on an equal basis with Israel. That was the mystery revealed. The only part the gospel now plays in the mystery is that it is now made freely available to all nations, as Acts 28:28 declares, since God is now blessing them all equally.
As for the gospel we believe for salvation, it was certainly prefigured and elements of it were predicted in the Old Testament, but it was not laid out clearly, like it is in the New Testament. You cannot point to any place in the Old Testament and say, “Here is a statement of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” No such thing exists before the gospel was presented for the first time during the Acts period. Therefore, whenever it was presented during the Acts period, it was a new message, one that had previously been hidden, but now was revealed, to the audience that was now hearing it. Since each time it was proclaimed in the Acts period, it was proclaimed by a divinely-commissioned man whose words and teaching were inspired, it was proclaimed as a truth formerly kept secret but now revealed by God…which is the definition of what the Bible calls a musterion.
However, though this was a former secret now revealed, it was not the secret of Ephesians and Colossians. That had nothing to do with the gospel of our salvation. Instead, it had to do with God’s current activity among the nations.
Q2. This is a very good question. We know that God’s commission to His disciples in the Acts period mainly had to do with reaching the Jews with the gospel in whatever nation they happened to dwell. Yet it is interesting to note that, regarding Paul’s commission, the Lord said this: “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15b. The Lord indicates here that Paul is to bear His name before nations, kings, and the children of Israel. Yet we know from what Paul actually did, as recorded in the Acts period, that he viewed his mission as mainly reaching the Jews, the ancestral Israelites, in every nation where he went. He only went to Gentiles after some of the Jews in that city had rejected the message, if indeed any of them did. He was bearing the Lord’s name before nations, but he did this by bearing it before the Jews of those nations.
The other thing we see Paul doing in many of the places where he went is appearing before the rulers of those places. Often he would be brought before them, and he would declare the name of Christ to them. To bring a message to a nation can either be to bring it to its people, or to bring it to its leaders. Of course, bringing it to the leaders is a much easier and quicker work to do. Yet it would appear that the reference to “king” in Acts 9:15 is more likely a reference to the latter work. Therefore, Paul bringing it before “nations” appears to be when he brought the word before the people who were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob living in those nations.
Back in Romans 16:25-26, the word used for “to” is eis, which more commonly would mean “into.” The gospel had come into all the nations, but that does not mean it had been proclaimed to everyone in those nations. Romans 10:18-19 tells us that the gospel had gone out into all the nations, and even in the most remote places, Israel had heard, though they had not all obeyed the gospel. The gospel had come into all nations, but not to everyone in them. In Acts, it was mainly just focused on the Jews.
Thank again for the questions! Hope all is well with you.