In concluding his charge to the children of Israel, in the plains of Moab, Moses said, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29). The passage is often utterly misapplied, and used by overcautious souls to deter inquiring ones from delving into the deep things of God. It was never so intended. When the great lawgiver spoke, the revealed things consisted of what he had just rehearsed in their ears, together with the records he had already made by the inspiration of God in the first four books of our Bibles. "The secret things" were God's purposes of grace which He was about to unfold upon the manifestation of their utter failure, and inability to claim anything on the ground of the law, which they had broken from the first. All rights were forfeited. But God had provisions of grace to be yet manifested. He had infinite resources in Himself, to be declared when they were forced to own that theirs were at an end.
God's revelation of His purpose has been gradual. In the Old Testament two objects were brought out—the woman's Seed, and the seed of Abraham. Through the former, the latter were to be blessed, and be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Beyond this, the testimony of the prophets does not go.
As in Moses' day, so in the days of Malachi, the last of the prophetic line (before the coming of the preparer of Messiah's way), there were "secret things" which the time had not yet come to make manifest.
The word so rendered in Deut. 29:29 is Sathar in the Hebrew, which scholars define as "absent" or "hidden things." It does not refer to things too high for human understanding, as it is generally supposed to mean, but things concealed, which cannot be known unless divinely disclosed.
In the Septuagint Version, rendering it into Greek, the translators chose the word κρυπτα (krupta), the plural form of κρυπτος (kruptos), a word frequently used by our Lord in the Gospels, and twice by the apostle Paul. It is used in Luke 8:17, where Jesus said, "Nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest." Paul uses it in the same sense when writing of "the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:16); as also in 1 Cor. 14:25, when he writes of the unbeliever coming into the assembly of God, being convicted of all and judged by all; so that he can add, "and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth."
Man has his secret things—all to be brought to light in due time. God too has His secret things, which could not be known until He chose to reveal them.
Now the New Testament is not only the answer to the Old, though it is that; but it is far more: it is the unfolding of the secret things which God had purposed in His heart before the worlds were made or the ages began to run their course.
Before entering upon an inquiry as to the secret things thus made known in the New Testament, it will be well to briefly notice the revealed things of the former revelation.
To man fallen, revelation came. The first great promise was made, and so accepted by Adam, in the curse pronounced upon the serpent: "The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." This is evidently "the promise of life in Christ Jesus" made "before the age-times began" (Titus 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:1, 9).
To Abraham it was declared that as the dust of the earth, the sand of the sea, and the stars of the heaven, should his seed be. He was separated from the nations to be the depositary of the promise. "In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."
Further revelation was made through Moses of the Prophet to be raised up to whom all were to give heed or perish. He outlined too the history of the nation. Settled in the land of Palestine by divine power, they should nevertheless be driven therefrom for disobedience, and scattered among the Gentiles, to be a reproach and a byword wherever they wandered. Upon repentance they would be reestablished in the land, and made the head of the nations, and not the tail.
The further prophets but elaborate this, connecting the restoration with Messiah, now revealed as the virgin's Son, the One "whose goings forth were of old, from everlasting," yet who was to suffer and die at the hands of men, to endure the forsaking of God, to make reconciliation for iniquity, but to prolong His days in resurrection and to be made the King of Israel, sitting on David's throne.
Through Him the believing part of the nation would be settled in their land, and the apostate portion destroyed. He should judge among the nations, rooting out the wicked from the earth and bringing all the righteous into subjection to Israel.
These were the revealed things. Their sphere of action is the earth. They have to do with an earthly people, not a heavenly one. "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath He given to the children of men" (Ps. 115:16). This is the invariable testimony of the Scriptures of the prophets.
Of the Church, the body of Christ, there is no hint: the long history of Christendom is passed over in silence. Of these things the Old Testament does not treat. Neither was it there made known that man should be in heaven. The translations of Enoch and Elijah were strange portents to the Jew, of which his Scriptures offered no explanation. All these were among "the secret things" which would not be revealed till the coming of the Just One, to be followed by His rejection and ascension as Man to heaven.
Thus one looks in vain for the distinctive truths of the Christian dispensation in the Old Testament. The things there revealed refer to Israel and the nations as such; not to the Church of which Christ is the glorified Head in heaven.
The amazing thing is that in Christendom generally, despite the revelation of the mysteries of God given in the last portion of our Bibles, the vast majority are as ignorant of the once secret things as though they had not been made known. Take the so-called Apostle's Creed for a conclusive example. It will be found that for almost every one of its statements the proof-texts could be found in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. "He ascended into heaven" is perhaps the only clause in it which the Old Testament did not make known; and even that is more than hinted at in the 110th psalm, and the last verse of the 5th of Hosea. True, as above noticed, it is not in these scriptures made clear that He would be there as Man, but, connecting them with other passages in the writings of the Prophets, there would be ground for the inference that so it must be.