THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE
By Eldon McNabb
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse." "I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col. 1:1,2; Col. 2:1-3)
The third chapter of Ecclesiastes gives a running account of how God planned for there to be seasons of good and bad events in the history of His creation, its fall, and the process of our redemption. He said, "There is a time for every purpose (of God) under heaven." The good and bad are both "beautiful in His time," for they are germane to his overall plan for mankind, and our redemption. The subject continues through verse seventeen, at least.
Before God left the subject, He defined for us how it all related to His work, and how He had hidden His work from even His own children. In so doing, with incredible clarity and brevity, He gave us the definition of The Key of Knowledge. Solomon faithfully recorded these words, as he was moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord. "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
Though not raised in a church-oriented home, I became interested in going to church when I was nine years of age. At first I attended a Baptist Sunday School near my home. The following Summer, when I was ten, my aunt and her family, from Oklahoma, came to visit us for a month at our home in California. With their prompting, I began to attend a Church of the Nazarene which was about a mile from our home. A week or so after my aunt Lieu and uncle Audie Rodden had left, I felt the call of God on my heart. I went to that altar to pray and was wonderfully born again of the Spirit of God.
Immediately after my conversion, I became an avid reader of the Holy Scriptures. Often, as other youngsters romped during recess at school, I would be sitting on the school steps reading the Bible. In my teens, I became aware that there was a treasure of wisdom and knowledge in the pages of the Bible which I was not able to ferret out. I sought for some clue as to how to effectively study the Holy Scriptures, but to no avail. Inquiries which I made among the ministers of the organization with which I worshiped at the time were equally fruitless. In my early twenties, I came upon a particular reference Bible which looked promising. With great expectations, I received one as a gift from my parents for my 22nd birthday. Before long, I realized that it was no more help than my other pursuits had been. But, God had seen my hunger, and had heard my prayers. He was ready to meet the desire of my heart.
I had heard Bishop Grady R. Kent preach and teach on occasion for approximately six years, at that time. Although I had enjoyed what I had experienced of his ministry, I was not aware of how special his ministry really was. But it was not long until circumstances would bring us together in the work of the Lord. Then I really began to be blessed to share in the benefits of one of the greatest gifts which God had given to Bishop Kent: "The Key of Knowledge." (Luke 11:52)
The Key Is Given
The Key of Knowledge was not newly given at the dawning of the grace age, as was the case with being born of the Spirit and being baptized with the Holy Spirit. It had been entrusted to the chosen people of God from the days of Moses. However, their leaders had hidden it from the people at the time of the ministry of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus said, "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." It is apparent that modern times have not changed the picture, as far as many religious leaders are concerned.
In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul said, "This know also, that in the last days" there will be those who are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." We see this condition existing today. Many, if not most, ministers attend some school of religious learning. Unfortunately, those schools have fallen into the error of using manís method of study. The Apostle Paul aptly referred to it as "the words of manís wisdom" and "the wisdom of this world." All of us who are ministers of the New Testament are always learning, but we are not always learning the things which we ought to know about God and His work. What we really need, is to become acquainted with the method of learning which Paul advocated in his writings. With it we can truly become "able ministers of the New Testament."
By using the wisdom of this world, many have analyzed the Bible over and over and over again. They have written books about it. They have written commentaries about it. Some have even taken it upon themselves to write new "bibles." Some have written new Greek texts and new Greek dictionaries, to give the appearance of validity to their works, as they have gone about altering the meaning of the Bible to suit their own ideas. In so doing, some have even brought upon themselves the curse in Rev. 22:19. Even as I write, at least one English speaking scholar, whom I have met personally, is laboring to create another Greek text of the New Testament for the English speaking population of the World. I have often wondered for what reason God might inspire someone to write a new Greek text. I canít think of one! Unless, of course, you are Greek.
Paul spoke of Godís method of teaching in 1 Cor. 2:6-13. He said, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." "God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." "Which things also we speak, not in the words which manís wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
Jesus called the way the Holy Ghost teaches "The Key of Knowledge." That key is not about the gospel of Jesus Christ as pertains to the born again experience and walking in the way of holiness. God showed us, in Isa. 35:8, that to walk in the way of holiness does not require any wisdom at all. He said "An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of Holiness; . . . the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." No, it is about the "hidden wisdom." It is about the "Revelation of the Mystery," of which Paul spoke. It is also about "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." (Rev. 1:1)
The angel told John, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." Some of the "words of this prophecy" are about things which had already happened when John wrote about them. They are included in the prophecy to help us understand "the things which shall be" in the days just prior to the coming of our Lord. The expression, "to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass," simply means that they will be revealed to His servants only a short while before they are to be fulfilled. The word of God is written by the Spirit, about spiritual things. And, with the help of the Spirit of Truth, we can come to the knowledge of those things, and find out the work of God and of His Christ, "from the beginning to the end." (Eccl. 3:11)
Jesus and Paul both taught in such a way as to hide the true meaning from the multitude, as well as from the Scribes and Pharisees. One day, as Jesus was speaking to the multitude in parables, His disciples asked Him why He taught in that fashion. "He answered, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Therefore speak I to them in parables." (Matt. 13:10-13; Matt. 13:35; 2 Cor. 11:12)
The Apostle Paul wanted us to understand what he called, "My knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: Which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers (apostles and prophets) in heavenly places might be known by The Church the manifold wisdom of God." (Eph. 3:5-10)
Perhaps it would be good to note here that God never changes. The only thing which has changed from Mosesí day is that there is a new, and special, manifestation of "the Spirit of the Lord." (Isa. 11:2) The gifts of the ministry, which are prophesied of by the figure of the five ministries of the Old Testament, are now given to us by that Spirit. That ministry of the Law of Moses included the higher calling of the two sons of Aaron, and the lesser three ministries of the three sons of Levi. The priesthood of Eleazar and Ithamar foreshadowed the N. T. Apostles and Prophets. Likewise, Gershom, Kohath and Merari foreshadowed the Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers of the New Testament era.
Each of these five families had their own special work in the Old Testament. The same is true in the New Testament era. The men who have received the gifts of Apostle and Prophet are the fulfillment of the Priesthood of Eleazar and Ithamar, and the secret things of God are given to them, so they can feed His Church with knowledge and understanding.
In addition to their ministerial gifts, these Apostles and Prophets are given other gifts which they need in order to accomplish their work. In Eph. 1:15-20, Paul mentioned one if those gifts. He called it "The spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the knowledge of (God)." It is the second of the "Four Spirits of the Heavens" of Isa 11:2, and Zech. 6:5. Also, concerning coming to an understanding of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John mentioned "The Spirit of Prophecy," at least three times. In Rev. 12:17, he even mentioned a group of people who had that Spirit. (Rev. 1:2 and Rev. 12:17;19:10)
It is not only the ministers who need these gifts, because, in order for the other saints to understand it, they also must have a measure of those gifts. The Saints at Ephesus had already received the gift of the Holy Ghost, yet Paul diligently prayed that God would give them "The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of Him: The eyes of (their) understanding being enlightened; that (they might) know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the Saints."
I believe it is safe to say that the outpouring of the Holy Ghost is the greatest single feature of the New Testament Era. The Holy Spirit was sent on this mission to accomplish our new birth in Jesus Christ. He also came as "The Spirit of Truth," to guide us into all truth. In order to accomplish that goal, He brought with Him the gifts which our new High Priest had received from His Father. (Heb. 8:3) Five of those gifts are named in Eph. 4, and their part in His work of bringing us unto the knowledge of all truth is duly noted.
In Heb. 13:7,8,17, Paul further showed that those who are gifted to feed the flock were also given the honor of being their leaders. He admonished us to follow their faith, because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. God never changes. He has always set leaders over His people, and He always will. This fact is very clearly set forth in Matt. 24:45-47, where Jesus showed that there would be a man over His household, giving them meat in due season, when He comes back. Thus shall be fulfilled the faithful promise of the Father, "I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." (Jer. 3:15)
Throughout the book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul repeatedly demonstrated that all of the Old Testament was given to us as, either direct prophecies or, allegories of things which were to take place in the grace age. Frequently, in his epistles, Paul used words such as figure, allegory, and shadow. For example, in Heb. 10:1, he said, "The law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things." Of course, Jesus said it first, in Matt. 11:13. "All the prophets and the law prophesied."
Some things in the New Testament era seem different from the Old, but the precepts remain the same. For instance, we still need a blood sacrifice for sin, because "without shedding of blood is no remission." (Heb. 9:22) The glorious fact of the New Testament, is that Jesus Christ is our sacrifice. He is the atonement for our sins. We still have a priesthood. It is just a different lineage. Now, Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God in the seat of the High Priest. And, on earth, a "royal priesthood," of wonderfully gifted ministers, has been appointed to administer the new "law of faith." (Heb. 7:11,12; Rom. 3:27)
One notable constant in Godís plan is that the Judgeís seat continues to be part of the New Testament ministerial structure. Jesus revealed this truth in Mark 13:34, by saying, "He commanded the porter to watch." In Acts 15:13-21, we see the porter at work. After James, the Lordís brother, had heard all of their disputing about the circumcision, he judged the matter, citing at least two prophecies in support of his decision. One of those prophecies showed the reason why they must not overburden the Gentiles with unnecessary rules. Then, he referred to Moses, as certification of his authority to pass sentence on the matter. In the process, he alluded to the instructions of Moses in Deut. 17:8-13, about how to handle such matters of controversy in the Church.
The precept of "the twelve" was carried over into the New Testament era by Jesus himself. When that precept is reapplied at this end of the grace age, it will actually expand the number to "twenty-four," as in the days of King David. In Gal. 4:22-26, we are told, "It is written, that Abraham had two sons." Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat twelve sons. Ishmael also begat twelve sons. God named both Isaac and Ishmael, and later, God told Abraham, "As for Ishmael, I have blessed him, twelve princes shall he beget." (Gen. 16:11 and 17:20) Their names are given in the twenty-fifth chapter of Genesis. These twenty-four "sons of Abraham" are a shadow of twenty-four apostles in the New Testament era. The men who have faithfully served in those offices shall sit round about the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ, as His four and twenty elders, when he sits upon the throne of His glory. (See the promise which Jesus made to His twelve in Matt. 19:27,28)
The Apostle Peter believed that there were actually more than twelve apostles in his day. Accordingly, he, and the rest of the Twelve, confidently fulfilled their obligation to keep those offices filled with gifted Apostles. He quoted two prophecies in the Psalms to show that they were required to appoint a man to take the place of Judas. One of those Psalms says, "Let another take his office." (Acts 1:16-26; Psalm 69:25; Psalm 109:8) (This is one of those cases where your Bible may have been altered.) There are about twenty Apostles mentioned in the New Testament, including Paul, Barnabas, and James, the Lords brother. (Gal. 1:19) None of those three were ever counted among The Twelve.
In Rom. 2:10-11, Paul assured us that God is going to give those same gifts to a group of Gentiles, and refill those offices in the Church. It is necessary for that to be done, because the Bride the Lambís Wife must have those gifts operating, if she is to make herself ready. Jesus, the last Adam, must be able to say of His bride what the first Adam said of his: "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh." He will be able to say that, because she will be made after the pattern of things in the heavens. She will be in the image of God, the same as that "Jerusalem which is above, the mother of us all."
You know the manner in which Jesus told us to pray. His words are repeated around the world millions of times each day. "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." The throne upon which Jesus shall sit will be a copy of the one on which His Father sits in heaven. It would seem as if God caused the use of this prayer to be very popular, so that we would always be aware of that fact.
"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter." (Prov. 25:2) God hid all of these things, but we can now say that the Key of Knowledge has helped us to understand them, at least somewhat. I would also like for us to note how that Jesus used other things, besides parables, by which to foretell His works.
John told us of miracles which Jesus performed, which He also used as allegories, to convey to us the knowledge of His plans. Let us consider the miracle of the loaves and fishes in John 6: especially verses 12,13,39. In verse twelve He said, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost." They did as he commanded and "filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves." With that miracle, Jesus showed that He was going to raise the Church up again at the last day. It looks as if the whole idea of Church, the way Jesus set it up, has been lost. But, in verse thirty-nine Jesus said, "I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." In another miracle, in Matt. 15:33-37, in which He caused them to take up seven baskets full of fragments, Jesus showed that He will also restore "the seven" to the Church. He will build the Church again just before His return. As it is written, "When the LORD shall build up Zion, He shall appear in his glory." (Psa. 102:16)
This theme is variously repeated throughout the Holy Scriptures, and is especially clear in the allegory of Solomonís Temple. In the Old Testament, the Temple was built by Solomon, destroyed by Babylon, and was built again by Zerubbabel and Joshua the son of Josedech. Likewise the New Testament Temple was built by "a greater than Solomon:" Jesus of Nazareth. It has long since been destroyed by "Mystery, Babylon the Great," and must be built again by men of Godís choosing.
It is to the glory of God that He has hidden all of these things, revealed them to those early disciples, and hidden them again for so great a length of time. Paul and his fellow Apostles and Prophets received glory and honor by searching out the revelation of the mystery in their day. The same thing must occur with the Apostles and Prophets in this day, as the appearing of our Lord and King draws near. God did it that way, so that His children could confidently follow the leadership of the men which He raises up to lead them. (Prov. 25:2; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Cor 2:6-7)
Some have, understandably, decided that we will never be able to know the meaning of all the Bible. Well, if we continue without the use of the Key of Knowledge, that will surely be true. The fact remains that God has promised us that we will be able to comprehend it all, and He will make it happen. Paul certainly believed that when he said, "Unto me is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 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: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:8-11)
In A Nutshell
Jesus Christ the same in Mosesí day, in Paulís day, and today. It is impossible to come to the Knowledge of the Son of God, unless we first truly comprehend that God is unchanging. Solomon said it so well, and gave us a description of the Key of Knowledge in a nutshell. He said, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him. That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past." (Eccl. 3:14,15) Therefore, we have confidence that we can always recognize His handiwork, because it will have upon it the mark of His method of operation.
Jesus gave The Key of Knowledge to His disciples, and God has given it to us. Now we can begin to "know the things that are freely given us of God." Let us use the Key of Knowledge, with thankfulness, as we begin to see what God really intends to do, in the near future.
Jesus is coming soon, and the details of His itinerary are there for us to know. However, at the present time, almost all Christians are as Israel was in the days of the first coming of the Messiah. They were expecting a King, but it was the Lamb of God which came. Today, multitudes of Christians have set their hope on the rapture. But this time, the King really is coming, to execute judgment upon all, and to wrest the control of this world from the hand of the Prince of this world. Let us prepare our hearts to receive the King of Glory.
Let us shake ourselves to spiritual alertness, and begin to feast upon "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," that we may indeed earn the approval of God. Then shall we be as the children of Issachar "which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do." (1 Chron. 12:32)
Jesus said, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." The friendship of Jesus and the Grace of God be with you. Amen.