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In Mark 4, before explaining to his disciples the parable of the sower, Jesus tells them:

[Mar 4:11 NIV] (11) He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

What is this "secret" of the kingdom of God that Jesus has given to his disciples by this point in time? Does Jesus mean Himself?

I looked back to Mark 1-3, but prior to chapter 4, Jesus does not seem to have revealed anything about his special mission yet to his disciples.

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange, thanks for contributing - this is a good first question! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites.
    – Steve Taylor
    Apr 18 '16 at 7:59
  • Colossians 1:27, NASB: "to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Dec 23 '18 at 11:39
  • I know what the secret is but I can't tell you because it's a secret. :)
    – Ruminator
    Apr 13 '19 at 2:00
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"Secret" seems to be a poor translation for the underlying Greek word - μυστήριον (mysterion). The English derivative "mystery" - as chosen by the King James translators - seems to be a much better fit. The Greek word for "secret" (as in nothing is secret, Luke 8:17) is ἀπόκρυφος (apokryphos), from which the English word "apocryphal" is derived.

Luke and Matthew refer to mysterion in the plural:

It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given (Matthew 13:11)

Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:10)

Mark uses the singular:

Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11)

"Mystery" conveys something deeper, I think, than something that is simply "secret". A secret can be uncovered (cf. Mark 4:22), but a mystery must be discovered. Furthermore, I think that something that has been secret can be comprehended immediately upon its exposure, whereas a mystery requires something more of the person comprehending it. Christ taught at the Sermon on the Mount that in order to see God, one must be pure of heart (Matthew 5:8).

The "mystery" or "mysteries" that the Evangelists are referring to in the above passages are the teachings of Christ themselves - the didache (Mark 4:2). These teachings are not "secret", since all heard them, but they were "mysteries" - not at all understood by them that are without (Mark 4:11), that is, those who were ill-disposed towards Christ. These would see, but not perceive, and hear, but not understand (Mark 4:12).

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  • So would you say that a pure disposition capable of recognizing God is something that can be achieved? IE: by spiritual exercises?
    – Ruminator
    Apr 13 '19 at 11:50
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The secret of the Kingdon is Jesus, his understanding, knowledge and wisdom that he has shared to us. Also The fact that he is the messiah and the truth and the word of god. Jesus is saying that the apostles are chosen and the secret has been given to the apostles through Jesus even if they do not know that yet, remember Jesus said to the apostles in later passages that do not worry what to say for the holy spirit will speak through you. so because of this close relationship with Jesus they will continue his teachings and understandings throughout their lives. Jesus explains the kingdom to his other followers through parables because we can not have or comprehend the same understanding of god as Jesus and the apostles do so he simplifies it for us so all people can understand (smart, not so smart etc) because Jesus mission is to reach everyone's heart but Jesus himself is and can only reveal the secret of the kingdom of god

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  • Hello @from and thank you for your post, and welcome to the site. While you may be correct that Jesus is the dispenser of secrets however you didn't really provide any relevant sources, such as a scripture verse that says what you assert. Can you please provide some authoritative quotes? Thanks.
    – user10231
    Nov 15 '16 at 18:33
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The mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus in us and we inside of Jesus. The two have become One. Paul saw this mystery on the road to Damascus in a confrontation with Jesus. Paul went to destroy the Church, and Jesus asked why he was persecuting ME. Christian means (Christ like)

Jesus in Luke 10:16 said, "He that heareth you heareth Me." Paul said, "I am dead and Christ liveth in me." Well, does He? Let's let Jesus work in the earth through us and we learn to enjoy the Glory of Heaven inside HIM. God doesn't need another God, He needs a Body to operate through in this earth. He told us to heal the sick and preach the Gospel to the poor. The Word heals, something that happens in the natural. So if that be true, does it keep the poor in their poverty? Paul said Jesus is the Power that (Who) worketh in us. Allow Jesus to reveal the Mystery to us, Body of Christ. Jesus said without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Yet, at the same time He allows us to be labourers together with Him. The two have become One (John 14: 20). Paul said, "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." Ephesians 5: 32. When a man marries a woman the two become One Flesh. This is God's plan from the begging to allow us to come back to the Father. No surprise that marriage is the first institution in the Bible. Adam was one person and God took half of Adam out and the two halves were joined together in marriage. The two became one again as they learn to relate to each other. They became one again.

Colossians 2: 10 says, "And ye are complete in (inside) Him." Our job on earth is to fall deeply in LOVE with Jesus. What is the First Commandment? To LOVE the LORD thy God with all thy heart, strength, soul and mind. If all the Body has become the flesh of Jesus Christ, we have become one with each other also, 1 Corinthians 6: 17. "Like each cell in my body are each individuals, yet all of them together make up my whole being." So it is with Christians, Ephesians 4: 25, "...for we are members one of another", Paul said.

Jesus said, when you've done it unto the least of these your brethren, you've the same as done it unto ME. Jesus said, I stand at the door and knock, if any one open the door, I WILL COME IN AND SUP (have dinner) with him and he with ME. He says, "will you marry Me?" I said, "YES LORD, will YOU marry me?" HE said "Yes" so we had a marriage feast (dinner). Revelations 3: 20 Fall in LOVE with your HUSBAND. Let Jesus be our hearts desire, HE desires you!

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange James, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites.
    – Steve Taylor
    Sep 11 '17 at 12:29
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    (-1) This is not a hermeneutical answer to Esther's question: if anything, it's more of a sermon. I've tidied the formatting up slightly, but cannot rescue the quality of the content - there's simply no exegesis going on here. Answering a question about Mark 4 without referencing the text of Mark even once is not an effective way to exegete the text - which is a critically important thing to do, regardless of whether you're writing a hermeneutically sound answer or preaching a sermon.
    – Steve Taylor
    Sep 11 '17 at 12:33
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The life of Jesus himself was an example of d mysteries revealed. For instance, he neither fell sick nor have any lack [Matthew 17:27; 21:1-7]. Neither did his disciples [Isaiah 53:1-5, 1Peter 2:24; 2 Corinthians 8:9;9:8.]

Many more things revealed on how to live a good fulfilled and beneficial life. Enjoying the things stored for us by faith - the mystery. Not only depending on our physical work or labor [John 6: 27-29; Heb 4:11], but enjoying divine provision which CANNOT be calculated with natural sense. That's what makes it a mystery or sacred secret.

Similarly, the books of ephesians, colossians, Galatians, James and much more are great revelation of mysteries to them that are within. Deuteronomy 29:29. To them whom the father has Revealed it. Luke 24:45

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When they debated the topic of sensus plenior last century, they did not invite anyone who could actually read it. Sensus plenior is that meaning intended by God, but unknown to the human author.

Naturally, they decided that there is no sensus plenior, or if it exists, we re not permitted to read it. If you assume the Bible genre is historical-literal, taht's all you read. If you are open to examining it as prophetic riddle, you see Christ everywhere.

Jesus says that all the scriptures speak of him, and he was always showing his disciples things in scripture which were not literally obvious to them. This is the 'mystery, hidden from the beginning."

For a discussion of the details, there are many short posts here under the topic. A forum discussion can be found here: https://www.christianforums.com/threads/lukes-sensus-plenior.8107027/

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When Israel went into captivity for seventy years in Babylon because of their transgressions a few things happened:

  • the generation that was alive when the captivity began grew old and died off;

  • most of their children would spend most of their lives in Babylon, being systematically assimilated;

  • a third generation would be born that had never been to Jerusalem and had never entered a Jewish temple;

  • there was no temple so no way to offer sacrifices to atone for their sins;

  • not to mention they were not a free people;

  • at the end of their captivity God moved Cyrus to end their captivity;

  • Jerusalem had been destroyed along with the temple so there was nowhere to go back to;

Against this backdrop Isaiah says:

[Isa 1:9 NLT] (9) If the LORD of Heaven's Armies had not spared a few of us, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.

The idea is that the complete extinction of the Jewish state was inevitable and no one would return from Babylon, there would be no temple in Jerusalem, no defensive wall and no one who served YHVH and would make his name know if God did not intervene.

Fortunately God intervenes and God puts it in the heart of Cyrus to help the Jews return and he draws from Babylon Jews who had been born into captivity, largely assimilated and who had become very comfortable in this massive, exciting city to Jerusalem, the land of their fathers, and rebuild the temple/house of YHVH. They unearth a hidden copy of the Torah and, like Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones, ISRAEL LIVES ONCE AGAIN!


The secret of the kingdom is:

[Jhn 11:25 NKJV] (25) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. [Act 23:6 NKJV] (6) But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" [Act 24:21 NKJV] (21) "unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, 'Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.' "

The was also referred to as the "gospel of the circumcision" by Luke.


Another 7 mysteries, regarding the gentiles were revealed thru Paul (who had very little say about the kingdom of God, though it aligns with Jesus' teachings).

Because these were revealed directly to Paul and he was not taught it by others he referred to it as "my gospel". It was also referred to as "the gospel to the gentiles". It did not involve a new covenant but rather a new creation aka "the new mankind" allowing the gentiles to draw near despite not having a covenant. I won't go into the Pauline side of things any further right now since this is about Mark 4.

I have not exhausted the matter, of course, but hope I provided some insight into the mysterious (IE: secret, unfathomable and supernatural) ways of God by which he knits together the body of Christ:

[Psa 139:13-18 CSB] (13) For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb. (14) I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. (15) My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. (16) Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began. (17) God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is! (18) If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand; when I wake up, I am still with you.

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Esther,

You asked:

What is the "The secret of the kingdom?"

First, we need the definition of the word "secret", which is the Greek word:

MUSTERION

In part from Studylight.org http://www.studylight.org/language-studies/greek-thoughts/index.cgi?a=3

...The fundamental meaning of the word therefore has to do with information known only to those on the inside, but hidden to those who are without.

Secondly we need to consider the words: "has been given" which is from the single Greek word: DIDOTAI

DIDOTAI being the Greek "perfect" which indicates a completed action the results of which stand as accomplished and are in effect at the present and continue to be so.

In the grammatical notes of Spiros Zodhiates' Complete Word Study New Testament he states concerning the perfect "tense":

"The Perfect describes an action, or more correctly, a process, that took place in the past, the results of which have continued to the present."

Considering that this statement of Jesus was made when he was alone with some around him including the twelve and that Jesus has in other places made it clear that he has come to Israel, even the lost sheep of Israel; we would, it seems to me, have to conclude that is some respect he is here speaking (at this moment) to a small contingent of Israel...why ?

Because of this word DIDOTAI !

The phrase "The kingdom of God" is in the genitive case in Greek which modifies in this case the word "MUSTERION"; that word that we now know means that some have had, that is, been given as insiders, information not generally known. The kingdom of God, that is, tells us what "kind of" MUSTERION we are dealing with.

Israel, as the people chosen by God have been given many things that communicate what is characterized by "The kingdom of God", that is, the reigning, the realm of and having to do with what is "of God"; that's the genitive case. What is "of" the kingdom...what is "of" God.

Consider the whole of the Old Testament including the Tabernacle, the Law, the Temple, etc. All of these things are portraying for us how God, ultimately through His Christ, might include us and bring us to Himself, and bring Himself into us. Consider for one thing, that upon the death of His Christ, the veil separating us from God and He from us was torn open from top to bottom, thereby representing an open way. An open way for any who would approach, to access God and He them.

This all, I would contend, is the MUSTERION that had, through the process of all that preceded Jesus, as is contained in God having dealt with Israel; this, is what Jesus referred to as being the MUSTERION that is what is characterized, by what is "of" the kingdom, of what characterized, by what is "of" God.

This is perhaps why Jesus exclaimed to Nicodemus concerning Nicodemus' not understanding being born from above: "Jesus answered and said to him, You are a teacher of Israel and you are not understanding these things?"

It would seem that Jesus expected Nicodemus to be an insider, an insider that should have been familiar with what is contained in the MUSTERION, the MUSTERION that Israel had been privileged to be privy to.

A few examples:

In Leviticus 10:3 Moses said to Aaron, Aaron of course being set apart for priestly function, "This is that the Lord spoke saying, I will be sanctified in them that come near Me," that is I will be sanctified or set apart in the hearts of all the priests. Priests were known then as those who drew near to God.

In Ezekiel chapter 43 we find a similar insight in verse 19. It talks about the priests who approach unto Me to minister unto Me. In other words, God again identifying them as those that drew near to His presence. Again in chapter 44 of Ezekiel and verse 13 it speaks of priests again as those who come near to Me.

So in the Old Testament then, those who drew near were the priests and before they could draw near they had to have washed and cleansed themselves, hands and feet. They had to have offered sacrifices on their own behalf and had a right relationship with God. And ceremonially being clean they could come into the presence of God under the regulations of the old covenant representing the people.

(the previous 3 paragraphs are in part from a message found at Grace to you and John MacArthur...http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/59-25/drawing-near-to-god-part-2)

So then, The secret of the kingdom ? I would suggest that it is anything and all things that communicate to an insider, information and direction concerning God and how He intends to be involved towards, with, and into us and we to Him.

For me, this gives fresh emphasis to something Jesus said:

"I am the way, the truth, and the life...no one comes to the Father except by means of me"

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I think your answer is in the verse you quoted.

[Christ] told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables. (Mark 4:11, NIV)

Nicodemus asked a similar question and Christ responded:

I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (John 3:12, NIV)

Mark 4:34 reads:

He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. (NIV)

Christ isn’t here, “explaining everything” (Mark 4:34), so I think it's appropriate to accept his answer to your question -regardless of our faith. We can hear or read what people perceive “the kingdom of God” to be about. Or, we can have faith that: it's a “heavenly thing” so our brains can’t wrap around it; there's a difference between theoretically understanding what it is and knowing what it is because we have experienced it; Christ wasn’t just rambling off in his use of parables; the parables themselves tell us that our degree of faith will determine whether or not we receive the kingdom or even comprehend what it is; his use of parables to describe "the kingdom of God" were said because their essence has a direct connection to that kingdom.

Based on the parables, what is the essence of what Christ is trying to tell us about “the kingdom of God?” In both John 3 and Mark 4, Christ is talking about this kingdom, and both times, the essence of what he is saying is exactly the same: FAITH.

The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:3-20)

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times… The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)

This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32)

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

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    Be sure to describe your beliefs without prescribing them to readers. Keep in mind that here we focus on the text in its original context and not on its application to modern religious adherents of it. Ideally change some of the language which appears to assume a Christian audience. For instance, Christ is not telling us something in this passage, rather he told his disciples.
    – Dan
    Apr 20 '16 at 7:18
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    you're welcome. It's an adjustment for all of us, myself included. In my first few answers here I had quite a bit of language that I would never use in an answer here today.
    – Dan
    Apr 20 '16 at 12:49
  • I like my answer but thank you for the comment.
    – Daisy
    Apr 20 '16 at 13:31

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