We shall not get very far into the practical meaning and import of this great unveiling until we have the key in our hand. Once we have that key everything will be explained as to its purpose and value. Strangely enough, that key is in the form of a small prefix which - unfortunately - does not appear in our translations. It occurs twice in "Ephesians" ( in major connections); four times in "Colossians"; once in "Philippians"; in both letters to Timothy; and in "Hebrews" (whether Paul actually wrote "Hebrews" is not discussed, but we have no hesitation in saying that his influence and conception are definitely in it.) In our translation we have the word "knowledge" in Ephesians 1:17 and 4:13; in Colossians 1:6, 9, 10; 3:10; and in Philippians 1:9. But in these and the other letters mentioned the word (in the Greek) has the little prefix "epi". "Epi" means "full," and while "to know" occurs alone in many places in the New Testament, it means - usually - the beginning of knowledge, such as "This is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). But when we have moved from the beginning and are come to the more mature state as in Paul's later Letters, that which is set before us is "Full Knowledge" (Epignosis). What Paul prays for therefore in Ephesians 1:17 is that believers who have already advanced in knowledge may still come to "full knowledge". That is the word for "maturity." This then is the key to all that is presented here, and what is presented is that which constitutes full knowledge. All that we will add until later is that this knowledge, or full knowledge, is not mental, intellectual, academic, obtained by reading, study, hearing (although it might come through such), but, as Paul emphasizes, it is by revelation of the Holy Spirit. For us now, since the Scriptures were completed, revelation is not something extra to the Scriptures, but revelation or illumination as to what is in the Scriptures; and that is inexhaustible. Back to that later.
Let us note some of the:
Major Features of the Ultimate Disclosure
As to how the Apostle came by the full knowledge which he had, we can only say two things which are made known. One was the more general, "a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full-knowledge of Him, the eyes of your heart being enlightened ..." etc. That is the birthright of every believer, but it belongs to obedience to all truth or light already given. It is what John refers to: "the anointing which ye received ... teacheth you concerning all things" (1 John 2:27). But, in Paul's case, because of his special "stewardship" he was given special revelations, as when he was caught up (in vision, dream or trance) into the third heaven and heard unspeakable things (2 Cor. 12). If we follow this illumined and inspired mind of the Apostle, we shall be led into and through "ages" from eternity past to eternity yet to be. We shall be given a glimpse of what took place in each of these eras, and what the characteristic of each was, is, and will be.
There are four of these eras referred to:
1. "Before times eternal"
2. from creation to Christ - the Old Testament era;
3. from the Incarnation to the consummation of the age;
4. "the age of the ages."
Between 1 and 2 there is an event which has affected the whole course and character of things from 1 to 3, as we shall see.
(continued with # 2)