“hidden.” “Hidden” has the same root word as “concealed” later in the verse.
“For what is hidden is meant to be revealed.” Mark 4:21-22 (and Luke 8:16-17) are about the Kingdom of God being hidden, not about secret sins coming to light. The Greek text of Mark 4:22 uses a double negative, which can be seen in Young’s Literal Translation: “for there is not anything hid that may not be manifested.” This is difficult to reproduce in English because we do not use the double negative in the same way the Greeks did, and that difficulty explains why the English versions differ so widely in their translations. Some versions simply make the two negatives into a positive like the REV and NIV do for clarity in English.
The meaning of Mark 4:22 has been much discussed by scholars. This is in large part because the subject of the verse is not well understood. Many people believe that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are about hidden sins being revealed, but that is not what these verses are talking about. The reason for most of the discussion is that the Gospel of Mark uses the Greek preposition, hina, which in this context describes purpose and means, “in order to,” or, “for this purpose.” Thus, Mark is saying that the purpose of hiding the thing was in order to bring it out in the open at a later time. That is confusing to the people who think that Mark 4:22 is about sin, because people do not hide their sins with the purpose of later revealing them.
The reason that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are worded the way they are in the Greek text is they are about the Kingdom of God and the secrets of the Kingdom, which God hid and is still hiding in part from people, but will reveal when the time is right. The context, as well as the verses themselves, show that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are speaking about the Kingdom of God and not “secret sins.” For example, the lamp which is “brought out” is not a bad thing, it is a good thing, and it is brought out to be put on the lampstand to give light for all to see by. There is no indication in the text that the “lamp” is a bad thing like a secret sin that is dragged out of someone against their will and then revealed to others, or revealed on the Day of Judgment to the shame of the one who sinned. Also, Mark 4:22 says that what is hidden is hidden “in order to” (hina) be revealed, but that is not true of secret sins. As has been pointed out, people do not hide their sins with the purpose of later revealing them, and also, although some hidden sins will be revealed on Judgment Day, many sins are confessed and cleansed before they are publicly revealed, so in fact, those sins are never revealed. In contrast, the Kingdom of God, which is hidden now, will be revealed and it will come to light in a powerful way that is obvious to everyone (cp. Rev. 1:7).
More evidence from Mark 4:21-22 that Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom of God being hidden but later being revealed comes from the context immediately before and after the event described in Mark 4:21-22. Just before that teaching, Jesus taught the parable of the Sower, and in explaining it he told the disciples that the secrets of the Kingdom of God were given to them (Matt. 13:11; Luke 8:10). Furthermore, immediately after the event described in Mark 4:21-22, Jesus told parables that confirmed that the Kingdom was small and hidden but would become huge and unable to be missed. For example, he told the parable of the Kingdom being like seed on the ground, which would hardly be noticeable, but it grows up into a crop (Mark 4:26-29). Then he told the parable about the Kingdom being like a small mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). He also told the parable about the Kingdom being like leaven that a woman “hid” in a large amount of meal (Matt. 13:33). Invisible at first, it would eventually leaven the entire loaf.
Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are about God hiding the Kingdom of God so that He could later reveal it, and that fits perfectly with the context. In contrast, there is nothing in the contexts of Matthew, Mark, or Luke that give any reason why Jesus would suddenly shift his teaching topic from the Kingdom of God to hidden sin.
As was stated at the opening of this entry, the fact that Mark 4:22 has a hina purpose clause has been a problem for translators. Understandably, it is a problem for most translators to think that Mark 4:22 is about secrets sins being revealed when the Greek text says that the thing was hidden “in order to” later reveal it, or that it was hidden “with the purpose of” later being revealed. Sadly, some English translations get around the problem by translating Mark 4:22 in a way that totally ignores the Greek preposition hina and its meaning, “in order to.” For example, the NLT translates Mark 4:22 as “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.” No one would ever read that translation and be able to discern that what was hidden was purposely hidden in order to reveal it later, and no one would conclude from that translation that Mark 4:22 is about the Kingdom of God. It is in part due to translation such as is in the NLT that the teaching that Mark 4:22 is about secret sins continues to be taught.
However, there are English translations that are more faithful to the meaning of Mark 4:22 and bring out its meaning. For example, the NIV reads, “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” The Kingdom New Testament, a translation by N. T. Wright, has, “No: nothing is secret except what’s meant to be revealed, and nothing is covered up except what’s meant to be uncovered.” The translation by Heinz Cassirer, God’s New Covenant, has this translation: “Nothing is kept hidden except with the intention that it should come into the open, nothing kept secret except with the intention that it should be brought to light.” It is easy to see from those translations that this verse cannot be about secret sins being revealed; no one hides their sin for the purpose of revealing it later.
Mark L. Strauss sees that Jesus is speaking about the Kingdom of God and writes, “In context, the lamp more likely represents either (1) the message of the kingdom of God or (2) the kingdom itself, the coming of which Jesus had been announcing. Either of these fits the context….This may also be the point in Mark: the kingdom of God, though presently veiled, will one day be revealed.”a
Another piece of evidence that needs to be explained is the singular nouns and verbs in Mark 4:22. The Emphasized Bible by Rotherham gets the sense, and translates the opening phrase as, “For it is not hidden.” The thing that is hidden is not a lot of secret sins, which would seemingly be represented by a plural subject, verb, and object, but rather it is a singular thing, a “what” or an “it,” and that is expressed by the subject (it), verb (is), and object (hidden), which are all singular in the Greek text. The thing hidden is the Kingdom of God that was purposely hidden by God with the purpose of fully revealing it when He was ready to reveal it.
Realizing that Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are about the Kingdom of God being hidden with the purpose of later being revealed does not mean that people’s unconfessed secret sins will not be revealed on the Day of Judgment, because they will be revealed, but secret sins is simply not what Mark 4:21-22 and Luke 8:16-17 are talking about.