You can download the .pdf of this lecture here: Revelation
I. Revelation & the Bible
Definition: Revelation is God gracious act of self-disclosure.
The pursuit of the knowledge of God (i.e. theology) is often portrayed as man investigating the facts and seeking to find the God who is hidden from plain view. The fact of the matter, however, is that man cannot know God apart from revelation. God made it clear to Moses that there is no finite man who can behold the infinite God.
Exodus 33:20: But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
For Moses to see any part of God it required God to graciously condescend to Moses level. This is what revelation is. Revelation is God’s gracious act of self-disclosure. If God had not graciously chosen to reveal his attributes and actions to us then we would not have sought these truths out.
Isaiah 65:1: I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name.
As John Calvin vividly compared revelation to a parent using “baby talk” with an infant. Just like the mom communicates with a baby at his level, so too God reveals himself to us an a level that we can understand. In this way God has not left himself without a witness in this world.
Acts 14:15-17: “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
God has revealed himself to man, whether men recognize it or not. This revelation is both general and special.
A. General Revelation
Definition: God generally reveals Himself to man through creation and conscience.
No one is born with a comprehensive understanding of the Universe. However, there are certain truths that we can all learn from observing the world around us. In this way it can be said that God has generally revealed His attributes to us in creation.
Psalm 19:1-2: The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
In addition to creation God has also revealed himself by giving man a conscience.
Romans 2:15: They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
From God’s general revelation man can ascertain that God posses eternal power, a divine nature, and that he is the Judge. However, this revelation only leaves man without excuse.
Romans 1:20: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
God’s general revelation is gracious on the part of God, but is insufficient epistemologically & soteriologically. Because we are finite general revelation does not tell us everything that we need to know about God. This is why Adam, before sin, needed special revelation from God. Additionally, general revelation does not provide reveal what is necessary to be saved, it only points to the need for salvation. Thus, it should be said that general revelation does not deal with man’s rebellion against God.
Romans 1:21: For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
B. Special Revelation
Definition: God relationally reveals himself to man through His Son, and His word.
Because God’s general revelation was ignored by men, speculations about God and His nature abounded endlessly. However, God chose to reveal Himself in a special way that would make a relationship with Him possible.
John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
His special revelation communicates truths about Himself that would have otherwise never been discovered. Before sin God revealed himself in this way to Adam and Eve, however after the fall God’s special revelation had to become redemptive in order to be relational.
Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
For the Church, God’s special revelation consists of the “Word” and the “word. That is to say, God has specially revealed himself through the person of Jesus Christ and the divinely inspired scriptures.
Hebrews 1:1-4: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Special revelation includes what has been revealed to us about God through the person of Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:15: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
John 1:18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Special revelation also includes the inspired text of the Bible.
Psalm 19:7-9: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
This is particularly important for the church because it is where all special revelation can be found. The special revelation that the church needs is all contained in the bible.
2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
Because the Bible is God’s special redemptive revelation it is powerful unto salvation. No other source of knowledge, including general revelation, can make this claim.
1 Peter 1:23: since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
C. The Implications of Revelation
There are a number of ways that the church can benefit from a theology of revelation. Here are several key benefits.
- The bible’s teaching about revelation reminds us that God is always the one who graciously initiates a relationship with man.
- The bible’s teaching about revelation reminds us that all the truth about God is accessible to all men. Agnosticism is not only a denial of God, but it is an utter disregard for His gracious revelation.
- The bible’s teaching about revelation compels us to use the word of God in evangelism. The bible contains a saving power that no human argument can match.
- The bible’s teaching about revelation encourages us to pursue science as a means of understanding general revelation and subduing the creation.