HAS GOD SPOKEN?

THE DOCTRINE OF REVELATION

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).

Men typically gain information in one of three ways: Empiricism is the means that appeals to man's senses, rationalism is the means that appeals to his logic, and faith involves the trusting in the information provided by another.

Paul tells us that there are certain things that have never been seen or heard by mortal man. Such things have not entered any realm of human observation. He goes on to say that these things have not entered the heart of man; that is, they cannot be deduced through a process of empiricism, rationalization or introspection.

What are these things that cannot be discovered through observation or rationalization or meditation? They are things in the spiritual realm. They are spiritual truths. They are the blessings that God has promised to those who are His people.

If these things cannot be perceived by the five senses and they cannot be discovered through a process of reasoning or through meditation and reflection, then how can we know about them? Paul answers this question in the next verse.

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10).

God has revealed to men certain things that could not otherwise be known. This process is known as REVELATION.

Man could never know anything about God except for the act that God revealed Himself to man. This is not only because of sin, although that also has its blinding ramifications. Man cannot know God apart from revelation because there is by nature an infinite gulf between God and His creation.

God

¬ Infinite Gulf ®

Creation

Revelation is a part of God's plan for man. Mankind was originally created to have fellowship with God. This set man apart from the rest of creation. As we read the Genesis 1 account of all of the creative works of God, we see that man was the only member of all of the created beings who mentioned in that chapter who could communicate with God. This sets mankind apart from the rest of creation. He alone could communicate with God. He could enjoy fellowship with God.

Fellowship

No Fellowship

God « Man

Rest of creation

Man is unique in all of God's creation in that only he has a God-consciousness. You have never seen a rooster pray. A tiger does not ask a blessing for the food he is about to eat. Even the so-called praying mantis makes no intercession toward God. Only man is designed to receive and understand the revelation of God.

Man's fall into sin broke the lines of communication between God and man. Man could do nothing to repair the situation. This is important to understand. Man on his own is completely powerless to learn anything about God, both because of his finiteness as well as because of his sinfulness.

Fellowship

SIN

No Fellowship

God

Man & Rest of creation

This means it is God who must take the initiative in restoring fellowship with man. Therefore revelation is of necessity an act of God.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF REVELATION

1. Revelation is Rooted in History.

The progress of revelation is not merely God's mind relating to our mind in certain abstract thoughts. It is also God's acting in history. Christianity is much more than a philosophy or a way of living or even a set of ideas about God. It has its foundations upon the actions that God has taken both in creation and redemption.

This is not to say that God is rooted in history. God is supra-historical. He is not limited to history, but supersedes it. He transcends history. But He has also condescended to enter time and space and history and communicate to man.

2. Revelation has Occurred Progressively in History.

The way that God revealed Himself in the Garden of Eden to Adam and the woman does not seem to have been as detailed a revelation as that which is presented in the New Testament epistles. When Adam and Eve were given the first promise of salvation, how much revelation did they have? Only a single verse. Genesis 3:15 is very limited in scope. It is only the small seed of what would be a host of future promises.

God has gradually revealed greater and greater measures of His truth over a long period of time as He spoke "at many places and in many ways" (Hebrews 1:1).

Each aspect of revelation was based upon those which had been given prior. Thus, when Jesus stood in the Temple in Jerusalem and said, "Before Abraham was, I AM," it was presupposed that those who were listening knew that God had once told Moses, "I AM THAT I AM."

The revelation that Jesus was God in the flesh was based upon a prior revelation of who God was.

This does not mean that revelation has evolved. Evolution describes the act of changing from one thing into another. Revelation does not change into that which is different from that which began. Instead the progression of revelation is a further and continuing unveiling of what unchanging truth that was previously hidden.

Evolution

Revelation

One thing changes into another

A further and more comprehensive unveiling of unchanging truth that was previously hidden.

Revelation has been likened to the raising of a theatrical curtain. There was a time when the curtain was lowered and the truth that it covered was hidden. Then the curtain was raised several inches and a small portion of the previously hidden stage was revealed. With each new revelation, the curtain is raised a bit more.

3. Revelation is Partial.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29).

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12).

God has not chosen to reveal all truth to us. There are many puzzles which are not explained; many questions that are not answered. These are the secret things. They belong to the Lord. There is coming a day of complete revelation. There is coming a day when we shall know fully.

The important point is that those things which have been revealed to us belong to us. They have been given to us. And they ought to be a prized possession.

4. Revelation is Related to God's Acts of Creation and Redemption.

Revelation does not take place in a vacuum. It is not a picture of God sitting up in heaven and sending a letter to man saying, "Hey down there! Let me explain to you the nature of the universe."

God's revelation of Himself always takes place in the context of His works of creation and redemption. He is not a disinterested bystander. He continues to hold the universe together by the word of His power.

Creator

Redeemer

God created the universe. It shows His power and His orderliness and His majesty.

God is calling out a people for Himself. This process started in the Garden of Eden with a promise of a Seed.

These two contexts also serve to point out the two types of Revelation: General versus Special Revelation.

Creator

Redeemer

General Revelation

Special Revelation

 

GENERAL REVELATION

1. Definition.

When we speak of General Revelation, we speak of the way that God has revealed Himself to men through His acts of creation and providence.

2. Scriptural Support.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3)
.

In Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe, one footprint on the sand showed to the marooned hero that another person was on his island. In the same way, the heavens and the earth are filled with the countless footprints of the Lord.

...that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

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. (Romans 1:19-20).

Here is what we must understand about revelation. It is REVELATION. The signs of God's presence in the realm of nature are only visible to us because God has revealed them to us.

This is also described as "natural" revelation. This does not mean that it merely comes naturally. Rather, it means that it is revelation that takes place within the realm of nature.

God's invisible attributes

By what has been made

¯

­

Are clearly seen...

®

Being understood...

This passage states that there are two specific aspects of God's existence which are revealed in creation.

a. His eternal power.

b. His divine nature.

This sets forth the limitation of this general revelation. No one ever looked at a sunset and deduced the doctrine of the Trinity.

God has revealed His power and divinity through His creation. This revelation has broken the infinity barrier. This revelation has left men without excuse.

3. False Views of General Revelation.

It is all we can know

Those who deny that the Bible is the word of God are left only with general revelation. But the truth is that if God has not spoken in the Bible, then God has not spoken.

It is sufficient for the unregenerate

Some have taught that the spiritual insight in the mind of a natural man can reason logically and conclude truths about God.

But the truth is that there is no "spiritual insight" in the mind of the unsaved that has not been darkened by sin and blinded by Satan.

 

SPECIAL REVELATION

Special Revelation refers to God's work of actively revealing Himself to men through various special means.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2a).

In these two short verses, the writer to the Hebrews provides a summary of Special Revelation. It is the message that God spoke...

  1. In many different portions.

God's revelation of Himself did not come all at once. There was a progression to its unveiling.

Each of these revelations brought a little more understanding of God to man. The writer of Genesis had a certain limited amount of information. The writer of Joshua had a little more. The writer of Samuel had even more. Each writer added to the pool of knowledge about God. In each case, the Old Testament prophets came away with another glimpse into the character and person and plans of God. But the final and complete communication of God was not accomplished through any of these means.

  1. In many different ways.

God's revelation of Himself over the ages took many different forms:

The revelation of God to the Old Testament prophets was fragmentary. It was here a little, there a little.

3. In His Son.

After God spoke through the prophets there was a great silence. For 400 years there had been no prophet to speak the word of the Lord. But now in these last days God has spoken again. This time He spoke through a new agency that had never before been used. He now has spoken to man through His Son.

This is the fullest revelation of God. It is the person of Jesus Christ. It is the person of the One who, being God, became man so that He might communicate God to us.

God has spoken...

To the fathers...

To us...

In the prophets...

In His Son...

In many portions and in many ways

In these last days

The ultimate revelation of God took place when He clothed Himself in flesh and came to live among us (John 1:14). He said to Philip on the night of the Last Supper, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

None of the prophets could ever make a claim like that Their knowledge of God was always limited. In contrast, Jesus had an experiential knowledge of God because He is God.

Let me use an illustration. If you wanted to get to know me, you could talk to someone who knew me. They could tell you a lot about me. You might come away with a certain number of facts such as where I was born or where I went to school or where I have worked. But if you really wanted to get to know me, the best way would be to talk with me.

The same is true of God. The best way to learn of God is to meet Him in the flesh. You meet Him in the flesh when you meet Jesus.

4. In the Bible.

The Bible is the written record of the revelation of God. But it is also more than that. It does not merely CONTAIN the word of God; it IS the word of God.

 

THE PLACE OF THE PROPHET IN REVELATION

God, after He spoke long ago to the father in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son... (Hebrews 1:1-2a).

The underlying premise of the Bible is that God has spoken. In Old Testament times, this was accomplished through His PROPHETS. What is a prophet? The Prophets served as a mouthpiece for God. He spoke through them.

1. Old Testament Designations for "Prophet."

Now the acts of King David, from first to last, as written in the chronicles of Samuel the SEER, in the chronicles of Nathan the PROPHET, and in the chronicles of Gad the SEER. (1 Chronicles 29:29).

a. Prophet (Genesis 20:7 - first usage; Exodus 7:1).

b. Seer (1 Samuel 9:9).

c. Man of God (used of prophets and especially of Elisha).

2. The Dependence of the Prophets upon the Spirit of God.

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20-21).

In verse 20 we have the negative aspect of revelation - what revelation is NOT. It is not a matter of man's own invention.

In verse 21 we have the positive aspect of revelation. This is what revelation IS. Revelation is that which is spoken by God. A superficial reading of this passage would seem to indicate that the author is referring to INTERPRETATION of the Scriptures.

However, the issue in this context is not interpretation, but rather one of ORIGIN. Notice the statement of verse 21.

For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will... (2 Peter 1:21).

The contrast is obvious. The message of the prophets did not originate with the prophets. That message came from God.

3. This Revelation was Multi-faceted.

God, after He spoke long ago to the father in the prophets in many portions and in many ways... (Hebrews 1:1).

The Greek text of this passage places the phrase the emphasis in a different place.

In many portions and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers in the prophets... (Hebrews 1:1).

The Old Testament records many different ways in which God revealed Himself to men. Abraham saw Him as a "smoking oven and a flaming torch" (Genesis 15:17). He spoke to Joseph in dreams. He appeared to Moses in a burning bush. To Samuel he was a voice calling in the night. To Elijah he was a still, small voice.

4. God's Revelation Coincides with His Redemptive Work.

Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7).

God always speaks when He institutes redemptive activity. When He is not engaged in redemptive activity, there is generally no need for God to speak.

This is why there was a 400-year period of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is not that God has gone on vacation, but rather that He was not engaged in any new redemptive work. In the same way, it is why there is no on-going revelation today.

5. The Cessation of Old Testament Prophets.

The Old Testament does not make an announcement that its revelation is now at a close. However, it became generally recognized by the Jews that this was the case.

So there was a great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen among them. (1 Maccabees 9:27).

Josephus, in his work Contra Apion where he defends the trustworthiness of the Old Testament Scriptures, says that...

...our history has been written since Artaxerxes, very particularly, but has not been esteemed of the same authority with the former by our forefathers, because there has not been an exact succession of prophets since that time. (Contra Apion 1:8).

6. Jesus - the Ultimate Prophet.

Jesus fulfilled the promise of Moses that there would come one who would be a prophet of his caliber (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. It is for this reason that He is called "the Word" (John 1:1, 14). He is the living word of God. God has communicated Himself to us by becoming man.

 

THE RESULTS OF REVELATION

Now I want to ask you a question. It is the question that you should ask at the end of any Bible study. It should be asked of any teaching and after any sermon. What are the practical applications of this teaching of revelation? Or to put it in plain language - So what?

The humanist seeks to do one of three things when he is confronted with the question of God.

He denies the existence of God.

He claims that God cannot be known.

He tries to regulate God to a little storage cabinet among the other details of life.

But God has spoken. It is foolish to deny the existence of someone who is standing there talking to you.


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