Types of Revelation

October 19th 2017

With any discussion of “revelation” (not the book of Revelation), one must start with three facts that are essential for understanding the Bible correctly:

 

1. God exists

 

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. [Hebrews 11:6]

 

2. God has revealed Himself

 

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; [Hebrews 1:1-2]

 

3. Man can know God

 

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. [John 17:3]

 

 

The word “revelation” means “to uncover; to show something that was previously unknown.”  The study of theology has always recognized two categories of revelation:  General Revelation and Special Revelation.  General Revelation and Special Revelation are the two ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity. General Revelation refers to the general truths that can be known about God through nature. Special Revelation refers to the more specific truths that can be known about God through the supernatural.

 

 

General Revelation“That revelation which is available to all mankind at any time in history.  It is rooted in creation and is also expressed through history, the conscience and providence.”

 

Within the definition above, I’ve underlined four words that are used while defining General Revelation.  Those four words are:  Creation, History, Conscience, and Providence.  Further definitions are necessary…

 

Creation

Understand that that which God created bears witness to its Creator.  Though the creation is distinct from the Creator, creation reveals God’s glory and His existence.  To worship the creation is wrong (Romans 1:25), but to acknowledge that creation displays the glory of God is an important fact for us to embrace.

 

Each of the following passages gives evidence that various aspects of creation make known to man something about God.  A person may not know God personally because of creation, but he is without excuse if he denies the existence and power of God –

 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:  [Romans 1:18-20]

 

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. [Psalm 19:1]

 

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; [Romans 2:14-15]

 

History 

History is an aspect of general revelation because the events of history point to the sovereign hand of God behind everything that occurs in the affairs of men.

 

Each of the following verses indicate that the affairs of men are under the control of God even when man makes choices.  Therefore, history is one way for man to observe that God is in control.  Hence, history is an aspect of general revelation.

 

And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: [Daniel 2:21]

 

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. [Romans 13:1]

 

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; [Acts 17:26]

 

Providence 

Providence is the execution, in all its details, of God’s plan of the ages.  It refers to the fact that God sovereignly sustains all aspects of His creation.  God provides mankind with all we need to be sustained, both as individuals and in the events of nations.  Even the choices man makes, including wicked choices, are unable to overrule the providence of God.

 

Each of the following verses show that God provides for all men at all times in a general way.  Even those who do not acknowledge Him receive His provision.  For a believer, the doctrine of providence is a great comfort.  For an unbeliever, it is ignored.

 

That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. [Matthew 5:45]

 

Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. [Acts 14:17]

 

Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; [Acts 17:25-26]

 

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.  [Genesis 50:20]

 

Conscience 

The Hebrew and Greek words for “conscience” bear the idea of “knowing with.”  Your conscience is that part of you which knows what you do and compares your actions with your sense of right and wrong.  The conscience is a person’s inner knowledge which performs self-judgment.  God has implanted the idea of Himself within the mind of each person by way of their conscience.

 

While the conscience is part of general revelation, it’s important for us to recognize that the conscience can be educated and “adjusted.”  A “weak” conscience (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8) is over-sensitive and tells a person that actions are sinful when they are not.  A “seared” conscience (1 Timothy 4:2, Ephesians 4:19) is one that does not recognize true sin.  A “good” con­science matches what Scripture actually teaches.

 

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another; [Romans 2:14-15]

 

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: [1 Timothy 1:5]

 

General Revelation is sufficient to bring a person to the recognition that there is a God, but it is not sufficient to bring a person to salvation.  Creation reveals God such that man is without excuse for rejecting God.  More revelation, however, is necessary for salvation … Special Revelation.

 

 

Special Revelation - “God’s revelation to specific people which provides the answer to man’s sin problem.” 

 

Special Revelation is needed because of man’s sin, which makes it essential that God make known the way of salvation.  Special Revelation centers on Christ.  The various kinds of Special Revelation include:  Miracles, Prophecy, Dreams, an Audible Voice, Theophanies, Jesus Christ, and Scripture.

 

Miracles

“Events in which God intervenes in the physical world, surpassing all known human or mortal powers.”  Miracles are demonstration of power acting outside the range of natural causes and effects.  Miracles are provided by God to authenticate a teacher or prophet or his doctrine.

 

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? [Hebrews 2:3-4]

 

Prophet/Prophecy

“A spokesman of God speaking forth information made known directly by God, and/or a spokes¬man of God applying revelation of God to a particular circumstance with words directed by God.”

 

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

[1 Peter 1:10-12]

 

Dreams

Sometimes God gave His people information by means of dreams.  These are clearly distinct from natural dreams.  Those who received revelation by dreams were moved by God to act upon His will or to pass along new revelation.

 

The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; [Daniel 2:26-28]

 

Within the above example, Special Revelation also involved the super­natural ability to interpret the dream.

 

Audible Voice

Sometimes the recipients of Special Revelation heard a voice directly from God.

 

And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. [Matthew 3:17]

 

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish.  [Exodus 19:21]

 

Theophanies

“Manifestations of God in visible and bodily form before the incarnation of Jesus Christ.”  These are appearances of God in the form of man or angels, usually described as the angel of Jehovah.

 

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. [Exodus 3:2]

 

Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is Special Revelation - Jesus Christ is the full, final, and complete revelation of God.  You and I are created in the image of God, but we are not God and will not evolve to be God(s). Jesus Christ is, by his own essence, fully God, wrapped in humanity.

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. [John 1:1, 14]

 

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; [Hebrews 1:1-2]

 

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: ... Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: [Colossians 1:13, 15]

 

Scripture

“The written and preserved word of God.”  Not all Special Revelation is preserved in Scripture, but Scripture is what we have from God, which stands forever as the standard by which all claims to truth are judged.

 

Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. [Psalm 119:4]

 

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes 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 for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. [Psalm 19:7-11]

 

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

[2 Timothy 3:16-17]

 

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

[2 Peter 1:21]

 

God’s existence and power can be clearly seen through observing the universe. The order, intricacy, and wonder of creation speak to the existence of a powerful and glorious Creator.  General Revelation is found in nature, history and the conscience.  General Revelation is available to all men everywhere and always.  General Revelation leaves men without excuse before God.

 

Special Revelation is how God has chosen to reveal Himself through miraculous means.  Special Revelation is found in Christ and in the Bible.  Special Revelation is available to those exposed to the word of God or Christ.  Special Revelation leaves men with a remedy for their sin problem.  Special Revelation leads to salvation, which is only provided through Jesus Christ.

 

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