Free files for my fellow student pastors…
Imagine living hundreds of years ago in a medieval kingdom, with a castle in the middle, and citizens living as servants to their sovereign king. Imagine your King making an appearance once a week to verbally address his kingdom from the castle’s third-floor balcony. Remember, whatever the King says is law for his kingdom and life for his citizens. All would listen intently!
Likewise, the Doctrine of Revelation is all about God revealing Himself, His character, and His purposes through the way in which He speaks to all people. Here are some true/false questions:
- People can be saved by looking at the created universe and believing in God as creator.
- People can be saved by listening to their conscience tell them that God really exists.
- All people in all times and in all places have known that God really exists.
- God wouldn’t send someone to hell who has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Divine Revelation is the one true God speaking to us in order to reveal Himself. What if God wrote a daily column in the newspaper? I’m sure everyone would read it daily! But do we believe that God speaks just as fresh, just as powerful, and just as daily through His revelation?
There are a few things we must understand about Divine Revelation. First, Divine Revelation was natural in the beginning between God, Adam, and Eve. There was no separation as God would speak and reveal Himself to them in the garden. Would they have needed a Bible? Secondly, Divine Revelation is now necessary because of sin. Sin is not only wrong, but it also separates us from the holy God. Therefore, God must speak to reveal Himself to sinners who do not naturally know Him. Third, the purpose of Divine Revelation is for us to know God through Jesus Christ. God’s goal is that we look to Him and know Him through His Son (John 17:3).
While Divine Revelation is the broad doctrine of God revealing Himself, General Revelation is the doctrine of God revealing Himself to all persons, at all times, and in all places through the creation and the conscience (Psalm 19:1, Rom 1-2). As a youth pastor, I get lots of questions from teenagers about the people in foreign lands like Africa who die without knowing the gospel. Do they go to heaven or hell? The Apostle Paul says that all people everywhere have always looked at the creation, perceived that God exists, but reject Him (Rom 1:18-21). Not only creation, but also all humanity’s conscience bear witness of God’s law and existence, yet they reject Him and His law (Rom 2:14-16). This means that all people, at all times, and in all places are guilty before God because of their need of Jesus Christ. It is both contrary to a sinner’s nature to come to God without Christ, and contrary to God’s purposeful plan in Christ. While General Revelation is true, it is never enough to lead a sinner to Christ (Rom 10:10-15).
Because General Revelation is insufficient for salvation, what we call Special Revelation is needed. Special Revelation is when God reveals Himself to specific people at specific times and in specific places for them to enter into a saving relationship with Him through Jesus.
Dreams, Visions, and Prophecies are Special Revelations from God used throughout Scripture to reveal His plan, His will, and His desire for the people within His covenant (Matt 1:20).
Direct Address is used by God to speak to people in specific events (Gen 3:16-19, Matt 3:17).
Scripture is said by the Apostle Peter to be an even more sure and confident revelation of God than His audible voice. This is because the written Word of God passed down throughout generations is more protected from alteration than “God told me…” (2 Peter 1:16-21).
Jesus Christ is the fullest, most exact, and most special revelation of God (John 1:1, 14:9, Heb 1:1-4). Nothing reveals God better to humanity than His own Son – fully God and fully man.
Why does God reveal Himself to us? It is because God’s absolute best plan for our lives is that we are in relationship with Him. We know God best through His Son, Jesus Christ. And we know Jesus Christ best through His Word (Rom 10:17) and His church (Eph 1:22-23). We only know God as much as we know Jesus. We only know Jesus as much as we know His Word.