The Purpose of This Session
The Doctrine of Revelation simply states that without God, mankind, in their sinful state, cannot perceive spiritual reality. People cannot know God apart from Him revealing Himself.
Our Father in Heaven, because of His intense love for His created people, has revealed Himself progressively, through nature, history, prophecy, scripture, miracles and completely in His Son, Jesus Christ.
The Progress of Revelation
i. The God of the Bible is One Who reveals Himself to His creation.
ii. Mankind were created with mental and spiritual faculties indicating that it was God’s intention that man may know Him.
iii. Since the fall, these mental and spiritual capacities have been dulled so he cannot himself discover God.
iv. In His grace and love, God has given a progressive revelation of Himself to mankind, consummating in the Lord Jesus Christ.
v. Man can only know God through His Son, Jesus the Anointed One.
REVELATION means “an uncovering, to uncover or unveil, to make known something hidden or secret”. In theology ‘revelation’ refers to God unveiling Himself to mankind, and communicating truth to man that he could not otherwise discover.
Jesus spoke of this teaching when He told His disciples:
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Matt 11:27 NKJV)
The Necessity of Revelation
Man is a creature in the image and likeness of God. He is endowed with faculties (will, emotions, intelligence, conscience, a spirit) through which he can contact and know and worship God.
When mankind fell, so did these faculties. When he partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he fell into a state of spiritual darkness and ignorance. His mind, reasoning and understanding became darkened, and he was alienated from the life of God. He became an enemy of God in his mind by wicked works. (Ref: Ephesians 4:17-18, Colossians 1:21, Genesis 3:1-6)
The fact that man is a created but fallen being indicates his need for revelation. If God does not take the initiative and reveal Himself,
it is impossible for man to discover or know God.
(Ref: 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2:11-16, Job 11:7)
This diagram is based on information from: “Foundations of Christian Doctrine”, Kevin J Conner, Published by Sovereign World International, ISBN 1-85240-024-2, p15, ‘the Necessity of Revelation’
Selah - Pause To Ponder
Consider for moment the fact that God has chosen to reveal Himself to you. You could not reach Him, but in His love He reached out to you, among so many others who do not yet know God, and saved you. What should our personal response to such grace be?
The Nature of Revelation
Divine Revelation can be...
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 16:17, NKJV.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…”
Hebrews 1:1,2, NKJV.
It is clear from scripture that God has revealed Himself progressively with each successive portion building upon the previous. His self-disclosure falls into two categories, ‘General Revelation’ given to all mankind, and ‘Special Revelation’, where He reveals Himself and His will to specific individuals.
How God has revealed Himself to all mankind.
i. God Has Revealed Himself Through Nature
Creation itself suggests that there is a Creator. Intelligent design indicates an intelligent Designer above, beyond and greater than the all created things.
Nature speaks in every language of the One Who created all.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3 NKJV)
All mankind is accountable before God for their knowledge of the revelation of God in nature.
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20, NKJV)
“The revelation of God in nature indicates that there is a God Who is the Creator, designer, architect and sustainer of all that exists” (p15).
Foundations of Christian Doctrine
Man is to look beyond creation to the Creator. However, in his darkened state, man has often looked at the creation itself and exalted it as a god (Romans 1:25).
Revelation of God in nature is insufficient because God cannot be personally known through it. It reveals His power but not His Person.
ii. God Has Revealed Himself Through Conscience
Kevin Conner defines Conscience as:
“a knowing with oneself”. It is an awareness of right and wrong with a compulsion to the right.” (Foundations p16)
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language defines conscience:
“Knowledge of one’s own thoughts or actions; consciousness. The faculty, power, or inward principle which decides as to the character of one’s own actions, purposes, and affections, warning against and condemning that which is wrong, and approving and prompting to that which is right; the moral faculty passing judgment on one’s self; the moral sense.”
Conscience became operative when Adam disobeyed God. He knew he had done wrong and tried to hide from God.“for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)” (Romans 2:14,15, NKJV)
Man is a moral being. Where did this moral sense come from? Is it:
i. Socially acquired, being taught by instruction and example.
ii. An inward sense of right and wrong given by the Supreme Law-giver Himself, who placed it there and holds man accountable to it.
Conscience is a revelation of God, the Ultimate Law-giver.
Revelation of God in conscience is insufficient because:
i. Though conscience does indicate the existence of an ultimate law-giver, it does not lead to personal relationship with Him.
ii. Although conscience acts as an internal witness of the law of God, it is fallible. It can be corrupted, defiled and hardened (1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15).
Through the blood of Jesus our conscience can be restored to its rightful role.
“how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14, NKJV)
iii. God Has Revealed Himself Through History
There is a revelation of God seen in history through the nations of the world.
“The mysterious rise and fall of nations indicates that somewhere behind the scenes is a sovereign hand, guiding, governing, controlling, raising up and casting down the rulers of these nations.” (p16)
Foundations of Christian Doctrine
“…the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” (Daniel 4:32, NKJV)
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” (Romans 13:1, NKJV)
Some of the dealings of God with the nations are recorded in scripture, including:
- Egypt (Exodus 9-12, Jeremiah 46:14-26, Ezekiel 29-30)
- Assyria (Isaiah 10:12-19, Ezekiel 31, Nahum 3:1-7)
- Babylon (Daniel 1-5, Jeremiah 50-51, Isaiah 47-48; 45:1-5)
- The Medo-Persian Empire (Isaiah 44:24-45:1-7, Daniel 2 & 7)
- The Grecian Empire (Daniel 8:1-25; 11:1-35)
- The Roman Empire (Daniel 7:7, 23; 9:24-27)
The nation of Israel through its entire history bears testimony to the existence of a Sovereign God who is involved in the history of nations. Even today scripture concerning Israel is been fulfilled before our eyes:
Though history indicates a Sovereign hand at work, the revelation of God in human history is insufficient to bring man into personal relationship with Him. Further revelation is necessary.
How God has revealed Himself specially and individually to specific people.
All mankind has a general revelation of God. Special Revelation refers to those acts of God where He reveals Himself and His will to specific persons.” (p17)
Foundations of Christian Doctrine
i. God Has Revealed Himself Through Miracles
“A miracle is a supernatural intervention into the laws of nature. Throughout history God has revealed His power and presence through true miracles.” (Kevin Conner, ‘Foundations’ p17)
Both Old and New Testaments record numerous miracles. The purpose of miracles is to bless and turn people to God. They reveal God’s power and motivation in dealing with mankind.
There are also counterfeit miracles wrought in the power of Satan (Exodus 7:12,22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Rev 13:13). These aim to deceive and turn man away from God.
ii. God Has Revealed Himself Through Prophecy
There are two types of prophecy: preaching and prediction. Predictive prophecy reveals God’s infinite knowledge.
The fall of nations came to pass as predicted years before by God’s prophets. These include the fall of Assyria (Ezekiel 31), Babylon (Jeremiah 50-51, Isaiah 47-48), The Grecian Empire (Daniel 8)
The coming of Christ, His mission, death and resurrection is detailed accurately in Old Testament prophecy. About 300 prophecies were fulfilled in Christ, many of them in the last few hours of His life.
Also see Module 2: The Doctrine of the Father & The Son for a full list of Messianic prophecies with References of prophecy and fulfilment]
The Revelation of God in nature, history and conscience are insufficient because they do not reveal God’s person. The revelation of God in miracles and prophecy are also insufficient because they reveal only aspects of God’s attributes and character. The entire personhood of God is only revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.
iii. God Has Revealed Himself In Christ
In Christ the sum total of all God’s attributes, will and character are unveiled. To look at Christ is to look at God.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NKJV)
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;” (Col 2:9 NKJV)
iii. God Has Revealed Himself In Scripture
The revelation of God in Christ is the revelation of the Living Word.
The revelation of God in Scripture is the revelation of the written Word, inspired and recorded.
Because the scriptures are inspired (God breathed) they give an infallible and accurate revelation of God’s will and person.
iii. God Has Revealed Himself In Personal Experience
The purpose of all revelation is that man may know His Creator in a personal way. It is not enough to know about God, we must know Him. Through the illuminating experience of the Holy Spirit the faculties of man can be quickened to receive this personal revelation of God.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
(1 Corinthians 2:12)
Throughout history men and women have come to know God in an experiential way:
In The Old Testament
Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:21-24)
Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9)
God revealed Himself to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)
God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-5)
Isaiah had a revelation of the holiness of God (Isaiah 6:8)
In The New Testament
The 12 Apostles had a personal experience of God in Christ.
Jesus is the revelation of God to man personally (Matthew 11:27)
Paul had a personal revelation of Jesus Christ (Acts 9:3-6)
All born again believers can testify that they have had personal experience of God in Christ Jesus.
Many of the stories we read in scripture are personal records of man’s experience of God. John the Apostle says that he is sure of the things that he has written because he himself experienced them (John 21:24; 1 John 1:1-3).