What is Revelation?

Definition of Revelation

Revelation is the act of making known. It is the act of God as he uncovers or unveils hidden mysteries to those whom he created in his own image.

General Revelation

General revelation is received by all. (Romans 1:18-23; 1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

General revelation is received through nature. (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:18-20)

General revelation is received through man’s conscience. All men have been created in the image of God, and as such they have an inborn interest, need, and fear of the divine. They have an inborn understanding of right and wrong, and God must be one who distinguishes between good and evil. It is for this reason that men invent and prostrate themselves before idols or gods. (Acts 17:27-28; Romans 2:1; 2:14-15)

General revelation is received through providence.

General revelation is received through logic.

  • Cosmological argument – Every effect has a cause. Something uncaused and preexistent caused the universe.
  • Teleological argument – Everything transitions from order to disorder. When we see order, we know it comes from an originator, creator, architect, or artists.
  • Ontological argument – This is known as Anselm’s Argument and is appreciated by many philosophers. (https://youtu.be/xBmAKCvWl74)

General revelation is partial. It correctly reveals elementary truths about God and his universal ethics, but it is not sufficient for salvation. It can make one a theist but not a Christian. Special revelation is needed. (Romans 10:12-15)

General revelation can be incorrectly interpreted. The declaration is infallible; the discovery is not.

General revelation is naturally rejected by all.

Special Revelation

Special revelation is received by some.

Special revelation is delivered through many ways including theophanies, audible voices, prophecies, tongues, visions, stone tablets, writing on the wall, pillar of fire, cloud of smoke, earthly phenomenas, angels, speaking animals, dreams, Urim and Thummim, the casting of lots, the scriptures, and the Son. (Hebrews 1:1)

Special revelation is inspired. By inspiration we describe what God does. It is his breathing his words through human prophets who communicate in their normal vocabulary, style, mannerisms, emotions, personalities, and colloquialisms. We do not hold to “Mechanical Inspiration” whereby men were passive dictators. We do not hold to “Dynamic Inspiration” whereby men were elevated to a higher spiritual reality. Instead, we hold to “Organic Inspiration” whereby men freely wrote and were freely guided by their Sovereign God. (Numbers 12:6-8; 2 Samuel 23:1-3; Isaiah 59:21; Jeremiah 1:9; Acts 1:16; 28:25; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21)

Inspiration is the act of the Holy Spirit in revealing to human writers the message that God intends to comprise the Old and New Testaments. God directed and controlled the free choice of the mean so that he wrote down the very words of God.  (MacArthur)

Inspiration is that mysterious process by which the divine causality worked through the human prophets without destroying their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings.  (Norman Geisler)

Inspiration is that influence of the Spirit of God upon the minds of the Scripture writers which made their writings the progressive, divine revelation …  (A. H. Strong)

Special revelation is inerrant. God does not lie, and he providentially safeguarded his words while using imperfect instruments. (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18)

Special revelation is authoritative. Despite the imperfect instruments, it comes to man as the “Word of the Lord,” and as such it holds supremacy over teachers, church councils, doctrinal creeds, religious teachings, and private spiritual revelations. This is the doctrine of Sola Scriptura as held by our Reformed church fathers. (Micah 3:8; John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13)

Special revelation, in the Holy Bible, is infallible.  It is the inspired, inerrant, authoritative revelation of God for all people fora all time. (Psalm 119:160; Matthew 5:18; 24:35; John 10:35)

Special revelation is special. It presents hidden truth regarding God, his law, the Gospel, man’s salvation, church history, faith, and worship.(Psalm 119:130; Romans 10:12-15; 2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Special revelation is sufficient but not exhaustive. One ought not neglect that which can be learned from God’s general revelation and common grace.

Special revelation is clear. It is able to be understood and interpreted by the average Spirit-led man without the aid of professional clergy or hidden-code deciphers. A word used to describe this is perspicuity. (Psalm 119:130)

Special revelation can be incorrectly interpreted. The declaration is infallible; the discovery is not.

Special revelation is naturally rejected by all.

Special revelation is strangely received by some. The Holy Spirit graciously opens eyes and fully persuades some of the divinity and veracity of the Bible. (Matthew 13:13; 16:17; John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 1 John 5:9)

Special revelation is divinely powerful. (Psalm 19:7-8; Romans 1:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-15; Hebrews 4:12-13)

Power comes not through the Word of God, but through the Holy Spirit using the Word of God. There have been many “experts” in the Bible who remain unaffected by its content. Perhaps we have been guilty of focusing on the Bible to the neglect of focusing on the Spirit who empowers the Bible.

Westminster Shorter Catechism:  How is the word made effectual to salvation?  The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.