On the Implications of Progressive Revelation

We preach it in church. We teach it in Bible School: God has progressively revealed more of who he is and how he works as history has progressed. King David knew God way better than Noah or Job or Abraham did, even though Abraham was God’s friend. 

In theological terms, “The progressive character of divine revelation is recognized in relation to all the great doctrines of the Bible. What at first is only obscurely intimated is gradually unfolded in subsequent parts of the sacred volume, until the truth is revealed in its fullness.”*

We’ve just forgotten that he’s still doing that, today. Think about it: we have more revelation today than Charles Finney did, or Martin Luther before him, or Augustine before either of them. 

And as heretical as it sounds, we actually have more revelation available to us today than did the Apostle Paul did in his day. And he wrote half the books in the New Testament! (Of course, whether we’re accessing all that is available to us is open to discussion.)

The principle of progressive revelation is not controversial. The application of that principle just might scare us. 

Two specific applications that strike me today: 

* If God is still revealing more of his character and his ways, then we shouldn’t be surprised if people discover things about him that we’ve never been taught in church or in Bible School. It’s stunningly egotistical to think that “I know all that God has revealed about himself in this generation! If someone thinks they know something that God hasn’t shown me, they’re in deception.” This is not clear thinking. 

* Having more revelation than Silas and Timothy the rest of the boys (the ones who didn’t actually hang out with Jesus during those three years), our expectations should be for bigger results, better revelation than what they walked in. Saying, “I wanna be like the early church” is kind of like saying, “I wanna wear diapers and suck on a bottle all my life!” This also is not clear thinking. We are expected to far exceed their exploits.

In addition to the growing revelation that God is pouring out, there’s just the basic principle that God is infinite: infinitely big, infinitely complex, infinitely beautiful, infinitely knowing (aka omniscient). Anybody who thinks their little mind can hold all there is to know about an infinite God (“That can’t be true! I don’t know about that!”) is on an elevator that doesn’t go anywhere near the top floor. 

Be ready, dear ones, to learn things about God that the guys who wrote the textbooks never imagined.

Be ready to let God blow your mind a little bit. 

(He’s not a tame lion.)



Anonymous said...

Are you saying that you enter the third heaven of the Apostle Paul's experience? Can you reveal, or even hear, the "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." [2 Corinthians 12:4]
Progressive Revelation is clearly evident, but I don't see it on a personal basis. God alone opens the eyes of a generation in the progress of His Kingdom. Yet a seer, like Daniel, may see more that others in his generation. His revelations may need to be "sealed up" for a time until the progress of the Kingdom catches up.
To believe that you can know God better than Paul or Abraham is dangerous doctrine. Better to believe that Paul or Abraham or Moses have not yet been fully understood by the Church.

nwp said...

I'm not saying I know God better than Paul or Abraham or Moses, or you for that matter.

I AM saying that God has revealed more of Himself to our generation than He did to them.

Consider it this way: What God has revealed of Himself never expires. And he reveals some of Himself to every generation. So you and I have the revelation of our generation, plus the revelation of every generation before us.

However, as you point out: translating that revelation into knowing God is another thing altogether.