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II. The Bible as Revelation

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

A. Introduction

  1. The Definition of "revelation"
    1. The Occurrence and Meaning of the New Testament (NT) Word: apocalypsis
      1. The Greek word apocalypsis derives from the combination of apo (from) and calypsis (covering).
      2. Literally, this word means: a disclosing/uncovering of something previously hidden
      3. apocalypsis occurs 18 times in the NT. (See e.g., Galation 2:2 and Revelation 1:1)
    2. The Theological Meaning of Divine Revelation
      An Amplified Definition:
      A disclosure from God [Source] to man [Recipient] of that which would otherwise not ne known [content] of God's person, purpose and works [Specifics] in acts and/or words [Means and Methods].
  2. The Distinction of Revelation from Inspiration and Illumination
    1. Revelation (Disclosure)
      1. The basic idea here is a disclosure of spiritual truth
      2. It emphasizes source and content of truth
      3. Revelation is both past and present
    2. Inspiration (Recording)
      1. The basic idea is a recording of spiritual truth
      2. It emphasizes source and composition of truth
      3. It guarantees accuracy and inerrancy
      4. Inspiration is past
    3. Illumination (Understanding)
      1. The basic idea is an understanding of spiritual truth
      2. It emphasizes appropriation of truth
      3. Illumination is past and present, with emphasis on the present
  3. The Rationale of Revelation
    1. Revelation is Possible
      1. This answers the question: "Can God reveal Himself?". The answer is presumed "Yes" due to God's attributes of omniscience (all-knowing(ness)) and omnipotence (all-power(fulness)).
      2. It is possible because God has the ability and knowledge to reveal himself to humanity. (or did you presume that only human are capable of communnication?)
    2. Revelation is Probable
      1. This answers the question: "Would God reveal Himself?"
      2. This is probable because (1) man communincates with man; and (2) man is made in the image of God (Gen 1-2)
      3. We thus expect God to be commucative as well.
    3. Revelation is Necessary
      1. This answers the question: "Why must/would God reveal Himself if He is to be known?"
      2. Revelation is necessary because of man's finite knowledge and sinfulness, both gaps which must be bridged if man is to truly know God
        " For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

        "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)

        " There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have altogether become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:11-12)

B. Types of Revelation

  1. General Revelation
    1. Introduction
      1. The two main forms of general revelation are the physical universe and the human conscience (and perhaps a third is providential history)
      2. It is called "general" because this revelation is accessible to all at any time or era.
    2. Forms of General Revelation
      1. The Physical Universe
        1. Key verses:

          The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.
          -- Psalm 19:1-4

          ...What may be known about God is plain to [sinful humanity], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that humanity is without excuse.
          -- Romans 1:19-20

        2. General revelation is "universal". (See Psalm 19:4 above)
        3. What can humanity understand about God through general revelation?
          1. God's existence
          2. God's power
          3. God's order/rightness
          4. God's wisdom/knowledge
          5. God's greatness/supremacy
          6. God's goodness (see Acts 14:16-17)
        4. What are the limitations of general revelation?
          1. Nature contains enough truth to bring responsibility to humanity to honor God as creator and give him thanks (Romans 1:20-21)
          2. General revelation contains enough truth to bring guilt if not acted upon properly. (Romans 1:18)
          3. General revelation does not provide enough truth to result in spiritual salvation since it contains no information/revelation regarding Christ and his death for sin (John 14:6; Romans 10:14; Acts 4:6)
      2. The Conscience of Man
        1. Key Verses:
          ... [Even pagans] show that the requirements of the law are on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing or defending them.
          -- Romans 2:15

          We [christians] have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the Word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
          -- 2 Corinthians 4:2

        2. The Universailty of Conscience (see 2 Cor 4:2)
        3. The Definition of "Conscience"
          1. The NT word literally means "a seeing together"
          2. It refers to an innate discernment
          3. It is an inborn ability within humanity to judge right from wrong
        4. The Action of "Conscience"
          1. It judges the rightness of one's own actions, thoughts and attitudes in light of a known law or standard.
          2. "It bears witness" (Romans 2:15; 9:1) in effect saying, "I have been obeyed or disregarded"
          3. It does not make an idividual's decisions.
        5. The Contents of "Conscience" (and thus General Revelation)
          1. The seemingly universal reality of conscience within a person implies the existence of God or at the least a Supreme Law Giver.
          2. The mechanism of the conscience implies that this God/Divine Being is "Righteous" since the conscience is [a;ways] designed to discern the right from the wrong.
          3. The Limitations of "Conscience"
            1. In itself, it offers enough truth to bring responsibility and guilt when violated (CF. Romans 2:15)
            2. It does not provide enough truth to believe to bring about spiritual salvation since there is no revelation through it of Christ and redemption.
      3. Providential History

    3. The Purpose and Results of General Revelation
      1. It is meant to persuade mankind to seek God. (See Acts 14:17; 17:24 - 27)
      2. It helps to meet a natural need of humanity for some knowledge of its Creator.

  2. Special Revelation
    1. Definition
      The acts of God whereby He makes Himself and His truth known at specific times and to specific people

    2. Forms of Special Revelation
      1. Personal Experience (cf. Galatians 2:2)
        1. Hearing an audible voice (like Samuel in 1 Samuel 3)
        2. Having a dream (like Joseph in Genesis 37)
        3. Seeing a vision (like Paul in Acts 16)
        4. Being spoken to by an angel (like Mary in Luke 1)

      2. Some Miracles (dunamis)
        1. Definition (of dunamis):
          An unusual event, not solely the product of natural laws, accomplishing some useful work for God and revealing the presence and power of God.
        2. The Conceptual Content of dunamis
          1. the Existence of God
          2. the Power of God
          3. the Goodness of God (through healings and provisions)
          4. the Righteousness / Judgment of God
          5. the Supremacy of God (e.g. toward Nebuchanezzar)
          6. the Immanence of God
        3. Three Historical Periods of Miraculous Prominence in Biblical History
          1. In the time of Moses
          2. In the time of Elijah and Elisha
          3. In the time of Christ and his Apostles
        4. The Limitations of dunamis
          1. They usually (if ever) do not contain sufficient truth to save
            1. The Plagues in Egypt through Moses (Exodus 7-12) showed God's supremacy and righteousness, but did not save the Egyptians.
            2. The unending supply of oil and flour through Elijah (1 Kings 17) showed God's power and mercy, but did not speak toward spiritual salvation (though physical preservation/salvation is present).
            3. The feeding of the 5000 by Christ (John 6) showed God's power and mercy, but had no impact of the crowd's leanings toward spiritual salvation (see Jesus' own comments in John 20:31).
          2. The Historical and Contemporary Continuance of dunamis
            1. They still occur today
              1. There is still regeneration of those who trust Christ (which can indeed entail the miraculous)
              2. There are healings in answer to prayer
            2. They do not usually seem revelatory to us today, but may in fact be quite revelatory in countries not having ample access to the Bible, where the need for this type of special revelation exists.

      3. Prophecy
        1. Definition:
          The giving forth of instruction and teaching (forthtelling) or the foretelling of events through a direct communication from God.
        2. Background of Prophecy
          1. The primary function of an Old Testament prophet was as an reformer or revivalist, not a predictor.
            1. They were raised up by God in times of crisis to instruct, rebuke, warn, and comfort, etc.. (Hosea 6:1; 9:1; 14:1; cf Micah 2:1)
            2. Interwoven in this ethical preaching were predictions (Micah 5:2)
          2. The primary function of a New Testament prophet was also as an informer and instructor, not a predictor (1 Corinthians 14:3; edification, exhortation, consolation)
          3. The prophet spoke directly from God with an immediate revelation, like a repeater or quoter (cf Deuteronomy 18:18; Exodus 4:15-16; 7:1)
          4. The Effects and Limitations of Prophecy
            1. Foretelling usually did not contain truth sufficient for salvation (Cf Daniel 8, 9; Micah 5:2; Malachi 3:1)
              1. For salvation, predictive prophecy must have contained the true object of saving faith, which it seems it did not.
              2. Probably a person in the Old testament period was not saved by looking forward to the Messiah who was predicted to come.
            2. Forthtelling may have contained truth sufficient to save
              1. For salvation, didactive prophecy (forthtelling) must have included the proper object of saving faith
              2. "Repent and return to Jehovah", which was a major theme of the Minor Prophets, would be an example of this.
          5. The Historical and Contemporary Continuation of Prophecy
            1. We would not expect this form to usually occur today.
            2. There is no need for prophecy in cultures which have the Bible (2 Peter 1:19; 1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

      4. The Earthly Life of Jesus Christ
        1. Statements of Scripture suggesting the life of Jesus constitutes "special" revelation
        Hebrews 1:1-3
        In the past God spoke to our fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, and through whom he has made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word...

        a. God spoke through his Son like he did through the prophets.
        b. Christ is the "radiance of God's glory".

        John 1:14, 18
        The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth... No man has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

        a. The glory of God was seen in Christ (cf. Psalm 19:1)
        b. Christ explained what the Father was like.

        2. Methods through which Jesus manifested special revelation

        a. Through what he said. (cf John 7:16-17)
        b. Through what he did. (cf John 5:17,19)
        However, not all that Jesus did or said was revelatory. (E.g., John 4:6-7)

        3. The Contents of special revelation through Jesus

        a. The existence of God
        b. Plurality within the Godhead (Ie, Trinity)
        c. The Nature and Character of God
        d. The Wilol and Purposes of God (Eg, Matthew 13:24-25)
        e. The Works of God

        4. The Need and Purpose of this form of special revelation

        a. Christ's main area of revelation was (probably) the Will and Purposes of God
        b. At this particular time Israel needed:
        - a message of repentance
        - instruction about the kingdom
        - a new object of saving faith

        5. The Sufficiency and Effects of Jesus' special revelation

        a. Christ revelaed enough Truth to save a person, if believed. (see John 1:11-12; 3:16; 8:24)
        b. He revealed enough Truth to condemn a person as well. (Eg, John 3:18, 36)

      5. The Scriptures (as a source of special revelation)
        1. Their Claims to be revelation
        a. Over 3800 times in the Old Testament are sttaements made claiming what is written is divine revelation (Eg, Leviticus 1:1-2; Isaiah 1:2; Hosea 1:1-2; Joel 1:1)
        New Testament claims are far (far) fewer. (1 Corinthians 14:37; Revelation 1:1)

        2. Their Content

        a. They contain statements about all other forms of revelation.
        1. Each form might have been a revelation to a person at the time it occurred.
        2. Some forms are also revelation for us as we read about them.
        3. Some matters in the Bible are not technically revelatory, such as:
        - historical and geographical facts
        - geneaologies

        4. Each book of the Bbible as a whole was special revelation because of the way known and unknown truth was put together within it.

        b. They interpret the other forms for us and therefore are not coordinate (in the same class) withthem.

        c. They are the broadest in scope of content than all other forms of revelation (even than Christ).

        3. Arguments for their validation as revelation (From Thiessen, pp. 43-49)

        a. Their own self-claims
        1. Many Old testament books claim to be God's Word.
        2. If the Bible proves true in areas of science, history, geography, math, etc., we would tend to accept its witness to itself.

        b. Their indestructibility

        1. They have survived accusation against their truthfulness, authenticity and genuineness.
        2. They have survived attacks against their physical existence.

        c. Their fulfilled prophecy

        1. About 20% of the Bible was predictive prophecy when written, and much has already been fulfilled.
        2. Over 300 prophecies on the life and ministry of Christ alone have been fulfilled.

        d. Their scientific and historical accuracy

        1. No science or history book is without error.
        2. Although not a science or history book, all of the biblical statements in these areas are proving true.

        e. Their influence for goodness and justice

        1. They have helped promote social, cultural, civil and humanitarian good as no other book has.
        2. They have helped change countless lives morally.

        f. Their contents ("The Bible is not a book that man would write if he could, nor could write if he would"- Chafer)

        1. He would not write about:
        a. the origin, fact and extent of human sin
        b. the plan of salvation by grace, not works
        c. the high ethical standards
        d. the Person of God: his holiness and oneness

        2. He could not write about:

        a. the account of Creation
        b. predictive prophecy that always comes to pass
        c. the scope of contents from eternity past to eternity future
        d. the harmony of diverse biblical themes

        4. Some Concluding facts

        a. Written revelation is not exhaustive
        1. Although the Bible is the embodiement of all other forms of revelation, it still is limited in what ot contains.
        2. God has not revealed all spiritual truth and undoubtedly has withheld much more knowledge than he has disclosed. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
        3. God has revealed all that he had intended for us to know and we should be satisfied with this.

        b. Written revelation is progressive

        1. The Bible's books generally build a knowledge presented in those that have preceded chronologically.
        2. The book of Revelation is like the terminal of many railroad lines, making it more difficult to understand.

        c. Written revelation is primarily intended for the edification of believers. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11)

        d. Written revelation is secondarily unto salvation of unbelievers. (See 2 Timothy 3:15; John 20:31)

        e. Written revelation has been completed

        1. This really only relates to canonicity. (Is the canon closed? yes.)
        2. Reasons for this are:
        a. Theological: We would expect God who is perfect to give man as complete a revelation as needed and intended.
        b. Logical: The early church was in the best position to judge and they judged it complete in 397 A.D.
        c. Factual: There has been no attempt by orthodox protestantism to insert any other books.
        d. Experiential: Only the Bible books have proven by their effect (on human lives) to be divine revelation while other books have not.

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