You may have seen the title and either got excited or upset, depending on how you think about the last book of the Bible. Well, we are not looking at the last book of the Bible today. I want us to continue our look at our firm foundation by looking at the subject of “revelation” as in how God speaks to us.
A few passages, out of so very many in God’s Word, including the concept of revelation are as follows:
Luke 2:29-32 (NIV)
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
Romans 1:17 (NIV)
For in the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed…..
I love the first passage which is a prophecy from Simeon proclaimed first in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6. Both of those prophecies talk of Jesus being a light for reaching the Gentiles. Remember Simeon is delivering this prophecy as Joseph and Mary have brought their newborn baby, Jesus, to the temple at eight days old to be circumcised. Simeon tells us a lot about Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth. He tells us that Jesus is to be “a light”. Light helps you see. Light dispels darkness. Jesus is a light for “revelation” and specifically revelation to all Gentiles, those that are not Jews. Simeon then continues with this purpose by stating He is to also be a light for the glory of the Jews. Remember that God chose Israel out of all the peoples on the earth to proclaim and show Himself, in essence reveal Himself to all other peoples. Simeon’s statement tells us that this key purpose of the nation of Israel itself is going to be fulfilled in Jesus, thus being the ultimate glory of Israel. The nation of Israel itself, and all that God has done and will do for them, has been for the glory of Jesus Christ. It has been to reveal Him to the entire world. He literally is light, a light which has come to dispel darkness and reveal.
Paul then tells us in the second passage listed above that the Gospel, God’s Word about the Good News of Jesus Christ, is the Word by which “the righteousness of God is revealed”. In context in that passage, Paul is telling you that the only way you can see your “right standing” with God, is through the revelation that comes by hearing the Good News. Shame on us if we do not proclaim the Gospel so that people can have their blinders removed and see where they stand with God!
The terms reveal, revealed, and revelation are used many times in the Bible. The point I want to make today is that the revelation as highlighted in the Bible is an act of God Himself. It is not something you earned or were smarter than someone else to be able to see in Scripture. Revelation, as is most often referenced in the Bible and as is the point of this note today, is literally a gift that is given unto those that God Himself enables them to hear and receive. It is a gift poured out as treasure upon the head of the one who is open to receive it.
As I was studying this topic, I came across a book titled “God Has Spoken” that had some very good points on this subject. Several of those points are used below to try and help recognize the beauty, power and true gift that this word outlines to us as God’s children.
Basic to the New Testament is the claim that Christianity is a revealed religion. The Greek word translated ‘reveal’ (apokalypto), means to unveil something that was previously hidden, or to bring into view something that before was out of sight. Christianity rests on an unveiling of the hidden Creator Himself; Christians enjoy ‘the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). It is the process, whereby through His dealings with a single national family – Israel – God revealed Himself to men, reaching its climax in the person, words, and works of Jesus of Nazareth, God’s incarnate Son. So, the Christian revelation-claim finds its final statement in the majestic opening words of the epistle to the Hebrews: ‘In the past God spoke to our fore-fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son’ (Hebrews. 1:1 -2). Of this revelatory process the sixty-six books of the Bible are both the product and the proclamation. The first thirty-nine (the Old Testament) span well over a thousand years of revelation to Israel; the last twenty-seven (the New Testament) were written in the second half of the first century. All these last books have to do with God’s crowning revelation in Jesus, who was crucified ‘under Pontius Pilate’ and raised from the dead, early in the first century AD, and whom now resides at the Father’s right hand making intercession for us, those whom He gave His life for.
The opening words of Hebrews present the work of revelation as a divine activity which in form was verbal (‘God spoke’) and cumulative (‘through the prophets … by his Son’).
Revelation is a divine activity; not, therefore, a human achievement. Revelation is not the same thing as discovery, or the dawning of insight, or the emerging of a bright idea. Biblical revelation does not mean man finding God, but instead God finding man, God sharing His secrets with us, God showing us Himself. (Read that sentence again.) In revelation, God is the agent (the one doing the revealing), as well as the object (the one spoken of through the revealing). It is not just that men speak about God, or for God; God speaks for Himself, and talks to us in person. The New Testament message is that in Christ, God has spoken a word for the world, a word to which all people in all ages are summoned to listen and to respond.”
To further help with this concept or rather truth of revelation, let us consider three questions.
The first question is: Who is this God who has spoken? What sort of being is He?”
According to the Bible, this is the basic thing that God’s revelatory action was meant to make clear. God Himself was the supreme object of revelation from the start. What, according to Scripture, has He revealed Himself to be?
He has shown Himself to be a personal being, One who calls Himself ‘I’ and speaks to man as ‘you’. When, before the Exodus, He spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He gave His name as ‘I AM WHO I AM’. Later this year we will do a study of the seven “I AM” statements made by Jesus in the Gospel of John.
When God brought His work of revelation to its climax by sending into the world His Son and His Spirit, He thereby showed Himself to be tri-personal – three Persons in one God. The Trinity is at the heart of the Christian revelation. ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ is God’s New Testament ‘name’ (Matthew 28:19). Theologian Karl Barth calls this phrase His ‘Christian name’, expressing a basic truth about Him which only Christians know.
God has also shown Himself a moral being, One supremely concerned about right and wrong, whose dealings with humans are understood in moral terms. When Moses was at Sinai and asked to see God’s glory, God passed by in front of him and proclaimed the following regarding His ‘name’: ‘The LORD, the LORD (Yahweh), the merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers (Exodus 34:6-7).
The goodness and severity of God, as we are told to consider and preach in Romans 11:22, stand side by side in both Testaments. In the Old, the Holy God is unspeakably gracious to His people, as the Psalms constantly declare. The New expands our view, not only of the glory of God’s mercy, but also – largely through Christ’s own words (see Mt. 8:12, 10:28, 25:41; Mk. 9:42-48; Lk. 13:1-5, 16:23-29, etc.) – of the terrors of God’s judgment. Remember that it is Jesus Himself who talks of “hell or outer darkness” more than anyone else in the entire Bible. We tend to want to only proclaim and share of God’s goodness and forget all about the judgment which Jesus Himself so often proclaimed. It is true that probably the most beautiful chapter in the Bible for a Christian, Romans 8, starts with the passage, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”, and ends with the passage “nothing can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus”. Those passages must be understood to be referencing the adopted child of God as Romans 8:15-17 specify. Understanding who you are in Christ begins with understanding who you are without Christ. Can Good News really be good to someone if they do not know the alternative that awaits them for not receiving such news? The Old Testament is not contrary to the New, and the New does not cancel the Old but rather endorses and amplifies it, thus fulfilling it. The God of both Testaments is one.
God has revealed Himself to be the source, stay, and end of all creation, and of mankind in particular. ‘For from him and through him and to him are all things’ (Rom. 11:36). Paul lays out these foundation-truths of God in his sermon to the people in Athens, Greece. In the sermon recorded in Acts 17, (a sermon Cory referenced upon his return from a trip to Europe with Ron a few years ago), Paul references the altar they had made, among all their other gods, to the ‘unknown God’ (Acts 17:22). First, he speaks of God as our source, the One who brought us into existence. ‘The God who made the world and everything in it’ (verse 24), ‘from one man … made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth’ (verse 26). Then Paul speaks of God as our stay, the One who ‘gives all men life and breath and everything else’, so that ‘in him we live and move and have our being’ (verses 25 and 28). We depend upon God every moment for our existence through the constant exercise of His sustaining or upholding power (Hebrews 1:3).
Our second question is: Why has God spoken? He is self-sufficient, and does not need men’s gifts or service (Acts 17:25); so, to what end does He even bother to speak to us?
The truly staggering answer which the Bible gives to this question is that God’s purpose in revelation is to make friends with us. It was to this end that He created us rational beings, bearing His image, able to think and hear and speak and love; He wanted there to be genuine personal affection and friendship, two-sided, between Himself and us – a relationship, not like that between a man and his dog, but thankfully like that of a father to his child, or a husband to his wife. Loving friendship between two persons has no ulterior motive; it is an end in itself. And this is God’s end in revelation. He speaks to us simply to fulfil the purpose for which we were made; that is, to bring into being a relationship in which He is a friend to us, and we to Him, He finding His joy in giving us gifts and we finding ours in giving Him thanks.
Our third question is: What is the state of those to whom God speaks? In what condition does His revelation find them?
The biblical answer is that it finds them ignorant of God. The inscription that Paul saw on the Athenian altar when preaching in Athens, a portion of which we reviewed above, also reveals humankind’s natural state. Our Maker is to us all in our natural, non-born-again state ‘an unknown God’ (Acts 17:23). None of the philosophies that Athens had mothered or developed through those considered to be the greatest minds in the world at that time could help them: ‘the world through its wisdom did not know him’ (I Corinthians 1:21; Galatians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:5). No one knows God apart from revelation. All are “lost” unless they know Him.
Yet so it is, and it is vitally important that we should face the fact, and admit that, wise and foolish, rich and poor, young and old, and every race; we are by nature all together in this same boat. Even though general revelation shines upon us constantly, we are people in the dark. Apart from special, some say effectual, saving revelation – the revelation that is centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ – we do not and cannot know God. We cannot be saved or rescued apart from this Christ centered revelation.
The nature of revelation as an act of God is clear. Revelation is our personal Creator and Upholder addressing us in order to make friends with us. We do not find Him; rather, He finds us. We were all lost, wandering aimlessly, doing our own thing. But His Word addressed to us in Christ, though it begins as bad news for the lost, with a disclosure to us of the judgment under which we stand, is really good news; for it is a word of pardon and peace, a message of reconciliation by the death of Jesus and of ‘a way back to God from dark paths of sin.’
The epistle to the Hebrews boldly and impressively illustrates what it means to believe that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed and [therefore] is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The writer of Hebrews position is that not only the words of the prophets, but the entire Old and New Testament, first to last, is ‘God’s Word written’ – in other words it is verbal revelation.
To help bring all of this to a close, I want to share with you a point, let’s say a prophetic word, from a man of God in our church that I am proud to call my friend, Doug Overly. He gave me this during the summer of 2020. “The answers the Bible gives us are not hidden, but revealed. This revealing occurs via the entrance of light. Jesus says He is this light”.
I pray you have been given a greater understanding of revelation through this note. Revelation is not something you work up or you go attain. Revelation is a gift that comes from God our Father and this revelation, this revealing, occurs via the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. Look unto Jesus dear brother and sister. May the light of His glory make all of your other cares grow dim in the light of His glory and grace. May the light which is Jesus Christ Himself reveal to you those secrets contained within all of His glorious Word that He longs for you to read with your eyes and hear deep down in your heart and spirit.