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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
Since God is supreme and sovereign, answerable to no one, he has no need to make himself known to mere humans. Yet in his grace he has chosen to do so, and people are responsible to him concerning what they learn from him (Deuteronomy 29:29). The activity of God in making himself and his truth known is called revelation.
Revelation through nature and conscience
God has given humankind a general revelation of himself through nature. The created world tells people everywhere something of the sovereign power, glory and love of God (Psalms 19:1-4; Psalms 104:1-32; Acts 14:17; Acts 17:26-27; Romans 1:19-20). Many, however, though recognizing the natural world to be full of wonder and beauty, refuse to accept it as evidence of the presence and power of God (Romans 1:21). When people humbly submit to God in faith, they see him revealing himself to them through nature (Genesis 9:13-16; Psalms 29:3-10; Habakkuk 3; Matthew 6:26; Matthew 6:30; see also ; ).
In addition to providing a general revelation through nature, God has revealed something of himself through the basic knowledge of right and wrong that he has put within the hearts of all people. This unwritten standard, which makes possible the operation of the human conscience, is sometimes called ‘natural law’ (Romans 2:15; see ).
The revelation through conscience, like the revelation through nature, gives people some understanding of God, but it does not give them the detailed knowledge that is necessary for salvation. Such knowledge comes through the more specific revelation God has made through his spoken and written Word (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Revelation through Christ and the Word
Earlier revelations of God to individuals prepared the way for the fuller revelation that God gave through the nation Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 17:1-8; Genesis 17:16; Exodus 3:2-6). The entire Old Testament history of Israel was itself a revelation of God. Through his prophets and other special messengers, God taught his people and interpreted the events of their history to make himself and his purposes known to them (Numbers 12:6-8; Amos 3:7; Hebrews 1:1; see ). The Old Testament Scriptures are a revelation of God.
However, something even greater than this was necessary to save people fully from the consequences of their sin and bring them into a right relation with God. God himself took human form and made himself known perfectly through Jesus Christ (John 1:14; John 1:18; John 14:8-9; Hebrews 1:2). The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals how God, through Christ, is able to forgive guilty sinners, declare them righteous and build them into a unified body, the church (Romans 1:17; Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:5-6; see ; ).
When people come to Christ in repentance and faith, they receive a fuller revelation and a personal understanding of God (Matthew 11:27; Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:16). Because revelation is solely an activity of God and is exercised according to his sovereign will, God may choose to give additional special revelations to certain people (Acts 9:10-16; 1 Corinthians 14:30; 2 Corinthians 12:1; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 1:11-12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3; see ).
Just as God had given revelations during the time leading up to Christ’s coming, so he gave them during the time immediately after Christ’s coming. Previously he had given revelations through the history of Israel; now he gave them through the events of the early church. And just as God used prophets and others to record and interpret his pre-Christ revelation, so he used apostles and others to record and interpret his post-Christ revelation (1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 3:15-16). The New Testament joins with the Old Testament to form the complete written revelation God has given (see ; ).
From all this it becomes evident that God’s revelation is progressive. This does not mean that later revelations contradict those that were earlier; it means rather that later revelations develop the earlier, as God works towards the completion of his purposes through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:9-12; Ephesians 3:3-11; 1 Peter 1:10-12; see INTERPRETATION, sub-heading ‘Progressive Revelation’).
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Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Revelation'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/bbd/r/revelation.html. 2004.
the Third Week after Epiphany