Revelation Defined: God communicating to man what he would otherwise not know (Hebrews 1:1 – God is the Source of all Revelation)
I. General Revelation – God communicating to man His existence and His character through nature and reasoning, apart from any words or language.
A. Cosmological argument – “The world didn’t just happen. Some Uncaused Being must have caused it to be” (Romans 1:20)
B. Teleological argument – “Design in the world points to a Designer” (Psalm 19:1-6).
C. Moral argument – “Our sense of right and wrong points to a moral Law-Giver” (Romans 2:14,15; James 4:12).
D. Ontological argument – “Why would people have a concept of a Perfect Being unless there was one – God Himself” (Acts 17:27; Romans 1:19)?
II. Special Revelation – God communicating to man using words and other supernatural mediums.
A. Special revelation without words
1. Casting the lot (Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:21-26)
2. The Urim and Thummim – Two stones in the high priest’s breastplate that revealed God’s will (Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63).
3. Dreams (Genesis 20:3,6; 31:11-13, 24; 40-41, etc.)
4. Miraculous Events (The Exodus, Jesus’ miracles – John 2:11, etc.)
B. Special revelation with words
1. Words were spoken by God to someone (who verbally communicated it to others).
a. Angels (Daniel 9:20,21; Luke 2:10,11; Revelation 1:1)
b. Prophets (2 Samuel 23:2; Zechariah 1:1; Ephesians 3:5; Hebrews 1:1, etc.)
c. Jesus Christ (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2; 2:3)
d. Apostles (2 Peter 3:2)
2. God revealed to men what He wanted to be recorded as Scripture (see the following on “Inspiration).
III. Is There Special Revelation Today?
A. Problems with the view that there is special revelation today
Some Christians believe that the Bible gives general guidance to all believers (which is true), but they also believe that God gives specific individual guidance today by dreams, voices and specifically inspired thoughts.
1. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 says the scriptures are “adequate/sufficient” for everything we need to know or do.
2. Many claim “God told me” but there is no way to verify which “voices or impressions” are truly God-given.
3. The cults have all begun with claims of modern “special revelation.”
4. The penalty of falsely claiming “God told me” was death for a prophet (Deut. 18:20-27). To claim “God told me” is to claim the same kind of revelation as a prophet. We must keep clearly separate what are our own thoughts and what God actually revealed.
B. Argument for the view that God does not give new special revelation today.
Certainly God is leading individuals in various ways today, but that leading is not verbal nor on par with special revelation. So how does God lead today?
1. The Bible – God will use scripture to lead us (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Every time we read a specific command that relates to some area of our life today, that is God’s leading. The Holy Spirit within us convicts and teaches us through the Bible (John 16:13). In addition to specific commands, God will use the principles of scripture to lead us into right choices. That is God’s leading as well (see Illumination, below).
2. Prayer – When we pray we talk to God. He does not “talk” to us in the same way (verbally). As we pray we may, however, become more sensitive to what God has already revealed in Scripture. That is not new revelation. As we prayed, we simply became aware and perhaps more willing to follow revelation God has already given in the Bible.
3. Specific Guidance – Often we have specific need for direction (to make good choices about a job, a spouse, a move, a purchase, etc.). We don’t need special revelation (a “voice” or a “sign”).
4. God’s Sovereignty – God has His plan which includes certain specific circumstances. He sovereignly protects, leads and arranges certain people to be in certain places and certain events to occur. As He carries out His sovereign plan, He may utilize our human thoughts to put us where He wants us (for example: A man on a vacation trip finds a Gideon Bible and trusts in Christ.). But these are still human thoughts which God utilizes and are not new authoritative revelation. This is simply God’s sovereignty at work.
5. Answered Prayer – Some Christians may pray for specific help in a troublesome situation (guidance issues, a lost billfold, etc.). God can answer those prayers and use our thoughts. But they are still our thoughts, not authoritative revelation. For example, I lost my checkbook several years ago. I prayed. I had various thoughts, new places to look, stores to call, etc. However none of them produced the checkbook. It was never found. If God had chosen to answer my prayer, one of those thoughts could have led to finding it. But that would not have meant it was inspired or that “God told me.” It would simply mean God used my thoughts in His sovereign answer to my prayer.
True revelation from God is always objective (certain and knowable). But if we don’t know that God revealed it until it turns out right, that’s not true revelation. Every prophet knew it was God speaking. He didn’t have to wait to see if the prophecy “turned out” or if the principle “worked.”
So, it is true that God answers prayer and can use our thought in the process. But they are our thoughts and impressions He uses. They are not His voice nor is it revelation.