Perhaps it goes without saying, but just in case, when the topic of revelation comes up (not the Book of Revelation, mind you), what people are talking, or in this case, writing about, is the idea of a divine disclosure from God’s Spirit into our own, wherein something heretofore hidden and unknown is revealed and made known.
In almost all cases, this kind of revelation comes about from the Word. People speak about getting a “revelation” about a certain chapter, verse, or topic in the Bible (e.g. justification, pneumatology, the gift of prophecy, or etc.).
It’s an important aspect of one’s Christianity. Jesus said without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:1-5). We not only need the Word of the Lord, but we also need the Lord of the Word, through the Spirit of Truth, to lead us toward, guide us into, and even teach us all truth.
For many unbelievers, their Bible is just a dead book worthy only of the dust found in its unopened pages. But to the believer, it contains the very words of eternal life. And so, for us, reading and studying the Bible is paramount.
The problem is, too many people, even those who call themselves believers, when they read, study, and seek revelation from God about the Word, tend to do so through carnal means. In order to explain that statement better, I would like to share some of my own observations on the nature of revelation.
There seem to be three keys. They can’t be avoided, dodged, or ignored. If any of the three aren’t present, then the faithful Bible study reader shouldn’t expect divine revelation to occur. I will be addressing those three keys first. Afterward, I will share some other observations, related, obviously, and important, but I would say secondary (in the sense that they aren’t the keys to receiving revelation so much as they are the keys to validating or invalidating received revelation).
1.) Revelation Must Be Worked For
I heard recently of a young foolish man who made the following bold (yet idiotic) claim: “I don’t need to read my Bible; God speaks to me directly”.
There is so much wrong with this line of thinking. First, and unfortunately, what the young man doesn’t realize is that his god IS speaking to him; it just happens that his god is not the God of the Bible. His god is his own belly (Philippians 3:19).
True revelation doesn’t come through mystical experiences. It comes from dedication and hard work. The nose must be in the Book! Much time, energy, effort, and financial investment even, must be present before anyone should think that God will communicate the hidden things of the Word.
Too many people take a surface reading of a text, understand it through their own filter (usually made up of intelligence level, reading comprehension skill, language ability, and personal experience) and think they’ve got the verse or passage figured out.
Take Acts 2:38.
Every Apostolic thinks they’ve got the corner market on this favorite verse. But can you explain how the Greek preposition eis affects the phrase “for the remission of sin”? Can you defend your belief that immersion in the name of Jesus Christ is toward the purpose of receiving remitted sin, as opposed to said immersion being for, as in, on account of, remission of sin? Do you know the underlying relationship between the Greek word for remission and the root Hebrew derivation of the name of Jesus?
If you are answering “no” to these questions, then how well do you, dear Apostolic, really know your “bread and butter” verse of the Bible?
But the man or woman who prayerfully seeks to know these things, and is willing to take the time to separate themselves unto the Lord of the Word, with multiple translations, interlinear Bibles, commentaries, Greek manuscripts, Bible dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, and etc. is going to get at the deeper, unrevealed issues of such a verse.
But you may argue “But that’s just human effort. Man gets the glory from such endeavors!”
I reply, “Not so”. Here’s why:
Millions of people since Pentecost have done their due diligence to study the Word of God at this level and still don’t get any further than a superficial understanding of the Bible.
Because they lack something, namely, a love of the truth. Their efforts and energies are spent trying to prove their case against some real or imagined opponent. They only want dogmatic expressions of the Word of God; they don’t actually want God to speak to them.
There is a reason Jesus called such people blind leaders of the blind. Revelation isn’t going to come to just anyone. God must give it. But He doesn’t give it to lazy bums who just expect to soak in His truth because they think they deserve a special status.
2. …his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
2.) The Timing of God
This is where all the studying in the world will lead to nowhere, if not for God intervening and making a move to unveil understanding. God isn’t dumb. He knows the difference between a sincere student who wants to know Him better through the Word, and someone who’s just looking for weapons in a doctrinal battle. He knows the difference between the hungry soul who desires truth above all else, and the guy or gal who just wants a sermon text so they can wax eloquent and swoon to the sound of their own voice.
For the latter, they will get nothing but a shut-up heaven and a bunch of silence. For the former, however, when the Lord sees their effort and devotion, yea even their agony to know Him and His Word, and—this is key—when the time is right, then, and only then will God lift the veil and bring that disciple into the inner sanctum of special understanding.
14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.
45. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures…
Not until after the Resurrection and the Revealing of the Son of Man to be alive, was the time right for the disciples to understand the Scriptures relating to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
3. Paying the Cost Through Suffering
2 Corinthians 12:7,
7. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
There is a price for revelation. God isn’t looking to just dump His infinite understanding (Psalm 147:5) of His own Word upon just anyone that walks by. He is looking for steadfast, anchored in Christ souls who are stable and able to lead the multitudes to greater and greater truth.
Knowledge is power.
You see, some have a form of godliness, but they disregard, reject, and even abnegate the dunamis or power/strength/ability associated.
They know a lot about God, His Word, and Christianity, but there is nothing backing up their knowledge. It’s empty. The power of God doesn’t reside in such people, no matter how bold or demanding they are. They can shout the rafters down and blow the ceiling off a place, but they’re just so much useless noise. My 2 year old son can make a mighty racket, too. God’s not impressed.
But the suffering servant of the Lord, who, like his Lord, is willing to do whatever he or she can to make his or her soul an offering onto God, is going to walk in the secret places of the Most High and abide under the shadow of His wings. These persecuted on all sides, turning the other cheek, loving and blessing their enemies kind of men and women are the real messengers of Christ.
Pentecost has plenty of high octane shouters. Sorry, but we don’t need more decibels.
But the man or woman of God who has seen the underside of their own sinfulness, who has experienced the horror of this wicked world, who has been through trials of the worst sort, who, like Job, has realized his or her own loathsomeness and so, has learned to cover the mouth, and rightly knows and understands that of all the sinners in the world, he or she is chief, these, THESE are the ones who have revelation from God and know and understand the Word better than anyone. Because they’ve paid the cost.
Finally, on to validating revelation…
It’s easy for anyone to have an “ah ha!” moment and think they’ve seen something new and unique in the Word. But such a moment doesn’t make it revelation. It could be deception.
I’ll give you an example.
Let us say you are reading Jude for the first time, or the first time in a long time, and you come to verse 7.
7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Suddenly, the word “strange” jumps out at you. You even feel the nudging the Holy Spirit to PAY ATTENTION!
Something begins to dawn on you. Having read and studied the Genesis account of Sodom and Gomorrah, you begin to think about and consider the word “strange”. In your mind, through your own filtering process (made up of your own intellect, reading comprehension skills, language ability, and personal experiences) you begin to associate the word “strange” with the word “weird”. It’s a right and proper synonym, after all.
From weird, you think perverse. Weird things are kind of perverse, right? And since the passage already mentioned fornication, you think you get it. AH HA! you think.
Strange flesh must mean homosexuality. The men of Sodom were sodomites, and engaged in sexual perversion with other men, so, case closed. Jude 1:7 is figured out. You’ve got the verse tightly sealed up in a nice little bundle. You mark it in your mind and keep reading, thankful that you have received revelation.
There’s just one problem. The word “strange” in Greek is heteros, and it means other or another kind, i.e. one not of the same nature or class, as in HETEROSEXUAL. Wait! What???
I thought all the men in Sodom were homosexual perverts lusting after each other?!
Well, they were. But look more closely at the story in Genesis (Chapter 19). The men who came to Lot’s door didn’t want Lot’s daughter, nor even Lot himself.
Who did they want to “know”?
The Angels (Genesis 19:5).
These men wanted to have sex with, or rather, rape God’s Holy Messengers and Ministering Spirits of Salvation. Another kind or class, remember?
They wanted to fornicate with another kind or class of BEING.
It was then, and only then, that the Fire from Heaven fell. God was going to spare the city at Abraham’s request, remember (Genesis 18:33)? Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction wasn’t set in stone until after the men of Sodom attacked the angels. Then it was game over. The destruction was not determined until the “cry of them” was discovered (Genesis 18:21 and 19:13). Once the men of Sodom did as they did against the angels, then the “cry” was made known, and God commissioned His angels to lay the cities and surrounding areas waste.
So, what happened to your AH HA! moment of revelation?
It went down the drain where it belongs, because you didn’t stop to fact check it. You rushed in, rushed through, and arrogantly thought the Lord had spoken when it was your own heart the whole time.
And the sad thing is, too many people never move beyond this kind of so-called “revelation”. They don’t fact check themselves, and they don’t bother to let another piece of iron sharpen their understanding of the Word (Proverbs 27:17).
These are what are called extra-Biblical revelations. Remember the young man above who didn’t need to read the Word? Did I mention he’s completely off his rocker, into all sorts of sinful activities, not to mention false doctrines and heresies?
He’s turning into just another insane “prophet”, just like Balaam, a man and a Gentile who relied solely on divine revelation but didn’t have the Torah of God leading and guiding his understanding of truth (2 Peter 2:16).
Now, be mindful. Not all extra-Biblical or even false “revelations” come with such malice. Some are just born out of ignorance.
Did you know that Dr. James Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible has typos in it? It does. Older versions, especially so. There are instances where the word you are looking up will be keyed to a number in the back, but the number is wrong, and so, the concordance will actually lead you to the wrong word in the dictionaries.
And if you don’t know about those typos, you might be led to think that the word you are studying means something other than what it really means.
So what’s the bottom-line? Even the most spiritual experience one has in the presence of the Lord must be checked and re-checked for validation. We need to all of us be open about what we think the Lord is saying to us, and allow a brother or sister to have the freedom to comment and share their knowledge and understanding of God’s Eternal Word without fear, reproach, or condemnation, even if, and especially if or when that brother or sister knows something about your “revelation” that you yourself don’t even know.
I finish with this:
18. Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
2. …saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
We get to decide who we’re going to be. We can be proud and haughty in our presumed level of knowledge and revelation, or we can be poor and contrite, trembling at the Word of HaShem.
It’s really up to us. But note: What we decide determines just how much God reveals Himself to us through His Word. If you would not be found a fool on Judgment Day, and if you would like to ever be allowed into the secret counsels of the Almighty, you might just want to take a moment, reconsider what you think you know (and believe) and ask yourself, “Is what I know and believe about God and His Word really a product of authoritative, divine revelation, or am I allowing my own belly to fill my head with a bunch of carnal nonsense?”
Am I like Paul of Tarsus, or the young man mentioned in this blog?
It’s a question whose answer has eternal consequences.