What is the truth about where we came from, what life is about, and where we’re going? Think about how vast the mysterious universe is, and how impossible it would be to know all about it. Now consider that we have brains that just weigh about three pounds trying to figure it all out! You may begin to wonder what we can really know about nature, life and death.
In the movie Cast Away ̧ a character played by Tom Hanks is marooned on an island somewhere in the Pacific. In some scenes, there are long sections of near-silence as he sits and stares out into the ocean; the waves pound, pound, pound, pound, and pound again. The viewer experiences something of the forsakenness, the forlornness, the relational emptiness of a situation like this. Is the cosmos just an unthinking mass of matter that rolls on and doesn’t care? Being marooned on such an island would bring into sharp focus the limits of what nature can teach you.
Ancient philosophers reflected the same lostness and futility. Plato, through a character named Simmias, lamented that all our human knowledge was like a raft floating over the waters of life.
“Natural” (or general) revelation, which was discussed in a previous Pocket Principle, is revelation that is generally available to all people through nature” and does not answer the issues mentioned above. If we went through life only knowing what natural revelation could deliver, we wouldn’t have answers for many important questions:
What is behind the power of nature? Is it an impersonal force? Is it God?
Is there a reason why we are here? Why is there something ( i.e. the universe) rather than nothing? Does God have a plan for the world?
What is God like? Does He like me, or is He mad at me because of my sins? Is He going to destroy me?
Is He a God that I can know and with whom I can have a relationship? Can I talk to God? Can He hear me? Does God have a plan for me?
How should I live on this earth? Are some things really right or wrong? How should I relate to other people? What is the best way to live my life?
Is there life after death? If so, is it in heaven? Am I going there?
As you can see, these are crucial questions that are central to much of our lives. Although these questions cannot be answered through natural revelation, the good news is that God also reveals Himself through special revelation. Special revelation can be defined as “revelation given especially to a particular individual or group(s).”
God reveals Himself through special revelation in two main ways: the Bible and specific revelation to individuals and/or communities. Let’s take a look at these two categories in greater depth.
The Bible is a very precious revelation from God. The origin of the Bible is God Himself. (II Timothy 3:16) He used various human authors and inspired what they wrote, working through their personal gifts, styles and cultures. Although the Bible is available to many people it is called special revelation because it is not available universally to everyone in the same way that natural revelation is.
The types of things that the Bible can teach you are incredible. Some of the important truths you can learn from the Bible include:
• The character and nature of God – many things about who God is and what He is like
• God’s existence as a Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
• Prophecies about key events – especially about the Messiah coming
• Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior of the world
• The significance of Jesus’ life, teachings, sacrificial death, resurrection, and His coming again
• How to live the Christian life • How to know God’s will
Of course, there is much, much more. Now, an interesting thing about the Bible is that, well, it’s alive! (See Hebrews 4:12). As you read and study the Bible, you will find that it is “searching you”, telling you things about yourself that you know are true. So, reading the Bible can be an encounter with the Holy Spirit as He reveals truth, uncovers sin, and brings you comfort. Think of it … an actual encounter with God!
One of the best things about the Bible is that it tells us about Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Do you see that it tells you that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and that God was pleased to have the fullness of deity
dwelling in Him? In the book of John it tells us that, in Jesus, God came and dwelt among us. (John 1:1,14) In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. (John 1:18) Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity in human form; He is the most full expression of God that finite human beings can understand. (Hebrews 1:1-4)
The Bible tell us more about Jesus’ life and teachings than any other historical source. If you want to get to know who Jesus is, you need to spend a lot of time in the Bible, especially in the four Gospels.
However strange it may seem, you can read the Bible all day and not get much out of it. In order to understand Scripture, the Holy Spirit must take the truths of God’s Word and reveal them to you. (John 15:26, 16:13-14) Not only does the Holy Spirit have a part in you genuinely understanding the Bible; so do you. You need to approach the Scriptures with a humble attitude (an openness to obey what God shows you) if you want Him to reveal Himself to you. (John 14:21)
There are many things that you can understand in the Bible by yourself, with God’s help. But an important part of understanding the Bible is recognizing how God uses other people to help us interpret it as well. He has made us in such a way that we really do need each other … we need to read the Bible individually and in community with other followers of Jesus. Now we are ready to look at our next category of special revelation:
Special Revelation to Individuals and/or Communities
God sometimes brings special revelation to individuals or communities.
One way the Bible mentions is dreams and visions. Of course, dreams and visions are not always (or even usually) from God; nonetheless, the Bible cites numerous occasions where God revealed something to someone in a dream and/or vision. You can read about some of the most famous of these in: Genesis 37, Matthew 1:18-24 and Acts 10.
You need to approach the Scriptures with a humble attitude if you want Him to reveal Himself to you.
Another type of special revelation is miracles. The Bible talks about how God uses miracles to show something to people. Luke 11:14-20 is one place among many where a miracle is used in this way. Of course, this does not mean that people will always attribute the miracle to God. For example, some people in the Luke 11 passage said that Jesus’ power was from the devil. Sadly, they missed the significance of the miracle: to show them that the “the Kingdom of God has come to you”. The Bible is unashamedly full of miracles. And of course, that makes sense … if the God of the Bible exists, then miracles are automatically possible.
Another type of special revelation can be called “promptings of the Holy Spirit”. We see an example of this in John 10. It seems to describe how God talks to us at times through a kind of “inner voice”, or “inner sense”. Not only does the Holy Spirit do this, but the Bible also tells us that Jesus is always with us and that the Father’s presence is continually close by, to be with us and guide us.
Jesus said in John 10 that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. An important part of the Christian life is cultivating a relationship with God to the extent that you can recognize His voice when He is talking to you. God is alive, and He is personal (that is, He has emotions, will and rationality). He doesn’t want us to just know about Him, He wants us to know Him. You can expect Him to give you personal insights, comfort, admonishment, and guidance. He gave His Son on the cross so that sin wouldn’t separate you from Him … He loves you and wants to know you. He is, The God You Can Know (title of book by Dan DeHaan).
Not only will God give individuals specific inner guidance, He at times will guide communities in a similar manner. In Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council), the disciples who were the leaders of the Jerusalem church were guided by a “group-sensing”, a community reception of God’s will for them, when they were in a difficult situation.
Many times you may find that God is guiding your church, your small group, your family, etc. in a similar way. Sometimes you will not know what to do individually, but you will find that God’s will becomes clear through a group. This is a good reminder, once again, that God has made us in such a way that we need one another. He is not only concerned with how we are doing with Him, but also how we are doing with each other.
We hope that you will be encouraged to seek God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. Since God has revealed so much of His amazing nature through the Bible, we hope that you will make it a priority to read and study the Bible, individually and with others.
He doesn’t want us to just know about Him. He wants us to know Him.
Remember how important it is to approach the Bible with humility and an obedient heart, and in community with other followers of Jesus. And also keep in mind how near God’s actual presence is to you, and how you can experience Him relationally. Additionally, be aware of how God might be revealing Himself to you in the other ways that were mentioned. May God disclose Himself to you more and more. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
- Keep a daily journal of personal insights God is giving to you.
- Read the book of John and record what is revealed about God through Jesus.
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