A touch of irony. That’s what I’m feeling as I begin to write this post. Let me explain.
I started including a segment in this blog called “Further Revelation” when I was preaching through the 7 letters to the churches in Revelation and wanted to identify specific blog posts that related to the sermon text. Although the title was not my idea, I liked the witty subtlety it expressed: I was writing about what God had revealed to me from his revelation in the book of Revelation.
In this revelatory vein, I’ve been thinking through the first half of Paul’s testimony in Galatians 1, and considering the broader implications of the fact that Paul received direct divine revelation. An obvious question arose: does such direct divine revelation continue today? In a blog post of 500 words, only so much can be said, even so, allow me to at least introduce some lines of thought on the subject.
First, the Bible is complete as is. The period of recording God’s revelation to all humanity ended in the first century. At the risk of sounding harsh, it is important to know that anyone claiming to have received new revelation from God is a heretic, deluded or in need of psychiatric help.
Second, in some Christian circles, we have become sloppy in how we talk about God’s communication / revelation. Over the years, I have heard people say things such as, “God told me…” Often, what is meant by this statement is not that they heard God’s voice or that Jesus or an angel appeared to them with some new revelation, but that they really believe something. To be sure, God brings conviction to our hearts and minds, but that is decidedly different from, “God told me…” Let’s take care not to invoke God as a trump card for what we are passionate about, even if our passions are in line with Scripture.
Third, and perhaps most sensitive, what about God speaking to people in dreams? Personally, while I am very cautious, I don’t have trouble believing that God can and does use dreams to speak to people, but let me offer a caveat. I believe that God does this in places where the gospel has yet to penetrate or spread significantly and in places where it is especially difficult for church planters to reach. Furthermore, the point of such revelations is preparatory for the gospel that has yet to come, not as a replacement for evangelism or missions.
When dealing with questions like this, Romans 10:14-15 should always be kept in mind,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
As you continue to think about revelation, it might be helpful to think in terms of inspiration and illumination. Inspiration is what Paul received during a time when the Bible was still being written. That has stopped. Illumination is what all Christians enjoy when they understand what God has already revealed in the Bible with increasing depth and clarity.
My space has ended, but I hope I’ve given you some further revelation for thought!