Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why God is not producing new revelation

Hebrews 2:2-4 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

The question that was asked of me the other day
The other day I was asked this wonderful question: "How do we know that God is not producing any new scripture?"  As I began to explain to this person why it was that God was not producing new scripture, it dawned on me that what they were really asking was "is there any new revelation"?  It is vital that we answer this question and demonstrate that the Bible alone consitutes Divine revelation.

Distinguishing Three Terms - Revelation, Inspiration, Illumination
When one begins to study the Bible, three terms are used in describing how God gets His revelation from where He is to where we are.  Whenever we speak of God communicating his words to the prophets of the Old Testament, or to the Apostles of the New Testament, we call it "Revelation" in the proper sense.  The term "Revelation" comes from a Greek term "apocalupsis" (apo-ca-loop-sis), meaning "to uncover, to unveil".  So for instance when God "revealed" His Law to Moses and the people of God in Exodus 19-20, it was God's voice audibly being heard.  When God's revealed His thoughts, it took what was previously unknown, and made it known. 

Inspiration - Revelation written
But how was it that God's revelation could be authoritatively communicated?  Again using Moses as an example, we read in Eoxdus 24:4 - "And Moses wrote down the words of God".  As God was "revealing" His thoughts to Moses, He extended a unique supernatural grace to Moses and all of the Biblical writers whereby they, through their language, culture and literary style could produce documents that were without error and Divinely authoritative.  This special supernatural act of God the Holy Spirit is what we call "inspiration".  The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16a "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction and for training in righteousness." 

Inspiration comes from a Greek word that literaly means "God breathed".  Thus the Spirit of God supervised and "breathed" out through the words and and writing styles of the biblical authors the documents we call "scripture".  This is where revelation becomes written and the Divine breathing out of God becomes codified in the ink and paper of the 66 books of the Bible.  In other words, Inspiration is simply God's revelation going from audio and video into written form. 

Illumination - The finished revealed and inspired scripture made understood by God
The unique grace that God the Holy Spirit did through inspiration ceased when the Apostle John wrote the last word in the book of Revelation.  It took God 1500 years, working through 40 authors, writing in 3 different languages, to reveal and inspire the Bible.  Now God is taking what He "revealed", and is making it "clear", "understandable" or "illuminated" to every generation of Christians who study it, hear it taught or preached.  Just as a lamp "illuminates" a dark room, making plain details that I would otherwise miss, so it is the Word of God which is "a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". (Psalm 119:105)

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would continue in this ongoing ministry of illumination,  making clear the contents of the Bible. (John 16:13).  We also understand that it is God Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit who guides Christians in their study and application of God's book. (1 John 2:20,27).  Whenever anyone preaches or teaches the scriptures, they are performing a "prophetic" function, meaning that they are speaking God's words into today's world.  However, as we will see below, in the formal sense of predictive prophets or true miracle working Apostles of Christ, none are alive, otherwise we would have much thicker Bibles!

What are true Prophets or Apostles?
The Prophets who wrote the Old Testament were uniquely qualified men whose ministries had the marks of accurate predictions, pointing people to the God of the Bible, and attestation of their ministries through miraculous signs that demonstrated their authenticity. (Deuteronomy 13:6-18; Isaiah 41:22-23)  A Prophet in the Hebrew Bible was literally someone "who spoke on behalf of God the words of God".

When we come to the New Testament, the Apostles functioned similarly to the Old Testament Prophets.  However their qualifications had other features: they had to had been an eye witnesses of the resurrected Christ, directly called by Christ,as well as have accompnaying signs and miracles. (Acts 2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 John 1:1-5)  These were termed "Apostles of Christ", with the last one being The Apostle Paul.  Only true Prophets or those so uniquely gifted in the Old Testament, or Apostles and those who were directly supervised by the Apostles (such as Mark and Luke) were deemed by God as qualified authors of the Bible.  Once they died, no more such men have lived.  

So God is speaking, through illumination of The Bible
As we just read in the above text in Hebrews, God has revealed His plan and purpose of salvation in the Bible.  In fact, this particular text was written in 64 A.D, making it one of the last Bible books to be written. In fact, other than the books of 1,2,3 John and Revelation, all the other Bible books had already been composed or written.  Only the Apostles Paul and John would had been alive at the time of the writing of Hebrews (and perhaps Paul himself may have written these words).  In Hebrews 2:2-3a we see statements concerning the finished revelation of the Old Testament and in 2:3b-4 we see statements concerning God's revelation of the New Testament to the Apostles.

In Summary - God is speaking through illumination and is not producing new revelation or inspiration 
When we distinguish those three terms: Revelation, Inspiration and Illumination, I believe it will clear up much confusion.  From what we have looked at today, we explain why it is that God is not producing new revelation - because there are no true prophets or apostles in the sense that we see in the Bible.  Secondly, there is no more Divine inspiration, since the grace that makes possible the production of error free, Divinely sourced documents, ceased once the New Testament was complete.  Thirdly, we can still say that God is speaking as it touches His ongoing work of illumination, making the scriptures clear through each Christian's study or through the teaching and preaching of God-called preachers and teachers. 


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