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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: God Has Spoken to Us

Don Stewart :: How Is the Term Revelation Used in Scripture?

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How Is the Term Revelation Used in Scripture?

God Has Spoken to Us – Question 2

While the doctrine of revelation concerns itself with God supernaturally unveiling truths to humanity we would not otherwise know, the term “revelation” is used in the New Testament in several different ways. They include the following:

1. Revelation Can Be the Disclosure of Truth in General

The term revelation is used in a general way. It speaks of the disclosure of truth. Shortly after the birth of the Lord Jesus, an elderly man named Simeon said the following of Him:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations; a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32 TNIV)

God unveiled or revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome about God’s disclosing His truth to them. He also stated that God had revealed Himself through Jesus. Paul wrote,

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith... (Romans 16:25, 26 NRSV)

Paul told the Ephesians that he had special requests in his prayer for them. This included giving them a “spirit of revelation.” He wrote,

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17 TNIV)

The use of the word revelation, in these contexts, refers to the general disclosing of truth.

2. Revelation Can Be a Specific Area of Truth

The term revelation is also used of the disclosure of a specific area of truth. The Apostle Paul spoke of specific revelations of truth that were given to him by the Lord. He wrote,

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 12:1 TNIV)

In this context, Paul is speaking of specific truths which the Lord revealed to him.

These revelations which he received were supernaturally given. Paul wrote to the Galatians,

For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11, 12 NRSV)

Paul informed the Ephesians as to the truth that had been supernaturally revealed to him. He wrote the following:

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. (Ephesians 3:2, 3 TNIV)

These were special revelations that Paul received from the Lord. After receiving these truths, he passed them on to others.

3. The Term Revelation May Refer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is also known as the “revelation of Christ.” Paul wrote the following to the church at Corinth:

...so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:7 NET)

In this context, the word “revelation” refers to the return of Jesus Christ to the earth; it is the revelation of His Person to the world.

4. The Term Also Refers to the Book of Revelation

Finally, the word is also used of the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. John wrote the following introduction:

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John... (Revelation 1:1 TNIV)

The last book of Scripture is called the “revelation of Jesus Christ” or the “revelation about Jesus Christ.” This is a further use of the word “revelation.”

Consequently, whenever we come across the term “revelation” in Scripture, the context must tell us how we are to understand its meaning.

Summary – Question 2
How Is the Term Revelation Used in Scripture?

The term “revelation” is used in at least four different senses in the New Testament. They can be summed up as follows:

For one thing, it can speak of disclosure of truth in general; the fact that God has revealed Himself to the human race. This is revelation.

Second, it can refer to a specific area of truth which God has revealed. Indeed, when God reveals something specific to an individual this is also termed “revelation.” The Apostle Paul used the term in this manner.

In addition, the term revelation may also refer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the “revelation” of Christ.

Finally, this term can refer to the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.

These are the four ways in which this term is used in Scripture. Of course, the context must determine the particular way in which the word revelation should be understood.

What Is the Doctrine of Revelation? ← Prior Section
Does It Make Sense That God Would Reveal Himself to Humanity? Next Section →
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