Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 19, 2006

The Nature of Special Revelation – Progressive

After long week I am able to return and continue our overview of the Belgic Confession.  This week was incredibly busy and I am only thankful that I was able to get through it.  In the future, you may see an interruption in this series with some Bible studies again, which will be provided due to my inability continue with the topic due to home, church work and/or school.  Believe it or not I am still not done with Article 2, yet.  Since we are still on the topic of special revelation proper, it is appropriate here to discuss its nature.  By nature we mean what is the principle way special revelation manifests itself, which happens to be progressive.  In light of today’s topic it may also be helpful to supplement it with a previous post on the similar topic Gods-plan-of-redemption.   

We see God’s revelation manifest itself progressively throughout His word.  After creation then the fall of man we see the first revelation of redemption in Genesis 3:15.  From this particular promise not much can be known about the details of God’s plan.  However, in subsequent encounters God’s revelation is further clarified by more specific information.  We see more revelation given to the patriarchs that builds upon the original promise given to men about a coming Redeemer.  A fuller expression is made known by the time of Moses in fact the full expression of God’s Law is given during that period of time. John Calvin in his commentary on Genesis makes note of this when handling Chapter 32 and Jacob wrestling with God: 

The sum therefore is this, that though Jacob’s wish was pious, the Lord does not grant it, because the time of full revelation was not yet completed:  for the fathers, in the beginning, were required to walk in the twilight of morning; and the Lord manifested himself to them, by degrees, until, at length, Christ the Sun of Righteousness arose, in whom perfected brightness shines forth.  This is the reason why he rendered himself more conspicuous to Moses, who nevertheless was only permitted to behold his glory from behind:  yet because he occupied an intermediate place between patriarchs and apostles, he is said, in comparison with them, to have seen, face to face, the God who had been hidden from the fathers.  But now, since God has approached more nearly unto us, our ingratitude is most impious and detestable, if we do not run to meet him with ardent desire to obtain such great grace; as also Peter admonishes us in the first chapter of his first epistle (1 Peter 1:12-13).  Calvin Commentary on Genesis, 32.29 

Although, at the time of Moses more revelation is given than in the past it did not contradict that which was given before.  This continues through Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Malachi.  The revelation that they received was not to modify or change previous information, but only to further clarify and specify the truth of this coming Redeemer.  This is why, when we get to the New Testament Christ can say that the entire Old Testament was completely about Him John 5:37-40 and Luke 24:25-27.  As we read Calvin he referred to the Apostle Peter who indicates that our predecessors in the faith were aware that they did not yet have the full picture Peter 1:10-12.  They knew that a future generation not themselves would receive the full expression of God’s revelation.   

When Christ came and accomplished redemption in His incarnation, death, burial, resurrection and ascension (Galatians 4:3-6) it was at this time the full expression of God’s revelation was provided.  And when this was presented to Israel, Acts 3:18-26, the old promises of the past were hearkened too.  The promised “Seed” that was first revealed in the garden and further clarified through Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, etc. had arrived in whom God has provided all the things we now need to now (Hebrews 1:1-2) until the end of history.  The following quote from BB Warfield summarizes this very nicely: 

…God chose thus to give this revelation of His grace only progressively; or to be more explicit, through the process of historical development…As to the fact, the Scriptures are explicit, tracing for us, or rather embodying in their own growth, the record of the steady advance of this gracious revelation through definite stages from its first faint beginnings to its glorious completion in Jesus Christ.  BB Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration,
New York:  Oxford University Press reprinted by Baker Book House Company 2003, p 13. 

God’s special revelation to mankind was given over a large period of time.  Our predecessors in the faith did not even have a written record of God’s word, yet still remained faithful.  As time progressed and the day approached for the Savior to come more details were provided.  Now on this side of redemptive history we benefit from God’s completed special revelation.  However, with more information also comes more accountability.  Help us Lord to not take for granted your Word, in which you have spoken to us.  We know more now than your saints of old help us to not take your truth for granted. 



  1. this is good stuff dude. love it. i’ll send some of the c or c guys over to this site too.

  2. […] God’s word is authoritative, whether it is spoken directly from Him, through a prophet or apostle or if it was written by a prophet or apostle.  What some are claiming is that even though the canon is closed God still speaks through prophets.  In order to answer this question (can God still speak through prophets while maintaining a closed canon?) we should look at God’s pattern throughout redemptive history. The Old Testament is a perfect example of why this cannot be true.  Moses, the mediator of the Old Covenant, fully revealed God’s law (John 1:17).  After the completion of the Torah, God still continued to speak through prophets (i.e. Samuel, Isaiah, Daniel, etc).  The prophets primary role, however, was not to add to the Torah but to enforce it among the covenant people of God.  The prophets also were used to reveal the secret will of God from time to time by foretelling future events.  Some of these events were directly related to the people’s situations and some of it was to further unfold the plan of redemption (keeping with the progressive nature of revelation).  Some of these events foretold have nothing to do with most of God’s people, yet they are recorded.  They were spoken by prophets not adding to or changing the Mosaic economy.  Nonetheless, God’s authoritative word was added to the canon of Scripture.     […]

  3. good stuff dude. i could use a lot of this to help me think about my paper. i’ll let you know how it goes.

  4. Phil,
    You should take a look at the debate that is linked in that post (The Scriptures Alone). Echo, I think does an even better job at explaining this to our charismatic friends.


  5. […] the New Testament as a mystery (Ephesians 3:1-6).   As redemptive history continued there was a progressive unveiling of the mystery that was first revealed in the Garden (Genesis 3:15).  This unveiling was realized through the […]

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