Is Divine Revelation Ongoing Today?

Looking toward heaven

For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief” (Ephesians 3:1-3).

Paul told the Ephesians about the mystery he received by revelation. He was referring to divine revelation – a message that came from God. As an apostle (Ephesians 1:1), the Holy Spirit guided him “into all the truth” (John 16:13) so that he could say, “The things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment” (1 Corinthians 14:37).

Does this type of divine revelation still occur today? Many people claim to receive messages directly from heaven. But does God reveal His will directly to people today like He did with Paul and others? It is important that we know the answer to that question. So let us consider it here.

Definition of “Divine Revelation”

It is always important that we define our terms before examining a question like this. For the purpose of our study, what is divine revelation?

First, it is not natural revelation – what we can know about God from the created world. The Scriptures teach that the natural world that God created reveals certain things about Him. Paul said, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). He told the people of Lystra that God’s providence was a “witness” to “all the nations” of His existence (Acts 14:16-17). As long as the earth stands, it will reveal these truths about God.

Second, it is not teaching that one might do from the Scriptures. That is simply teaching about what has already been given by divine revelation. We must test all teaching by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) because God’s word is always right and man can often be wrong (cf. Romans 3:4; Proverbs 30:5-6).

Divine revelation is a message that has been delivered by a person of God to men for the purpose of making known God’s will. The Scriptures show this being done by the Father (Matthew 3:17), Jesus (John 18:37), and especially the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13).

Jesus Is the Spokesman for the Last Days

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The Hebrew writer began by showing a contrast between the time “long ago” and the “last days.” The Son of God – Jesus Christ – is the One through whom God has “spoken to us” in the “last days.” Jesus is the “Word [that] became flesh” (John 1:14). He came “to testify to the truth” (John 18:37).

The book of Hebrews spoke of several things that have been perfected in Christ – the priesthood (Hebrews 5:10; 7:4-10), law (Hebrews 7:12), covenant (Hebrews 8:7-8; 9:15), sacrifices (Hebrews 10:4-5, 10), and so on. But the first one mentioned in the book is revelation (Hebrews 1:2). This has been perfected (made complete) in Christ.

If Christ is the spokesman for the “last days,” how can we know His will today? Let us continue.

His Will Was Revealed Through the Apostles

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The apostles were the “ambassadors for Christ,” which means they were His official spokesmen. This is why, when Jesus spoke to His apostles before His death, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to help them in this work: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth… He will testify about Me, and you will testify also” (John 15:26-27). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).

It is important to note that there were certain qualifications one had to meet in order to be an apostle. When a replacement was being chosen for Judas, Peter said, “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22). Apostles had to be eyewitnesses (1 John 1:1). The apostle Paul, though he did not accompany the others, did witness the Lord when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8). There may be some today who would claim similar experiences, but they cannot perform the “signs of a true apostle” (2 Corinthians 12:12) as Paul did to prove his apostleship. Therefore, there can be no apostles today revealing the Lord’s will. The only apostles today are “false apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:13).

His Will Was Revealed Through Prophets

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20).

Prophets played an important role in the early church. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The gift of prophecy was one of the gifts miraculously given by the Spirit “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 10).

We need to remember how miraculous gifts – including the gift of prophecy – were given. Notice what Luke recorded about the spread of the gospel in Samaria: “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:14-17). These people believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). They even had Philip there with them who had the ability to perform miracles (Acts 8:6-7). Yet it took the laying on of hands by an apostle for the miraculous gifts of the Spirit to be imparted. Besides the apostles, no one else had – or could have – the power to do this (Acts 8:18-21).

Therefore, we can necessarily infer that the longest possible time these miraculous gifts would last would be the lifetimes of those Christians upon whom an apostle laid his hands. Not only that, but the Scriptures tell us that miraculous gifts, such as “gifts of prophecy,” would “cease” after “the perfect comes” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). In this context, “the perfect” refers to divine revelation. Once the word of God was completely revealed, the Lord would no longer need to use prophets to reveal His will to man. There can be no prophets today, unless they are “false prophets” (1 John 4:1).

God’s Will Has Been Fully Revealed

Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).

Through Jesus and His inspired apostles and prophets, we have everything that we need to know in order to please the Lord. Jude said, “The faith…was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). This means that God’s word – the source of faith (Romans 10:17) – has been revealed to us in its entirety. There is no need for modern day revelations (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:11).

Those who claim to receive modern day revelations are liars (Romans 3:4). They may be intentionally deceiving others or they may be deceived themselves. Paul told Timothy, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). But either way, the result is the same. Teaching a modern day “revelation” causes one to be “accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9). Following a modern day “revelation” causes one to desert the Lord (Galatians 1:6).

Rather than seeking God’s will through alleged modern day revelations, we need to seek God’s will in His written word. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We do not need to turn anywhere but to the Scriptures.


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Comments

  1. Wayne D. Teel says

    Very well thought out and written article. As you plainly point out, there are NO modern day revelations from God today. Why? They are not needed and they were never promised. Anyone who claims otherwise is simply ignoring clear scripture to the contrary.

  2. Thanks, Wayne. You’re absolutely right. God has given us all we need in His word. But too many people want to think there’s something more, perhaps to relieve them of the work involved in Bible study.