There are at least several places in the Bible that mention revelations or something that has been revealed. But what is a revelation, to whom does God give them to, and do we have them today?
“Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets.” (Ephesians 3:4)
There are two different categories of what we might call revelations: a revelation of something new which has not previously been known or understood by anyone before, and a situation where God helps us understand something we personally haven’t seen before, but which is not new doctrinally.
At this point of our world’s history, I believe we should approach any supposed new revelation with the utmost trepidation, lining it up faithfully point by point with the teachings of the Bible, because God will not contradict Himself. If I believe God is telling me something that is contrary to what He has previously revealed to mankind through His written Word, I, not Scripture, am in error. There is a fascinating supposed revelation given to George Washington about four great trials which were to come upon the new United States. Whether this is a legitimate prophecy or simply a fabrication concocted by a journalist during the time of the Civil War (as some claim it to be), apart from being fascinating, it is an example of a purported revelation which does not, at least on its surface, appear to contradict Scripture.
Interestingly, God has provided a good rule to use to determine whether something is from Him or not. “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’—when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 19:21-22) If a revelation of a prophetic nature does not come true, it is not from God, so I suppose those of us or our children who are alive in the future will know at some point if the “Washington Prophecy” was from God!
There is something in our very human natures that wants to be special—we want to be the one to whom God reveals something He has never before revealed to anyone else. Yet this is how many heresies have begun. The Muslim faith is a spin-off of Judaism and Christianity, because both existed in the days of Muhammad, but the Koran picks and chooses which parts it will accept as legitimate and which it will reject, and adds additional material which contradicts the Bible. Joseph Smith, who began the Mormon religion, had a supposed revelation which altered the Bible, and added to it. In 2 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul refutes other preachers who present themselves as ministers of truth, but who are, in essence, not: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, who end will be according to their works.” What we learn from this passage is that Satan can “transform…[himself] into an angel of light.” We need to be careful about any revelation outside of the canon of the Holy Bible, because we are so easily misled! The measuring stick that we use—our plumbline—must always be God’s Word as revealed in the Bible, and God’s Word alone.
Having said that, however, has God ever revealed anything to His people? Of course He has! The entire Bible is God’s revelation to mankind. Furthermore, the Old Testament prophet Joel, quoted in the New Testament book of Acts by the apostle Peter on Pentecost, said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18) The time of the last days quoted in this verse is typically recognized to have begun with the coming of Jesus, so the entire New Testament is a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. But what about today? Does God reveal anything to us today?
The ending verses of the New Testament book of Revelation warn, “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18b-19) While “the words of the book of this prophecy” seem to specifically refer to the book of Revelation because Revelation was written before the Bible was compiled in its current order, and while it is certainly possible that God might choose to reveal certain things to certain individuals, the giving of doctrine itself is complete within the Bible.
Yet God certainly will reveal truth about His Word to those who ask. Paul’s fervent prayer to God for the Ephesian Christians was “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19a) Our most earnest desire ought to be that God open the “eyes of our understanding” that we may understand spiritual truth—that we may truly see how incredible it is to belong to Him, the amazing future we have to look forward to, and how incomprehensible His power–the power that raised Jesus from the dead and will also raise us–is!
Thank You that You thought enough of Your children to give us the revelation of Your Word—the specific information we need to know to be forgiven, to live and thrive and be pleasing to You. Please give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in our knowledge of You, that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened, that we may comprehend the incredible blessings we have in You! Amen.