Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, prophecy exists as a means of God’s communication of future events and revelation of Himself to humanity. In other words, from the beginning of recorded humanity and after the glorification of Jesus, God inspired various authors of Scripture to boldly proclaim or write prophecies throughout human experience to foretell future events. God provides both natural revelation and spiritual revelation for those seeking a better understanding of prophecy. Natural revelation helps most Christian believers and non-followers of the Lord understand basic concepts about God such as the existence of an omnipotent Creator, life with design, and natural law. However, some messages in prophecy require special or spiritual revelation for divinely inspired insight and knowledge in order for the understanding to be revealed. God gives special revelation to Spirit-filled believers to identify Old Testament prophecies about Jesus’ life, including His miraculous birth and earthly ministry. The New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies prove Jesus manifested God’s plan of redemption for humanity.
Revelation: Meaning and Types
Revelation derives from the Greek word ἀποκαλύπτω, transliterated as apokalyptō and means an uncovering (Vine, 1996). God’s divine revelation unveils something previously hidden in Scripture. Specifically, it discloses the previously unknown (Elwell, 2001). Further, God discloses to humanity that which He chooses to communicate and reveal about Himself. The exchange between Peter and Jesus exemplifies this. Jesus had questioned Peter about His own identity (Matt 16:15 KJV). When Peter responded Jesus was the “Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15), Jesus told Peter “flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto him, but the Father which is in heaven” (v. 17). God providentially uncovered truth according to His will, purpose, and timing (Martin, 1964).
How did God reveal the previously hidden? He used multiple means in which He progressively revealed His divine salvation plan from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The inspired authors of Scripture presented God’s revealed communication in the biblical canon through agents (prophets), witness (Incarnation), redemptive events (birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ), signs, miracles, and wonders (Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and cast out unclean spirits from many who demon possessed). Knight and Ray (2012) expanded this further noting God revealed Himself by making personal appearances; manifesting Himself in the form of a human being or an angel; appearing in a cloud, fire, or bright light; or using phenomenon from nature and the universe. Further, He appeared in visions and dreams. God did not limit His manner of revelatory communication.
The various means of revelatory communication can be categorized into two types, natural and spiritual revelation. Both forms of revelation point towards the fact there is a God full of wisdom, power, order, and majesty. However, natural revelation comes short of revealing the redemptive work of Christ.
Revelation: Natural Understanding
Some philosophers and historians categorize atheism as the rejection of a belief in the existence of God (Wikipedia, 2014). If a believer would share the goodness of God and belief in Christ with an atheist, questions may surface such as “If you say that God is good, why did my mother die at a young age, or why is there so much evil in the world?” Could these questions actually reveal an inner struggle with God’s nature, rather than His existence? The Bible explains that by observing the natural world, God has instilled in every man a knowledge He exists. However, some have become vain in their imaginations and have had their foolish hearts darkened. In Rom 1:19-21, Paul declared to the Roman church:
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened.
God has placed in us all an intuitive knowledge that He is the supreme and all knowledgeable God. Some have chosen to reject this knowledge of God and to embrace an unthankful spirit. Being unthankful goes against the spirit of humility and is a sign that self is exalted above God. Instead of retaining God in their knowledge, these individuals have chosen to allow their minds to ponder on wicked and idolatrous imaginations. This leads to a person having a hardened heart against the truth. God has given everyone a freedom of choice. If a person continues to persist in this rebellion against the truth and conviction of God, according to Rom 1:24, He will give that person up to his own heart’s lust (Wommack, 1995).
Unfortunately, even after some people receive a natural revelation and accept that creation speaks of the deity of God and His power, they still worship the “universe” instead of the Savior. Yet, all revelation, both spiritual and natural, comes from God. But His set apart people have spiritual revelation from His Spirit’s infilling that reveals all truth previously hidden in Scripture. Nevertheless, God’s elect people yearn to obtain the spiritual revelation. This occurs as a result of the Spirit’s infilling.
Spiritual Revelation: Prophecy’s Language of Redemption
Spiritual revelation (or special revelation) emanates through prophecy. Prophecy derives from the Greek transliteration propheteia, which means to speak forth the mind and counsel of God (Vine, 1996). The Old Testament provides many scriptures that foretell Jesus’ deity and first coming. Several Old Testament books, such as Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms, and Zachariah, include prophecies about the events of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. The New Testament contains numerous prophecies coming to pass, spoken hundreds of years before the advent of Jesus, during His earthly reign.
For instance, the prophet Isaiah declared, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). According to this particular Old Testament scripture, Isaiah clearly prophesied the birth of the Messiah one sees fulfilled in the New Testament in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit impregnated (came upon) Mary, a virgin (Luke 1:35), which is the first messianic fulfillment sign. Quoting Isa 7:14, Matthew gave his account of the miracle birth with the statement, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:23). The name Immanuel/Emmanuel has significance. For through salvation and relationship with the Lord, God always remains with us. When His people call on the name Jesus, He redeems us from every trouble, sickness, and worry.
Additionally, Isaiah prophetically proclaimed God would progressively reveal Himself as Jesus (the Savior) in “behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isa 35:4b-6c). Further, Jesus fulfilled this Old Testament prophecy through His earthly ministry in Luke 7. After ministering to a group of people, including some of John the Baptist’s disciples, Jesus told them “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall be not be offended in me” (7:22b-23).
A third Old Testament prophecy about the future coming of Jesus is in Genesis, which chronicles the beginning of humanity. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and attempted to hide from God, He disclosed His plan of redemption for humanity directly to the serpent, which of course, symbolized the devil. Approximately 2,500 years later, during the time of Moses, God revealed the story of Adam and Eve (the beginning of humankind), their initial innocence, their being tricked by the serpent, their consequential disfellowship with God, and His plan of redemption for humanity. As such, under divine inspiration, Moses wrote the Words of God “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15). Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia fulfills Gen 3:15 with “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal 4:4). God Himself entered the world through the womb of Mary and the miracle birth of Jesus to redeem humanity from its sins.
God’s infinite wisdom, mercy, grace, and love provided everyone with an opportunity to experience natural revelation so they know of His existence. However, in order to walk in fellowship with Him, one must take it a step further and receive His spiritual revelation. Spiritual revelation allows a person to understand and receive the many prophetic messages that speak of Christ’s redemptive work and how it ties in together to unveil His majestic plan. When Christ followers think of how God masterfully orchestrated natural and spiritual revelations to achieve His purpose for redemption through Jesus, it humbles His beloved people. Psalm 8:3-4 beautifully depicts God’s grand plan as King David declared, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou are mindful of him?; and the son of man that thou visitest him?” All in all, the God of all creation made it possible for humanity to know Him through both natural and spiritual revelation. Of these two types of revelation, any human being has access to natural while only Spirit-filled believers have spiritual. From an intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, He reveals Himself and prophecies about Jesus to spiritually-minded people who desire to maintain fellowship and communion with the Lord and grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
- Martin, W. C. (1964). Layman’s bible encyclopedia with historical references. Nashville, TN: The Southwestern Company.
- Theology Website. (n.d.). Systematic theology study helps: Bibliography. Retrieved from http://www.theologywebsite.com/systheo/bibliology2.shtml.
- Vine, W.E. (1996). Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
- Wikipedia. Atheism. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athiesm.
- Wommack, A. (1995). Life for today study bible and commentary the Romans edition. Andrew Wommack Ministries, Inc.
Ricardo and Dorith Johnson | December 1, 2014