Part Two: Direct Revelation in Scripture
Scripture records many ways in which God revealed things to humans--in other words, ways which have functioned as vehicles for God's Word. Those ways include:
- With an audible voice (Genesis 2:18, 15:18, 1 Samuel 3:4, Revelation 2:1-2)
- Through the casting of lots (Proverbs 16:33, Acts 1:26, Exodus 28:30)
- Through dreams (Genesis 20:3, Numbers 12:6)
- Through visions (Isaiah 1:1, 2 Corinthians 12:2)
- Through angels (Daniel 10:12, Luke 2:10)
- Through prophets (Exodus 4:12, Ephesians 3:5)
- Through actual writing (Daniel 5:5)
- Through the test of signs, now often called "fleeces" (Judges 6:37, 2 Kings 20:9)
- Through the messages embedded in nature, particularly in the stars (Psalm 19:1-4, Matthew 2:2, Romans 1:20)
Scripture not only allows for the existence of God's direct revelation, but knowing that miracles can be faked and prophecies can be false, Scripture provides us with the guidelines for how to test alleged revelation.
For instance, 1 John 4:1 tells us, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God." So the first test that we place against any claim of hearing from God, any claim of prophecy, is who the prophecy says that Jesus is. Notice, however, that if all direct revelation was going to cease with the formation of Scripture, why would John not have said, "Do not listen to prophecy"? This warning presupposes that the Christian *may* hear from the Spirit of God.
Not only can a direct revelation not contradict the nature of Christ, it cannot contradict the Gospel. Galatians 1:8 tells us, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed."
No revelation, no matter how many miracles accompany it, may promote a god other than God. Deuteronomy 13:1-3.
Here's an important one: if the prophecy involves signs or future events, the prophecy MUST be completely accurate. In ancient Israel, if it was not completely accurate, it was at the expense of the prophet's LIFE. There was a zero-tolerance policy for fakers. Deuteronomy 18: "But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him."
Direct revelations must be evaluated by the congregation, and must proceed in an orderly fashion: 1 Corinthians 14:29-33. Prophecy seems to be a regular part of the early church: 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21.
As the sufficient (but not exhaustive) Word of God, Scripture is held in a place of prominence: thus, no revelation from God can go against, negate, or contradict Scripture. God does not lie or contradict himself--it's against his nature. And thus, no voice from heaven, no message from an angel, no handwriting on a wall, no sign or wonder, no dream or vision, no prophecy or revelation should be heeded if it does not agree with what we know God has said before.
John Wesley says it best (thanks Nic!):
"Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil. Therefore 'believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God.' Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it. You are in danger of enthusiasm every hour, if you depart ever so little from Scripture; yea, or from the plain, literal meaning of any text, taken in connection with the context; and so are you, if you despise, or lightly esteem, reason, knowledge, or human learning; every one of which is an excellent gift of God."
Yet in all these cautions there is the assumption that a thought, voice, spirit, vision, dream, message, or prophecy may
be from God. If it were not so, we would not be instructed to test, but rather to reject all.
In fact, because the New Testament talks so much about how direct revelation (such as prophecy) should be used within the church, in order to reject all direct revelation outside of Scripture, we would have to ignore much of Scripture. Without a Scriptural injunction to do so (as with Acts 15 and the kosher laws), that would be counterproductive to a Sola Scriptura approach to Christianity.
God speaks to us in many ways. God, who used the voice of a donkey to speak to Balaam, can use whatever means at his disposal that he sees fit. And while he has given us the gift of Scripture in which we can find his sufficient Word, and while we can hear him speak by simply reading from that Word, it would be presumptuous on our part to say that this is the only way in which he will speak.Do you believe that God uses things other than scripture to speak to us today? In what ways has God spoken to you outside of scripture? How do you know when you have had a direct revelation from God?