From the series, Ten Turning Points That Make All the Difference
God is always revealing himself. He has been doing so since (at least) the dawn of humanity. As I’ve written earlier in this series, he has done so not by dropping a book in anyone’s lap. We have a book now, but it didn’t come floating down from heaven, and it wasn’t dug up complete from under Jerusalem. God delivered what we were ready for, a bit at a time, when we were ready for it. In other words, his revelation has been progressive.
A lot of debate and confusion could be solved if people understood that. The Old Testament contains laws that were appropriate to the nation and the culture of Israel, many of which were timeless and remain in full force, but many of which (especially ceremonial and sacrificial laws) were meant to be set aside—especially the ceremonial laws that Christ fulfilled. We know more of God than the Old Testament prophets did: we know him through Christ.
There is a sense in which revelation is ongoing even now. I don’t mean God is giving new authoritative revelation, not by any means; but that we are continuing to develop a complete understanding of the depth of the Scriptural information he has already given. Every student of church history knows that knowledge of God continued to grow long past the time John put down his pen after writing the Revelation. The Church took centuries to hammer out a clear and coherent statement of the Trinity (at the Council of Nicaea, especially) and of the person of Christ (the council of Chalcedon). I believe Christians’ current debates over Genesis and science represent another process like the long ones that ended at these major councils. (At the rate we’re going, this one might take a few centuries too.)
Which is just another way of saying that we’re still learning: and whatever we learn that is true, is knowledge of God in one way or another, for all truth is of God.
Still it’s crucial to bear in mind what has never changed in all these millennia of God’s self-revelation. Our knowledge of God has progressed in some ways, but what he first made known about himself has never been corrected or overturned. It was not complete at the beginning (it still isn’t) but it wasn’t wrong. From the first verse of the Bible to the day you read this, God is revealed as the sovereign Creator. From the second chapter until today he is revealed as being good and just. From the third chapter until today we have known of God as being the rescuer who will see to it that the serpent’s head is crushed: a metaphor with massive meaning. From the sixth chapter until today we have known God as the judge who bestows grace and mercy on whom he will bestow grace and mercy. From the twelfth chapter until today we have known of God as the missionary God who calls on individuals and families to bless all other families.
All of these things have been true from the beginning. Do we understand them fully now? No. We’re still learning. I think we’ll be learning God’s ways and his character all through eternity.