‘Progressive revelation’ is an important key to understanding God and the Bible.

GOD’S METHOD IS TO TELL US A LITTLE AT A TIME

God’s revelation of himself and his creation is ‘progressive.’ He parcels out information to us a little at a time, as we show interest and make discoveries. This progressive revelation is extremely long-term. He doesn’t reveal everything in our lifetime, or even in our millennium.

God began telling about himself to the first man and woman (see Topic 6) and he’s been telling more and more to successive generations ever since. He revealed much about himself through Abraham, and later through Moses and the prophets. His greatest revelation was through Jesus Christ, and then through the apostles and the Bible. And today he’s revealing himself to us through his Holy Spirit.

God has been progressively revealing his creation to us, too, allowing us gradually to discover his atomic building blocks and physical laws.

In the both realms – spiritual and physical – we experience progress when we care enough to make discoveries and use each new discovery as a bridge to another one. Each discovery provides another piece of the big picture of life. Today we know more about God and his creation than mankind has ever known.

God’s disclosure of himself and his universe will continue even after we die. In our next state of being (heaven or hell) we’ll know considerably more than we know now. We can’t even comprehend this thought, but perhaps his unfolding revelation will continue through all eternity!

MOSTLY, WE DON’T KNOW, BUT WE’RE STILL LEARNING

There are millions of questions people would like to ask God about himself, his creation, his spiritual and physical laws, and the reasons for them. What we know now about the whole scope and scheme of things is so little, and every time we get an answer, it raises still more questions.

Even if we take the combined knowledge from the Bible and from all the world’s science books – an astonishing compilation of God’s revelation thus far – what we know about time and space and life is still pathetically small.

However, this should not diminish the importance of what we do know. Even though we’re still learning, we already have a considerable amount of knowledge of what life is all about and how best to live it.

The purpose of this handbook is to summarize what we do know about the big picture, as revealed to us in the Bible. This handbook leaves a lot of questions unanswered – because the Bible is silent on them – but it answers all the questions that are essential to us at this point in time.

Even though we don’t yet know everything we’d like to know, we do know – or have the source for learning – everything we NEED to know.

WE DISCOVER WHEN WE INVESTIGATE

The world is full of exciting things waiting to be discovered. But most people are unaware of the abundant resources and opportunities all around us, mostly because they don't bother to investigate.

Usually, a person becomes an expert in a few fields – profession, trade, science, art, sport, business, academic pursuit – but is largely unaware of what's happening in other fields. This pattern carries over to spiritual matters, too. Most people think that personal knowledge of God is something for clergymen or others who happen to be particularly interested in religion. They regard the spiritual dimension of life as an optional matter – almost like an avocation – rather than as the key to everyone's ultimate success in life.

Most people still don't know how to have sins totally forgiven or how to qualify for heaven.

Because we have the Bible – God's clearest revelation so far – these things are now easily discovered when we care enough to look.

For people who want to experience something big and wonderful, nothing can top the experience of a genuine Christian life. Other experiences may offer thrills for a while, but they don't give lasting satisfaction. Anyone who says that Christianity is restrictive, boring and irrelevant hasn’t yet discovered it!

For a genuine Christian (see Topics 11 and 62), life has meaning and purpose because he understands how he fits into the grand scheme of things. Whatever his physical or socio-economic condition, he can enjoy life right now, and he knows that the best is yet to come. The Christian life is the ultimate in living because it’s in harmony with God.

Here’s real Christianity: A good clean feeling because sins are forgiven. A new nature that wants to do right things, and an inner power to do them. A personal intimacy with God. No fear of death, but rather an assurance and happy anticipation of eternal life. Properly understood, everyone wants this kind of life, and the Bible tells how to get it.

CHRISTIANS KEEP TELLING ABOUT THE ‘GOOD NEWS’

At the time of Christ, the Roman empire was the strongest political power on earth. Rome had conquered Palestine (Holy Land) and made it a Roman province. The primitive religion of Rome was animism. Each person worshiped the gods of his own farm and home, personifying the forces he encountered in daily life. There were gods of the sky, forest, field and stream. There were gods of the sowing and gods of the harvest. The gods were worshiped in prescribed places, times and manners, often with special feasts and rites.

In urban areas at that time, the worship of local deities had begun to give way to emperor worship. And there was growing popularity of ‘mystery religions,’ mostly of Eastern origin, which had classless brotherhoods, rituals and many other characteristics of modern secret societies.

Intertwined with all this was worship of the occult, and practice of astrology and magic, with widespread belief that the entire world was inhabited by spirits and demons who could be invoked or commanded to do certain things if the correct rite or formula were known.

The early Christians burst upon this scene in the first century A.D. They excitedly told about their personal discovery of new life through Jesus Christ. They told how God had visited our planet and now, in Spirit, lives within everyone who understands and believes what Jesus Christ did for us. They also circulated letters about this new life, writings said to be given by God himself. These writings – 27 of them – comprise the part of the Bible we know today as the New Testament.

Christians today are still excitedly telling about the good news contained in the Bible and how it has radically changed their lives for the better.

WHAT WE NOW KNOW:

God's clearest revelation – the biggest piece of information he's given to us thus far, and the piece that's most important to us – is what the Bible and theologians call the ‘gospel’ (a Greek word meaning ‘good news’). This is explained in Topic 52.

Here’s a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject. 

Deuteronomy 29:29
Some things God keeps secret from us, and other things he reveals

John 14:9-10
Jesus is the revelation of God

Romans 16:23-26
Mysteries of past ages are now being revealed to us

I Corinthians 2:10-14
God is revealing himself to us through his Spirit

For help, see Topic 29.

Posted in Bible Survey.