Progressive Revelation - Part 1
Understanding how the Lord speaks to us progressively enables us to better enjoy the prophetic journey and to ultimately engage a higher revelatory realm.
Revelation rarely comes on a silver platter. We often wait for lightning bolt experiences and divine encounters, while missing the still small voice of God that coaxes us gently from one realm of understanding to another. Developing an ear to hear is always a process. And even specific divine directives usually come piece-by-piece over a period of time.
Scripture tells us that from days of old the “schools of the prophets” were instituted as men were trained to hear the voice of the Lord. Samuel heard the Lord from childhood, but he would not have recognized the voice without Eli’s instruction. Mature prophets are not born in a day. God always births small, vulnerable babies, and a season of gradual growth, instruction and maturation must follow.
Why doesn’t God thunder?
We think life would be much easier if the Lord would just speak to us audibly. This seems like a simple solution to our confusion, as if it would guarantee us clear direction and solve the world’s problems. And surely the Lord would prefer this realm of clear communication. But history shows us that the clearest communication – even the audible voice of God – does not guarantee obedience. Consider the children of Israel, who heard God’s audible voice corporately:
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Ex. 20:18-19).
Here, we see that an entire nation heard the voice of God, yet they withdrew from it and eventually turned to rebellion. Remember that the clearer God speaks to us, the more we are responsible to adhere to His command. This should not be a reason to withdraw from His voice; however, it is an expression of His grace that he only gives us what we are capable of living up to.
It is not God’s perfect will to keep us in darkness. He does not desire to hide from us or to keep Kingdom secrets shrouded from us. He wishes to give us the fullness of the Kingdom right now. The problem is we are not yet capable of handling all that Jesus longs to entrust to us.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now (John 16:12).
Issues of pride, fear and immaturity disqualify us from jumping headlong into the depths of divine revelation. And for these reasons, God reveals truth in layers, both for our own sake and for the sake of those to whom we minister. It is actually because of love that God is sometimes silent.
Concealing future destiny
Just because we do not understand everything God says does not mean He is being quiet. God does not just want to speak through our ears. He wants our entire lives and everything we experience to be a reflection of Him. God is always speaking to us in dreams, inner thoughts and through the circumstances of life. But we do not always perceive it. God has to cloak much of what He says for a number of reasons.
For God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction. In order to turn man from his deed, and conceal pride from man, He keeps back his soul from the Pit, and his life from perishing by the sword (Job 33:14-18, emphasis mine).
Here, we see that God intentionally seals His instruction away from us, to protect us from pride and from perishing. Very often, this is a reason that we do not remember our dreams. God is instructing our spirits in the night season – directing our paths – but our conscious mind is kept unaware of it. Otherwise, we would try to accomplish God’s destiny for our lives on our own, in our own human strength. Or we might simply be overwhelmed by the monumental tasks to which He calls us, and we would withdraw in fear.
Have you ever had déjà vu? The “old school” deliverance ministries used to claim that déjà vu was demonic, simply because they did not understand it. But déjà vu is simply when you remember a dream or vision that God sealed away long ago, and now, suddenly His hand of guidance is being revealed over your life. Instead of calling it “déjà vu,” we should simply call it “remembering a vision.”
Although we only see the future in part, God sees it fully. And we can trust that He is guiding us step-by-step along the way.
Activating the future
While we are discussing future destiny, it is good to briefly address a common question: How do I discover the plans God has for my life? We have all asked this at some point, and it is one of the primary things God reveals to us progressively.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known (1 Cor. 13:12).
It is imperative that we have vision. We need to know our destiny, and we must hear clearly to speak into the lives of others. God will purposely keep these plans withdrawn for a season, so that we do not try to achieve them in our own understanding. There are many practical steps to discovering your destiny: dive into the scriptures, hear from other prophets, assess your current abilities, discover what God has already given you a desire to do, etc.
But it is one thing to know the plans God has for you. It is another thing to step into that destiny and begin to practically activate it. Perhaps the greatest key is this: Identity releases destiny.
As we learn to identify ourselves with the Lord – as His friend, as His brother, as His child, as His bride – it is only natural that we should become familiar with His voice. And then we begin to step into the role of that future person we are to become.
Ask yourself: What kind of character will I have when I am walking in my destiny? Where will I live? Who will I associate with? How will I spend my time? What disciplines will I practice regularly?
As we envision these things, we can gradually begin to step into the framework of our future, and somehow pull the future into the present.
The Emmaus journey
These general principles are true for attaining any type of revelation. As we identify with the character and nature of Christ, He is revealed to us more and more. But receiving revelation is not the ultimate goal for the believer. Intimacy and relationship with Jesus is the goal.
The mysteries and enigmas of God are given, for a large part, to engage us and draw us into a communion – an ongoing dialogue with the Creator. The beauty of mysteries and the hidden things of God entice us to understand their meaning. And in the process, we find that we have all along been walking along the Emmaus road, having fellowship with the hidden Christ.
Understanding revelation is always a journey. But likewise, there is always a breakthrough at the end of that journey. He does not keep us guessing forever. God begins to draw our hearts until they burn within. And at the end of this Emmaus Road, the bread is always broken, and our eyes are opened to the living Christ who is already seated with us at the table. We realize that every puzzle, every riddle, is from Him and through Him – and it all points to Him.
Honoring small beginnings
Since revelation is progressive, do not despise small beginnings. Even the most gifted prophets face unanswered questions and confounding mysteries. This is the way of the Kingdom. And it is better to be content for a season with the unanswered paradox, than to try and explain the unknown with pre-packaged, cliché answers.
People like to sound smart and appear to know what’s going on. God prefers honesty. One way to tell a false prophet (or at least an immature one) is that he has an answer to every question. Be comfortable with starting small, and God will increase your vision. It all starts with humility. Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” And this released him to hear the Lord more clearly than anyone else.
“When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord” (Num. 12:6-8).
In the passage above, we see about five different ways the Lord speaks, some of which vary in the degree of accuracy and intensity: dreams, visions, face-to-face clearly, riddles (parables) and the open seer realm. In fact, there are different types or degrees of prophetic gifting throughout scripture. For instance, there is the nabi prophet, which in Hebrew means “to bubble forth as from a fountain,” or simply “to utter.” This is the type of prophetic gifting we are most familiar with, when someone simply spouts out the thought that bursts forth from the heart. But then, there is also the ro’eh or hozeh prophet, which means the “seer.” For instance, Samuel was a seer, while Nathan was a nabi prophet. Seers are more visually oriented.
Develop the goose bump
All of these avenues of hearing and seeing require patience, practice and development. Many people get frustrated that they are not having open encounters with angels and third heaven visitations, but most prophetic people do not start off on this level. Remember, God always births spiritual babies, not mature eagles. If you are faithful with the little, more is added.
If you develop the small, inward visions the Lord gives you, before long, you will begin seeing those visions with your open eyes. If you are faithful with the simple nudging He gives you, He will trust you with more complexities. Patiently steward the little things God gives you, and He will bring steady increase.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings (Prov. 25:2).
In fact, when people complain to me that they never hear the voice of God, I ask them, “Have you ever felt a goose bump during a worship service?”
Most reply that they indeed have, and I tell them, “That’s a great place to start.”
Something as simple as a goose bump during a worship service can serve as an initial trigger. The next time you go to the grocery store, that same little goose bump may trigger when you are talking to the checkout clerk – then you know that God is trying to get your attention. Develop the goose bump faithfully, and one day, you will see angels.
The Patient Pursuit
The Lord once spoke to me very clearly while I was preparing for a sermon at Starbucks. I heard His audible voice call my name, “John.” But when I looked up, no one was there. Only a sign that read, “The secret ingredient to this exceptional blend? … Patience.”
Patience is a powerful ingredient to receiving anything from God. It is a vital fruit of the Spirit. It is also the key to progressive revelation.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised (Heb. 6:12).
Faith without patience is not really faith at all. If we really believe in the unseen realm, we will not be shaken by the lack of immediate results. Many people get frustrated when God does not zap them or speak to them at a church meeting, and they lack the patience and consistency to contend for his voice. We should consider the story of the famous healing revivalist John G. Lake. When Lake began to pursue the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he did not see immediate results. For nine months, he diligently sought the Lord with fervent prayers, until finally, one day the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he was immersed with the Lord’s presence.
What were the results of John G. Lake’s waiting and contending? The Lord rested on him so powerfully that more than 100,000 documented healings were recorded in his five years of ministry in Spokane, Wash. Even plague cells that were placed on his hand immediately died on contact, when viewed under a microscope, because the healing anointing rested so strongly on his physical body.
What if John G. Lake got frustrated and gave up because he didn’t fall over at his first charismatic conference? We must exercise patience. Daniel prayed for 21 days before the angel came to his assistance, although Daniel’s prayers were heard in heaven the first day he spoke them (Dan. 10:13). Or consider Joseph. The Lord revealed his destiny at an early age, but it took years and years of trial and testing before it came to pass. Does it feel like you are having a slower start in hearing the voice of the Lord? It may be because you have greater potential than most. Be faithful to exercise what you have and contend for more.
Even physical healing often requires patience. Miracles are instantaneous, but healings can take time. I once prayed for a cross-eyed baby, and there was not a noticeable result. But the next day, his father brought him back to our meetings with good news: one of the eyes came uncrossed overnight! The child had moved from having two crossed eyes to one crossed eye. That was an improvement, so we prayed for him again that the Lord would continue the work, and we sent him home. Often we consider “partial healings” to be incomplete, when in actuality, we should see them as works in process.
In the same way, we are always receiving revelation in process. We should press in for more understanding, without getting frustrated along the way. Let us contend for spiritual maturity, but not try to grow up too fast. True maturity waits for the Lord.