Progressive Revelation - Part 2
The nature of progressive revelation is that God gives us keys along the way, from one level of glory and understanding to another. The Lord is concerned just as much about the process as He is about end results. He is God of the journey, not just God of the destination.
Truth itself, in a very real sense, is progressive. The fundamental truths of our faith are absolute and unshakeable; however, they are living absolutes. God is always moving and brooding over creation. God’s movement in the earth has always been progressive. From one covenant to the next, He has been in the process of revealing His heart from depth to depth. The subsequent birth of denominations and new movements in the church age have likewise ushered in restored truths, each one adding upon the other to serve as tributaries that culminate in the river of God.
As individuals, we progress in our ability to see, hear and perceive the things of God. Along the way, we may try to cut corners and achieve God’s benefits through human strife like Jacob. But the ultimate goal of all creation is to find all its fountains in Him, and to cherish His heart above all. As we recognize that the great Revealer is walking with us in this journey, we are less likely to prize any of His individual benefits above Him.
The degree of revelation in which we are walking is tied intricately to the level of wisdom we possess. Wisdom and revelation are used almost interchangeably at times in scripture, though they are distinct from one another. Hidden things are shared with the wise.
A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:5-7).
Our growth capacity for revelation corresponds with our pursuit of wisdom. Even Jesus grew in wisdom (Luke 2:40). There is a process of maturity in our spiritual development that is a prerequisite for moving onto the meatier things of God:
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 5:14).
Overall, Jesus Himself is the source and end of all revelation. The Spirit of Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. To the degree we are filled with Him, we will grow in our revelatory capacity. But this requires more than mere gifting. The Lord also expects us to exercise and develop our gifts, adding to them skill.
Adding skill opens doors
The scriptures tell us that David played his instrument with skill. The temple of the Lord was built by skilled craftsmen, and the armies of God were always skilled in the ways of war. Skill usually takes time and practice. Even Beethoven did not write his best symphonies at age five. He practiced. Skill must be added to the giftings of the Lord, and this good stewardship makes room for even more anointing.
How do we develop revelatory skill? For one, we must take a “use it or lose it” approach to our gifts. We must simply exercise them. It also helps to step out past where you are comfortable. Find a safe environment to practice your gifts and push them to the limit. Learn from others. Study. Find your calling, and hone your craft.
In the meantime, do not run from God’s purging flame as He develops character within you. Allow Him to work humility, patience, peace, longsuffering, kindness and all the fruits of His Spirit into your life. Seek to hear God not just for your own life and destiny, but for other people. This displaces selfishness and makes you a more trustworthy servant and friend. In the long run, you will find that it opens a door for the Lord to speak more clearly into your own life.
There are obviously basic, fundamental necessities for prophetic growth: Immerse yourself in the scriptures, make time for the Lord to speak to you in prayer, have regular times of worship, learn from mature prophetic ministries and simply stay teachable, without ever thinking that you have “arrived” as God’s man of the hour. The list goes on.
The important focus of this lesson is not how to get revelation, but to understand its progressive nature. To this end, we should not despise the incomplete parts of the puzzle that God gives us along the way. Nor should we think that a single part comprises the whole.
Purity releases power
God does not keep things hidden from us out of spite. He wants to come closer. The bottom line is that we can have as much prophetic revelation as we can handle. The greater our capacity for it, the more the Lord will share of His hidden manna. This is why God will often hold back revelation from us until we embrace purity of heart. However, prophetic gifting often develops separately from character growth. This is why we should never confuse powerful gifting with impeccable maturity. Gifting and character develop on separate courses, like two train tracks, and both are needed to move ministry forward. They are connected, but not entirely dependent upon one another. Both are needed to keep the train from derailing. Integrity and personal holiness issues will ultimately affect prophetic gifting.
The time factor
Another reason that revelation comes progressively is simply because God is so immense and multi-dimensional. We can hear something from the Lord that is for 20 years down the road. Or 400 years down the road. We can hear something that is for a future generation to accomplish – not even myself. We can hear something that is for our neighbor and accidentally take it as a personal directive. This can be confusing.
God is outside of time and space, so knowing the appropriate interpretation and application of prophetic words and experiences are just as important as receiving them. This can come with time and exercise.
Since we are addressing progressive revelation – revelation that comes to us bit by bit – it is important to look closer at the time factor. Spiritual vision comes in degrees, but this does not hinge on time itself. True maturity has very little to do with how many years you have been a Christian. It has nothing to do with your position in the church or even how much practice or experience you have had in exercising your gift. Skill and experience are factors, but not the most important ones. True maturity depends on one thing: How much of the Lord you have.
The closer we get the Lord, the more he entrusts us with the hidden secrets of the Kingdom.
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him (2 Chr. 16:9).
This should be an incentive for anyone – young or old, learned or inexperienced – to dive in for more of the Lord. God is not looking for age, experience or degrees. He is looking for hearts. We should not be intimidated by our perceived lack of personal training, but inspired by the fact that God is literally at our fingertips. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
By His Spirit, God can “teach you all things” (John 14:26) if you spend time and draw close to Him. There are no age or class restrictions. In fact, in these last days, the Lord says he will pour out His Spirit on young and old; and even children will prophesy.
Intimacy unlocks revelation
Jesus intentionally cloaked the meaning of His teachings in riddles, to prevent them from being understood by the immature and unbelieving:
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables …” (Mark 4:11).
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces …” (Matt. 7:6).
God is very intentional when He hides, and it is never out of malice, but for our best interest. As we draw closer to the Lord’s heart, we bypass the need for dark speech. Friendship with God enables us to ascend into the chambers of His secret counsel. We become like Abraham, who was called a “friend of God.” Of him, the Lord said:
“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”(Gen. 18:17)
Understand that God has already extended friendship toward us, but it is our responsibility to draw near and extend our own friendship to Him. That is why the scriptures tell us, draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).
God speaks progressively because He wants to keep us in a place of total dependence on Him. Knowledge and spiritual foresight can be dangerous apart from utter reliance on the Lord. It is actually to our benefit that the Lord does not reveal all of His majesty to us in our weakened state. It would destroy us.
We love control, so we want to know exactly what God is doing, in order to fit it into our own schedule and preferences. Yet we can never subtract the mystery and the “unknowing” that is an essential part of the Christian walk. We do not always understand the mystery, but during the process of discovery a relationship is being formed – we can have “fellowship with the mystery” (Eph. 3:9).
Idolatry of revelation
Revelation, when pursued for its own sake, can become an idol – a distraction from the presence of God.
In fact, apart from intimacy with the Father, our prophetic endeavors run the risk of devolving into Christian “fortune telling.” This is another reason why we should allow God to speak on his own time schedule – telling us what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. Even psychics in the secular realm are able to ascend into the second heaven and pull out information by their own will and unredeemed gifting. It is imperative that we get ours from the Third Heaven, directly from the throne of God. And that means not just hearing what we want to hear, but exactly what the heart of God is saying at a given time.
Yes, we should be very zealous for more revelation. We are told to “eagerly desire” to prophesy (1 Cor. 14:1). But we desire revelation because it is an extension of the Lord. We do not just milk the Lord for goodies. Here is the critical factor: Do we seek revelation, in order to draw nearer to the Lord? Or do we seek the Lord, in order to gain more revelation?
When this issue is resolved, and our motivation is purified, the level of revelatory experience in our lives will increase dramatically. But it will be properly directed and we will cease to strive in this arena. The goal of all prophetic revelation is not simply to get us a better job, build a bigger church or to be more spiritual. The goal is to draw us closer to the Lord.
The Mystery revealed
Christ is the eternal Mystery. He is always open and available to us. While revelation generally comes to us in part, over time, we must be confident in accessing the revelatory realm now. It is important to re-emphasize that God’s perfect desire is to have absolute, unadulterated conversation with us.
Do not be mistaken when God seems hidden – He wants to speak to you. He wants to speak more than you want to be spoken to! He is not an absentee father who forgets your needs and inner desires. God does not want us fumbling in the darkness. His very goal of dying on the cross was to clear the communication lines between God and man, in order to restore the relationship with Him that Adam had in the garden. That is why on the cross every mystery and treasure was laid open and bare before us.
When Daniel interpreted the dream for the king of Babylon, the king said:
“Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery” (Dan. 2:47).
God is surely a Revealer of mysteries still today. This word revealer is translated as “galah” (gel-aw). It means to denude in a disgraceful sense. It implies sending one into exile, because exiles were usually stripped of everything by the overcoming army, down to their naked bodies.
God wants to literally strip away and nakedly expose every mystery of Heaven – every shroud that covers our eyes from seeing Him in all His glory. Already, God has violently torn open every secret. He has stripped the darkness and torn it open like a king set out to battle who strips his enemies bare. He does not want any mystery or riddle to separate us – He wants no roadblock to keep us from knowing Him.
The word “galah” means to uncover, shamelessly tell, plainly publish, reveal. Jesus’ heart is to reveal every mystery of God plainly to us and give us open access to all of Heaven. Is this not why God so exposed Himself, allowing us to strip Him naked and hang Him on the cross for the entire world to see? Every veil is torn. The mysteries of Christ are laid bare.
We do not yet understand the treasure we already hold in these jars of clay. We do not simply possess a heavenly inheritance. We are already seated in Heaven in the spirit realm. We do not just have Heaven’s keys – we are already on the throne with Christ (Eph. 2:6). Now that we have access to such a great heavenly deposit, we are growing up into the maturity of ownership. Like a royal child that matures, our allowance grows bigger and bigger. We begin to appropriate and unwrap the very gift that has belonged to us all the time.
What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate (Gal. 4:1).
We are sons and daughters progressively growing up into authority as heirs to the Kingdom. Here is a paradox: God is completely accessible, yet He is completely inapproachable. Through the shed blood of Christ, every mystery is revealed and every veil is torn that once kept us at a distance from the Father. And yet, He is still the Lord of Glory, so holy that no man can see Him and live. Christ alone gives entrance to the higher realms of the Kingdom. But it is His grace that also prevents me from running ahead with more revelation than I can handle – until He increases and my own sinful nature decreases.
If the Lord holds us back at a distance for a season, it is only for our own good, until we are able to bear more of Him. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the journey.