Christianity 201

April 21, 2013

What is Progressive Revelation?

No specific scripture today. Out of about a hundred questions in a 1969 booklet I’ve been reading, Bible Questions Answered by John I. Paton, this one really struck me.

What is meant by the expression “progressive revelation”?

That all depends on who is using it.  The attitude of Bible critics of the last century or so has been that man gradually evolved in a spiritual understanding of God.  According to them early men believed in many gods but after a long period of time some came to see that there is only one God.  This approach to progressive revelation makes the Bible out to be a record of man’s progressive discovery of God.

This is far from what the Bible means with regard to progressive revelation.  In Hebrews 1:1 we learn that bit by bit and in many different ways, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets. All of this revelation and information was truth.  None of it was ever withdrawn.  God added to the body of truth from time to time, speaking finally in His Son (v. 2).  Just before He went to the cross our Lord promised that after His resurrection and ascension the Spirit of truth would come and He would guide God’s people into all truth (John 16:13).  It was not many years after that that the New Testament writings were finished.  God’s revelation of Himself and His will is presented fully to man in the Bible.

Perhaps the following example of progressive revelation will serve to illustrate how God gradually revealed His truth.  He first gave a basic element concerning a truth and then added to it as the Bible proceeded to its completion.

We learn from Genesis 4 that Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock” (v 4.), sacrificing a lamb to the Lord.  This was a “by faith” offering (Heb. 111:4).  Later on in Genesis we learn through Abraham’s preparation to offer up Isaac that “God will provide himself a lamb” (22:8).  God, not Abraham, would furnish a lamb.  At still a later time, in Exodus 12:7, we are told that after slaying the Passover lamb, its blood had to be applied.  According to Leviticus 16:5 Aaron was to take two kids of the goats for a sin offering, one to die and the other to be sent away from the camp of Israel.  Finally, in John’s Gospel we learn that the Lamb is a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ (1:29).  He is provided by God for us.  It is through the application of His shed blood by faith that we are saved from the wrath of God against sin.  We are justified in God’s sight through Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 4:25).

In Abel’s sacrifice we see a lamb provided for an individual.  In Egypt the lamb was needed for a family.  Then when the Passover Sacrifice was fully constituted, the Passover lamb was slain for the nation.  But God’s Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, was slain on Calvary, not only for an individual, not only for a nation, but also for the whole lost world. (John 3:16).

Bonus item today:

Head over to Thinking Out Loud and watch a 5-minute video on different ways of interpreting the book of Revelation.


  1. It seems to me that Christians have been undermined by our view of Bible inspiration. We put ourselves in deep trouble with the theory that the Bible itself (the text) is the truth. We end up trying to believe that every bit of it is “GOD SPEAKING.” The Bible itself records when God spoke to people and what God revealed. In the New Testament we have two recorded (later written account) examples of GOD SPEAKING. (At Jesus baptism and at the Mount of Transfiguration).

    We have made the Bible into a magical thing that is 100% GOD SPEAKING. This creates the heresy of the HOLY BIBLE. Our mouths should confess that GOD IS HOLY not the scriptures. This leads us into idolatry.

    The best revelation of God – the one that is the TRUTH is a person (not a book). A person – not what he taught. A person – Jesus.

    The role of progressive revelation is that the Holy Spirit will tell us more about Jesus – reveal Jesus to us so we can EXPERIENCE JESUS. For if we do not experience Jesus how can we say that we KNOW him. And this is eternal life that we KNOW God and Jesus Christ the ambassador of the Father.

    We think revelation is about some truth that we need to believe – something put into words – abstract words even. Jesus insists truth is about knowing him – not in the abstract!

    Comment by g. Hartwell — April 21, 2013 @ 10:50 pm | Reply

    • I tossed this into the mix today because I thought the author developed the theme of “the lamb” very effectively, and it would give people something to think about. However, I’m not sure that the answer matched the question; it’s like the answer was dealing with some other question. I’m not sure if perhaps they used terminology differently in 1969. At any rate, your response fits well here and adds a needed dimension.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 21, 2013 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  2. Richly blessed through this, more annointing

    Comment by Makinde Tosin — August 7, 2018 @ 5:05 am | Reply

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