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No. 31: Twelve Fundamental Avenues of Revelation, Part 2

OPEN BOOK, Views & Reviews, No. 31
Copyright (c) 1997 Biblical Horizons
February, 1997

Theophanic revelation is historically progressive, or eschatological, in character. First of all, in Genesis 1:2, the Spirit appeared inside the creation, sent by the Father. After the creation of man, the Spirit worked and works with humanity to bring us to maturity, from Daughter to Bride to fruitful Mother. He used angels for this purpose under the Old Creation.

The Bible speaks of angels as winds and _re (Hebrews 1:7), associating them with the Spirit in the way that humanity is associated with the Son. In the Old Creation, the theophanic appearances of the Son were as the Angel of Yahweh, preeminently the Pillar of Cloud (wind) and Fire. In this way, the Spirit progressively brought the Son into the world, revealing the Son. At the incarnation, the Spirit (the Power of the Most High) overshadowed the virgin Mary and brought the Son into the world as man. At Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit came upon Him in full measure to guide Him.

In Jesus, humanity comes to maturity and no longer needs angelic tutors (Acts 7:53; Galatians 4:23–5:6; Hebrews 1:14 & 2:2; Revelation 1-22). In the New Creation, human beings are tutors in Christ. The servant priesthood of ecclesiastical ministers is provided to bring the entire Bride to maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13). These overseers are to be elders, older men whose maturity then sets an example for all. In the same way, the older women are to guide the younger.

As the Spirit revealed Jesus, so Jesus reveals the Father. The Son is revealed throughout the Old Creation, at Mount Sinai dictating the law and through the prophets dictating their prophecies. The Father is little revealed in the Old Creation. What is new in the New Creation is the revelation of the Father through Jesus. Jesus, the now-incarnate Yahweh of the Old Creation, continually points up to the Father. Yet, even in the New Creation the Father remains somewhat hidden behind the Son, so that Philip could yearn to see the Father (John 14:8). Jesus said that He reveals the Father, and in Revelation we do begin to see the Father on His throne (Revelation 4:2-3). Yet, until the removal of the _rmament-sky at the end of history, we shall not see the Father revealed in the cosmos.

This historical revelation can be summarized as follows:

1. Father sends Spirit into cosmos.

2. Spirit reveals the Son, who comes into cosmos as Angel, and the Spirit causes us to fear Him (Romans 8:15; Proverbs 1:7).

3. Son comes into the cosmos, incarnate, and men fear (Mark 4:41; 9:32; 10:32; 16:8).

4. Son sends Spirit into our hearts, crying "Abba, Father!," revealing Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 5:6).

5. At the end, we are brought to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).

In conclusion, let me suggest that the de_ning aspect of personhood or personality is love, or its opposite. "God is love," we are told (1 John 4:8), and in context "God" means particularly the Father. The three Persons of God love each other, communicate with each other, and act on behalf of each other eternally. The love-aspect is the personal aspect.

D1. Object Revelation. There are three fundamental forms of Personal revelation in the cosmos, in addition to the Person of God Himself. The _rst, historically, consists of the angels and the created objects of the cosmos. Each of these objects, considered in and of itself, is a revelation of the Creator. Objects in the world reveal God’s person by their "thereness and thatness," not by their words or actions (though such are inseparable from them).

This cosmic furniture was brought about through the labors of the Spirit during the week of creation, and serves His purposes, as guided by Him and by the angels. To wit: All these things exist to train humanity for maturity. As we showed in Through New Eyes, these various things in the universe teach mankind about God and about humanity. Men are like birds, animals, _shes, trees, thorns, grasses, air, water, stars, stones, etc. All of these, and all the rest of creation, symbolize human beings and human life.

During the _rst phase of human existence, which we call the Old Creation and also childhood, these objects were used through the Spirit to teach us. We were "under" them in that sense. In the second phase of human existence, which we call the New Creation and also maturity, these objects are used through the Son by us in the exercise of dominion and in our work of transforming the world from glory to glory. Thus, in a real sense, the world comes to us _rst as a revelation of God, as something we have no control over. This is the truth that is warped in all childish religions, such an "animism," which view created things as possessing divine fearfulness. Only as we have matured in Christ, and as we have grown from childhood into the abilities of adult maturity, does the world become something "under" us, that we use and manipulate. Then the world ceases to be such a strong avenue of revelation, and God’s self-revelation shifts "upward" to other avenues; that is, revelation becomes more concentrated in persons and less in objects.

God’s personal self-revelation through worldly objects, coming to us as children and producing awe, embraces such things as the following:

a. Angels or spirits, or demons (fallen angels).

b. Stars, rocks, plants, lower animals, earth, air, water, etc.

c. Higher animals, which are considered semi-personal, and not static objects (Exodus 21:28_.; Numbers 22:22_.).

Additionally, human beings can use the furniture of the world as symbols of God and of His image, man. This is possible because these things already are symbols of God, avenues of revelation. When man takes the things of the world and makes them into symbols, he acts creatively, with maturity, instead of merely receptively, as a child.

For this reason, the various articles of furniture, tools, curtains, etc. of the Tabernacle and Temple are each symbolic of human beings. They are all "fabricated persons," whose construction, whose placement in relation to other objects, and whose use portray aspects of human personhood, which is itself an copy of the Divine person. God Himself dictated the form of these objects, but they were made by Spirit-led men (Exodus 31:1_.), so they stand in the middle between God’s original creation and man’s symbolic creations.

If love is the mark of "personhood," how is love manifested at this level of creation? We can suggest several things, for instance the exchange and recombination of elements in chemical transformations; gravitic attraction; magnetic attraction; the yielding of the soil to plants and their return to the soil; and so forth. It seems that every aspect of creation is "generous," except for fallen man! "God so loved the world (of mankind) that He gave . . . ." The lower creation images God’s personal giving, and indeed groans to give more of itself (Romans 8:19-22). (Just so, as noted above, I believe we must question the assertion that "general revelation" does not say anything about redemption: i.e., sacri_ce and exchange.)

Thus, within this category of "thing-revelation," there are many aspects and dimensions: many created objects, many fabricated objects, many ways of giving, etc.

A few other comments are necessary at this point. The cosmos consists of substance (matter), space, and time; and things in the universe can be considered in terms of their peculiar particle aspects, their relationships with other particles in the _eld of existence, and their movement through the wave of time, as they alter and change in themselves and in their relationships. These aspects of the cosmos, considered as a whole, reveal the three Persons of the Trinity; to wit:

1. The distinctive quality of any given substantial object, its particularity, reveals the unique particularity of each Person of God, and thus primarily of the Father.

2. The relationships of objects in the spatial _eld of the cosmos reveal the linguistic connections between the Persons of God, and thus primarily of the Son-Word. (We shall take up the relationship of language to spatial _elds below.)

3. The movements and changes of objects in the wave of time reveal the movement and transforming energy of the Persons of God, as they relate to one another actively, and thus particularly reveal the Spirit.

Re_ect for a moment on how we as particular human beings relate to space and time. The relationship of things in space is seen with the eye and determined by and understood by language. A sense of proper timing, and a sense of the times in which one lives, is not something that can be taught so much as it is something that is caught. The mode of spatial, relational understanding is that of the Word primarily, while the mode of temporal understanding is that of the Spirit primarily. We shall return to these matters as we proceed.

C1. Personal Covenantal Revelation. A second class of particles consists of human beings who have status as leaders among other human beings: parents, husbands, masters, overseers, elders, older siblings (especially _rstborn sons), rulers, governors, etc. Such rulers have a covenantal relationship with those they rule. That rule will be exercised through words and deeds, but here we are considering the rulers as such, as symbols or revealers of God’s lordship.

As angels yield their oversight of the world to humanity, so the Spirit yields to the Son. The Spirit is no longer bringing the (preincarnate and then infant) Son into the world; rather, the (now mature) Son sends the Spirit at Pentecost. (This is not an absolute change in history, but a relative one, for in one sense the Spirit is always bringing the Son and the Son is always sending the Spirit, in all times.)

The _rst Spirit-made ruler was Noah, after the _ood, and this is a picture of the New Creation when humanity ascends in Christ to full rule over the cosmos (in principle, at least). (On Noah’s ascension, see Biblical Horizons 96-98.)

Rulers are representatives of the Son, whose job it is to bring all humanity to maturity through sacri_ce. As Jesus died for His Bride, so the husband must be ready to die for his wife, the parent for his or her child, and the ruler for his people (by defending them in combat, as David was willing to _ght Goliath when Saul would not).

It might seem that rulers should preeminently picture the Father rather than the Son. From one perspective, that is doubtless the case; and since all three Persons are involved in all of these avenues of revelation, it is certainly a legitimate perspective. My reason for not associating rulers with the Father directly is _ve-fold. First, I think it preferable to associate the Father with human persons as such (see below), not with human persons as rulers. Second, rule is exercised primarily by speaking words and directing other people by means of words. Thus, rule is linguistic, which associates it more closely with the Son. Third, rule always involves fear of some kind, and fear is associated with the Son rather than with the Father, who is associated with love: At the last judgment it will be Jesus, not the Father, who passes judgment. Fourth, as we have seen, true rule is also associated with sacri_ce and death. Finally, the Bible associates sonship with rule and authority, as in Psalm 2, 2 Samuel 7, etc. The father is not so much ruler as advisor to the mature son, who actually rules.

In addition to speci_c rulers, the Church is also, as a body, the ruler of this world. All authority has been given to Jesus Christ, and the Church is in union with Him. As the book of Revelation shows, through her prayers and faithfulness the Church actually determines the course of history. Thus, as a special body of people, the Church must be placed here as a particular avenue of revelation from God, for the Church (to the extent she ful_lls her calling) reveals God to the world. "Behold how they love one another" should always be the response to our personal revelation.

The many di_erent kinds of superior-inferior relationships in humanity provide many avenues and aspects to this category of "authority revelation."

Now, the avenues of Personal Covenantal Revelation, which I originally thought to term Authority Revelation, must be grouped under two main heads. Rulers are over other people, while the Church is in a sense "under" other people, "ruling" through prayer and service and sacri_ce. The history of the Kingdom begins with the work of the Church, and climaxes in the production of mature Godly rulers in every sphere of life. The goal of the Church is the discipleship of nations into theocracies, where Christ is recognized as king.

In terms of Personal Covenantal Revelation, the Church reveals the glory of Christ’s lordship by serving and su_ering and teaching, all the things that initiate history over and over again. The Church manifests the glory of the cross. The other spheres of life reveal the glory of Christ’s lordship primarily by ruling and passing judgments, the things that maintain history and bring it to places of relative consummation. These other spheres manifest the glory of the ascension.

In all the forms of Covenantal Revelation, as we shall see, there is a mutual relationship between above and below, server and served, lord and servant, etc., which point to the relationship between God and man. Such covenantal relationships are at the opposite pole from casual relationships. Such strong relationships form larger "particles" of their own, such as families, nations, churches, etc. Each of these is an avenue of revelation about man and God.

B1. Personal Revelation. Preeminently, of course, human beings are the images and likenesses of God the Father. This is true of all people, of people as people. The goal of history is for all people, or at least all the elect, to grow into the fullness of God-likeness, which means a growth in love and hospitality.

The concept of "image" is static. Human beings simply are the images of God, whether in heaven, earth, or hell. So, apparently are angels, though in a di_erent way. The image of God is not something in man, or an aspect of man, that may be lost or diminished or increased; rather, man simply is the image of God. The concept of "likeness" is dynamic. Human beings grow in the likeness of God, or else depart from it (Genesis 3:22). Angels apparently do not grow in this sense.

The many di_erent kinds of human beings – races, cultures, individuals, the two sexes, etc. – provide many aspects to this avenue of "personal revelation."

This brings me to a comment on what I consider to be an error in Reformation theology, which is that the sacraments are considered "visible words." That is, they make Christ visible. In fact, visibility has nothing to do with the sacraments. Baptism is tangible, while the Supper is edible; neither is to be gazed at. Moreover, they are primarily not "words," for the Word in worship is the Scripture and its proclamation. They are, rather, works of the Spirit: miracles. The closest thing to a "visible word" would be the human person, especially the human face.

(to be continued)