Is Revelation Continuous or Completed?

By Ron Halbrook

There are two views of divine revelation today. One view holds that God has continued to provide new revelations of his will throughout history, that he is still doing so today, and that he will continue doing so in the future. The other view is that God has completed revelation in its final form; therefore, there are no new revelations today and there will be none in the future. Which view does the Bible teach?

During Old Testament times, revelation was continuous as God raised up one prophet after another. “God who at sundry times and divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets” (Heb. 1:1). The Old Testament writings were summarized as the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, all written by the inspiration of God through the Holy Spirit over a period of 1,400 years (Luke 24:44; 2 Pet. 1:21). During the centuries when these revelations were being given, God taught his people to look forward to a new age of revelation.

In Joel 2:28-32, God promised that in the future age of revelation he would speak through “all flesh,” i.e., both Jews and Gentiles, rather than through Jews alone. The purpose of this new dispensation of God’s grace was that all men might have the hope of salvation through “the name of the Lord.” In Jeremiah 31:31-34, God said, “Behold, the days come . . . that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Israel and Judas were separated when this prophecy was spoken, but God was teaching them both that the new covenant to be revealed in the future would provide the same salvation to all men.

Christ came to reveal the fullness of God’s “grace and truth” (John 1:14-18). This work was begun during his personal ministry on earth and completed through his Apostles. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to provide the Apostles with a complete and final revelation: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). All truth would be revealed during the lifetime of the Apostles. That means no new truth would be revealed after the last Apostle died about A.D. 96.

New Revelations Today?

The miraculous gifts necessary in the age of new rev- elation included prophecies, speaking foreign languages without previous study, and special knowledge given by inspiration. When the new revelation was completed, those gifts would “cease” and “vanish away.” As Paul was receiving these new revelations, he explained that they would end when the whole body of new truth was delivered: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Thus, whereas the Old Testament pointed forward to a new age of revelation, the New Testament taught that revelation was to come in perfection, completion, and finality through the Apostles. By promising the completion of this work during the life span of the Apostles, the Lord taught that all revelation would be given by the end of the first century.

God’s final revelation is “the perfect law of liberty” — it needs no addition (Jas. 1:25). The revelation given to us by Christ through his Apostles provides us with “all things which pertain unto life and godliness,” and we are warned not to add to or subtract from that revelation (2 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 22:18-19). Instead of seeking new revelations, we must teach only what is already revealed in God’s word: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). We are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” which means we must reject all claims of newly revealed truth as false (Jude 3; Gal. 1:8-9).

All claims that spiritual life and godliness may be found in doctrines and theories not clearly revealed in the New Testament are utterly false. Many false teachers have gone out into the world claiming continuous and progressive revelation today. The Roman Catholic Church claims that when the Pope speaks “ex cathedra” (from his chair), he speaks infallibly by divine inspiration. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant councils often profess to speak their unique doctrines and peculiar dogmas under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Mary Baker Patterson Glover Eddy pawned herself off as the prophetess of a new Christian Science. Ellen G. White is the fraudulent prophetess of the Seventh Day Adventist movement. Joseph Smith and the twelve modern Apostles of Mormonism offer “another testament of Jesus Christ” in the Book of Mormon and other professed prophetic pronouncements. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of the Jehovah’s Witnesses claims to be God’s faithful and wise servant as a channel of revealing new light on the Scriptures, and that no one can understand the truth of God’s word without this additional light. Many claims to new prophesies, “speaking in tongues,” and other forms of inspired knowledge are made by various Pentecostal and charismatic people today.

God warned us that Satan would try to advance his cause with a fraudulent display of “power and signs and lying wonders” in order to deceive those who do not love or believe the truth (2 Thess. 2:9-12). God commended Christians who tested “them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2). In the same way today, all claims of new revelations are proven to be false when tested by the word of God.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When it comes to matters pertaining to the salvation of the soul, the Bible contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need no new prophecies or other new revelations of any kind today. The Bible alone is complete and perfect, and equips us fully to serve God and save our souls.