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Pentecostals and Subordinate Revelation

 

Do Pentecostals believe in continuing revelation? Edgar Lee writes for a classical Pentecostal audience, explaining how understanding the place of revelation today is important for every Pentecostal/charismatic believer.

 

“You Pentecostals believe in continuing revelation, don’t you?” That question, posed years ago by an evangelical friend who probably thought I was a little heretical, pointed out to me how important it is to clarify our doctrine of revelation.

Many groups over the centuries have indeed held heretical notions of revelation, placing greater emphasis on the messages of their prophets than the teachings of Scripture. One particularly notorious example is found among the revolutionary Anabaptists of the 16th century, some of whom took over the city of Munster, Germany, and led the populace in revolt and sexual excess through prophecies and revelations.

Christianity is a revealed religion.

In our own lifetime probably all of us have met some Pentecostals and charismatics who seemed to elevate their private revelations or emotions above the Bible. What had previously been wrong to them on biblical grounds was suddenly felt to be right because of some subjective experience.

Since we as Pentecostals believe that God continues to speak in various ways to the church today, we must carefully outline a doctrine of revelation that is truly biblical.

 

The doctrine of revelation

Edgar Lee in 2004.

Christianity is a revealed religion. It teaches that humankind are the fallen creation of a qualitatively superior divine Being who cannot be known unless He chooses to reveal himself. Even so, the Bible shows that our holy God takes the initiative and mercifully reaches out to communicate with an unworthy race which He wishes to redeem. To those who respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, God personally reveals himself through Christ and provides both the information and the miraculous regeneration needed for salvation. Thus a sound doctrine of revelation is the foundation of Christian theology.

While several biblical words may be translated revelation, the most common Old Testament verb is galah (cf., 1 Samuel 3:7; Daniel 2:22,28; Amos 3:7), and the most common New Testament verb is apokalypto [noun apokalypsis] (cf., Romans 1:17; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 1:17, 3:3,5). Both of these words have the idea of “uncovering,” thus “revealing.” To illustrate, the ancient Greeks used apokalypto for the unveiling (uncovering) of a statue. These words are used over and over again in Scripture as God makes himself and His will known.

Theologians have come to use two basic concepts to describe the way God reveals himself as taught in Scripture. The first is general revelation which denotes that disclosure God makes of himself in the created order and which is available to all human beings everywhere and at all times. Men and women may see evidences of God’s handiwork in nature as did David: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). Paul also taught that “God’s … eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen … from what has been made …” (Romans 1:20).

 

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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2003

About the Author: Edgar R. Lee, M.Div. (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), S.T.D. (Emory University), is Academic Dean Emeritus and Senior Professor of Spiritual Formation and Pastoral Theology at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. www.agts.edu/faculty/lee.html

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