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Pentecostals and Subordinate Revelation


Obviously, not everything God said or did through all of His prophets has been recorded. As John noted, if all that Jesus did were written down, “the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). However, the New Testament understanding is that we have in the Bible everything we need to know for our salvation.

So the key elements of God’s revelation are now included in the canon of Scripture and provide guidance for our knowledge of God until He is more fully revealed at the end of the age. This record of God’s revelation can never be superseded or altered by any subsequent revelatory experience. It is fixed for all time. The last book of the Bible fittingly concludes the canon with the warning not to add anything nor take words away from the divinely given message (Revelation 22:18,19).

Pentecostals, like their evangelical colleagues, have historically affirmed the Bible is God’s revelation in written form, the written Word of God which sets forth Christ the Living Word, and its teachings must always take precedence over any subsequent spiritual experiences or revelations.


Illumination and subordinate revelation

The Author is always greater than the Book, and He finds many ways to reveal himself to men and women, some of which do not involve an immediate reading of Scripture.

The Triune God revealed in Christ is a living God who continues to communicate dynamically with succeeding generations of human beings. He not only speaks through the Bible but addresses the human heart directly by His Spirit. In so doing He never contradicts the Bible, for it remains an eternally true record of His revelation of himself and His salvation in Christ. The Author is always greater than the Book, and He finds many ways to reveal himself to men and women, some of which do not involve an immediate reading of Scripture.

Theologians have usually recognized the reality of God’s ongoing communications in their doctrine of illumination. Illumination is understood to be the work of God by the Holy Spirit to bring to human awareness what God has already revealed in Scripture. Illumination, then, sheds light on canonical revelation. It never adds anything new about God. It is the process by which God opens and applies His Word to each new generation.

Pentecostals concur with the historic doctrine of illumination. However, they also recognize a continuing though subordinate revelation through the gifts of the Spirit which rounds out and enriches the illumination process.

The New Testament teaches that spiritual gifts—the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, messages in tongues, and interpretations of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)—in some sense involve revelation.


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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.

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