Doctrinal Study Helps - Revelation

Disciple’s Study Bible

Summary of the Doctrine of Holy Scripture

What Scripture is. The Bible is God’s Word of revelation to His human creatures. All Christian teachings are based on the Bible. All doctrinal beliefs and statements must be judged by the Bible.

God is the Author of Scripture. God, the Holy Spirit, worked through humans to produce the authoritative Word of God. Human minds and human language are inadequate to explain the mystery of God’s working through humans to produce His trustworthy Word. Humans do not have to understand the process to trust the product.

How God communicated His message. Scripture itself shows various ways God worked to provide us with His written revelation. He directed some human writers to write words immediately (Ex 24:4). He led people to learn and preserve orally some teachings for years before He led persons to write them down (Genesis; Jesus’ teachings). He guided teachers, families, and wise men to formulate and memorize proverbial wisdom for generations before directing Solomon (Pr 1:1), the men of Hezekiah (Pr 25:1), and others (Pr 22:17; 24:23; 30:1; 31:1) to collect them into the form He wanted to instruct His people. He inspired poets to compose prayers and worship songs to communicate with and praise Him. He then led as His worshiping people studied and collected these psalms to learn God’s word from them. He gave visions to prophets and led apostles like Paul to write letters dealing with specific situations and needs of specific local churches. God, the Author of Scripture, thus used persons He chose to interpret His actions and teachings in the history of His people. He led as humans learned, remembered, delivered, and preserved His Word. The persons God used in this process are heroes of the faith whether we know their names or not. They allowed God to use them and their skills to produce His Word.

How Scripture came to us. The Bible began as individual stories about patriarchs, commandments, psalms, prophecies, proverbs, sayings of Jesus, and letters as well as other individual pieces of literature. The many words of God eventually were collected together into the one Word of God. The process of collection was an important part of God’s direction to provide His written revelation. He did not choose to preserve all of Israel’s literature as part of His holy Word (Nu 21:14; 2 Sa 1:18; 1 Ch 9:1; 27:24; Lk 1:1-4). He preserved some material twice (2 Sa 22; Ps 18; Isa 2:1-4; Mic 4:1-3; Ex 20; Dt 5; Mt 6:9-13; Lk 11:2-4). He led a prophet to remember and write down his sermons long after they were preached (Jer 36) and then gradually add other sermons (36:32). Apostolic letters were exchanged among churches; copies were made; and a collection of letters was gathered (Col 4:16). Through many centuries and various human processes, God led to ensure His Word was properly remembered, preserved, collected, and joined with other divine words to bring together His written revelation.

Scripture assumed a final written form under God’s leadership, though various parts of Scripture took written form at different times. Part of Scripture was first delivered orally, memorized, and taught for long periods before being written down. Some parts of Scripture were written down immediately. Some inspired writers used written sources. Chronicles used much of Samuel and Kings, while Matthew and Luke apparently were familiar with Mark’s Gospel. Scribes and secretaries played important roles in writing the words of inspired spokespersons (Jer 36; Rom 16:22; 1 Cor 16:21; Col 4:18). Eventually the Temple and the :church communities gathered the various inspired writings into the larger collections and ultimately into the one Book. The long centuries of praying, preaching, singing, teaching, collecting, and writing climaxed in the church having God’s holy Word to direct our lives under Him.

The authority of Scripture. Scripture’s truth and authority is self-evident to those who believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. Believers follow Jesus in citing Scripture as the authoritative, trustworthy Word of God. Truth never contradicts Scripture (Jn 17:17). Through Scripture, temptation is defeated (Mt 4:1-11). The Bible clearly teaches the way of salvation in Christ. From Scripture the church learns its doctrines, its actions, and its mission. The Scriptures rebuke us when we sin, encourage us under trial, mature us in our faith, proclaim the good news of the gospel to and through us, and correct our doctrine (Ps 19:7-10; Mt 22:20; 1 Ti 3:15—4:3). The result of Scripture study is hope (Ro 15:4).

The authority of Scripture is not limited to a period of history. It "stands forever" (Isa 40:8; Mt 5:18; 1 Pe 1:25). It is God’s eternal witness to His saving work, a work climaxed in Jesus Christ, the Word who "became flesh" (Jn 1:14). Any interpretation of Scripture that does not point to Jesus is inadequate (Jn 5:39). Any interpretation of Scripture that turns a person away from Jesus’ clear teachings is inadequate. Any interpretation that leads to a division of His church is inadequate (Jn 10:16; 17:11, 20-23). The authoritative Scriptures must be interpreted in light of the person, message, and mission of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit guides each of God’s people as we interpret and obey Scripture (Jn 16:13-15). All biblical teaching thus affirms the complete authority of Scripture, but Scripture only exercises that authority in an individual life when it is read, learned, meditated on, and obeyed (Dt 17:18-20; Ps 119; Ac 17:11).

Why we have Scripture. Biblical testimony and pious research reveal the many people and long centuries God used to provide our Bible. They testify that the Bible is the product of something greater than its many human authors. Holy Scripture is above all the product of the work of God the Holy Spirit. We confess trust in Scripture and submit our lives to its authority because God’s Spirit produced it. Neither we nor the Bible attempts to describe the mysterious process by which God worked through humans. We join Scripture in testifying that biblical speakers, collectors, writers, and copiers combined through the centuries to preserve and produce precisely what God chose to teach His people. Scripture is not a product of human will. It is a product of God’s Holy Spirit (2 Pe 1:19-21). He inspired or breathed out the words of Scripture (2 Ti 3:16). Therefore, we believe it, accept its offer of salvation, obey it, let it judge our lives, and put our final hope in the Christ to whom it points us.

Summary of the Doctrine of Revelation

God takes the initiative. Revelation refers to God’s initiative in disclosing Himself and His will to His creation. Christian teaching on revelation is based on several critical assumptions: (1) God is personal and reveals Himself in ways that allow us to relate to Him as persons; (2) only God, the Creator and Sustainer of life, knows the purposes and plans for all the created order; (3) knowledge of God is not an automatic part of the world or of human existence but is possible only because God chooses to reveal Himself to His children; (4) God uses many different ways to reveal Himself; (5) humans never know all about God, His hiddenness and mystery being aspects that help develop faith in the believer and preserve the uniqueness of God; (6) God’s revelation is designed to communicate the full truth about God and the full truth about humans; (7) God’s greatest purpose in revelation is to redeem humans from self-centered, sinful existence; and (8) human understanding of revelation is based on Holy Scripture.

Scripture illustrates and teaches that God has taken the initiative to reveal Himself so He can create a people for Himself (Ex 19:3-6). He appeared in special events to individuals (Ge 12:1-3; Ex 3:1-12) and to the nation (Ex 14; Jos 3-4; 1 Ki 18). Such events might be labeled as political events or as normal events of nature. People of faith saw much more They saw the miraculous power of God at work. He appeared as a divine presence personally experienced by His people. He is not withdrawn, isolated, unaccessible in the heavens. He comes to be with His people (Ge 26:3, 24; 31:3; 35:3; 48:21; Ex 3:12; Mt 28:20; Ac 18:10). The prayer that characterizes God’s people is a priestly blessing seeking God’s presence (Nu 6:24-27). God led His people to establish a worship place where His name Would be present with His people (Ex 25:8; 29:45; Lev 26:11-12; Dt 12:1-28; 26:2; 1 Ki 8; 2 Co 6:16). A major purpose for revelation is to establish a sense of God’s presence With His people. The Old Testament often expressed presence in terms of God’s glory (Ex 15:11 ; 24:16; 33:18; 40:34; Dt 5:24; Ps 8:1; 26:8; 72:19; Isa 6:3; Lk 2:9). The New Testament saw God’s presence in flesh and blood in Jesus Christ (Jn 1:14), a presence extended after Christ’s ascension by the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16-17).

God tells us who He is. God’s self-disclosure reveals important characteristics of God He is loving, takes initiative toward His children, seeks to guide us and to help us understand for what we are created. He is gracious, purposive, and redemptive, the Author of life and hope. In telling us who He is, God also intends that we develop characteristics like His, thus imaging Him in the world. We are to show love, give hope, and be a people of grace. We are to create fellowship with others, resembling the close fellowship He creates with us. We are to mirror His faithfulness by faithfully following His presence and will. We are to reflect commitment to Him as He has revealed His commitment in sending His Son. We are to see, in His saving actions of self-giving, examples for us to follow as we live for others in His name.

God discloses Himself through different means. God did not limit Himself to one method of revealing Himself. He used events in history (Ex 14; Jos 3-4; Isa 37:36-37; 43:1-13). He sent angelic messengers (Ge 18:1-2; 19:1; 32:24; Ex 3:2; Jos 5:13; Lk 2:9; Ac 5:19) and prophetic messengers. His created world order and beauty show forth His power, majesty, glory, and order to eyes of faith (Ps 8; 19:1-6; 50:6; 148); but full understanding does not result from creation’s revelation (Ro 1:18-23). Jesus Christ is the only way to know a saving relationship with God (Jn 14:6). Other means of revelation include symbolic actions (Isa 20; Jer 13; Eze 4), intimate personal relationships (Hos 1-3), natural phenomena (Jnh 1), dreams (Ge 20:3; 37:5-10; Nu 12:6; Mt 1:20; Ac 2:17), signs (Ge 4:15; 9:12; Ex 3:12; 13:16; Nu 17:10; Jos 4:6; Isa 7:11; Mk 13:4; Jn 20:30), and oracles or messages (2 Sa 23:1; Pr 16:10; 31:1; Isa 13:1; 30:6; Jer 23:33; Hab 1:1; Zec 9:1). In each of these ways God let His people know something about His nature, His intentions, and His actions. The revelation was achieved completely, however, only in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who revealed the face and character of God in human form (Jn 14:7).

Revelation adds to previous revelation. The people of God do not always understand all that God reveals. In revealing Himself, God has chosen to present revelation in relationship to human capability to understand and integrate revelation. This means new generations learn more from God. This does not mean revelation is to be understood as a constantly increasing store of knowledge. Some generations refuse to receive and incorporate new revelation into their understanding of and relationship with God (Isa 7:12-13; Am 6:1-7). Some generations of God’s people have to learn over and again the elemental truths of the faith (1 Co 3:1-3; Heb 1—6:2). God worked long generations to prepare His people to receive the Messiah; but even then when Christ came, they could not understand or accept Him, not understanding the meaning of the Scriptures (Jn 7:42).

Revelation thus has a history. The history of revelation is a story of God’s patient and persistent manifestation of His love, mercy, and steadfast commitment to His children. Revelation shows God’s desire that all people have opportunity to know His good news of salvation and that all believers become instruments of revelation, sharing God’s good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Our basic source of revelation is Holy Scriptures, which provide God’s Word as a trustworthy record of God’s saving revelation through the centuries. The Holy Spirit brings us God’s presence and leads us to understand the written revelation. The written revelation points us to the holy Maker of life, to the reasons for our life, to the nature of our Maker, and to a saving relationship with Him through Christ.

Summary of the Doctrine of History

History and God. The Bible’s teaching on history separates biblical religion from alt other religious systems and experience. History makes a startling difference in the biblical understanding of creation, revelation, salvation, worship, and eschatology. These distinctions all arise because of the true God’s unique relationship to history. This relationship was uniquely evident in the historical Son, Jesus. The God of Israel revealed His unique characteristics by His actions in Israel’s history. Israel’s neighbors credited their gods with helping them, or more specifically their king, in historical events, particularly battles. Israel’s God controlled all of history. No other god rivaled Yahweh, the God of Israel, as He worked out His purposes for His people. God thus showed His providence and sovereignty through His use of Israel and the other nations for His will. Directing history, God created a people for Himself through Abraham long after human history began. He directed the people on mission as He protected them in the changing fortunes of historical existence. He rescued them from Egypt, the leading military power of the day. He provided a homeland for His homeless people. He chose spiritual and political leaders for them. He gave them a national capital and chose a place where they could worship Him and know He was present with them in national and individual history. Thus His people learned concretely of God’s love for them, His election, His salvation, His power, and His presence. God used the historical form of international treaty or covenant to express His unique relationship with Israel. This relationship showed Him to be personal, wanting loyal commitment in personal relationship with His people. It showed him to be holy in keeping his commitment to his people. It showed Him to be holy and morally pure in expecting holiness from His people. Israel learned of God’s holiness in a different way. Through His prophets, He announced judgment on a disobedient, unholy people. He then used foreign nations as His instruments to judge and discipline His people. God’s justice became evident when God, in turn, announced judgment on the foreign nations and brought destruction on them. This proved, also, His claim to be the only true God, not a product of human hands or a fantasy of human wishes.

History and creation. Biblical religion joined the tribes of the world in believing the world was a divine creation. Uniquely, Israel limited creation to the sphere of human history. Creation was not a war or a love affair in the heavens producing a pantheon of gods and establishing the divine power structure. Creation was not a selfish divine act to ensure the gods would be worshiped, housed, cared for, and fed. Creation was the historical beginning point of God’s gracious acts to create a people for personal relationship and salvation with Him. Creation showed God’s sovereign control and His personal nature, His determination to have a creature in His image with whom to relate. Creation showed God was not a passive God in heaven but an active, working God willing to labor over His creation on earth.

History and revelation. Cultic worship and dramatic enactment of myth were the means of revelation for the religions of biblical days. Cult specialists learned techniques to discover the divine will through observing movement in the heavens or formations of animal parts. Historical events only rarely were interpreted as the work of God and revelation of His will. Israel uniquely learned to teach about God by telling of the acts of God in the nation’s history. To confess faith in God was to recite the credo or list of His saving works for the forefathers. Prophetic revelation came not from the stars or reading animal entrails but from God’s word about history. Revelation was couched in terms of promises and threats relating to the future. Revelation was not a natural result of viewing history. The inspired interpreter was necessary. All history was not automatically revelation. The specific chain of events linked by God’s promises and threats and interpreted through the inspired spokespersons was the part of history that became part of God’s unique revelation.

History and worship. The agricultural year, seen as reflecting activities in the world of the gods, gave content to worship for Israel’s neighbors. Cultic acts imitated the divine acts to ensure fertility and the necessary continuation of the seasons. Israel transformed agricultural festivals into celebrations of God’s historical acts. The Exodus, the conquest, and the historical choice of David as king and Zion as the place of worship became the central elements of content in Israel’s worship. In a real sense, the books of law and history along with many of the psalms represent a development of Israel’s worship practice of reciting God’s acts in history as the center of praise, lament, thanksgiving, petition, and confession. The New Testament continued making historical acts the central content of worship. Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection became the focal point for Christian worship.

History and salvation. Historical rescue and deliverance is the root of the biblical understanding of salvation. Salvation is not a human achievement through moral living. Salvation is not escape from earthly existence through meditation or rising above the material world. Salvation is God’s action in the historical realm to rescue His nation or individuals from the desperate crises of life. Salvation is understood as deliverance in famine, plague, or battle. The Exodus became Israel’s focal point for understanding salvation. It became Israel’s symbol for looking forward to new salvation acts of God. The New Testament defined salvation in terms of the historical acts of Jesus. Through His atoning act on the cross of Calvary, salvation from sin and to eternal life became available.

History and Jesus. Jesus gives ultimate meaning to human history. In Him God showed how seriously He takes history. God did not choose a wondrous act from heaven to reveal salvation. He chose to enter human history the way all people do—in the form of a flesh and blood baby. Jesus thus showed that God’s kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, has earthly dimensions. Only as persons repent and begin life in the kingdom now on earth can they hope to participate in His kingdom. Jesus’ suffering and ministry gave new meaning to historical individual life. He showed the saving possibilities of human suffering and trouble. Above all, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection revealed the supreme love of God and His total commitment to saving humans.

History and hope. History will end. History is not a continuing series of cycles, constantly repeating itself. History is not a meaningless path leading nowhere. History is not an evil, materialistic existence to be escaped through a series of reincarnations, denial, or forgetfulness. History is the beginning point of meaningful life with God pointing beyond itself to a fulfillment in which God through resurrection will establish justice, reward righteousness, punish evil, and establish His eternal kingdom. That kingdom is not a separate realm unrelated to history. It is the climax of history’s relationships, values, and commitments.

Taken from: Disciple’s Study Bible Copyright 1988 Holman Bible Publishers