Hebrews Lesson 5 March 17, 2005
NKJ Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Last week we started in on Hebrews 1:1. The doctrine of revelation is crucial to understand the importance and significance of how the Bible was revealed to man. There is a unique methodology to the revelation of Scripture to man. It is not like any other religion. Unfortunately everyone coming from human viewpoint or pagan perspective has that as their frame of reference and they want to ram, cram, and jam or reinterpret the Bible and the revelatory aspect of the Scripture into a pagan or human viewpoint framework. Consequently you get all kinds of distortions and confusion over how revelation operates.
Corrected Translation: After God spoke long ago in various fragments and in a variety of forms to the fathers by means of the prophets, He has in these last days spoken to us by means of His Son
The Greek text begins with these two adverbs that indicate the manner of revelation - polumeros and polutropos. Polumeros indicates something given in parts or fragments. This indicates the fragmentary nature of Old Testament revelation. Even New Testament revelation was fragmentary. People don't understand that. Paul did not understand the entire scope of New Testament revelation. That is why God used the Apostle John and the Apostle Peter and the other apostles to give other revelation. Even in I Corinthians 13:8 we read that prophesy was partial. No one individual had all the revelation. Even in New Testament times, the same procedure is followed until all the pieces get there. Then the canon was closed. The second adverb polutropos refers to the many way He used including direct revelation – dreams, visions, angels, and theophanies. God was not restricted to one form. There was no normative way that God revealed Himself. He did this by means of the prophets. This is the instrumental dative. The prophets were the vehicles through which He operates. God does the revealing. The first verse focuses on how He operates in the Old Testament. The second verse focuses on what happens when we have the incarnation with the Son.
We compare verse one and verse two to see the parallelism. In verse one He spoke to the fathers, that it the Old Testament fathers. In verse two He spoke to us, Church Age believers. In verse one he spoke by means of the prophets. In verse two He spoke by means of His Son. A question should come up if you are thinking. What about the apostles? We will get to that. One of the fascinating things is that Jesus never wrote anything down. He never wrote an epistle. The apostles represent the foundation of the body of Christ. They are the ones who give that revelation. That is part of understanding the whole dynamic of how New Testament revelation takes place. This is a foreshadowing of coming attractions. The main idea of these two verses is "that God spoke." Everything else relates to this definitive act of God in revealing Himself to us. The verbiage here is so important. God spoke. No other religion has the kind of speaking that the Bible has. If you go to India, the Indian gods are all silent. They don't speak. They don't reveal themselves. This radically distinguishes the method of operation that God has and what the Bible represents from everything else. You have the Bible on one side and all other religions and Christian heresies on the other side.
Doctrine of Revelation (See lesson 4 notes)
Revelation is the unveiling or unfolding of God. He reveals or discloses information about Himself to mankind.
Revelation has to be distinguished from other words that are important in the process. Inspiration is the process God uses to reveal Himself and to oversee the recording of the revelation. The revelation is the content of what is disclosed. Inspiration is the process whereby God the Holy Spirit works in and through the writers of Scripture to guarantee accurate recording of the revelation. II Tim 3:16-7, II Peter 1:20-1
Illumination is the process whereby the Holy Spirit enables us to understand what has been revealed in Scripture. People claim to read their Bibles and that God spoke to them. That is poor verbiage because people aren't taught. When you say that God spoke to you, you are making a profound statement. When those circumstances occurred in the Old Testament, it isn't that they were reading the Bible and got an incite into the meaning of the text or how it applied to their life. That is referred to theologically as illumination. It is the process whereby we come to understand what the text means and how it applies in our life. It is not God speaking. It is not revelation. It is not just now being revealed. It has been in the Bible for thousands of years.
Then we have the concept of the leading of the Spirit whereby He uses the Scripture, as well as counsel and the teaching of pastors or various circumstances to direct our lives. These are different. Don't get into sloppy verbiage.
The intelligent design argument in creation doesn't get you to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Just because you have an intelligent designer doesn't tell you that it is God because you don't have essence or attributes attached to that. You just know that there is an intelligent designer. But, what is it? Only the Bible can come in and tell you that He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotence, righteousness, justice and love and give you the attributes. So you can't say that intelligent design equals the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All you have is a "that", but you don't know what it is. Only the Bible gives you that information.
It is crucial to understand that revelation in the Bible distinguishes the Bible from everything else because it is verifiable, testable and objective. Men down through the ages have wanted to take the concept of inspiration in Scripture as mystical and subjective. The problem with a mystical revelation like you have in many pagan religions is that there is no criteria to determine its veracity. Anyone can say, "God said." If you want to back yourself up you can say that God told you to do it. The Bible says that that is not good enough. If you have miracles and heal people and raise them from the dead, that isn't good enough. The Bible gives us tests to evaluate this.
NKJ Deuteronomy 13:1 "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,
2 "and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' -- which you have not known -- 'and let us serve them,'
3 "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 "You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
This is the first test – the content of their disclosure must be consistent with the rest of the Bible. It must meet the test of theological accuracy. It can't contradict what God said somewhere else.
Because there is a wonder or sign doesn't mean that it is from God.
If what they say or do doesn't pass the doctrinal smell test then what they are doing doesn't come not from God. It elevates doctrine above everything else.
Is the Word of God more real to you than your feelings, your emotions and your experiences? Is it more real to you than the fact that you got suddenly got healed when someone passed his prayer cloth over you. Will you listen to the Word of God or let your experience control? The bottom line is that the Word of God must evaluate and judge experience and emotion, not the other way around. You don't let your experience and your emotion cause you to change your interpretation of Scripture. This happens so frequently in a lot of different areas. Intensity of emotions can lead people astray. Better understanding should come through exegesis, not emotions. Experience is so dangerous. Experience is a test God from to see if you will stick with the Word or let experience rule in your life.
Deuteronomy 18 gave us the second test. The second test was that when a prophet makes a prophecy the standard for God's prophets is 100% accuracy. Not 90% or 85%. Every single prophecy that they make is going to come true. Absolutely. What happens if they make a prophecy about something that is going to happen 500 years or 1,000 years or 2,000 years away? How would you know? God always gave a near term prophecy that would be fulfilled in the immediate time frame to validate the long term prophecy. That is a principle. God is remarkable. One of the corollaries is that God never does something in private. If he speaks to people in private, He always confirms it in public. There is always that objective, verifiable, and testable criterion to verify that God is the one who spoke. It is not based on your feelings.
NKJ Deuteronomy 18:21 "And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' -- 22 "when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
The result was the death penalty.
In point 7 we saw the illustration of the test. That illustration came from a young prophet from Judah who came and confronted Jeroboam I. It is a bizarre situation. We saw the operation of the second test – that the prophecy is fulfilled. He gave a precise prophecy. A king would come and sacrifice false priests on this altar. It didn't happen for 290 years. But it happened precisely as the prophet said. To be sure that Jeroboam understood that his authority was from God and it was the Word of God, the prophet said that the altar would split and the ashes poured out on the ground. These altars were big. The altar split and the ashes fell.
Then Jeroboam invites him home for dinner. If the prophet were to go with him, it would signify that he was compromising with Jeroboam. This was a problem in the Northern Kingdom. God specifically told him to avoid this. When he got done with his message he was to go straight home. So, he heads home. On the way home another prophet comes along. This is test number two. It is an old prophet from Bethel. When he found the young prophet he said to come home with him and have dinner. At this point the old prophet lied. That is the first test – the test of consistency. The old prophet said an angel appeared and said it was okay to come home with him. The young prophet didn't apply the first test of Deuteronomy 13. The new command violated the fist command. He compromised and went home with the old prophet. While they had dinner, God did speak through the old prophet he tells the young prophet that he won't make it home.
We don't know if this is audible reference from God or if it is in his mind. It is difficult to determine. In some cases God speaks and the prophet may hear the words in his head. So it has a subjective aspect. But it is validated because it will come true.
So the young prophet got on his donkey and headed home and was killed by the lion. Then there is a miraculous scene. The lion just sits there. He doesn't eat the donkey. He doesn't eat the man. This indicates something miraculous is going on. The old prophet comes down and picks him up and carries him home and buries him. The point is that God demonstrates to Jeroboam and everyone else that when you compromise with the pure Word of God there is going to be divine discipline. You can't compromise the Word of God. We see the importance in this whole episode of sticking to the tests that Scripture has for itself to validate its own consistency. So that was our illustration.
I want to deal a little bit with the whole concept of mysticism. This is where people get so confused today. How do we know anything? We have two categories. We have the autonomous systems of perception. This is how man apart from God tries to figure out and explain reality. How do you know anything? In a strict breakdown there are only three ways. In reality most people blend them. We have to understand it systematically to begin with. This is in contrast to divine viewpoint. The top three are how human viewpoint always functions. Human viewpoint always puts ultimate truth in one of these categories.
- Rationalism – The starting point is innate ideas. Somehow man just knows that something is true. From that starting point he uses logic to build out his whole understanding of reality. Plato did this in the ancient world. Descartes did this in the modern world. He said that I think therefore I am. He was trying to figure out that maybe god is just a cosmic deceiver. Maybe it all just an allusion in the mind of God. Maybe I don't exist. Then he realized that he was thinking so he must exist. That was his conclusion. I exist because I am thinking. That was his starting point. But I don't know if you exist. But I know that I exist. Maybe I can use logic to get to the point that you exist without relying on sense data. It uses logic and reason. Man thinks by his own reason and can solve his problems.
- Empiricism – The idea that we use sense perception, external experience, and the scientific method gives us data. The assumption is that we can properly interpret it. It is faith in human ability to come to absolute truth based on sense perception. It is built on logic and reason
- Mysticism – The idea that we have this inner private experience of truth. We know it intuitively. We just know that it's true. In mysticism there is a rejection of logic and reason as the means to know truth. You just know it. It is so real that you do not listen to logic. It is really rationalism gone to seed. In rationalism you start inside your head. If logic breaks down, then you just believe that there is meaning in life. That is where existentialism came from. It is illogical leap of faith that there is a god. That laid the foundation for post-modernism. We are embedded in a mystical culture. People want to know how you feel about things.
In terms of explaining revelation, each of these systems has its own concept of trying to explain revelation. Notice that they all operate apart from God. It is only in the divine viewpoint system that you have revelation. The giving of the information in the Bible wasn't mystical. It stands over against mysticism. It is revelatory. God speaks intrusively into creation. So the top categories completely reject the creator creature distinction. And only faith upholds the creator creature distinction. So you have an objective truth. You don't get there in the top three. That is what happens if you are a student of philosophy. That is what happened with Immanuel Kant and the critique of pure reason. He said we can't know truth as it is. After that, everything went to hell in a hand basket intellectually. It destroyed objectivity. You can't know truth in and of itself any more. You can only know your perception. We have been working out the consequences of his screwed up thinking ever since. God gave us logic and reason to use within the framework of what He has revealed. This gives you a radically different sense of how God operates.
Having gone through that, we must understand mysticism. It works around every single corner. People have heard that the Bible is mystical. They talk about a mystical union of the believer with Christ. That is because down through the ages Christians have always compromised a pure revelatory position with rationalism, empiricism, or mysticism. So you come out with some kind of hybrid. People don't fit into nice little categories. They aren't all rationalists or empiricists or mystics. They combine all of this stuff. Most Christians are products of a worldview that is either heavily rationalistic or mystical. Then they come into the church and bring that baggage with them and try to interpret the Bible in terms of their past framework. So in the late 20th century we have a society that is mostly mystical. Someone gets saved out of a New Age background and they read the Bible that God spoke to them. How do they interpret that? They do so in terms of their screwed up mystical framework.
Then you have the pillar saints, the Quakers, and the Shakers. You have these different mystical movements. The charismatic movement is the latest blending of mysticism and the Bible. You should know what is going on around you.
Chafer wrote about false mysticism in his systematic theology.
"The theory that divine revelation is not limited to the written word of God but that God bestows added truth to souls that are sufficiently quickened by the spirit of God to receive it. This class contends that by self effacement - going out and living in the desert, giving up food and water by devotion to God - individuals may attain to immediate and direct conscious realization of the person and presence of god."
They just know it. It is like an inner light.
"False mysticism includes all those systems which teach identity between god and human life. In it are included practically all of the holiness movements of the day - spiritism, Seventh Day Adventism, new thought metaphysics, Christian Scientism, Mormonism and millennial dawnism. The founders and promoters of many of these cults make claims to special revelation from god upon which their system is built."
You have to have some criteria to discern the difference.
In their doctrine of the inner light they say that having the indwelling spirit. The individual Christian is in contact with the same one who inspired and gave the Scriptures and that the spirit is not only able to impart added truth beyond that already given in the Bible but that he appointed by Christ to do so according to John 16:12-13.
The idea here is that the Spirit continues to reveal. It is ongoing through the Church Age. How do we answer that? This is important.
NKJ John 16:12"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
True mysticism contends that all believers are indwelt by the Spirit and thus are in a position to be enlightened directly by him.
If you are going to have mysticism, then what happens because you have gotten rid of the creator creation distinction is that man is really in control. So that means that man tries to manipulate the circumstances to get God will speak to him. One of the things that developed in this is the idea of ecstatics. People would use drugs or hunger crusades. Eventually they would see visions. They would use all different things to achieve this ecstatic state. Many people come to the Scripture and they don't understand the difference. Ecstasy is emotion. To communicate revelation you have to think. It is based on the subordinated use of reason and logic to God's communication. It is not emotion. So you have dreams and visions as modus operendi in the Old Testament. But it wasn't emotion. As we will see, the Old Testament men are having conversations with God. So dreams and vision never operated on ecstatics.
Leon Wood an Old Testament professor wrote.
"In ecstatic frenzy the subject seeks to withdraw his mind from conscious participation in the world so that it may be open to the reception of the divine word. To achieve this ecstatic state, poisonous gas may be employed, a rhythmic dance or even narcotics. The desire is to lose all rational contact with the world and so make possible a rapport with the spiritual realm. Already before Israel's conquest of Palestine, Moses calls himself a prophet and states that a prophet like himself would arise after him. He uses the singular in reference to this one as so is correctly taken to mean Christ as the supreme prophet thus to arise. But the context shows that he has reference in a secondary sense also to other prophets that generally should appear later in history. Moses himself was not an ecstatic. Hence, if prophets were to follow Moses were to be like him neither would they be ecstatic."
His argument is so good. Moses says he is a prophet. But Moses' methodology was not the methodology of the ecstatic prophets of the pagan religions around him. God comes to Moses face to face. If God spoke to Moses plainly, then ecstatics are ruled out.
How did God speak in the Old Testament? Did these guys just wake up one night? Or, was there something to objectify it? What we see in Deuteronomy is that there were tests. When we investigate a subject like this, just walk your way through the Scripture. Genesis one is the first time we hear God speaking. Is that subjective in someone's head? Is God verbally articulating something? If you had a tape recorder somewhere in the cosmos would you have taped a voice? You would have taped a voice.
NKJ Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
Furthermore, Jesus is called the Word of God. There is an objective speaking here. It goes on through Genesis one – God said, God said, God said. And then we have statements that God called. So God begins to give nomenclature. He is not just thinking within Himself. He verbally articulates.
We see it even more in Genesis 2. God talks to Adam.
NKJ Genesis 2:16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Is this verbal out loud communication? Yes, He is speaking out loud. You could have taped the voice.
The next interesting thing regarding the revelation of God is found in Genesis 3:1. The serpent challenges the accuracy of God's statement. God is not revealing Himself in ideas and concepts. He revealed a precise statement about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. That is why we talk about the Scripture as propositional. It was an objective statement. It is not just an impression. Satan challenges the verbal articulation of God. As we move through the story, Adam eats of the fruit. Then he and the woman hear the sound of God coming in the garden. Then God called Adam's name. It is audible.
There is a pronouncement of judgment in Genesis 3:13-22 where God again speaks audibly.
In Genesis 5:24 we are told that God walked with Enoch. It appears that they were having a conversation. They were walking along and they walked right into heaven. Again it was audible conversation.
In Exodus 19:9 Moses talks to the people. This is one of the great statements in the Old Testament as Moses calls the people to receive the law from God.
NKJ Exodus 19:9 And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.
God speaks to Moses but the people listen in. That implies audible conversation. It is not something happening internally.
We see that God speaks to the people when Moses blasts on the trumpet.
NKJ Exodus 19:19 And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice.
How much clearer could it be? And then the people don't want to hear it. They can't stand to listen to the voice of God.
We have all of these different examples. Furthermore there are various theophanies in Scripture. Angels appeared to give revelation. This is going to the aspect that there were various ways God communicated revelation. Angels communicated information to Zechariah in Zechariah 4:1-4 and 5:5. Angels appeared and warned Joseph. They told him that it was okay that Mary was pregnant. They also warned him about Herod and to flee to Egypt. You have other kinds of appearances that occur again and again and again.
Why isn't this mysticism? That is how thousands of Christians have interpreted this. Because whenever God does something even in private He always confirms it in public.
In chapter 9 of I Samuel, Saul's father has raised a bunch of donkeys. They got lose and were scattered all over the place. He searches for them. Along the way, his companion says that there is a man of God in the village. The man of God is Samuel. So they go to ask the man of God if he can tell them where the donkeys are. Something else is going on. God is working behind the scenes to prepare the circumstances.
NKJ 1 Samuel 9:15 Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying,
Isn't that an interesting phrase? What do you think that means? Samuel is not getting this internally between his ears. It doesn't mean that other people heard it. It is an objective statement.
NKJ 1 Samuel 10:1 Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: "Is it not because the LORD has anointed you commander over His inheritance?
If you read the text nobody else is around. This is a private ceremony. How do you demonstrate even though it was private that it is objective? How do you verify it? Verification comes in chapter 10
NKJ 1 Samuel 10:2 "When you have departed from me today, you will find two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say to you, 'The donkeys which you went to look for have been found. And now your father has ceased caring about the donkeys and is worrying about you, saying, "What shall I do about my son?" ' 3 "Then you shall go on forward from there and come to the terebinth tree of Tabor. There three men going up to God at Bethel will meet you, one carrying three young goats, another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a skin of wine. 5 "After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying
How much more precise can you get? The first evidence is in verse two. The second evidence is in verse three. All of this came to pass. We plug that into Deuteronomy 18 and see that there is objective, verifiable and testable criterion for the revelation that Saul is going to be the king.
He validates it even further in chapter 11 by giving Saul a military victory that was a sign of an anointed king. One of the indications that a man was the designated king was that he had victory over the enemies of God's people.
There is all of this objective evidence. God doesn't do something in private that He doesn't validate in public through clear objective revelation. So we have to distinguish what happens in the Bible with what happens outside the Bible.
The next big question that we have to answer is how we know that revelation ceased? How do we know that God isn't still speaking to people? How do you know that the revelatory gifts cease? How can you demonstrate it from Scripture? We will see that next time. We can't separate these things from His ascension and session. It is all woven together.