“In other words, the religion of the Bible presents itself as distinctively a revealed religion. Or rather, to speak more exactly, it announces itself as a revealed religion, as the only revealed religion; and sets itself as such over against all other religions, which are represented as all products, in a sense in which it is not, of the art and device of man.”
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים, transliterated it reads, bĕrēʾšît bārāʾ ʾĕlōhîm, and translated, it reads, “In the beginning God.” The study of Religion in its essence and origin itself leads us to the subject of revelation, and the history of religions is proof that the concept of revelation is not only integral to Christianity and occurs in Holy Scripture but is a necessary correlate of all religion. [Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. I, p.284] There can be no Christian religion without revelation. Moreover, since revelation is supernatural, it follows that the Christian religion is a supernatural religion. Any attempt to deprive Christianity of its supernatural character only results in its eradication. Hence, to deny the supernatural is to deny revelation, and to deny revelation is to deny the truth claims of Christianity. To be a Christian in practice then is to affirm the fact of revelation.
The Hebrew word for revelation is gala. Its most basic meaning is to uncover or remove. It first appears in the Scriptures in 2 Samuel 7:27, “For You, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You.” The phrase “you have made a revelation to your servant” is literally “you have revealed in the ear of your servant.” God had just entered into covenant with David and these words are included in David’s prayer of response. The idea is that God had made a disclosure to David. The idea of revelation bound up in the act of disclosure. To reveal something is to disclose something.
Even though this is the first time this word is used in Scripture, it is not the first time God revealed something to man in Scripture. The fact is that from the beginning God was disclosing himself to man. God revealed himself to Adam in the most profound way: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen. 3:8) The Hebrew word for sound in this instance is kol. This word refers most frequently to sound that is produced by the vocal cords. God reveals himself to Adam by walking in the Garden, that is, walking as his word in the garden. One cannot help but think about how the similarities between this language and the language of John, where “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
The Scriptures are replete with stories of God revealing himself to men and women over the course of the history of redemption. God revealed himself to Noah, warned of the wrath that was to come, and provided for Noah’s deliverance. God selects and reveals himself to Abraham, enters into covenant with him, promises him a son and reveals that he will be a father of many nations. God reveals himself to Moses, commissions him to be his spokesman before Pharaoh, promises to deliver the children of Israel, and finally reveals the Torah, the very law of God itself. God revealed himself to the prophets repeatedly in the Old Testament, promising blessing and cursing, and above all, a coming redeemer.
God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (Jn. 1:18) Simeon said that the birth of Christ was “A light of revelation to the Gentiles.” (Lu. 2:32) God revealed to Peter that he was to preach to Cornelius’ household because salvation was coming to the Gentiles. Paul was called up into the third heaven and shown unspeakable mysteries. John was called up in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and shown things that would shortly come to pass. The evidence in Scripture is abundant. It seems plain to anyone taking the time to read it, that the Bible is a book of revelation. Moreover, it is clear that the Christian religion is itself a revealed religion. At the most basic level then, to admit that Christian theism is true is to admit that the idea of revelation is indeed not only plausible, not only possible, but in fact undeniable. God has most definitely revealed himself. To be a Christian then is to believe that God is the sort of God who reveals himself.
Even though God has revealed many truths concerning himself, his creation, and his plan, there are nonetheless, things that God, in his wisdom, has not revealed. In De. 29:29, it is written, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” This text indicates that God has revealed to us that which he wanted us to know. He gave us access to particular truths. On the other hand, the things that God has not revealed to us do not belong to us. They belong to God. In other words, God has established a boundary for human knowledge. We are expected to honor that boundary. When we do so, we display respect and we show God the honor he is due. Jesus himself affirmed the fact that God not only reveals, but he hides things from man. “At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.” (Lu. 10:21) God deliberately hid things from the wise and the intelligent and Jesus responded to this fact with a prayer of thanksgiving. Indeed, this way of thinking is foreign to modern, Western ways of thinking about God. Now that we have a better understanding of the definition and fact of revelation, it is time to get to the specifics of the two types of divine revelation: natural and special.
In summary, Gordon Clark is right when he says, “An immediate point, touching on both epistemology and theology, that will commend this hypothesis to those who are religiously inclined, is the impossibility of knowing God otherwise than by revelation.” This means that God can only be known by revelation. Moreover, only God can initiate that revelation. We would not know enough to even ask for more knowledge if God had not taken the initiative to reveal himself in the first place. This is the truly biblical and therefore, the truly Christian position regardless of what others, to include evangelicals claim about knowing God.