The doctrine of Progressive Revelation is rejected by many critics of the Branham movement. But is it biblical? What does the bible say?
Human history has been a story of God gradually unfolding the truth of himself to mankind. At each turn, his followers get to know him more intimately. This is the course of the bible and a foundational element of the nature of our walk with God. All believers experience this on an individual basis, beginning with salvation and being filled with the holy spirit, they come to a knowledge of God and develop a personal relationship with him. As time goes by, new acquaintances become old friends, as they get to know each other better with each passing day.
This experience, which plays out in the life of every believer also is playing out with mankind as a whole. In Genesis, after the fall of man, in the days of Enos, the scripture say “Then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” (Gen 4:26) This started mankind on a path of return to paradise and a return to God. In the days of Noah, grace was found. (Gen 6:8) In the days of Abraham, God made known to him a great thing: that he would send a redeemer to save mankind. (Gen 22:18, John 8:56) As time progressed, God began to unfold more of his plan by giving Israel a pattern of what was to come. This pattern was the law of Moses. (Gal 3:24, Heb 8:3-8) The law laid out in symbols of the coming of Christ, his sacrifice for our the sins of the world, and the redemption of mankind. (Matt 5:17) It laid out a pattern for holiness and righteousness which Christ, through the Holy Spirit, would write on the hearts of men. (Heb 10:16, Matt 5:18-19)
These things were beyond the understanding of many people in the days of Old Testament. Job speculated to the future, pondering what it held. (Job 23:3) Isaiah declared that eyes had not seen nor ears heard what God had in store for the future. (Isaiah 64:4) But gradually the truth came to be revealed. In 1 Corinthians 2:9 Paul looks back at Isaiah’s statements and comments, “but God hath revealed them unto us.” Things which had been hidden and unknown in the days of Isaiah, God made known in the days of the Apostles.
The Word of God Increased
In Acts 6:7, the scripture says that “the word of God increased”. In those days God began to bring deeper understanding to saints of the church. Things unknown to them, God then revealed. When Jesus was on earth, he had told the Apostles there were things he had kept from them, but that he would reveal later by supernatural means. (John 16:12) We can find examples of the growth of understanding in the bible.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon and said “For David is not ascended into the heavens.” (Acts 2:29). Inspired though he was to speak, Peter did not yet have a complete understanding of what Christ had achieved through his death and resurrection. But in those days when the Word of God increased, the church received an understanding of what had happened. They came to know that the saints of days gone by had been resurrected from their graves and arose with Christ and ascended with him to heaven. (Matthew 27:52-53, Psalms 68:18, Psalms 49:15, Psalms 16:10, Ephesians 4:8-10)
In one sense, Peter made an incorrect statement in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. But he made the statement not having a full understanding of what he was speaking of. Later on when a full understanding came, men began to teach and explain the resurrection.
Critics often make the assertion that when new understanding comes from God, it must line up fully with what was taught before. However, we see from Peter’s example this is not quite true. When new understanding comes, it must line up with the truth of the bible, which is not always going to line up with what men had always said.
In the days of Jesus, the Jews had their interpretations to the scriptures foretelling of the coming of Christ. But their interpretations were not completely correct and the coming of the Messiah did not meet their expectations. Rather than adjust and accept the reality of their Messiah, they rejected him. This is a cautionary tale to believers today. We must evaluate things according to what the bible says, and not against what past teachings have been, because those teachings may not have been always accurate.
Mysteries of the scriptures
At the end of the Apostolic era, the Apostle John had a vision and wrote the Book of Revelation. The book contained mysteries and visions and prophecies which the original apostles never had access to. It told of the end of the world and the coming of Christ. The church was never able to gain a full understanding of the Book of Revelation in those days.
Likewise in the Book of Daniel, a prophecy was given to Daniel in which he was by the angel of the Lord that the understanding of his prophecy would be “sealed away until the time of the end.” (Dan 12:9)
These passages of scriptures and prophecies of the bible let us know clearly that there are elements of the bible whose understanding will not become know until close to the return of Christ. As Christians, we can have an expectation that we will gain understanding of these parts of the bible as the end draws near, and that this understanding will further enlighten us and line up with the scriptural understanding of the past.
Jesus said to his disciples before leaving said “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth”. (John 16:12-13) The Spirit of Truth is still present in his church and is able to reveal those things which yet remain hidden. This is why the Apostle Peter admonishes his readers that they should “be established in the present truth”, because the truth is continuing to be revealed. (2 Peter 1:12)