Progressive Revelation – What is it and how does it impact our understanding of the Bible?

Progressive Revelation – What is it and how does it impact our understanding of the Bible?

Progressive revelation. This is a concept that comes up again and again in discussions about the Bible and it serves as the backbone for NT theology. What is this teaching and how does it play into our understanding of the Tankah and NT?

What is Progressive Revelation? 

At its core, this is a concept that means that truth is revealed to us by God in stages. He is “progressively” revealing more of His will and plan as time goes on. It is believed that at the beginning of the Old Testament God revealed some things about himself and his plan. As time continues all the way through the Old Testament and into the New Testament, God finishes revealing His plan to the world. 

The Old Testament is believed to be incomplete and the New Testament completes the revelation of God. 

Dispensation is another word that refers to a similar idea. This is the belief that there are certain rules or systems of order that exist in a certain period of time that aren’t applicable to the next. A common example that many preachers cite is the Law. They say that the keeping of the law and commandments of God according to the Torah was for “that dispensation” – referring to the time of the Old Testament. This conveys the idea that keeping the law and many other commandments and principles does not apply to us today. 

If progressive revelation means that God reveals more of Himself as time goes on, doesn’t this go against Isaiah 46: 9 – 10; 41:4 where Elohim says that he reveals the end from the beginning and that he doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6)? If he speaks the end from the beginning and if this new revelation is different and contrary to what was stated in the Old Testament- how can this new revelation be true? This is a major problem with this theology because its teachings are completely different from what Yahweh originally said. 

A Few Examples of Progressive Revelation

The doctrine of the Trinity. This teaching is not found anywhere in the Tankah. Yahweh states numerous times that He is one(Deuteronomy 4:35; 6:4; 1 Kings 8:60;  Isaiah 43:11; 44:6; 46:9;  48:12; Zechariah 14:9). In the NT the belief that God is one is “further revealed” to be 3 persons in 1 (Matthew 28:19; John 1:14; 1 John 5:7 – 8)

Lack of Distinction between clean and unclean foods. Elohim stated that certain foods were clean and others were unclean for us to eat(Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14: 2 – 21). In the NT, JC  states that all foods are clean and that only what comes out of the heart defiles you(Mark 7:14 – 23). Paul also said something similar in Romans 14:14. 

The Torah is done away with. Elohim said that the Torah and keeping the commandments were to be kept forever. The NT changes this and instead states that JC is the messiah. Therefore the Torah is no longer applicable today because he is seen as the fulfillment of the law.

Eye for an eye..tooth for tooth, adultery, hatred, and divorce have new meanings in the NT because of progressive revelation. These concepts are clearly written in the Tankah(Exodus 21: 18 – 36; Leviticus 24: 18 – 22 ). JC in Matthew 5 changes the meanings of these laws. Instead of someone divorcing for numerous reasons including idolatry, adultery, and uncleanness Deuteronomy 22: 22; 24:1 – 4, because of progressive revelation, in the NT it can ONLY be for adultery, and even then if you marry a divorced person you are committing adultery (Matt. 5: 31 – 32). Hating your brother without a cause is equal to killing them in the eyes of JC(Matt. 5: 21 – 22; 1 John 3: 15). 

The Church. Instead of going to the Temple or Tabernacle to worship God, it was “revealed” to Paul the structure of the Church(Ephesians 3: 1 – 6; Romans 16: 25-26). Pastors, bishops, deacons, and elders would be the leaders of the Church instead of the priests and scribes of the Hebrew Bible (Ezekiel 22: 26; 44: 23 – 24; Leviticus 14: 1 – 5).

Salvation. The process of salvation inside the NT is very different from the Hebrew Bible. Praying to God, expressing our sincere repentance, and turning from sin was the only thing required for salvation(1 King 8: 27 – 53; Jeremiah 18: 5 – 8; Deuteronomy 30: 1 – 6; Hosea 14: 1 – 2; Psalms 51: 16 – 17; Ezekiel 18). As opposed to the New Testament there are different requirements not relating to living a clean life, needed for salvation including believing in the life, death, and resurrection of JC for the forgiveness of our sins (Romans 10: 9 -10; Acts 16: 31). This knowledge of believing in a messiah for salvation was unknown in the Old Testament. 

(Wikipedia “Progressive Revelation“)

(Got Questions “Progressive Revelation“)

(Blue Letter Bible “What is Progressive Revelation“)

What is progressive revelation graphic

What is wrong with this teaching?

Progression revelation is wrong because it states that God didn’t tell us everything we needed to know. Even though He said He did and that He never changed (Isaiah 46: 9 – 10; Deuteronomy 12: 32; Isaiah 45:19)

Isaiah 46: 9 – 10;

“For I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. ”

The doctrine of progressive revelation is wrong because it gives Church leaders an opportunity to change things in the Old Testament that are unfavorable(prohibition on eating pork/shellfish, keeping Torah, punishment for wrongdoing, etc )  and gives new meanings to them, and then cite that God gave us “progression revelation”. This is wrong because the word of God isn’t supposed to change, nothing is supposed to be removed from it or added to it (Deuteronomy 12: 32). 

What is “good” Progressive revelation?

There is a difference between giving explanations about already existing laws and the laws themselves changing. In the case of the New Testament, JC, Paul, and the other apostles they literally gave new meanings to the laws of God – completely changing them from what the Old Testament/ God stated.

A good example of progressive revelation would be the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. It is obvious that people(not only Israel) had some knowledge of God and His commandments. There are numerous cases where a standard of morality was given and sacrifices were performed before Sinai. What happened at Sinai was an elaboration of the general laws already given by God. There weren’t new and certainly not contrary to anything God stated in the past. 

– Why were Adam and Eve scared after they disobeyed God by eating the fruit? (Genesis 3: 7 – 11)

– Why was Cain worried and scared after killing his brother Abel? Why were they offering sacrifices in the first place? (Genesis 4: 1 – 15)

– How did Noah know that there was a distinction between clean and unclean animals? (Genesis 7: 1 – 3)

– Why was Noah sacrificing to God after the Ark? God didn’t tell him to do that. (Genesis 8: 20 – 22)

– How did Shem and Japeth know it was wrong to look upon the nakedness of their father? (Genesis 9: 20 – 27)

– How did Abraham know that it was bad that the Philistines didn’t fear God? (Genesis 20: 9 – 11)

– Why were Sodom and Gomorrah punished? (Genesis 18: 16 – 22; 19: 24 – 25; Ezekiel 16: 49- 50)

– Joseph’s brother knew it was wrong to sell their brother into slavery and believed that God was punishing them for it. Why? (Genesis 42: 21 – 23; 28)

All these stories and many more occurred before the traditional “giving of the Law” on Mount Sinai. However, each of these stories represents a law from Moses, aka the Law of God (Exodus 19 – 20). 

We have always had the knowledge of God, his commandments, and the way to salvation. 

What happened at Sinai?

At Mount Sinai, God gave more details and explanations on the laws and how to do them, ie building the temple and the proper way for performing sacrifices. Don’t steal or this will happen. Don’t commit adultery or her husband might kill you! Don’t sell your brother into slavery because that’s just mean (Deuteronomy 24: 7). 

In the books of Judges, Samuel,  Kings, Chronicles, and the Prophets we see how the consequences played out for not following the Laws of God. They were never changed, and the core teachings stayed constant.  We see the clear consequences of disobeying and the rewards of obedience to God. 

One note is that there were a few changes that we can see from Genesis to Exodus. Most notably the restriction of sacrifices to only the Levitical priesthood at the Tabernacle or Temple and certain sexual relationships were forbidden.

My main point is that the core teachings like the standards for morality and the fact that the people were even performing sacrifices in the first place are evidence that everyone was living “under the law” in some sense. We see how they were judged by it, even before Sinai, and we also see that these “new” laws weren’t contradictory to the standards given by God in the past.

Contrast this to the New Testament teachings. JC gave new ways to practice the laws, new explanations for them, and in many cases completely changed them. Which is against Torah (Deuteronomy 12: 32).

River flowing over rocks.

JC and New Testament Writers Change the Laws of God

In the case of an eye for an eye. Elohim said that if someone hits you so that you lose your eye, tooth, or leg, that person will have that same body part injured or taken away. The same law goes for if you hurt your servant or someone else hurts your servant, animal, or property (Exodus 21: 18 – 36; Leviticus 24: 18 – 22 ). That person is supposed to be punished in the same way that they made you suffer. Whether it be physically or monetarily. This is righteous judgment. This is recompense. This is reparations being done on your behalf.

Don’t we all want justice when wrong is done to us or those we love? Aren’t we excited when the killer is found in movies, TV shows, or in real life? Aren’t we a little or a lot glad when this happens? This isn’t wrong, but in the NT it is. Instead of being glad, pray for your enemies, and do good to those who misuse you. JC said if someone hits then you should allow them to hit your other cheek. Where is the recompense? Where is the justice?  What’s to stop that person from injuring you further? You allowed the one cheek and the second, why not punch you in the stomach as well?

I also think it’s important to point out that JC starts this passage and a few others by saying “you have heard it said”. Heard it said by who? These “sayings” are the laws of God, not some cute or not-so-cute sayings of the Hebrews like we were made to believe. God said and gave us these laws and expected us to live by them. When JC says “you heard it said, but I say…” JC is changing the words of God, who we know doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6).  JC said that he only speaks what his father said(John 12: 49 – 50; 14:10-11; 5: 19 ), but if you blatantly change the father’s words, then how is that saying only what the father said? 

God said to do one thing(receive recompense and justice), but JC is clearly telling us to do the opposite(love, allow, and accept the wrongdoing done to us). 

Now, many pastors will try to explain “you heard it said but I say..” and other passages and teachings of JC by saying “Oh, he didn’t really mean it that way, he really meant this instead”. But this is the case with many of his teachings and the other NT writers, all their teachings need to be explained by a pastor. Why can’t we take the statements at face value? If JC said that hating your brother is likened to murder, that marrying a divorcee is adultery, that I am to turn the other cheek (which he didn’t even do when he had the chance John 18: 22 – 23 nor Paul Acts 23: 2- 3) – who am I or anybody to say that’s not what he said or meant? 

Why does everything in the NT have to be explained in a different way than what is written? When should I take its teachings at face value or when is another explanation elicited?

This is not true of the Hebrew Bible/Tankah. When God said – there is no one beside me, don’t eat pork or shellfish, that He will take Israel from Egypt and into the Promised Land, that he will regather Israel from the four corners of the world, etc, we can take it for what it says and we will know when it happens. These are clear statements that do not need an explanation from a pastor or Bible scholar. 

Final thoughts…

Without progressive revelation, there isn’t a basis for why the teachings in the New Testament are so different from the Old Testament.

I believe that part of the reason why progressive revelation is so important to Christianity is that the NT, not the Tankah, is believed to be the standard of truth. The NT has to be correct even at the expense of the Hebrew Bible. Any new doctrines, teachings, and commandments in the NT are seen as “fulfilling or giving new insights” into the doctrines of the Old Testament. However, these “new insights” are actually opposed to the teachings of the Old Testament. The meanings of the things are changed, the text doesn’t really mean what it says in either book and everything has to be constantly explained by those having PhDs. 

If the Old Testament is the basis of the NT, we can’t render the Old Testament false and the NT Testament true. We can’t make the NT fit into the Tankah, but instead, we should allow the text to speak for itself.

Elohim said that He is ONE in the Hebrew Bible, but John and Bible scholars say no, preaching instead that God revealed in the NT that He really is 3-in-1, even though He said over and over again, “there is no one beside me, before me, or next to me”.

Elohim said Torah keeping was forever, but the Church says no “JC is the messiah and therefore the law is done away with”.

God said that He reveals the end from the beginning, that He never changes, and that He doesn’t speak darkly, but clearly. If we truly believe that God said what He said, that He will keep His promises to never change, then the doctrine of “progressive revelation” is incongruent with His character. Shalom.

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