Was God’s Word Fully Revealed? —We discuss latter day revelations
In this lesson we look at the question of whether God’s word was fully revealed in the time of the apostles.
1 The Last Word
Another way to ask this question, is whether the last word in the last of the New Testament writings completed all the revelation God intended the world to have.
There have been several claims, mostly in more recent centuries, of “latter day” revelations. New prophets have arisen claiming to bring newly revealed words from God, additional to the revelation of the first century apostles of Christ.
2 The Whole Word
For a while, in the first century, the apostles and prophets by their ministry were revealing the word of Christ part by part. However, that was a very temporary situation. The gifts of revelation would pass away once the word of Christ was fully known.
Paul said the gifts would cease. "As for tongues, they will pass away. As for prophecies, they shall cease. As for [the gift of] knowledge, it will pass away"(1Corinthians 13:8). These gifts would pass because the revelation was a completed work.
As Paul said next, For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when the whole comes, the partial will pass away"(1Corinthians 13:9).
The apostles regarded their work as providing a full and complete revelation of Christ’s word. The following ten passages from the New Testament establish that the revelation of the apostles and prophets of the first century was the whole revelation of Christ, not a partial revelation which would be added to centuries later.
God’s Revealed Word Completed
Matthew 13:11"...to you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom"—strongly indicating that a clear, complete, and final revelation was being granted, not one that kept certain things hidden for another revelation centuries later.
John 16:13"...He will guide you into all truth"—this was Jesus’s promise to his apostles, and no doubt they believed it. They were not guided into part of the truth, but into all of it, and that is what they taught the world.
Acts 20:27"...declared the whole counsel of God"—strongly indicating that Paul did not regard the revelation given him to be just one more piece in the puzzle, but a full and complete disclosure of God’s counsel and purpose.
Ephesians 3:2-5,10"...by revelation there was made known to me the mystery of Christ ...now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets ...that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known"—there is no room here for latter day revelations hundreds of years after the apostles and prophets spoke in the first century church.
Colossians 1:5-6,23"...the word of truth, the gospel has come to you just as in the whole world ...you heard and understood the grace of God in truth"—here the gospel is not represented as an interim or preliminary revelation with a fuller revelation still to come. It is represented as the truth which gives full access to the grace of God and the hope of eternal life.
Hebrews 8:6"Christ has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises"—the new covenant mediated by Christ, and revealed by his apostles, has been enacted and is fully in force. There is nothing more to be added. Its excellence cannot be improved.
2Peter 1:3-4"...his divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of him who called us... granted to us his precious and magnificenct promises in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature"—notice this language which leaves nothing lacking or kept back in the apostolic message and teaching.
1John 2:20,27-28"...anointing from the Holy One ...and his anointing teaches you all things"—a strong assertion that the revelation and gift of prophecy imparted in apostolic times imparted the whole truth to the Lord's people, not some things with more to be revealed in later centuries, but all things that were to be revealed in preparation for Christ’s second coming.
Jude 1:3"...faith once for all delivered to the saints"—Jude believes that a definite and finished body of truth has been delivered once and for all.
Revelation 22:16"...if anyone adds to these words, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book"—a warning in the closing words of the scriptures near the end of the first century. If someone, in latter centuries, adds new revelation, they have not only added but also detracted from the revelation that Jesus delivered through his apostles in the first century. Every latter day revelation implies that Jesus, in the original writings of his apostles, failed to reveal all that was necessary.
3 The Written Word
The teachings of the apostles and prophets were not only by word of mouth, but also written in their letters. In the following centuries and even in our 21st century, those letters provide the whole counsel of God.
The apostles understood that their writings could impart their teachings even when they were not present. Paul said, ¶“When you read [what I have written] you will understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ the Son of God” (Ephesians 3:4).
John likewise wrote, ¶“Jesus did many other signs not written in this book; but these I have written to make you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God —and in believing, you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).