Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Special revelation: Has it ceased?

QUESTION:

Does Revelation 22:18, 19 apply to the whole Bible, or just to the book of Revelation?

M. 

ANSWER:

M:

The quick answer is that it applies to the whole Bible. The immediate application is to Revelation; however, since all the major doctrines of the Bible are in the Book of Revelation, the coverage would then extend to all the Bible.

Below I give a more detailed explanation regarding the fact that new verbal propositional revelation from God ceased with the Book of Revelation. More can be found in my book, You Can Believe The Bible. The following is an excerpt from that book. 

Thanks for the question. Keep up your good study.

Dr. Newman

No new revelation

Special revelation ceased with the end of the New Testament. God has given no additional revelations beyond the Bible. Any who claim to have new visions or new revelations from God violate the biblical prohibition against such new teachings, and ignore the teachings of the church through the centuries. Well, those are dogmatic words. Let me try to back them up.

There are at least seven lines of proof that demonstrate God’s special revelation to humanity terminated with the New Testament. Keep in mind that we are here talking about special revelation from God that conveys particular knowledge and information to individuals or humanity. General revelation is certainly on-going today. 

1. First, there is a general biblical taboo against seeking new revelation (Isaiah 8:19-20; 19:3; 29:4; 47:12, 13; Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; 2 Kings 21:6; 23:4; 1 Samuel 28:8ff.). Though this does not prove that revelation has ceased, it does give a general warning against seeking new revelation. The Bible says: “Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31).

Many today seek new revelation from God. Many books such as the Book of Mormon claim to be revelation from God. That church also claims to receive continuing revelation from God on a regular basis.  Pagan religions make the same claim to receive revelation through their priests. Unfortunately, many Christians seek information from God through fortune tellers or seek to communicate with the spirits and devils – or speak to the dead through séances. 

As can be seen from the selected verses above, we are forbidden to seek new revelation. The reason why is easy: God said He would not give more revelation, and secondly, the demons deceive and lead many astray (1 Timothy 4:1ff.).

False prophets

2. Secondly, we have clear warning that many false prophets will come and try to add to the Bible, but that the church should carefully guard against such perversion. The idea is that since there is such a strong warning against false prophets, we should not expect new revelation and also we need to stoutly resist such alleged new revelation. The following verses document this point.

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). 

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse thing to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert... And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” - underlines mine (Acts 20:28-32).

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). 

“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrines; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4). 

To summarize: we learn that many false teachers and prophets will come. They will give new “revelations” that are false and they will even try to confirm these false doctrines with signs and wonders. Their goal is to lead the people of God astray. The ultimate source of motivation for these people is Satan. 

Christians are to be on guard, on the alert for such perversions and vigorously resist the constant attempt to undermine the Bible. We should not expect any new revelation. Our entire basic orientation is to defend and proclaim that revelation which was given through the Apostles, not to seek and take in new, continuing revelation. 

Some ways, historically, that alleged new revelation has come from God to humanity is by religious leaders claiming that God is speaking through them and then they write those revelations down in some book. 

Christ’s promises

3. Third, the nature of Christ’s promises of future revelation offer proof that Revelation ceased with the New Testament. He told of coming revelation that the Holy Spirit would reveal to the disciples (John 16:13, 14; 14:26). The Apostles acknowledged receiving that revelation (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Finally, Jesus said revelation was then final (Revelation 22:18-20). 

Revelation ended with the Bible

4. Fourth, there are Bible statements that indicate revelation is terminated (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10; Hebrews 1:1, 2; 2:1-4; John 17:4, 8; 15:15; Jude 3). I consider each section below. 

Paul wrote, “but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” underling mine (1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).

The word “revealed” in the Greek tense (aorist) is important. One commentary states, “The aorist points to a definite time when the revelation took place, viz. to the entry of the Gospel into the world.”  Regarding who received the revelation, the theologian Hodge writes, “unto those to whom this revelation was made, viz. ‘the holy apostles and prophets,’ Ephesians 3, 5.”  (“viz.” means “that is”.).

What does all this mean? From a study of the grammar we learn that the revelation of the New Testament was given at a definite time to the Apostles and Prophets, to no one else, and that it is not continuing, but finished. The Greek has a separate tense, perfect, for actions in the past that still continue today, but that tense is not used in this Scripture verse. 

I consider the next verse, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” – underline mine (Hebrews 1:1, 2a).

The Greek scholar Robertson comments on “has spoken,” saying that it means “’did speak’ in a final and full revelation.”  There is a powerful contrast set up between these two avenues of revelation. In the Old Testament times revelation from God was continuous, whereas in stark contrast, the revelation in Jesus Christ is full, complete, and final. 

Next I place before us more evidence. In speaking to the revelation of Christ, the writer of Hebrews states, “after it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” – underlines mine (Hebrews 2:3b, 4).

What we learn here in this context of special revelation is the revelation of Christ was confined, or limited, to those early Apostles who laid the foundation of the church (cf. Ephesians 2:19, 20). He teaches that it was confirmed to later generations by “those” (first Apostles), which refers back to a previous generation. Paul, the probable writer of Hebrews, was himself one of “them,” that is, a first generation Apostle who received the revelation. The point is that revelation is not continuing, but was confined to and completed in those first generation Apostles.

Next I invite you to consider the words of Jesus. In speaking to God the Father, He said, “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do…for the words which Thou gavest Me I have given to them…for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 17:4, 8; 15:15).

From this data we learn that Jesus said He had “accomplished” (completed) the work He was sent to do. The “words” (revelation) from the Father had been given out and Jesus had given those “words” to the disciples. Jesus also said that “all” the things He had heard from the Father He had made known to the Apostles; thus, there is nothing else to be added today. 

The Holy Spirit was to clarify, explain, teach, expand and bring to recall what Jesus told the Apostles (John 16:13, 15; 14:26). This total, one-time project took a few more years to be completely unfolded, and was declared completed with the book of Revelation.

Next I offer up Jude’s teaching. He told his readers, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” – underlines mine (Jude 3).

One trusted authority on the Greek language writes the “faith” mentioned “is not used in its primary sense of a subjective feeling of trust or belief, but in the secondary sense of the thing believed, the Truth of the Gospel.”  Another authority on the Greek language comments on the “once delivered” as meaning the following,

“not at one time, formerly, but once for all, so that it continues thus forever, that is liable to no changes, and that no new revelation is to be looked for. (Casuabon: ‘To contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Divine words, few in number, but rich in meaning. If rightly understood and duly obeyed, these words would put an end to all modern controversies, and restore peace to the Church. Do we desire to know what the true faith is? St. Jude here tells us – that which was once, and once for all delivered to the saints. Every doctrine which can be shown to be posterior to that faith, is new; and every doctrine that is new is false.’” 

To summarize: what we learn from this group of widely recognized scholars and authorities of the Greek language is that the Christian Faith as given to the Apostles was complete. No more revelation was to be given. Period.

Bible is adequate

Now I turn to another class of verses to demonstrate that revelation is finished. There are Bible statements that indicate the Bible is adequate for our faith and practice, and that no new revelation is needed to help us grow in Christ, or to know His will (John 17:17, 20; 2 Peter 1:3, 4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). As a qualification, I do not mean that just reading the Bible will bring about spiritual growth. 

God uses other means as well. Examples are prayer, fellowship with other likeminded Christians, obedience, life experience, circumstances, counsel from others, etc. However, the true, pure Divine information that informs us regarding life skill principles, personal or corporate worldview, attitudes, behavior, values, feelings, and direction comes from the Bible. It is the sole authority regarding faith and practice.

Jesus

In speaking to God the Father regarding believers, Jesus stated, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth…I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word” (John 17:17, 20).

In His prayer, Christ declared that the “word” was the means to sanctify believers. (Sanctify means perfected, or to bring to maturity, in our Christian faith). The Bible is the word of God. He further prays that future believers will be sanctified by the words passed on by the Apostles. We can see, then, that the revelation given to the Apostles is sufficient for our complete maturing and growth as Christians.

Apostle Peter

To continue, consider the Apostle Peter, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” – underlines mine (2 Peter 1:3, 4).

You and I learn from the mighty Apostle that everything we need in relation to living life and growing in godliness has already been given to us. That was true in Peter’s day; thus, we have no need for new revelation today to instruct us in Christian living or for salvation. All the promises and principles – the total package – Christians have ever needed down through the ages was granted in the revelation given to the Apostles.

I seem compelled to submit another qualification. I don’t mean that human wisdom and science (even social sciences) never have any good thing to say. I am not of those who say the only book you ever need is the Bible. I do mean, however, that anything offered needs to pass the test of the Bible. It is the final authority. 

Apostle Paul

Now let us consider what Paul said on the matter of continuing revelation from God. He wrote to Timothy, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15017).

Paul says the Bible alone is adequate to equip and produce Christian maturity. He mentions only the Bible, nothing else is mentioned. All other sources, we may conclude, are excluded. Again, this does not mean that we cannot gain help from other books, life experience, teachers and sources to assist in our Christian growth. It does mean, however, the Bible is the final judge over all other sources of information. I keep repeating myself – but it is important.

You can also note from these verses that Paul could not have uttered them if continuing revelation down through the ages was needed for Christian teaching, reproof, correction and training. Paul was teaching that the Bible as it was in his generation was sufficient, adequate to prepare us with everything we need to fulfill all our Christian responsibilities for this life and to be prepared for the next. 

It is a tremendous encouragement to know that God did not forget to tell us something in the Bible that we need for salvation or Christian growth and service. Everything we will ever need for salvation or Christian maturity and duty is recorded in the Bible. 

Christians also have the fact that the foundation of the church was set in place by the prophets and apostles. In speaking of the church, Paul said it was, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20, 21).

The prophets are the Old Testament prophets and the apostles are those of the New Testament. The Revelation they received formed the foundation of the church which is progressively being built upon that same foundation of the prophets and apostles. Nothing else was needed for the on-going building up of the church. For example, the foundation for a building is set once for a base, then the bricks, mortar, and wood are stuck or nailed together to form the structure. The builders don’t go back and rearrange the foundation. 

It is the same with the church. The foundation was the revelation of God given through the prophets and apostles. We do not go back and add more to or take away from the foundation that God has built. The cornerstone (Christ) and foundation was once set. We build on it by following the directions established by the foundation. If we change the foundation, the building will fall over.

Testimony of the church

Here we are at the sixth line of argument to exhibit that special revelation from God was terminated with the New Testament. There is the historical testimony of the church regarding the closed canon of Scripture. The canon refers to those 66 books that make up the Bible that was eventually formally recognized at the Council of Carthage in A.D. 397. Later I will go into detail how the canon was formed.

The reality of the closed canon offers evidence that the Christian church from the beginning considered the matter of revelation from God to be a closed matter with the end of the book of Revelation. That great document of the church that resulted from the Reformation, the Westminster Confession of Faith (A.D. 1647) makes the point clear. 

It reads, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men” (Chapter I, Article VI). The Confessions of the Methodists and Church of England also agree.

New revelation is forbidden

Now I arrive at my final argument supporting the termination of special revelation with the completion of the New Testament. It is the severe prohibition and condemnation of further revelation beyond the book of Revelation, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18,19). 

The message could not be plainer and to the point: special revelation has ceased! There is not a clearer and stronger “the end” that the Holy Spirit could have appended to the end of His Book. God condemns, in this passage, anyone who adds or subtracts from the words of the Bible.

There are those, however, who say this warning applies only to the book of Revelation, but not to the rest of the Bible. In some cases the reasoning goes that since the warning only applies to the book of Revelation, then they can add or tamper with the rest of the New Testament. I reply two ways: one, the warning does apply to the whole Bible, because it is intimately linked to the whole Bible.  Second, even if the warning applies only to Revelation, my case still holds - revelation has ceased. Let me show you.

I take up the first argument and demonstrate that Revelation is linked to the rest of the Bible. I offer several points. By examining the book of Revelation, you can see for yourself that it is chronologically, positionally and doctrinally last in the Bible. 

Chronologically the book is the last in the date of writing. It is the final book written by the ultimate Author, the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; Revelation 22:17). John, the writer, was the last apostle to write a book, and only apostles were the duly authorized messengers of Christ (Matthew 10:40,20; Luke 10:16; Ephesians 3:5; Hebrews 2:3;John 14:26; 16:12-15; 17:8,20). One of the credentials to be an apostle was to have been with Jesus (Hebrews 2:3; 1 John 1:14). 

By using these standards, no new revelation can be given since the Apostles are all in heaven and the Holy Spirit said He had finished His work of recording the Word of God into a document. Certainly this would require the termination of revelation, and by logical implication extend the prohibition to the entire Bible because it was written by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets or those who wrote with their sanction.

Positionally, Revelation is last in the order of books. The Bible itself, though a collection of several documents, must be considered as one book written by one Author, and Revelation can be seen as the last chapter.

Doctrinally, revelation is last because it deals with God’s program for the consummation of history - the last things. The book does not anticipate any further new revelation, but rather, the next expectation in history is the actual return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:10, 12, 20; 1:1, 3). The whole scope of history has been covered starting with Genesis, and culminates in the coming final state.

Let me show you another line of evidence: the teachings of Revelation are connected to the rest of the Bible. All the great doctrines of the Christian Faith found in the rest of the Bible are taught in Revelation. The prophecy is simply a capstone, restatement, summary or expansion of prophecy or doctrine given throughout the rest of the Bible. For example, of the 404 verses in Revelation, over 250 are quotes or allusions from the Old Testament. 

Doctrines found in Revelation include the Deity of Christ, heaven, hell, resurrection of man, substitutionary atonement of Christ, the Trinity, and the Resurrection, Ascension and Return of Christ, and salvation by faith (Revelation 22:13; 21:1; 20:11-15; 20:5; 12:11; 1:5; 22:16-18; 22:12; 3:20). Revelation and the rest of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, are vitally and intimately linked and woven together – like the fibers of an opulent curtain. 

Let me state it another way: adding or subtracting from the teaching of the rest of the Bible is adding or subtracting from the book of Revelation, because the vital information found in the rest of the Bible is also found in Revelation. The reverse is also true. The conclusion? If another group has doctrine contrary to the fundamental teaching of historic Christianity, then the curse of Revelation clings to them. 

I now approach the issue of the curse of Revelation 20:18, 19 in still another way. Let us say for arguments sake that the prohibition does apply only to the book of Revelation. Even if I do concede that point, then other religions that vary from Christianity still stand condemned. Why? Because all we have to do is to take any new alleged new “revelation” and compare it only to the book of Revelation. 

If the new “revelation” is not found in the book, then it is adding and to be condemned. If the alleged new “revelation” is found in the book, then it is not new “revelation,” but simply a restatement of revelation that has already been given. Consequently, the teachings of various groups stand condemned on the basis of using only the book of Revelation itself. 

For example, consider the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. There are those who say He is merely man, or the first of God’s created beings, or just one god of many gods. Yet, the book of Revelation teaches that Christ is, “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end…king of kings, and lord of lords...Word of God...Lamb” (Revelation 22:13; 19:16, 13; 5:13). These are terms indicating His Deity. 

Also, consider Christ in comparison to the Father. In referring to Christ, the writer of Revelation states, “Behold, l am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:12, 13). 

In referring to God the Father, or perhaps to Jesus, John wrote, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). The two descriptive phrases fit both God the Father and God the Son.

Then consider the issue of worship. We learn that only God may receive worship. John records, “And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. And he said to me, ‘Do not do that; l am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book worship God” - underline mine (Revelation 22:8, 9). Now flip back to the first chapter where you find John referring to his encounter with the resurrected Christ. John worshipped Jesus Who accepted that worship. 

Further, Jesus also gave Himself similar titles to the ones assigned to God in Revelation 1:8. The words read, “And when I saw Him (Jesus), I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; l am the first and the last, and the living One and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” Revelation 1:17,18). 

Again we find that a scene of worship in heaven, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:13b, 14). Here we find both God the Father and God the Son (the Lamb) accepting the same worship.

These and other places demonstrate the Deity of Jesus Christ beyond any doubt. You can proceed throughout the book of Revelation and demonstrate that the other fundamental teachings of historic Christianity are also taught within the boundaries of that last book.

To focus again on the argument, we simply ask of the other religion, “Does your religion teach the Trinity, Deity of Christ, heaven, hell, resurrection of man, substitutionary atonement of Christ Resurrection of Christ, Ascension and return of Christ, salvation by faith alone, sin and final judgment - and in the same sense that historic Christianity teaches them?” 

If their answer is “no,” then all we have to say is that all these doctrines are taught in the book of Revelation. That book stands as their judge.

Conclusions:

What are the conclusions from all the above arguments? Whether the prohibition and curse of Revelation 22:18, 19 refers only to the book of Revelation or to the whole Bible, we are driven to the following inescapable considerations.

1. If any new alleged revelation or prophecy is not already in the Bible (or the book of Revelation, either way), then that alleged revelation is not from God and is rendered taboo by Christ Himself.

2. If any alleged prophecy or revelation is already in the book of Revelation (or the Bible), then it is not revelation or prophecy but simply a restatement of revelation we already have.

3. The verses of Revelation 20:18, 19 themselves do not distinguish between different kinds or levels of prophetic revelation, but lumps all revelation together as being of one kind.

4. The final conclusion is that continuing revelation or prophecy from God of any kind or nature is categorically impossible. Special revelation terminated with the book of Revelation. Remember, special revelation refers to God imparting new, propositional, verbal information to humanity.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are reckless with this issue of continuing revelation. I have mentioned this before. I would encourage them to carefully consider the biblical data regarding this important matter. 

An example of a recent false prophecy serves to illustrate the seriousness of claiming to have revelation from God. A famous British church leader was visiting New Zealand in 1989. He made a prophetic statement based on Amos, chapter one, verse one which states: “The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa, which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” 

A newspaper, the Weekly Challenge, June 4, 1992, reported that the man claimed he sensed the verse was predicting a calamity that would descend upon the area of Taupo two years from the prophecy. The hard reality is that the verse has nothing whatsoever to do with any calamity happening in New Zealand. Amos was speaking about a specific event that happened some 2700 years ago in Israel. 

Did the calamity happen as prophesied? No, no calamity occurred in New Zealand, which left several people very embarrassed and one person a false prophet! What a reckless way to handle the Bible. His alleged “revelation” from God was no revelation at all, but only his imagination. One must also remember that the Bible sets down severe penalties for false prophecy. It says only one wrong prophecy makes one a false prophet and that perversion was so serious in Old Testament times that the death penalty was to have been applied to the prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1- 5; 18:20-22; 23:10-14). 

Hope this helps. 

Dr. Newman

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