God reveals knowledge of Himself to mankind in primarily three ways. Any Bible Believer will agree that the Scriptures as found in the AV are the revelation of God. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine..." and much of that doctrine reveals details about the God of heaven Himself and His son Jesus Christ.
Another means of revelation is through man's conscience (Rom 2). Unless it has been seared (1Tim 4:2), man's conscience convicts him when he does something wrong. The Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin as well (John 16:8). Thus since the conscience and the work of the Holy Spirit tell us that some actions and thoughts are wrong, one can reasonably conclude these behaviors or actions are contrary and displeasing to God.
However, the third revelation of God is not much emphasized by believers today, that is the revelation of truth through God's creation, and that is the main topic of this chapter.
Psalm 19:1 mentions this,
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
As well as Romans 1:19-20,
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"
This passage states emphatically there are certain things that may be known of God solely through nature. It says these "invisible things" can be "clearly seen" from the things that are "made" or visible. Paul mentions a couple of these things in Acts 14:17,
"Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."
Thus, some of the things we learn from nature is that God is good, powerful, generous, and kind. If people follow their conscience and seek the "glory and honour and immortality" only God can give (Rom 2:7), He will reveal more of Himself from the Scriptures. If they refuse, all they can expect is "tribulation and anguish."
When God reveals his knowledge and truth, whether through nature or His word, He does not reveal it all at once. Instead He reveals it progressively. The very fact that the Scriptures were written over a 1500 year period testifies to this truth. Some have likened God's progressive revelation to that of educating a child: the teacher starts with elementary truths and then gradually increases the content to match the development of the pupil. The later revelation does not contradict the earlier but compliments it.
The progressive revelation of God's plan of redemption is a key revelation in the Scriptures. After man's fall in the garden, the Lord needed to show man the extent of his fall, the severity of his sin and state, the great cost it would take to redeem him, and the nature of Himself in providing that redemption. This process started with the "coats of skins" the Lord provided in the garden of Eden and continues through with the great flood, Abraham's offering of Isaac, the Passover and deliverance of Israel from Egypt, all the sacrifices and offerings at the tabernacle and temple, all the way up to Christ dying on the cross. This process encompassed around 4000 years of time in 1500 years of Scripture.
Concerning the Scriptures, the revelation of them as God's word was established nearly 2000 years ago. However, that does not mean the full scope of the content within them has been revealed. There are still several passages that are unclear as to where or how they apply or what they refer to, and the Lord will open people's hearts to receive their truths when He is ready to reveal them. This is obvious to any knowledgeable Bible Believing Dispensationalist. He understands God reveals scriptural truths progressively and usually marks the divisions with covenants and dispensations.
One of the key areas where the Lord was clearly progressive in His revelation was in knowledge of the "afterlife." Where one goes when he dies has been a question man has pondered since creation, and the Lord revealed very little about it for over 4000 years. If one studies only the Old Testament for indications of where a person's soul and/or spirit goes when he dies or what state it is in at death, he will find practically nothing definitive and very little by implication. There are indications of a resurrection. Job said in Job 19:26-27 that he knew he would "in my flesh...see God," but the state his soul would be in until that day is not mentioned.
Think about that a minute. In the first five books of the Bible the Lord reveals many things to Israel. He told them of all kinds of laws and commandments, how they were expected to behave, and He told them quite a bit about himself; especially about His love and care for them. But the Lord told them essentially nothing about what would happen to them after they die. Fascinating. He told them many times that if they did wrong they would physically die, but He never described what that death held for their soul. There is a lesson in this if someone would study it out.
A few hundred years later, Solomon, with all his God given wisdom, was not much better informed. He stated, "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing" (Ecc 9:5). His father, David, said along the same lines, "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks" (Psa 6:5). David even said one's "thoughts perish" when he dies (Psa 146:4). If these are "thoughts of the heart" they are now considered part of the soul. Because of this saints in the Old Testament appeared to believe a person was asleep or unconscious until he is resurrected for judgment. We know now that is far from the truth, but the Lord revealed the facts in His own time. Those Old Testament saints didn't seem to have any idea that the dead were still conscious in either "Abraham's Bosom" (Paradise) or Hell (Luke 16).
Likewise, the Lord also did not reveal much at all about everlasting life or punishment after the judgment. Not until Daniel 12:1-2 is "everlasting life" and "everlasting shame and contempt" mentioned. Before Daniel there was no firm declaration in the Scriptures people would be forever conscious anywhere. This is another very important issue, but the Lord kept it to Himself for centuries for His own reasons.
Why did the Lord not reveal what seems like such vital information? Who knows? We can only speculate, but all should be thankful the Lord has revealed those truths for us today with Jesus Christ. We know there is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain and at death we will be in one or the other. This is a clear case of progressive revelation concerning aspects of the spiritual realm.
It only stands to reason that if the Lord progressively reveals His knowledge in the revelation of the Scriptures, He also can reveal progressively the truths about His creation. This is where Deut. 29:29 comes in,
"The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."
A similar passage is Daniel 2:47,
"The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets..."
When God created creation and put man on the earth, He had very many "secrets" Adam did not know. How God revealed some of these secrets, both moral and physical, over the millennia is an interesting study.
Imagine the scene when God created Adam. One can envision a beautiful garden filled with green plants, playful animals and God in the midst forming His greatest earthly creation, but the Bible indicates that Adam was made before the garden of Eden (Gen 2:7-8, 15). How He formed Adam is not revealed, but we can speculate. He may have formed him with blowing wind, churning water, rumbling earth, flashing lightening, or even with His own fleshy hands as the Angel of the Lord. That the Lord did not just speak Adam into existence in a flash is indicated by the way He created all the things before him. He spent six days forming the previously "without form" earth, thus, He likely spent time forming Adam from the shapeless dust of that earth.
After putting all of Adam's physical components in order: his cells and DNA, his heart and hair, his brain and toenails; and having a complete human body; the Lord only needed to do one more thing: give him life. There laid on the ground a perfect but lifeless body. If a modern day doctor could have examined it, he would have not been able to find a "medical reason" why it doesn't live, but it was lifeless nonetheless. Earlier the body was just a mound of dust. Now it is a perfectly formed, and soon it will become and contain a living soul.
From nowhere and everywhere a whistling sound arose. The wind gathered from the ends of heaven and the four corners of the earth and blew over the lifeless Adam...and then into his nostrils...Adam's chest arose with a mighty sigh...he took his first breath...and opened his brand new eyes. If Adam was on his back when he awoke, the expanse of heaven was likely his first sight. He may have seen a wonderful blue sky holding a bright shining sun with birds dancing in the wind as it fluttered away. Or maybe his first sight was the face of the God who gave him life, who was now gazing down upon him with a winning smile. Regardless what he first saw, how could he appreciate it having not existed only seconds before? He awoke from a sleep he never had; from an amnesia he never experienced. Unlike the newborn infant who first opens its eyes to the world, Adam was fully mature; a full and complete human being, but he had zero practical experience of life and living. He had no one to care for him but the God who made him.
Adam immediately discovered he could move his eyes and head and looked down and saw his arms, legs, and feet. He soon realized those appendages could move as he desired and he tried them out; bending and wiggling them around. He then looked to the side and saw colorful plants and various animals, with some of the animals gazing back at the new addition to their garden home. After a few minutes a lamb walks near to him and Adam has another epiphany, "If that creature can move around on this ground, maybe I can too" and Adam sits up, rolls over on his hand and knees and tries to walk like the lamb...and he soon does. A little while later he realizes he doesn't need to use his hands at all but unlike the lamb he can walk with his feet alone. All the while his creator is sitting on a rock observing him.
How much Adam had to learn and how much the Lord built into him as instinct is unknown, but likely there was a large measure of both. Nevertheless, Adam's first days were filled with one epiphany after another. He likely was "pre-programmed" with a language (certainly a form of Hebrew) and given other knowledge his offspring would have to learn, but the new king of the earth was rapidly learning more about his earth and its inhabitants every moment. He learned he must eat and that many of the plants he saw served that purpose well. He also learned some plants weren't so tasty. He learned about night. When his first night came he experienced darkness. Imagine the thoughts that ran through his mind. When he saw the moon and stars they added even more to the wonder. After a while toward the east Adam saw a glow in the distance and before long again came the same sun he saw the day before with all its glory.
Once he was placed in the Garden of Eden Adam was told to "dress it and to keep it." Thus, even in the garden paradise attention and work were required to keep it in order. While watching Adam examine all the various plants and trees of the garden, the Lord warned him about a particularly nice one in the midst as he walked by (Gen 2:16-17),
"Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
All is free but one.
The epiphanies are not over for Adam by any means. The Lord brought all the animals before him to watch him name them, and that he did, but while doing so Adam likely realized a profound thing. With all the animals there were at least two of each kind, and at least one was male and one was female. Adam wondered, Why is there two of each kind but only one of me?" The Lord saw something that was "not good" in his new creation and that was his "man" was alone (Gen 2:18).
If he had never slept before Adam was about to now,
"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made2 he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
When Adam wakes he notices his creator walking towards him with the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. A person who is made just like him (well, almost like him). Adam feels his side, notices a missing rib, and puts "two and two together;" he realizes the woman came from him. The Lord concurs and Adam proclaims,
"This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
For the first time Adam speaks to and about another human and his words are prophetic. She was undoubtedly pre-programmed to know the same language he spake (and probably used it much more than he did...smile ladies!).
What a ride it has been for Adam, and now also Eve. Imagine all the experiences they had in such short time. Adam was very likely created with the appearance of a 30 year old man since Christ was that age when He started His ministry. Eve would have been the same mature age. How long things transpired in this pre-fall paradise is unknown. It may have been three years (to match the length of Christ's ministry) or three weeks. All we can do is speculate.
For our purposes in this chapter the main issue we need to realize is how the Lord revealed both spiritual and natural things to Adam. God revealed many elements of His creation and their various functions to some extent to Adam. He even introduced all the "beasts" and "fowls" to him. Adam learned about day and night and their cycles, the moon and stars and how they change throughout the months and year, how water flows in rivers, how plants grow bigger and bigger and need "dressed," and all sorts of similar truths. While walking through his domain Adam would have noticed how the earth and sky extends on and on into infinity. His world seemed endless.
With all the information Adam and gained and knew, there was still very much he didn't know. Take the endless earth, for instance. A natural man with an unaided eye gazing out over the vast expanse of earth would naturally think it is flat. Depending on the terrain, the earth generally looks like a large, endless flat plain. There would be no reason to think otherwise. Consider for a moment, dear reader. What if you were born in an isolated land where outside, modern information had no access, and all you and your neighbors had were your senses to guide you? Would there be any overwhelming reason for you to think the earth was anything other than flat and the sun and moon moved over it? No at all. You would just naturally believe the world continued on and on according to how it appeared to you and all those you know: flat and motionless.
The image above represents the ancient Hebrew concept of the world. It is flat with a firmament above holding the moving sun and moon and with pillars beneath. What is enlightening to some and perplexing to others is that not one word in the Bible shows this concept to be wrong! Nowhere do the Scriptures insist that the ancient flat-earth idea of the universe is anything but accommodated. The Hebrews were not the only civilization to believe it, essentially all peoples and nations did. It was the natural conclusion from limited human observation. Other nations may have not believed in the Hebrew "firmament," "pillars," and "sheol," but they believed the earth was flat.
This idea continued for thousands of years and the Lord was content to let mankind believe it. Man believing in a flat earth did not hinder God's program in the least. That the earth is actually a globe was something only God and the heavenly creatures knew until He was ready to reveal otherwise.
After his fall in the garden, Adam's epiphanies continued, but with a much darker tone. When he ate the fruit he probably had the greatest shock of reality he had experienced since he physically opened his eyes...his figurative, spiritual eyes (or heart) were opened to the reality of sin (Gen 3:7). With his "opened" eyes bringing a "new perspective on life," he suddenly realized he was naked and thus a sinner! He probably set on a rock and thought "long and hard" about what just happened to him; about how things used to be compared to what he "feels" now. He also likely wondered about what the word "die" meant when the Lord told him if he ate of the tree he would "surely die." Eventually, he looks at his naked wife and feels compelled to say, "We need to cover ourselves up!", and that they try to do. However, the Lord needs to reveal even more to his sinful creatures. He goes into the garden, kills two innocent sheep for their "skins," makes coats out of the skins, and gives them to the blushing pair. They are overwhelmed. What a day it has been.
Adam gained the knowledge he thought he needed and had his spiritual eyes opened to sin, but he and his seed will pay the price of death until the Lord makes a new heaven and earth. The Lord drove the pair from their beautiful location and banned them and their descendants from the "tree of life" forever. They will have to get eternal life another way.
Note: Notice that their eyes being "opened" is not a literal statement unless one insists Adam and Eve were created physically blind! Was it impossible for God to create them blind, of course not, but no one believes they were. As mentioned in a previous chapter the opened eyes speak of the revelation of sin to the heart or conscience. Their inner sight could now "see" sin and evil. Another strike against the hyper-literal geocentrists' "impossible" argument.
Over the coming centuries Adam's seed was revealed more about God and His creation. Cain learned first hand God will accept people if they "doest well" (Gen 4:7), but Cain wanted no part of the Lord. Enoch learned if one walks with God, He may take him away without dying. Noah learned God's patience has it limits and His power has no bounds (Gen 6-9). The whole world at Babel learned they must obey God's command to scatter and populate the whole earth (Gen 11).
The events at Babel are interesting for the reasons the Lord gave for confounding the languages. He said they are "one," have "one language," and "now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do." This is fascinating. Men were at the point where they became more and more inquisitive and inventive. They learned how to build a towering tower and had much greater ambitions. All humanity seemed to be one in mind and goal, but since "man? heart is evil from his youth," their goals were evil. With their combined "unity" and abilities the Lord said they were capable of doing anything they imagine! Amazing. Since they wanted to climb higher and higher, it would not have been long before they imagined ways to fly in the heavens.
Think for a minute, where was the current world's space program 100 years ago? Ah...nowhere except in people like Jules Verne's imagination. Where was the airline industry 150 years ago? The answer is the same. Where was mass communication before the telephone and telegraph which are less than 200 years old? In people's imagination. Consider all the "advances" and discoveries man has made in the last 200 years. One could loose 200 years between Genesis chapters 9 and 11 pretty easily. If left alone the people of Babel could have discovered natural laws and principles and developed various devices to use them that the Lord did not yet want discovered or implemented. Think automobiles, airplanes, telephones, computers, spacecraft, etc. The Lord had many things yet to show mankind before they reached that stage of "progress," so He slowed them down in one of the most effective ways imaginable?e simple confounded their language.
A key lesson from Babel for our study is man cannot discover anything until God is ready to let it happen.
The scattering of the world at Babel greatly slowed down mankind's natural discoveries. Actually, from a cosmological viewpoint there was not much of anything discovered, learned, or even proposed for around 1200 years until the Greek Culture came along. The divisions at Babel caused men to form cultures and nations that became competitive with each other and these differences led to conflict and wars. These occupied their time rather that building towers to heaven.
Even though new physical truths were slow in coming, the Lord was revealing moral truths "right and left" to the Israelites. He proved to Abraham he would make of him a great nation, and confirmed it with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. While in Egypt he showed Abraham's seed great wonders and revealed many aspects of His desire and nature through the many commandments, statutes, and laws he laid down. With them the Lord showed the seriousness and cost of sin and its atonement. As for the natural revelation, there is no reason to believe the Israelites believed anything other than that the world is flat and the sun and moon moved above it.
The first record of someone considering the earth to be round is found among the early Greek philosophers. According to one historian " "Pythagoras was the first Greek who called the Earth round." The specific things that led them to think such "heresy" are not given, but they are likely observances of the stars moving in relation to the horizon when one travels north or south, ships at sea gradually going below the horizon (for those with very good eyesight), and the shadow of Earth on the Moon during a lunar eclipse is round. Although this was proposed by the 6th century BC, it was not absolutely proven until 2100 years later when Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the globe in the 1520s.
Some may ask, "Why did God allow the Greeks to discover the global earth and not the Hebrews? That is not revealed, but what is revealed in the Scriptures is God uses pagan and secular men for His purposes,
"And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him."
The Lord called the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, "my servant," because he is doing the Lord's bidding. The Lord gave the Greeks the opportunity to discover some other things like mathematics, geometry, physics, etc., also. It seems the Lord will allow natural man to discover certain facts that will later be used to benefit His children as well. Nevertheless, even though a few Greeks in Athens believed the earth was a sphere, nearly all the rest of humanity still thought it was flat with the sun and moon hovering above. Gradually, over the subsequent centuries the round earth claim gained popularity until around 1400 AD it was pretty much accepted as truth by the "knowledgeable," and a few years later Magellan proved it.
Another example of the progressive revelation of natural truths deals with optics. Once man had perfected the process of making clear glass (1st century BC), curious souls discovered that if a clear glass bowl was filled with water it had a magnifying effect. If the bowl was placed in front of some text, the print was easier to read. The Roman emperor Nero was said to have "read all the books in Rome through a large glass bowl filled with water." About 1000 years later (yes, that long) someone in Venice replaced the bowl and water with "a flat-bottom, convex glass sphere that was laid on top of the reading material, becoming in effect the first "magnifying glass." These were called "reading stones' and were a "Godsend" to people over 40 years old. They were basically the same as the simple hand magnifiers we use today.
Around 300 years later (things moved very, very slow then) another Italian was playing around with these stones and put two together in a crude frame and made the first pair of "spectacles." These were the "smart phones" of the day. Everybody had to have a pair that could read (not very many could read, though. Maybe as few as 6% of the population in places) and had the money.
14th Century Painting of "Spectacle" Usage
Another 300 years passed (now around 1600 AD) and some Dutch spectacle makers were messing around with some lenses and happened upon a huge discovery, one that would change the quest for "scientific knowledge" forever—the telescope (which led later to its inverse twin, the microscope)
As we mentioned geocentrism was the dominate cosmology model for millennia. From Adam to the Middle Ages it was assumed that the earth was the center of the solar system and/or universe and the universe rotated around it daily. As far as we know it wasn't until Claudius Ptolemy and some other Greeks came along in the first century B.C. that a working model of geocentrism was developed. It tried to reconcile all the movements of the sun, moon, planets, and stars into one consistent model, and for the most part it worked. However, there were still some matters that could not be sufficiently explained such as why do the planets follow their paths. To compensate for this the model claimed the celestial bodies traveled in their paths because they are attached to hollow, invisible spheres and are basically rolling around them. In spite of some of its far-fetched assertions, the Ptolemy Geocentric model of the universe was the standard for around 1500 years.
Around the year 1530 A.D. Nicolaus Copernicus came up with the idea that the sun may be the center of the solar system and universe. Although the Copernican model placed the sun at the center of the universe, in other respects it was very similar to Ptolemy? model. Although Copernicus' sun-centered idea was novel, it did not gain much popularity until years later.
Around 1587 an astronomer named, Tycho Brahe, "appreciated the Copernican system, but objected to the idea of a moving Earth on the basis of physics, astronomy, and religion." He came up with a compromise model that took what he deemed to be the best of both the Ptolmey and Copernicus models now known as the "Tychonic System." This model had all the planets but earth orbiting the sun and the sun in turn (with its planets) orbiting the earth. (This hybrid model is also called, "geoheliocentrism," and it is basically the model used by geocentrists today.)
Nevertheless, geocentrism remained the dominate model with most still clinging to the older Ptolomy system. This all changed in the early 17th century with the discoveries of two men, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei who we will examine in the next chapter.