Revelation and Inspiration
May 5th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
REVELATION AND INSPIRATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Peter 1:16-21
5-5-74 10:50 a.m.
You are listening with us in the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message on one of the great, meaningful, significant doctrines of the Bible. In our preaching through Simon Peter’s second letter, we have come to the last part of the first chapter, and the text will be the last two verses; but to understand it, we need to read the context. And the message will concern Revelation and Inspiration. Beginning at verse 16, in 2 Peter chapter 1:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and parousia, presence and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
[2 Peter 1:16]
The message of Christ is not an Aesop fable, it is not fiction; it is fact.
For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the Excellent Glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount, the Mount of Transfiguration.
But we have also a more sure word of prophecy.
[2 Peter 1:17-19]
This is one of the most astonishing turns that I could ever think for in the Bible. He is speaking of the deity, of the sovereign glory of Jesus Christ, and Simon Peter says in the passage:
We saw His face turn to the brightness of the sun, and we saw His garments as of the shekinah glory of God, and we heard the voice of the Father in heaven saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. We saw that with our own eyes, and we heard that affirmation of the deity of Christ with our own ears. But, we have a more sure word of prophecy.
[2 Peter 1:16-19]
What an astonishing thing to say, that what I saw with my eyes and what I heard with my ears does not equal the affirmation of the glory and deity of Christ that is presented in the Word of God! I am presuming that Simon Peter might say that our eyes could deceive us, and our ears might mislead us, but there is no doubt of the surety and certainty of the written Word of God.
In any event, it is an astonishing thing that the apostle is writing here. “Beyond what our eyes have seen, and beyond what our ears have heard, do we have the sure affirmation of the Word of God” [2 Peter 1:16-19]. Then speaking of the holy prophecy, the Bible, he says,
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
[2 Peter 1:20-21]
Now we’re going first to exegete that just for a moment. “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” “Private,” idios, idios, idios means “one’s own.” Idios: what belongs to you personally, individually, you; translated here “private” [2 Peter 1:20], idios, “one’s own,” coming out of himself or what belongs to him. “Interpretation,” epilusis, literally means “untying, unloosing,” so “a disclosure, a revelation.” The word is ordinarily, it is esten, “is,” esten. This is ginetai, “came into being.” It’s the word for being born, came to pass, came into realization, came into being.
So let’s take the words and put them together. “There is no prophecy of the Scripture that comes out of one’s own personal disclosure, doesn’t come out of him, doesn’t originate in him, didn’t begin in him. For” [2 Peter 1:20], then we come to the next verse, “For the word of God, the prophecy, came not in old time by the will of man,” he did not originate it, he didn’t think it up, doesn’t come out of something of his cerebration, “but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. Having said, “Beyond what eye could see and ear could hear, we have the assurance and the affirmation of the immutable, unfathomable, inerrant word of God” [2 Peter 1:16-19].
Then, describing that word, he says, “It came not out of a man’s origination, not something he thought up, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:20-21]. I think Simon Peter was commenting on a passage that he had written in the first epistle, chapter 1, verses 10 and 11 [1 Peter 1:10-11]. Speaking of our salvation through Jesus Christ, the apostle writes:
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
[1 Peter 1:10-11]
What the apostle is saying there is that the word of God that came through the prophets, describing the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should come to our Lord—they gave the prophecy, they delivered the message, but they searched diligently as to what it meant [1 Peter 1:9-11]. They couldn’t understand it. It was unfathomable to them. But they were delivering God’s message, not theirs.
And when they delivered it, describing the sufferings of our Lord and the glory that should follow, they did not themselves understand it. So he writes here, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man,” it did not originate in him, “but men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. Now that’s our text and the context.
Now the message: the first verse refers to revelation, content. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” [2 Peter 1:20], no prophecy comes out of the man himself. He did not originate it. That’s the content: what it is that is said. That is revelation. Now the next verse refers to inspiration, the transmission of the content: “For holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. Now we shall speak of those two.
First, revelation, the content, the substance of what is said [2 Peter 1:20]: our word “revelation” comes from the Latin word revelare, which means “to reveal, to disclose, to unveil.” The exact Greek word is apokalupsis, apocalypse, unveiling, disclosing, removing the veil so that you can see; revelation.
Now revelation has to come from God. It is divine truth that is mediated to the human messenger from God. And second, if it is a revelation, it is something that the man in himself could never know, ever know; it is a disclosure that only God could make—that is revelation! [2 Peter 1:20]. If it is something that the man can discover for himself, that’s not a revelation. There are books on astronomy, there are books on chemistry, books on anatomy, books on physics, books on biology, all of these things that men discover and write; that is not revelation, for the man can see it, he can study it and write it down. But revelation is something that a man could never, ever know. It is beyond him, and he’s not capable of discovering it. That is revelation!
I speak now of the necessity of revelation [2 Peter 1:20]. If we are ever to know God, it must come from a divine self-disclosure of God. No man by searching, the Scriptures say, can find out God [Job 11:7]. He cannot. The man in his genius, with his telescopes and all of his mathematical formulae, the man can study the sweep of the heavens, and write them down in a book. In the current issue of the National Geographic magazine, there is a magnificent article on what these giant telescopes have discovered. The infinitude of the universe, the galaxies, the Milky Ways, the billions of them out in space, the man can look at it and he can make a deduction that whoever created it was omnipotent, but he’d never find out who He is or what His name is—the necessity of the revelation.
Or the man can look at the beautiful sunsets, the autumnal colors when God splashes the whole heavens with glory, or he can look at a beautiful rainbow, or he can look at the flowers, and from that he can deduct that whoever made them loved beautiful things, but he’d never know Him or His name.
Now the man could look on the inside of himself, and he could see that the man that he studies, himself and others, the human race, we’re intelligent and we all are morally sensitive, we have personality, so the man could deduct that whoever created us was someone of intelligence and personality and moral sensitivity. But what is His name? And who is He? And what is He like? You could never ever know except by a divine disclosure. That is revelation [2 Peter 1:20].
Now, the revelation comes in two ways. Sometimes it is given to us objectively. For example, God took His finger and wrote on tables of stone the Ten Commandments [Exodus 31:18, Deuteronomy 9:10]: an objective revelation. There it is. In the Book of Daniel the hand of God wrote on the plaster on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace in Babylon [Daniel 5:5]: an objective revelation.
Most of the time the revelation is subjective: it comes from God’s Holy Spirit speaking in the man’s soul. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, for example, Jeremiah says,
Since God called me and sent me to be His prophet, I have had nothing to say and no message to bring but one of destruction, and disaster, and catastrophe, and judgment, and captivity! And I am not going to speak anymore because the people deride me, and mock me, and hate me, and ridicule me, and I will not speak anymore in His name!
And then the next sentence says, “But God’s word was in my heart like a fire in my bones, and I could not but speak, I could not stay” [Jeremiah 20:9]. That is the subjective revelation: in the heart and in the soul, burning like a fire.
Now there are some characteristics of revelation. One: it is always progressive. It goes on, and it goes on, and it goes on. If it is of God and from God, it moves, it goes on. It is always progressive. It reaches out. That’s why when you see a dead church, God’s not in it, for God moves. God moves. The thing goes on and on. It reaches out. That’s God, always. God’s creation is followed by His salvation, and His salvation is followed by His sanctification, and His sanctification is followed by His glorification [Romans 8:28-30]. It goes on and out and up! What is latent in the Old Testament is patent in the New Testament [1 Peter 1:9-11]. What is concealed in the Old is revealed in the New. There is always a reaching out and a going on.
Second: there is continuity in God’s revelation: this reaches to that, and builds on that, and goes to that, and is the foundation for that. Genesis is the foundation and reaches toward Exodus, and Exodus is another great foundation and reaches toward the Kings, and the Kings are a great foundation and reaches toward the Prophets, and the Prophets are a great foundation reaching toward the Gospels, and the Gospels is a great foundation reaching toward the Acts and the Epistles, and the Acts and the Epistles are a great foundation reaching toward the glorious Apocalypse and the consummation of the age! This is continuity always. In the revelation of God, it reaches out this to this, to this, to this, and this built on that, always.
I wish all of our people could come to the pastor’s lectures on Wednesday nights at seven-thirty in this auditorium. Last Wednesday night I lectured on the King and the Kingdom, and it was a great overview of all of the ages of time from eternity to eternity. And the age in which we live is just an intermission in it. It’s just an interlude in it [Ephesians 3:2].
It began back there when God chose a people [Deuteronomy 10:15], and then God chose a land [Psalm 105:8-12], and then God chose a king, and a family into which the King is to be born [Matthew 1:18-25]. And then the King comes, born a King, and then the King is slain [Matthew 27:32-50]. He was crucified a King, and He is an exiled King [John 1:11, 5:43], but He is a coming King with a kingdom [Matthew 25:31]. The whole prophecy and revelation of God moves upward, and onward, and outward, and finally to the glorious consummation [Daniel 9:27]. It has continuity.
It has, third: congruity. It’s always in harmony. It’s in pieces because the man cannot accept but a piece at a time. He’s not able to receive it all. And God has to prepare him and bring him up to receive the full revelation of God. But it’s always congruous. It is always harmonious. For example, one could well ask, “If this is the revelation of God, how is it that David would have eight wives? [2 Samuel 3:2-5, 14; 1 Chronicles 3:5]. And how is it that Solomon would have three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines? [1 Kings 11:3]. How could such a thing be?” Well, the Lord said in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, “Moses, for the hardness of your hearts,” then the Lord said, “But in the beginning it was not so” [Matthew 19:8].
The man could only take and receive what he’s capable of at a certain time, but the intention of God is to work toward a full revelation—the same thing as the Lord said even to the apostles in the sixteenth chapter of John: “There are many things that I have yet to say unto you; but you are not able to receive them now” [John 16:12]. We have to be somehow ourselves brought up, and taught, and made mature, teleios, the Greek word for what is translated “perfect, mature,” in order for God to reveal to us His full revelation [1 Corinthians 2:6-7]. And this is the Bible, as it goes on, and on, and on, and on, and out, and out. This is the revelation [2 Peter 1:20].
Now we speak of the transmission, the inspiration. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man,” he did not originate it. Now the inspiration: “But holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]. This is the transmission of it; the revelation, the content; the inspiration, how it was transmitted to the messenger.
Now our word “inspiration” is from the Latin word inspirari: “breathe into, breath into, in,” inspiro, “breathe into.” The Greek word is Theopneustos: “God-breathed.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” [2 Timothy 3:16], theopneustos, theopneustos, God-breathed; inspirari, “to breath into”; so inspiration refers to the way the revelation was transmitted, and inspiration refers to how God infallibly, inerrantly did it.
Now I speak first of the necessity for inspiration, that it be inspired of God, God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16]. Look. If I hold in my hand the revelation of God and if it is brought to me with error, and deception, and mistake, how am I to know which is error and which is truth? Which is mistake and which is fact? Which is myth and fable, and which is the truth of God? If the revelation is brought to me mixed with error, how am I ever to know the truth?
Well, these modernists and these liberals, they come and say, as they stand in the professor’s class or as they stand in the church pulpit, they say, “We can point out to you what is true and what is not true, what is deceptive and what is factual, what is full of error and what is full of truth. We can point out to you what is myth and fable and legend, and then we can point out to you what is historically correct and accurate.”
So my whole salvation and my whole knowledge of the truth is dependent upon that man who stands in the professor’s class, or stands in the pulpit, and he says to me, “I can tell you what is truth and what is not truth.” So I have to depend for my salvation and my knowledge of God and His truth on that man. And that’s a poor kind of a foundation upon which a man could place his soul and his eternal salvation!
No, no, no! He doesn’t know, nor is he appointed of God to be God to me and to mediate God’s truth to me. No. The truth came by divine inspiration [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21], in a way that I can trust it and I can believe it: unmixed with error, or deception, or legend, or myth, or fable. It is the divine truth of God. Without that I have no hope of ever coming to the truth, or ever knowing God, or ever being saved.
Now the way God inspired His Word is threefold. One: He did it dynamically. The transmission was made dynamically; that is, the Lord used the man’s personality. He didn’t use the man like a Dictaphone, but He used the man’s personality. He used him, dynamically. He inspired the man, just as the man is. For example, in the Old Testament, Isaiah is a courtly preacher. He’s a city preacher. Isaiah is a man of great polish and poetic fancy, and he rises from one peroration to the other in flights of oratory, and fancy, and imagination, and poetry beyond what any genius in the secular world could ever know or achieve or aspire to.
To compare Isaiah with a Shakespeare, or a Milton, or a Dante, or a Homer would be like comparing an angel in heaven to a little Lilliputian pygmy down here in the earth. There is no comparison. Isaiah is a glorious orator, and preacher, using flights of poetic language and fancy beyond what mind has ever been able to achieve. That’s Isaiah.
Amos is a country preacher. When you read Amos you smell the fresh plowed ground. His alliterations and his similes and his metaphors are all from the herd and the flock and the field. He’s a country preacher. I like my name, Amos. Amos. He’s a country preacher, but he delivered the revelation faithfully. God dynamically used both personalities.
Take again, in the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus is a theologian, a dialectician. He is taught in all the wondrous lore of the Mishna, and the Gemara, the Talmud. And he reasons like you split hairs. He’s a man of the philosophical schools from the beginning, and when you read Paul, you’re reading the reasoning of a dialectician, a reasoner, a thinker, a philosopher, and a theologian of the incomparable order. That’s Paul.
When you read James, you are in another world. James is the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and he speaks pragmatically. He speaks empirically. He speaks down there in experience, admonishing the people. They are in two different worlds, but both of them were used of God to bring God’s truth, God’s revelation, dynamic!
All right, second: the revelation came by inspiration plenarily. Plenary refers to fullness. The whole thing is inspired, all of it. It may be a piece here, may be a longer piece there, it may be a little short piece there, it may be an incident here, but all of it is plenarily inspired; from the beginning to the end, all of it is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16].
And third: it is inspired verbally, verbally [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21]. The words that were used, God through the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to use the word, the word, that word! It is verbally inspired, the words themselves. The only way God could mediate to us His truth is by language, by nomenclature, by semantics, by words. There’s no other way. And God saw to it that the word that the writer used is the word that the Holy Spirit chooses.
Now I want to give you an illustration of that if I can, and our time is just about gone. I have a sermon that once in a while I will preach in a revival meeting. It is the favorite of all the sermons I have ever preached. It’s on Revelation 22:17, the last invitation in the Bible: “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will,” thelōn, “let him come, let him take the water of life freely.”
Now the whole sermon is built on the inspiration of the word ho thelōn, ho thelōn. For when the Holy Spirit said to John, “Write that last invitation in the Bible before the book closes, before the Revelation ceases, write one more invitation.” And the Holy Spirit said to John, “John, write there ho thelōn!” The Holy Spirit said, “John, don’t you write ho ginōskōn, ‘Whosoever understandeth, let him come.’ Don’t you write there ho lambanōn, ‘Whosoever receiveth, let him come.’ Don’t you write there ho philōn, ‘Whosoever loveth, let him come.’ Don’t you write there ho paschōn, ‘Whosoever feeleth, let him come.’ Don’t you write there ho pisteuōn, ‘Whosoever believeth, let him come.’ But you write there, John, ho thelōn, ‘Whosoever will, let him come!’ [Revelation 22:17].
If a man is just willing, God will save him [Romans 10:13], forgive his sins [Colossians 1:14]; write his name in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 17:8]; give him eternal life now and forever! [John 10:27-28]. Ho thelōn, “Whosoever will,” that’s a typical instance of how your pastor preaches, and how he believes that the Word, the Word is inspired of God. Don’t you say ginoskōn. Don’t you say pisteuōn. Don’t you say paschōn. Don’t you say lambanōn. Say ho thelōn, “Whosoever will, let him come, let him come” [Revelation 22:17]. It is verbally inspired.
Now our time’s already gone. Allow me just one little observation. What happens, what happens in the transmission under the Spirit of God? [2 Timothy 3:16]. Number one: there is unity of authorship. In the Bible there may be forty writers, and there are, and they write over one thousand five hundred years, and they do, but there is one Author: the Holy Spirit of God. Second and last: and when you believe in the inspiration, as Peter says—“Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:21]—you have unity of purpose. It reaches toward one great, glorious revelation; namely, that in Christ we find our forgiveness of our sins and our hope of salvation [John 3:16], and every rich inheritance God is preparing for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9]. The whole Book reaches toward that one end. It has unity of purpose. It moves to one great consummation, one marvelous appeal. That is what God has done for us in the writing of His blessed Book. “For this is life eternal: that they might know, that they might know Thee, the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” [John 17:3], and that we might know Him, and be saved by Him. This is the great unity of purpose that lies back of every verbally inspired word in the holy, infallible, inerrant Word of God.
We must stand now and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, in that balcony around, you; on this lower floor, you; a couple, a family, or just you: “The Lord has spoken to me, pastor, and I’m coming.” “The Lord has told us that this is God’s place for us. This is my wife, and these are our children, and we’re all coming today.” As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Decide now. Come now. Make the decision now, and when we stand up, stand up coming down one of those stairwells, stand up coming down this aisle: “Here I am, pastor, I make it now,” while all of us stand and sing together.