What is progressive revelation and is it scriptural?

by Matt Slick

Progressive revelation is the teaching that God has revealed Himself and His will through the Scriptures with an increasing clarity as more and more of the Scriptures were written. In other words, the later the writing the more information is given. Therefore, God reveals knowledge in a progressive and increasing manner throughout the Bible from the earliest time to later time. This makes perfect sense since we know that not everything God revealed to us was revealed right away.

This does not mean that earlier sections of Scripture are of inferior quality or are not as inspired as latter revelations. If this were the case, it would mean that the Old Testament is not as valuable and inspired as the New Testament. All Scripture is equally inspired (2 Timothy 3:16), but God has revealed his will with increasing clarity as more Scripture was written.

  • Psalm 78:1-4, "Listen, O my people, to my instruction; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, 3 Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. 4 We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done."
  • Matthew 13:17, "For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
  • Matthew 13:35, "so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world."
  • John 5:39, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me."
  • Romans 16:25-26, "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith."
  • 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, "but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."
  • Hebrews 1:1-2, "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world."
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12, "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look."

Some examples of progressive revelation would be regarding the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of the Messiah, justification by grace alone, the inclusion of Gentiles in the plan of God, etc. Each of these topics, and others, were hinted at in the Old Testament but more clearly defined and revealed in the New Testament.


There are groups today that hold to progressive revelation but do so in a manner contradictory to Scripture. For example, the Mormons, better known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, teach progressive revelation to such an extent that what is revealed by their so-called prophets is actually in contradiction to the Bible (i.e. becoming gods, a mother goddess, secret undergarments in temples, etc.). Many such groups are guilty of violating Scripture, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses (denying the Trinity and the deity of Christ), various Oneness Pentecostal groups (denying the Trinity), the Seventh-Day Adventist church (latter-day prophet of Ellen G. White), and others. Each affirms the inspiration of Scripture but adds modern-day revelation in such a way that the Old Testament and New Testament revelations are contradicted. The principle is true that what God reveals in the New Testament, or in progressive revelation, cannot contradict anything else that he has revealed in Scripture.

1 Corinthians 4:6, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.."

So, that which is written in the word of God cannot be rightfully contradicted or exceeded by any so-called new revelation.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.