Ortodox Catehism

About the divine revelation (II)

  • October 1, 2017
  1. Why does it have a greater authority the divine revelation than the human mind in the work of salvation?

Because the divine revelation is without mistake and it never deludes, being guaranteed by God Himself Who is the Truth (John XIV, 6), by His boundless wisdom and by the accomplishment till nowadays of those announced by this Revelation. The human mind can understand some of the things included in the divine revelation but it cannot fully comprehend all this Revelation. We should know God in His being, for tuning our mind to an absolute agreement with the Revelation from above.

But since God’s being cannot be known, because the natural means our mind puts at our disposal are not helpful for this, we put all our trust in the truths of the Revelation, that make God be known by preaching and announcing the word about Him. The divine revelation is worthy of being received by our mind. If the mind confides in the promise of a serious and reliable man, about whom we know for sure that he wouldn’t cheat us, why wouldn’t we believe in the words of God? Isn’t it wiser – says Origenes – to trust God? Saint John Chrysostom urges us as well to trust in God all the time, even when His word seems to be totally different from our way of thinking and seeing. Our judgment and sight may be deceptive, but His Word is never that way.

  1. How many kinds of revelation are there?

Regarded in its spring, that is God, the divine Revelation is only one. But if we take into account the ways used for reaching us, the divine revelation is of two kinds: first the revelation given naturally and secondly the revelation given supernaturally or the path of faith. The last one cannot be received without God’s help.

  1. What is understood by natural revelation?

It is understood the treasure of teachings revealed by the human nature about the existence and attributes of God. The nature in the middle of which we live it tells us that someone made it. Our mind tells us that the creation should have a Creator because nothing can be done without a doer. The perfect order and beauty of the way the world is created it shows the work of an Almighty, most wise and loving Creator, the whole Creation speaks to us about God, as the psalmist says:

The heavens declare the glory of God;    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,    their words to the ends of the world.
(Ps. XIX, 1-4). The whole creation, by its order and harmony looks right as the book says and cries  to its Lord and Creator, remarks saint Athanasios. Even if some peoples worship stones and wood, they know there is someone who is greater than them: `ask the world, the jewel of the skies and see if they don’t answer to you according to their power: God made us. These things were searched by the noble philosophers and from the art they knew the artist. Saint apostle Paul sustains and deepens the word of the psalmist: those unseen of God from the Creation of the world are seen from creatures and His eternal power and divinity:  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Rom. I, 20).

  1. What is understood by the supernatural revelation or the one revealed on the way of Faith ?

It is understood the revelation ordained and given by God by certain intercessors forn the salvation of men. By the natural revelation we reach only the truth that there is God and find some of His attributes. If we limited ourselves at this revelation we would be no different from the pagans of the ancient times and we’d be deprived of the joys and happiness brought by the revelation through faith. This last one makes us Christians while the other limited only at thinking keeps us at the gates of Christianity. The revelation through faith took its name from the fact that it can be received only by the one who believes.

  1. On what ways was given to men the revelation through faith?

It was given sometimes by certain wonderful signs the man recognizes through his senses: for example the apparition of God to Abraham in the form of three men, at the oak of Mamvri (genesis XVIII, 1-2) or the apparition of the Savior to his disciples after His Resurrection (John XX, 9-31). Here we have an exterior revelation. But most of the times the revelation through faith is given to the human soul by a special enlightment he couldn’t have acquired only by the power of his mind. This enlightment of the soul and its gifting with the power of receiving certain divine revelations is the divine inspiration. Here we have a revelation that is given to the soul and we can call it spiritual or interior revelation. The Holy Scripture says even in the Old Testament in many places (Exodus IV, 12; II Kings XXIII, 2; Isaiah VI, 1-8; VIII, 1; Habacum II, 2, etc), that God is the One who spoke through the mouth of the prophets. Saint apostle Paul resumes the history and the variety of this revelation: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whomalso he made the universe.

The revelation through wonderful signs controlled by senses and inspired by the Holy Spirit has a decisive authority for the religious life and for our salvation. Only through this revelation the man becomes spiritual.

  1. When was it given to men the revelation through faith?

This revelation was given from the creation of the first men in heaven till the coming of the Savior Who crowned and perfected the revelation. This long time – 5508 years – may be divided in three parts:

The first one is from the creation of the first men till the time when i twas given the Law of the Old Testament. This first part is also divided in two: from the creation of men till the fall into sin and after the fall into sin. The revelation is given in accordance with the man’s condition in these two intervals. The man from heaven received a revelation straight from God who spoke to him personally. God adviced and led him directly, taught him about Himself, about His connection with the man and the role of man in the world and spent time with this man.

The second part of the revelation begins from the moment when it was given the Law of the Old Testament. It comprises all the centuries when they were led by the law of Moses and by the prophets and it ends at the coming of the Savior. This part of the revelation it is not complete only preparatory for the full revelation. Saint apostle Paul calls it `guide to Christ`.(Galatians III, 24)

The third part of the revelation is that of the fullness of grace and truth (John I,17)

It begins with the coming of the Savior and it ends with the last writing of the New Testament. We are on the highest stage of the divine revelation made by the Savior himself, Who gives us full knowledge about God, as the One Who is the Son of God. (Matthew XI, 27; John XVII, 6). Saint apostle Paul says this firmly:

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Hebrews I, 2) and he explains it showing its aim:

he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (Ephesians I, 9-10).

  1. How do we know that Jesus Christ is the fullness and accomplishment of the revelation?

We know it from the Holy Scripture, from the accomplishment of the prophecies of the Old Testament and from the history of the Christian Church. Saint Paul says:

` But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.` (Galatians IV, 4-5). The Holy Gospels and the whole New Testament attest the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the bringer of the divine revelation.

The prophecies of the Old Testament regarding Messiah, the Redeemer, the Son of God were perfectly fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. The Holy evangelists and saint Paul mention quite often in detail the prophesies accomplished in the person of the Savior. Prophet Isaiah – surnamed the evangelist of the Old Testament – speaks at large about the birth and especially about the suffering, death and glory of Messiah   (Isaiah VII si LIII). All this prophecy was fully accomplished in Jesus Christ’s deeds and life as they are related in the New Testament  (Matthew I, 21 ; Luke I, 31 and I Cor. XV, 3; I Peter II, 24 ; Matthew XXVI, 62; Acts VIII, 32; I John III, 5, etc).

The Christian, pagan and Jewish documents from the Ist and IInd century state that Jesus Christ was not an invention, He truly lived under the reign of the emperors Augustus and Tiberius and suffered death under Pontius Pilate. The same documents, except the Jewish ones, find that there was no other man with this name or another one to have Jesus Christ’s role  and deeds. The great achievements of the Church testify the divinity of its Founder.

  1. Can we speak about stages of the divine revelation?

We can surely speak about this. We saw first that the divine revelation can be divided in three great periods of time. To each one of these periods it corresponds more or less a stage of headway, although these stages are not always equal and they don’t follow one after the other in an unchanged order. The time from the fall into sin till it was given the Law on Mount Sinai includes not only human endeavors for knowing the truth and God but also heavenly aid by the supernatural revelation given to the Patriarchs. And it s the same after the Law is given. After the coming of the Savior Who fulfilled the revelation the first two stages of the revelation were not removed. So broadly the Church admits stages in the work of the revelation through faith.

As it is normal the Church focuses on the two stages of the divine revelation presented in the two Testaments. Saint Gregory the Theologian speaking about the changes produced in the life of mankind from the past, present and future calls them earthquakes and describes them as follows: The Two Testaments are two earthquakes, one of them making the transition from idolatry to the Law of Moses and the other one from the Law of Moses to the Gospel. But there is one more earthquake, that is the passing from this life to the other one.

Thus the Church accepts the gradual development of the divine revelation. The transition from the Old Testament to the New testament is  pointed out by the Savior, by the Holy Apostles and even by the Holy Fathers. They say that there is a perfection of the New Testament in comparison with the Old Testament. But this one maintains its value, it’s true. The Savior says:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew V, 17-18).

But these things from the Old Testament must be fulfilled in the light of the new degree of revelation (The New Testament).

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew V, 21 and the following). The New Testament is the development and the fulfillment of the Old One. But it is even more than this: he is the dawn from above who makes the shadow of the Law pass. The progress in the discovery of the persons of the Holy Trinity is shown by saint Gregory the Theologian by words like: partial additions, elevations, progresses and passages from glory to glory. The Holy Spirit Himself ordered His work gradually weighting it after the power of the Holy Disciples. Thus He began by the miracles made by the Lord, after His suffering and Resurrection He gave the inspiration to the disciples and after the Ascension was manifested in the form of flames.

  1. Why the Christian teaching was considered as the highest stage of faith?

Because the Christian teaching was given by the Son of God and True God, our Lord Jesus Christ and because no one else than Him knew God directly and taught the men from the spring that is God Himself:

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John I, 18). The Savior Himself declared:

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  (John XIV, 9) No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew XI, 27).

Jesus Christ brought the divine revelation of the greatest mysteries of the divine truth mankind was worthy to know from the beginning of the world. The faith brought by Him quenched and quenches the thirst after truth of numerous souls. It changed the face of the ancient world. By the enlightment and deep change of the souls it tied again the human life withered by sin, by the inexhaustible spring of the eternal life: God. It brought heaven on earth, fulfilling the prayer of the psalmist:

Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down: touch the mountains, and they shall smoke. (Ps. 143). The skies bowed and even opened (Luke II, 9, 15 ; Matthew III, 16) And finally no other faith or religious knowledge could or can replace the Christian faith because they don’t have and never had its fruit, the Christian teaching stands at the top of the religious knowledge because nowhere else the soul of the believer could find delight in truth, justice, happiness, eternal life like in Christ.

  1. How can we convince ourselves of the divine revelation?

We can convince ourselves of the divine revelation on two ways:

  1. a personal one, found in the searcher;
  2. another one found in the content of the revelation.

The first one is faith. Faith is considered as Revelation. It is the only one that allows man to see God. It takes us to a supernatural world and gives us the power to distinguish what is human of what is above man. The second way of convincing ourselves of the divine revelation are the signs found in the revelation itself. There are obvious signs of the divine revelation.

  1. What are the signs of the real divine revelation?

The signs of the divine revelation are the following :

1) the altitude of the revealed teachings;

2) their divine purity;

3) their power in changing the men in good

These signs are found inside and they can be comprehended only when the revelation is well known and searched in a humble and pious spirit. This spirit makes happy to the one who is dedicated to this study. We convince of the divine revelation by exterior signs as well: the miracles and prophesies where we can add the moral quality of the person to whom is made the revelation.

  1. What are the miracles?

The miracles are divine works beyond the human mind and power. They are works realized in the visible creation only with the power of God and they surpass the laws of mind and nature being done in extraordinary moments, decided by the Creator and they aim to enlighten and straighten us for our salvation. The miracles show God’s will and they interpret His unknown ways. God is the first and greatest perfomer of miracles as the One who is their spring. The Savior made on earth miracles with the nature, men and with Himself. He stopped the storm on the sea and saved Peter from drowning, he turned the water into wine, He multiplied the bread and fish, healed the sick, revived the dead, this making Him say:

If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. (John XV, 24). The greatest miracle made by the Savior with Himself is His Resurrection from the dead. His miracles prove His divine origin and power as He declared Himself : `the works Father gave me to do, the things I do testify about Me that I was sent by Father. (John V, 36) The men chosen by God and liked by Him made miracles too, for example some of those through whom was shown the divine revelation : Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Jonah, the Apostles and others. They made miracles with the power of God, proving that they had the power of the Spirit from above.

  1. How are the true miracles recognized?

The true miracles differ from the false ones by a series of conditions and we mention:

1) they should be worthy of the name of God and be found in the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition

2) they should be accomplished with the same means used by the Savior and the saints when they made theirs;

3)they should not deny, oppose or contradict each other

4) they should not contradict the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition;

5) they should have as aim the salvation of the human soul;

6) they should bring benefit and growth to the spiritual life, not to death and sin;

7) the wonderworker should speak only the truth, live a righteous life and have no personal interests or selfish purposes;

8) he should correct the morals of those who witness the miracle

9) the miracles should have the safety and power of the divine Spirit;

10) they should prove the work of the divine providence.

  1. What are the prophecies ?

The prophesies are revelations by word of mouth or by written word of certain truths and events regarding the future that God announces by his chosen men for salvation and they happen exactly that way. The prophecies and their content cannot be known on the natural way. The prophecies interpret the will of God and they are made only when inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are present in many of the books from the Old Testament where they foretell the Savior and many other events from the future of the Jewish people and of other peoples. The New Testament and the Tradition from the beginning of the Church include a series of prophesies. The Savior Himself prophesied (Matthew XXIV, etc). The prophecies as signs of the divine revelation are only in the power of God. They differ from the human predictions based on weak reckonings or superstitions. The divine prophecies are made in the same way as the miracles by a work that is unknown to the human nature. Their great authority resides in their accomplishment. Their precise accomplishment proves that the Holy Spirit is their author. `Because what was foretold takes place I believe and obey God`, says Teophilus of Antiochia.

The most important prophecies of the Old Testament are those about the Savior. These prophecies called Messianic foretold precisely the time of the Savior’s coming  (Daniel IX, 24-27), the birth, suffering, death, glorification (Isaiah VII, 13, LIII, 2 ) and even His roles of  prophet (Deuter. XVIII, 15; Isaia XLII, 1.4), priest and king (Ps. CIX, 5; Jeremiah XXIII, 5). The apostles said that the words of the prophets were exactly accomplished.

  1. What are the signs that show the true prophecies?

They must meet the same conditions as the miracles. The Savior, the Holy Apostles and the Holy Fathers make us be aware of the existence of true and false prophets that we must distinguish. We must think with piety about the true prophecies and we must condemn and combat the false ones. The Savior says that in the times of troubles and especially when the end of the world is near `

 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew XXIV, 24). Such false prophets showed up many times and they show up even today but they must be combated for not allowing them to do their things. Lactantius tells us that the true prophets:

1) preach the same One God;

2) they are not mad;

3) they are not cheaters;

4) they are not interested in fortunes and gains

5) they don’t care about the necessities of life, they content themselves with what God sends them;

6) their prophecies came true exactly;

7) they testify their mission till the level of suffering torture and death

  1. Why God doesn’t repeat His revelation?

Because He has made this Revelation once and for all for the salvation of men, according to His eternal plan. God reveals Himseld when He knows that it is absolutely necessary. He doesn’t repeat Himself as the men, because God’s plan or oikonomia do not include the repetition of the revelation. The repetition of the teaching or of another thing is the sign of the human imperfection.

The repetition of the divine revelation, in other words a new coming of the Old and New Testament, with a new incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ would prove that the first revelation was false or it had never took place or it was incomplete and this would be an offence against the name and power of God. The assumption that the reiteration of the revelation would make all men believe cannot be accepted because even in the time of the Savior not all men believed in Him although He was the Revelation. The meaning of the parable with the rich man and poor Lazarus is that the men with a hardened heart would not believe even if the dead came back to life (Luke XVI, 31).