What’s the Difference Between Revelation, General Revelation, and Special Revelation

by Rob Lundberg

Whenever you’re involved in a conversation with a well-meaning believer and the word “revelation” comes into the conversation, it can create some flags which may need clarification. It is then incumbent for us to clarify what the meaning of the word means in the context of the conversation or the subject being discussed.

Some of those clarifications may hinge on the issue of misunderstanding the meaning “special revelation” versus other kinds of revelation and a misuse of the word.  So in this post I would like to clarify the various meaning of this word “revelation.”  Before I move further, let me state that this does not refer to the quick thought kind of “revelation” one might have when a thought which had not been in the mind of the person was abruptly brought to mind.  The definitions which I will address will be in reference to how God discloses Himself, which reveals who He is and how He shows that He is.

God has two books: general revelation and special revelation. So let me give a generic meaning of the word and then move into these two kinds of revelation. So let’s move forward shall we?

Revelation: What God has made known about Himself and the process by which this insight is given. Most theologians have distinguished between the general revelation of God given in nature and quasi-universal human experiences (such as our sense of dependence) and special revelations given to and through specific individuals in history, particularly the prophets and Jesus Christ Himself — God’s supreme revelation.[1]

General Revelation: The term used for the knowledge of God that He makes possible through the natural world, including general religious experiences of awe and dependence. Defenders of general revelation have usually claimed that it is sufficient only to give us knowledge of the existence of a powerful Creator, though some have argued that the goodness of God can also be seen in the natural order. General revelation is distinguished from the special revelation God has provided on particular occasions in history through the prophets, apostles, and supremely (for Christians) Jesus of Nazareth. Special revelation provides concrete knowledge of the character and actions of God in relation to His creation.[2]

Special Revelation: Revelation given by God through particular persons, experiences, writings, or historical events. Special revelation is normally distinguished from general revelation.[3]

It is the position of this writer that the canon of Scripture is closed, and that there is no new special revelation today. At the same we do not live in a closed universe, which means that the God, who is there is very capable of revealing His hand in miracles, which confirm His existence.


[1] C. Stephen Evans. Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002, s.v. “revelation.

[2] Ibid., s.v., “general revelation.”

[3] Ibid., s.v. “special revelation.”

[Author’s note: While we do see the creation as a means of general revelation, general revelation itself does not have the capability of pointing anyone to saving faith. It does and has been used by God as a means to show and demonstrate His existence and His glory (Psalm 19:1). Special revelation on the other hand is closed. What I mean by that is there is no new special revelation that will point a person to salvation. We have the written historical records of sacred Scripture, the Bible and we have the One who is revealed in the Bible, the risen Jesus Christ. Anything that professes to be a revelation from God, must line up with the Bible and/or the character and nature of Jesus Christ…the canon is closed.


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