How would you reveal yourself on a first date so your date can get to know you better? You wouldn’t tell your date everything about yourself, all your bad habits, all your secret obsessions. Too Much Information!
From these two scenarios, we learn two things: revelation depends on the capabilities of the receiver, and revelation should be gradual.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how God revealed himself to man throughout history. There are four general stages of God’s revelation of Himself to man (in chronological order): implicit revelation through His creation, explicit revelation in Scripture, the incarnation of His Son, and the beatific vision that all of us are awaiting as the moment when we will finally understand God. “Understanding” God won’t mean that we will be able to fit God into our human brains in Heaven. God will always transcend us even in heaven, but our mind will not be hindered by sin.
Revelation Through Creation – Omnipotent
In creating the world, God began to reveal himself. When God created the world, He created it good, which reflects His own goodness and beauty. Man’s job was to adore God through creation, which the Catechism states clearly:
“The beauty of creation reflects the infinite beauty of the Creator and ought to inspire the respect and submission of man’s intellect and will.”(CCC 341)
This quote does not mention Faith at all; man was initially able to recognize God with his intellect and adore God with his will. The fingerprint of God was intelligible in nature, and all ancient civilizations – Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, etc. – saw the divine in nature, atheism being a modern idea. Man, by simply looking at creation, was able to see that God is all-powerful, the one who gives gifts to man and sustains life. Of course, sin quickly enters the picture and makes it extremely difficult for man to praise God by looking at creation alone, so God reveals Himself further.
Old Testament and Scripture – Relational
God then reveals Himself as a voice to Noah and later to Abraham, our ancestors in the Faith. This voice has been transmitted to us in writing, but God’s revelation is really a spoken word that implies a person, a relationship, not just an idea that can be written down in an encyclopedia.
In addition to God’s omnipotence that we could already see in nature, now we understand that God is relational. He is not a distant watchmaker or a puppet master, but wants to enter into some type of relationship and dialogue with us, which leads us to the third stage of revelation where God reveals what type of relationship He desires with us.
New Testament and Jesus Christ – Paternal
To show us what type of relationship God desires with us, He sent His Son, Jesus. Right there, we already get what type of relationship God wants: a father and son relationship, which we all are able to understand. Jesus teaches us to call God, Abba or Daddy, and shows us how to approach God as a son rather than as a servant. Now we understand through revelation that God is paternal, not authoritarian.
Beatific Vision – Still a Mystery
Now that God has revealed Himself fully to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, there is no other way to explain Himself to us. We have read God’s diary, talked to Him on the phone, and learned about Him from His closest Friend. All we need to do now is go up to His house, knock on the door, and meet Him face to face.