Prophetic and Situational Revelation

The below post is an excerpt from the dissertation, Faith At Work: An Exploration of the Role of Work in the Life of Followers of Jesus Christ, published in May 2019 by Dr. Ryan S. Howard at Louisiana Baptist University.

It is important to live in close intimacy and relationship with God and to abide by the general principles and virtues set forth throughout this chapter. However, there is more to how God wants to work through His people. God wants to work through revelation. All throughout the Bible, one can see God revealing not only His truth to His people but also His knowledge and wisdom. He gives wisdom to His followers for how to apply knowledge in unique and difficult situations. He is not providing new revelation that should be added to His Word. To further clarify this principle, it will be helpful to establish a new term for the specific kind of revelation God wants to provide to His followers in their work. The new term that can be used is situational revelation. In order to define, understand and rightly apply this term and concept, it will be helpful to briefly review several different types of revelation.

Revelation can be defined as, “The disclosure of divine secrets, knowledge, or other information from the divine realm to humans.”[1] It can also be defined as, “the supernatural communication of truth to the mind.”[2] Before discussing situational revelation further, it will be helpful to briefly review a few of the ways that revelation occurs in the Bible. The below definitions are generally understood and are intended to provide a general overview for comparison, rather than a doctrinal exposition:

  • Scriptural revelation refers to the inspired Word of God, the Canon, which is complete, infallible, inerrant, and to which can no longer be added (2 Tim 3:16-17).
  • General revelation is generally accepted as that which God reveals of Himself through creation and through people as made in His image (Rom. 1:20).
  • Special revelation can refer to unique revelation given to individuals by God, such as the prophets, or to God’s unique revelation of the truth about Jesus, which can bring people into a relationship with Him (Acts 9:3-9).
  • Prophetic revelation is also referred to as prophecy and can refer to several matters, such as the work of a prophet in Scripture, a proclamation about the future or the unknown, or a message from God to His people. It can also refer to a divine message directed through an individual for another individual or group of people (Jer. 7:7).
  • Natural revelation refers to divination or the “interpretation of omens.”[3] This type of so-called “revelation” is not from God and is condemned throughout Scripture (Deut. 18:9-12, Lev. 19:26-31, Acts 19:19).

Situational revelation can then be referred to as knowledge and wisdom that is revealed by God to a believer and is related to a specific situation or circumstance. The term situation is used because it is unique to the time and place. The term revelation is used because the knowledge and wisdom exist in the mind of God before they are revealed to the believer. Situational revelation from God can only come to those who have a true relationship with Jesus. Prophetic revelation is most similar in concept and application to that of situational revelation.

The Bible includes many examples of this type of revelation from God to His people. God worked through situational revelation when Joseph interpreted the dream of Pharaoh. When Pharaoh asked Joseph for the interpretation, Joseph responded, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Gen. 41:16 ESV).[4] God revealed the dream’s interpretation to Joseph. God also gave Joseph the right approach to prepare for the famine that would develop in Egypt, which provides yet another example of situational revelation. Daniel also sought God for an answer to know and interpret the dream of a king. After time in prayer with his companions, Daniel received knowledge of both the dream itself and the interpretation of the dream to share with the king (Dan. 2:16-24, 31-45). Daniel made the point clear that his knowledge came as a revelation from God, when he said, “this mystery has been revealed to me” (Dan. 2:30).[5]

Daniel also made it clear that God was giving him the answer to a difficult problem that no one else could resolve. When he answered the king, Daniel said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days […]” (Dan 2:27-28 ESV).[6] God revealed mysteries to Daniel and He desires to work the same way with His people today.

In the Bible, God also gave others like Joseph and Esther answers to tough problems that no one else could solve and that no one else was in a position to solve. They received specific directions and revelation from God in unique situations that required partnership with Him to navigate. Each of these three advised the leadership of nations; they were not leaders of churches, or synagogues or a temple. God revealed and convicted each of these people to take the action needed. The book of Esther does not even mention the name of God, but He is the clear orchestrator of events. People face difficult problems today in their work, no matter what kind of work they pursue. God still desires to help resolve those unique problems and to give revelatory wisdom to His people. While work is not solely about solving difficult problems, it is certainly something that God often uses to glorify His name.

Working with God through prophetic, special and situational revelation is clearly much more than simply applying principles. It requires a deep intimate connection to God. To be clear, this type of revelation is not in any way equated with the inspired Word of God, or an absolute controlling “must-do” for the believer. In each of the examples provided, they could have chosen not to act with the wisdom and knowledge they had. However, each of them did choose to partner with God in their unique situations, which resulted in the expanding of His Kingdom’s influence on earth and brought glory to His name. Christ-followers are called to do the same today.

God still works through unique revelation to His people. It is not revelation of new truth, but revelation of wisdom for the time at hand that is always in line with His Word. The right application of knowledge for what can often be complicated and difficult circumstances. With God’s direction, the people in biblical examples were able to take the perfect action that was needed, and with God’s direction, His people can do the same today.


[1] David P. Melvin, “Revelation,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), electronic ed., no pp. available.

[2] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), electronic ed., no pp. available.

[3] David P. Melvin, “Revelation,” electronic ed., no pp. available.

[4] Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Gen. 41:16.

[5] Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Dan. 2:30.

[6] Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Dan. 2:27-28.

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