Defining Progressive Revelation
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God, Ephesians 3:16-19.
A few days ago, I debunked the idea that somehow the English Language has revealed things that had not been revealed in the Greek or Hebrew. We hear that said from time to time and it is a frequent criticism of King James Bible believers. In actuality, what has happened is that the King James Translators in their ability to understand what they read with the understanding that God gives, were able to then write that understanding into the words of the King James Bible.
Someone with a dull understanding of the original languages that barely rises above the the ability to look up words in a lexicon will look up the passage in their plodding word by word crawl. They then look and see that the King James Bible has a far more vivid and in depth look at that same verse or passage. They mistakenly assume that the King James Bible has embellished the passage above the original language. It has not. You can be sure that the translators themselves saw a far more embellished passage when they read in the original languages. Because they were competent in the language, they were able to get the full force of the passage as God meant it. By the grace of our God, they were able to then render that same passage so that the English speaking person could have the same full understanding. There is no additional revelation.
Now that we have dismissed the idea that the King James Bible has given us more than what had originally been written, what is progressive revelation? Progressive revelation is the accumulated understanding of doctrine that the body of believers have garnered over the years, which earlier expositors and preachers of the word of God had not seen nor understood. It has always been in the bible, but because precept must be upon precept, and because line must be upon line, there are doctrines and understandings that just were not revealed to men in earlier times.
An example of that is the doctrine of the King James Bible itself. When the Revised Version first came out, men like Spurgeon, Moody, Larkin, Scofield and many more were fooled. I have been listening to messages written by A. W. Tozer read by another man and I have been moved by what he said. He evidently had power with God. Nevertheless, even though he cautioned about some changes in new bibles, he did not see through the deception. In fact, it was the very rare preacher who saw through the deception of new bibles in his day.
Even though the preachers who labored between 1880 and 1980 were not straight on the bible issue, and even though they often made references to word definitions based on a faux understanding of the original languages, their labor was often fruitful. M. R. DeHaan, Oliver Greene and many many more preachers never understood the infallibility of the King James Bible. Nevertheless, they left behind a field of converts who served God faithfully.
From 1980 until today, and in a few cases, well before, there have been many books written which have effectively demonstrated the devilishness of the new bibles and effectively revealed the purity of our English text. Since the 1980s, preachers who clung to the old historical understanding of scripture, slowly lost power with God. The Holy Ghost using scriptures that have always been in the bible, gave men understanding that other generations clearly had not understood. God had winked at their ignorance, but I solemnly warn whosoever reads this, he will wink at it no more.
I am not against reading the saints of old. I know men who are trapped in reading 17th and 18th century Puritans. They have less liberty than almost any other preachers I know. That is not said to diminish the holy lives and understanding that those Puritans lead. I have been often reproved by their writings. If I want to have power with God, I need to let God progressively reveal the word of God to me and I need to preach from the cutting edge of my study. Reading old cook books doesn't compare with eating fresh bread.
As a sobering thought, in Lorraine Boettner's very good book on the Millennium in which he describes the various theories of the millennium, he points out that if premillennialism is indeed true, it is odd that it is almost non-existent prior to the 20th century. That made it difficult for him to take it seriously. I pity my friends who are caught up in "isms" from the Reformation.