What is the concept of progressive revelation as related to salvation?
Progressive revelation is the understanding that God revealed more about Himself throughout history. For example, Adam and Eve shared community with God in the Garden of Eden, yet lacked the law that came later during the time of Moses. Later still came Jesus to earth, offering salvation through faith in Him. These ways of relating to God were revealed progressively throughout history as part of God's divine plan.
But how does progressive revelation relate to salvation? Did the way to "become saved" change over time from one way to another? In addressing this issue, the author of Hebrews began his chapter on faith with these words: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation" (Hebrews 11:1-2). This makes it clear that salvation has always been by faith.
Throughout Hebrews 11, the author then retells the accounts of many Old Testament saints who were known for their righteous actions based on their faith in God. Verse 6 notes, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Again, the emphasis is on faith in God, both in His existence and His rewards to those who seek Him.
Verses 39-40 conclude, "And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect." Though these Old Testament leaders were commended for their faith, the author notes God had provided "something better for us." In other words, faith did not change, but rather the anticipated Messiah in whom faith was to be placed has now been revealed.
The following words then emphasize Jesus as the "founder and perfecter of our faith." Jesus is not something different, but both the founder and the completion of the faith of those in the Old Testament: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Other Old Testament passages affirm salvation by faith (Genesis 15:6; Joel 2:32), yet the New Testament is clear that Jesus is the Messiah and one way of salvation (John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12). It is through faith in Him that a person is saved (Romans 10:9-10).
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