Special Revelation is found (ever since the completion of the Canon) only in the Bible. “Special revelation discloses God’s plan redemption. It tells of the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection – things that cannot be learned through a study of the natural realm.”
In Old Testament times, God spoke to people directly on occasion: through dreams, signs, the casting of lots, and theophany, which is a visible manifestation of the invisible God (such as the burning bush; or the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire).
PROPHETS AND APOSTLES
“The primary way in which God communicated with the people of Israel was through the prophets,” who “were designated by God to be His spokesmen to His people.” They “were human beings like us. They used human language, but because they received information from God, their words functioned as vessels or conduits of divine revelation. That is why they began their prophecies with the words, “Thus says the LORD.” Their words were written down and became the written Word of God.
“Of course, not everyone in ancient Israel who claimed to be a prophet was, in fact, a prophet.” The Israelites were to apply three tests to determine who was a true prophet. “The first test was a divine call, which is why the prophets were zealous to show they had been called directly by God and commissioned for the task.” The second test “was the presence of miracles. Not all the prophets in the Old Testament performed miracles, but their ministry was authenticated at the outset by an outburst of miracles that began with Moses and continued in the days of Elijah, and the other prophets followed in that line.” The third test “was fulfillment; in other words, did the things that the prophets announced come to pass?” [DF: “If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20; cf. Deut. 13:1-3).]
“In the New Testament, the counterpart to the prophet was the Apostle. The prophets and the Apostles form the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20). The chief mark of an Apostle was that he had received a direct call by Christ. The term Apostle refers to one who is sent or commissioned with the authority of the one doing the sending. Jesus said to His apostles, ‘Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives me receives Him who sent Me” (Matt. 10:40).”
“Through both the prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament, we have been given a written record of special revelation…. Jesus left no manuscript bearing His signature; He was the author of no book. Everything we know about Him is contained in the New Testament record that has come to us through the work of His apostles. They are His emissaries, who were given His authority to speak on his behalf.”
THE INCARNATE WORD
Jesus Christ is the Incarnate Word [John 1:1, 14], the One who embodies the very Word of God [Heb. 1:1-2]. Jesus said to His disciples: “he who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “The chief of all Apostles, the One whom God chose as His ultimate vehicle of self-disclosure, is Christ Himself. In Christ we meet the fullness of the revelation of the Father, and it is only through Scripture that we meet Christ.”
[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]