Number One: GENERAL REVELATION
Although God is infinite, he has made himself known within our finite universe. He has revealed himself through creation and throughout history. He has revealed himself to the human soul as well.
God has allowed his existence to be known to men and women by their merely looking up at the sky. Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Even the earth itself tells of its maker. Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. As an artist is known by his artwork, so the creator is known by his creation.
God also reveals himself throughout human history, especially through the history of the nation of Israel. The re-creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 made many in the world scratch their heads in wonder, as once again the stage was set for Biblical prophecies to be fulfilled. Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. Acts 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
Finally, God has left his imprint on the human conscience. Humans around the globe hold certain things in high esteem—concepts like justice, mercy, compassion, heroism—while decrying other things like cowardice, thievery, murder, and lying. Romans 2:14-15 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) The Apostle Paul, when appealing to the men of Athens, even brought up lines from their own poets who spoke of a general-revelation knowledge of God, Acts 17:28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
The bottom line is that, in the end, people are without excuse when they claim there is no God. God will be vindicated in light of all he has done to make his presence known and thus encourage them to seek a relationship with him. Followers of Christ must rely upon this truth when conversing with nonbelievers about the reality of the gospel. Christians should not lose hope when they’re told, “You can’t prove God’s existence to me,” for God is already at work revealing himself over and over again to all people.
Number Two: PARTICULAR REVELATION
Just because someone may know that the president of the United States lives in Washington D.C. does not mean that someone knows the president himself. In the same way, just because God has revealed himself in creation, history, and in the human conscience, that does not mean that anyone knows God personally.
The God of the Bible has consistently made himself known in a particular fashion to humanity. From the book of Genesis, it is obvious that he desired relationship with Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and his descendants. When God revealed himself to Moses, he wanted to be on a name-to-name basis: Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” If you look, you can see that much of the Old Testament paints a picture of a creator who has intimate relationships with his people.
In the New Testament it is no different. The apostle Paul states, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (Philippians 3:10 ) The reason that Paul and others could say these things is because they knew that God had specially revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The apostle John said that Jesus was the word of God (John 1:1, 1:14, 1:18). The writer of Hebrews put it this way: Hebrews 1:1-3 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
The fact that God has revealed himself in particular through his prophets and ultimately in Jesus Christ points to his disclosure of himself through the words of the Holy Scriptures. They are the primary way that people have God revealed to them. It needs to be said, however, that God is still in the business of personally revealing himself through his son, Jesus Christ. I have heard stories from missionaries who tell of Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams and leading them on the true path of salvation. It is not just repeating the words of a “sinners prayer” that forges a relationship with the risen Christ—it is an encounter with Christ himself.