One of the Interpretive Tools which is generally accepted for a proper understanding of the Bible is that of a Progressive Revelation defined as follows:
There is a progressive revelation evidenced in Scripture such that our understanding of God and His purposes both creative and redemptive, become clearer and fuller as we progress through the pages of Scripture.
This is undoubtedly sound, however I personally prefer the related concept of an Unfolding Revelation.
Somehow the term 'progressive' conveys a linear development whereas unfolding conjures up a more multi-dimensional image: I picture it like a map being unfolded:
With each unfolding, the territory is displayed more fully until with the closing of the Canon – the book of Revelation – the map is completely unfolded and the entire landscape lies comprehensively revealed before us.
This is no two dimensional affair. It certainly has Geographical Dimensions : The margins of the map extend off into infinity, yet there is a geographical focus: the area known as the Middle East and particularly those territories whose shores are washed by the waters of the Mediterranean. It is a relief map which includes mountains and rivers, forests and desert wildernesses. Some parts lie well below sea level. The area comprising modern day Israel is the focus of the focus. Someone has described this as ‘the Cockpit of the Universe.’
Dominating the entire landscape is a cross, a Roman execution stake, outside the City of Jerusalem and hard by it an empty tomb, both occupied some 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ – Son of God and Son of Man.
But then there are Historical Dimensions: There are people moving around on the relief map, different nationalities, some powerful, some weak, some rich some poor, kings and vassals, heroes and villains - a motley crew. There is no shortage of bloodshed.
Again it is the Hebrew people and their patriarchal ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who get much of the press, for it is from this nation that Jesus the Messiah is born. His incarnation, His death and resurrection dominate the narrative and indeed even our secular dating system extends backwards and forwards from these events.
Leading on from the revelation of God in the person of Jesus, the narrative now describes how the ‘Good News’ of salvation in Him spreads out from the nation of Israel to penetrate all the nations of the world.
Reading the prophetic books, we find history telescoped such that in a moment of time we glimpse God’s perspective – God who lives outside of time – we see history as it were, laid out on a table before us.
Overarching both the Geographical and the Historical we have the Spiritual Dimension: This is woven intimately and inextricably into the Geographical and Historical dimensions, for the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His dealings with mankind.
This then is the concept of an unfolding revelation, each part of the map is important, nothing may be excised, for it all serves to reveal to us the story of mercy triumphing over justice in the person of Jesus Christ.