Why Does God Not Reveal Himself?

I engaged in a discussion with a group of atheists the other day in response to one of the group’s members asking why God does not reveal Himself in an obvious way if He is real. Then, the atheist claimed, all witnesses would believe. At first glance that sounds rational, doesn’t it? How many times have each of us either longed to see a sign from God or directly asked for a sign? How often do we pray and yearn for a sign that God is listening? As the seeds of doubt sprout in our minds, perhaps we need just a small sign to give us comfort that what we believe is real. Is that too much to ask of God? We can empathize with the atheist’s question, can’t we? And yet, the Bible shows God revealing Himself to the world time and time again to no avail.

God reveals Himself in nature so that man is without excuse.

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 people are without excuse.

Romans 1:20.

Yet many look at the wonder of nature and feel nothing. God led the Jews out of Egypt in a pillar of fire and smoke and parted the Red Sea, and yet many Jews still turned from Him. Jesus came in the flesh and performed miracles, and people still did not believe. So how many ways will we demand that God reveal Himself? Hasn’t He already demonstrated that the world rejects His revelation?

Below is a clip from the initial question posed by the atheist:

I asked my preacher friend the other day a question that gave him pause; I don’t think he had ever thought of it. I asked him why, if God was omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, without beginning or ending, and desperate to get man’s attention, so that man could be saved – why doesn’t he reveal himself NOW, in a way that is unmistakable? Why not use today’s technology? Technology that can send internet messages around the world simultaneously. Why not take control of all the computer monitors and TV screens and simply “REVEAL” Himself? Why leave mankind with such shoddy evidence, i.e., disputed, ancient texts that are full of mistakes, contradictions, forgeries, and un-original platitudes. This is the best that the Creator of the Universe can provide, as His only (perfect, according to some) means for reaching humans with this most infinitely, important message? Really?

My good, Christian friend just looked at me for a second and said – “That’s a good question.”

My initial response was to quote the following scripture:

24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

John 10.

In the foregoing passage, Jesus was in the flesh performing miracles, and yet the Jews still did not believe and demanded proof. In fact, they asked Jesus a startlingly similar question as the atheist.

ATHEIST:

[W]hy doesn’t he reveal himself NOW, in a way that is unmistakable?

JEWS:

How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

It gives you chills, doesn’t it, when you find yourself inside a Bible story?

As you might expect, the atheists rejected anything from the Bible. They wanted reason. ‘You cannot prove the Bible is true, so give us our reason!’ Yet to the Bible I will return.

So how does God reveal Himself today?

Are we justified in asking Him to appear again in an obvious way so that we and others will believe?

Do we need to plunk our fingers into Jesus’ wounds before we believe?

God continues to reveal Himself to the world in nature. He also reveals Himself to believers in answers to prayer, healing, miracles, angels, dreams, visions and sometimes even voices. God doesn’t appear to everyone in the same manner. And many times He reveals Himself and is still not seen.

But far and away the biggest method God reveals Himself is by the Holy Spirit. And by the Spirit we know that God is real. The Bible tells us very plainly that faith comes from the Holy Spirit. [Please see my article titled, “A Tangled Dance: the Will and the Holy Spirit,” for an expanded discussion of the role of the Holy Spirit in the mechanics of faith.] Briefly, scripture says that those without the Spirit cannot submit to God nor understand the Gospel:

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Romans 8:7.

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:3.

He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.

John 6:65.

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6.

These scriptures demonstrate that no matter how God chooses to reveal Himself, those who do not have the Spirit in them will never acknowledge Him. God can take over all of the televisions of the world or send mass e-mails to all who can receive them, and yet those without the Spirit still would not believe. God has plenty of experience being denied in response to His revelation. And yet, God continues to reveal Himself, even if the world cannot see Him.

The Holy Spirit, though present among believers from the beginning, was sent into the world in a new way after Jesus was crucified and ascended into Heaven. The Holy Spirit was sent to open the eyes of the blind and to unstop the ears of the deaf. The Spirit was sent to remove from God’s people their hearts of stone and replace them with hearts of flesh. This role of the Spirit was prophesied about in the Old Testament:

“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Isaiah 35:4-5.

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 11:19-20.

Before His ascension into Heaven, Jesus told the disciples about the coming Holy Spirit:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

. . . .

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14.

7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

John 16.

Notice that Jesus said the Spirit was already living among the disciples and yet would be “in” them as well in the near future. There was an “already” as well as a “not yet.” The Spirit was among them already, both in the form of Jesus and as Spirit, but Jesus was “not yet” living inside them until after He ascended into Heaven and He indwelt them by the “Spirit of truth.” Jesus said in the passages above that He would not return until judgment day but that the Spirit of truth was coming, who would reveal Jesus to those “whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:39.

The Spirit Jesus talked about in the above passages came upon the disciples at Pentecost, which is described in Acts 2. The Spirit empowered the disciples to spread the Gospel to all corners of the Earth. By the Spirit, they performed miracles, and many believed and were added to the number of the Church. In Acts 2, Peter addressed the crowd of people around him telling them to repent and be baptized. And the Holy Spirit was then given to all the believers, who empowered them to spread the Gospel.

The Spirit of truth opens the eyes of the blind and makes the believer stand firm in Christ:

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22.

And here is an amazing message: those who have faith in Jesus know by that faith that God has revealed Himself and Jesus to them. They know this because only by the Spirit are they able to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord.” 1 Corinthians 12:3.

So, what do we learn from all of this? That no matter how many different open and obvious ways God reveals Himself to the world, it will continue to reject Him. Therefore, there is no reason for Jesus to appear again in the flesh or for God to reveal Himself in another obvious way to the world. Jesus ascended into Heaven not to return again until His Second Coming. Until then, while we do not see Him, we know Him by the Spirit that was poured out on His people.

So for those who believe, God has revealed Himself to them through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. And by that Spirit, the believer is to spread the Good News to the far reaches of the Earth. By sharing Jesus, the Spirit then works on the hearer who has been called by God and given to Jesus (see John 6, 10).

As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:15.

While the world will always reject Jesus, God reveals Himself to His people by the Holy Spirit. By their faith, believers have confidence that God is real. If believers continue to demand proof, are they any better than doubting Thomas, who proclaimed: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe”?  John 20:25. And how did Jesus respond to Thomas?

Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.

John 20:27.

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36 thoughts on “Why Does God Not Reveal Himself?

  1. Thank God He does reveal Himself. He knew man from the beginning from the inside out. Saying the Bible contracts itself does not negate the fact that God has revealed Himself to man. Reading the Bible from the beginning, I just got through Numbers. As the Israelites traveled through the wilderness, God performed many miracles and wonders. Yet, every time they arrived at a difficult juncture, they wanted to go back to Egypt. The coming of Christ, death and resurrection was a way for God to give us what we need to help our unbelief. And yet, it is still not enough. There will always be those who will find fault with believing in the one true God. I have come to the conclusion that I will share the gospel and each individual has the choice, free will to say yes. This is a great post regarding God revealing Himself and yes, I believe it because the Holy Spirit in me resonates with the Word.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is exactly what we are called to do. The Bible demonstrates that God opens people’s eyes in response to their hearing the message.

      As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

      . . . .

      20 And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”

      21 But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”

      Romans 10.

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  2. God reveals himself to me every day. When trials present themselves, I turn my eyes upon him. There are times I know right away that he has his hand on the situation and takes care of it. I smile and give thanks…Praise God so much!. Other times I might not hear from him right away, but I lean hard into my faith and know he will take care of things according to his plan. I appreciate the scripture you quote. I read the bible, but I get more out of reading fellow bloggers to get their perspective, which opens my minds to explore deeper. Thank you so much! Blessings!

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  3. to echo the commentator above, yes thank God, that God does indeed reveal Himself—to each of us…
    And oh so like a millennial sounding individual to want it to come via use of technology!!! A sure sign someone may need to unplug for a bit!
    We know the panic that sets in when our computers succumb to a malicious virus… or worse… is taken hostage by those now demanding ransom..So it should be no wonder that I almost laughed out loud when your questioner posed the wonderment as to why wouldn’t this all powerful God of ours not utilize something so current, every life sapping, and trendy as say the internet, or post a tweet, or imagine God’s Instagram…. see my eyes rolling in my head…
    God, the God of both Heaven and Earth…He who is far greater than any of man’s inventions…ie technology…or greater than man himself (I know it is hard for some to grasp that…)
    does indeed revel to reveal Himself—and as you say, humankind will continue, sadly and painfully, to reject Him, His advances and His Love—one must lose oneself in order to be open to being filled by His presence—there is not enough room inside for our ego and pride and the blood of the Lamb…

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    1. Yes, there is a manner in which God reveals to all and an manner in which He reveals only to a few. God reveals Himself to all through nature, by His coming in the flesh, by scripture, and by the call of the Gospel message. But “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. For this reason, God specially reveals Himself via the Holy Spirit to those He calls to Jesus. (John 6, 10).

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    1. Yes. It puts a believer in a weird position, because he is basically telling the nonbeliever that he will never believe unless God opens his eyes to see Christ. Very challenging, of course I would never lead with that when spreading the Gospel, LOL. This is solid food believers toss about. Nonbelievers need milk.

      “11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5.

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  4. Great post. Going to post on twitter, this needs to be read. Don’t forget Luke 16:31- “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

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  5. First, thanks for coming by and giving me a look. I will be following and look forward to much more like this one! Well reasoned and written! A couple books to suggest that you might enjoy; “Killing Christians” by…??? Rats! Jesus appearing in dreams to Muslims in the Middle East at this time. And “The Exodus Case” by Dr. Lennart Moller. A study of archeology that lends support to a literal reading of Exodus.

    While these books won’t prove the Bible to people who won’t listen anyway, they make a great starter to get the ball rolling.

    Again, I liked this article a lot and will be reading through your archives as well as following current posts!

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    1. Thank you! I will check out those books. I find myself in atheist discussions a lot. They generally won’t accept anything but “logic.” I always find it interesting how they quickly laugh at religion but their faith in natural creation certainly doesn’t match human logic. They sure don’t see it that way though. Always an interesting ride. I look forward to your posts as well. Thanks for visiting.

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  6. As a believer, I’ve asked myself this same question and have had this same discussion with my wife. Even though I ask these questions, I have often felt the holy spirit inside and know he is there. It is such a distinctive feeling. IF it came to me through technology, I would not believe it. But the holy spirit reveals himself in ways that are unexpected and personal. That is what makes it real (at least to me). I’m also often surprised when the holy spirit is revealed through others that, at first glance, appear downtrodden, poor, and outcast. Often it is these outcasts of society that have a deep joy in their hearts and offer a “God bless you,’ as I walk by. Hmm, I wonder, could they be angels? Sent her to save me, when I’m thinking I should help them? Great post!

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  7. What a wonderfully written post! Thanks for all of the scripture references. I’m looking forward to reading more posts that will sharpen my faith. “Iron sharpens iron.” By the way, thanks for following Spotlight!
    Blessings on you and your family.

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  8. Being a former atheist, this is a question I’ve given some thought to. A closely related question is “Why does God allow suffering?”. I believe both have the same answer: If God intervenes directly, our free will is negated. An entire universe was created with the purpose of allowing intelligent beings to arise and reach the point where they are truly good. To presume that God could intervene directly without compromising that purpose is truly arrogant on the part of your atheist friend. Just because one can do something, doesn’t mean one should; just because a man can’t understand why intervening would be an even greater evil doesn’t mean it isn’t.

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    1. How do you reach the conclusion that God doesn’t intervene directly? What is the point of prayer then? What is the point of the Holy Spirit? What about Romans 8 and 9? What about the references to God being a potter and reforming His people? What about spiritual gifts? All of these are examples of God intervening directly. He is not what some used to describe Him as the “Clockmaker,” who creates everything, sets it in motion, then leaves it alone to function. Example after example shows God intervening directly. All of the Old Testament clearly shows God intervening over and over.

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      1. I reach my conclusion via logic. Why didn’t God intervene when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima? Because we were given agency to do both good and evil. I don’t find this contradictory, because what Paul is talking about in Romans is subtle, not overt. True, in the OT, Yahweh overtly intervenes. I personally read the OT allegorically rather than literally, because I believe that a God who literally ordered women and children to be slaughtered would be evil. I believe in the God of Paul, the God who is synonymous with love. Prayer and spiritual gifts are examples of people reaching out to God and tapping into Spirit, neither of which are interventions that impinge upon free choice.

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        1. Recall Paul’s trip along the road to Damascus? Did God not directly intervene in Paul’s life, effectively turning Him from persecution of Christians to faith in Jesus?

          What is the Holy Spirit but one part of the Trinity? When people “tap into” the Spirit, this is God intervening. God tells us He responds to our prayers, such as a miraculous healing. The Spirit intervenes directly in response to prayer. Same with spiritual gifts–these are “fruits of the Spirit”–i.e., God acting though the believer or empowering the believer by the Holy Spirit. Time and time again scripture describes the Holy Spirit moving within His people, dwelling within their hearts, teaching them His laws, opening their eyes and unstopping their ears. Paul even tells us that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3. How is that not direct intervention?

          As far as the Old Testament, I agree that much there is allegory, but not all. But even that which is allegory, bear in mind that the story remains a representation of how God interacts with His people. So whether you believe Jonah was literally swallowed by a fish or not, the point of the story is that God intervenes to accomplish His will. He was sending Jonah to a people that Jonah did not want to go to, and Jonah rebelled, but God intervened and turned him back to God’s path. Whether allegory or not, the message is clear–God intervenes.

          Logic can only get one so far when it comes to faith in unknown and unseen and unfathomable.

          I agree that God does allow man to exercise his will, which results in a lot of evil. At the same time, it is clear that God does intervene. For example, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” This is not an example of God overcoming man’s will, but it is an example of God intervening, even if just giving the way out.

          So, I don’t think anyone could honestly read the Bible and conclude that God does not intervene. He clearly does. Virtually all scripture demonstrates this, and truly all scripture if you accept it as direct revelation from God. What we don’t know is why God may intervene in one instance and not in another. But those questions involve the mind of God to which we are not privy. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29.

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          1. I agree. I would classify what happened to Paul as a revelation, which is an overt act from the point of view of the person it is given to. I think what your atheist friend was asking for was an overt act observable in the physical world. I.e. an objective act, rather than a subjective one. Jesus casting a demon out of a man would be subjective, in that only the man would know what was truly different in his mind, whereas curing leprosy would be objective, in that a medical examination could prove that the virus had been killed off in the (former) leper.

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  9. Excellent post! Two other relevant scriptures to consider regarding God’s revelation are Deut. 4:29 (“But if from there you seek the lord your God, you will find him IF you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”) and Jer. 29:13 (“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”). The fact that God does not reveal Himself to those who lack a sincere and whole-hearted desire to know Him is an act of mercy on His part. God’s word makes it clear that on the Day of Judgement, all will be responsible for what they know. The appeal of atheism is that it “frees” a person from the “constraints” of the requirements of God’s laws. Disbelief in the existence of God allows a person to become their own god, (the thought being, “I will decide what is good and evil, and I will do what I want without answering to a power higher than myself”) whether they would or even could acknowledge having this desire or not. Such a person would inevitably be disappointed to actually receive a sign, because if they were to accept it, they would be required to change how they live. The man or woman who does not believe in God is making a choice to live for the enjoyments they can obtain in THIS life, and God in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom honors their choice. He allows them to pursue their own happiness and be “free” from the responsibilities of His calling in this present age because He knows the day is coming when ALL will be confronted by His reality. The second resurrection will be the day they will receive their sign, for this will be the time when they come before His throne.

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