A Plumbline for Assessing Revelation
by Lyn Packer
In light of recent events that have happened in Christendom, people have asked me about some of the things happening to people in revelatory encounters and whether they are real, valid and scriptural; and how we know.
Revelatory encounters are certainly on the increase in the Body of Christ and many people are having, and are claiming to have had, Throne room encounters, heavenly encounters with angels and people, revelations regarding the revealing of the sons of God, courtroom of Heaven encounters, and more. Many of those experiences are legal, real and valid but some are not and we must learn how to distinguish between the two types.
In this article I want to drop a plumbline for judging the validity of the revelatory experiences we may have. (For those that don't know, a plumbline is a cord weighted with lead that is used in the building industry to check that vertical structures are truly vertical. It is used symbolically to refer to the divine standard against which God, the builder of his people, tests and judges them. It also symbolises the standards by which God will rebuild His people. Zech 1:16; Zech 4:9-10 1)
The base plumblines for assessing our revelations are these –
- The nature and character of the Godhead - God is love, He is good, His mercy triumphs over His judgement; He is faithful, kind, holy, righteous and much more.
- What scripture shows us about God, His ways and His plans for mankind.
- The finished work of the Cross and what that resulted in, as shown in Scripture – God's plans for the restoration of mankind to his original status and into the image of Christ; the healing, wholeness, righteousness, holiness etc that the work of the Cross accomplished.
- What scripture shows us about the way we should walk out our salvation and life in Christ.
- What scripture shows us are acceptable experiences and what aren't.
- Love - receiving it, becoming it and living it out. If our revelations do not include this work in us then we are nothing, have nothing and do no lasting good (1 Cor 13:2,3).
Other Keys for Assessing Revelatory Encounters
The things listed below are also an important part of the process of assessing revelatory encounters, based on the plumblines above.
- Any revelation that denies the Godhead as being who they are, denies that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, or denies that He is above all other principalities and powers is a deceptive one. Jesus is not simply a man, a prophet, a healer, a man of light and goodness. He is the embodiment and full revelation of the Godhead. He and the Father are one and He is one with Holy Spirit, not less than or subservient to either, nor they to Him. They operate in the fullness of oneness, honouring each other and their different functional roles within that.
- Realize that all peoples' encounters are subjective (every time) – that is, how we see them and understand them is influenced by personal feelings, tastes, opinions and perceptions, our backgrounds and woundedness from life experiences, our knowledge of the true nature of God, the finished work of the Cross, our knowledge and correct understanding of scripture, and more.
- Realise that our knowledge is at best incomplete – "For we know in part and prophesy in part"…1 Cor 13:9 – 12. None of us can claim full knowledge or understanding, so we must be willing to submit our experiences for weighing and assessment. On our very best days and in our most deep revelations we still only know in part, and we will sometimes get our interpretations wrong. No individual knows all truth; they are not God. We do not stand alone as islands of revelation – our revelations together should build toward a truer picture of who God is and who we are in Christ, like jigsaw pieces do towards the full revelation of the big picture.
- We are told in Scripture to judge or weigh prophecy and (by inference) prophetic revelation (1 Cor 14:29). That judging or assessing is done by others, not just by ourselves. On our own we cannot have anything but a subjective opinion of what something means because of the life lenses we look through. We must therefore be willing to submit our revelations to others who are mature believers and leaders and be willing to be called to account for them. Prov 11:14 says "Where there is no counsel people fail, but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."
- We are called to walk in love and it is ultimately by our love that we are distinguished from all others (John 13:34,35), not by our experiences. Others will sometimes disagree with our interpretations of our revelations, and sometimes we will disagree with their interpretations; that's life and that's different people looking at the same thing through different lenses. But even if we disagree we are called to not break relationship but to continue to live in love (1 John 2: 9-11). Breaking relationship and love is never the right way to deal with something. This does not mean you have to still be buddy buddy besties, but love is a heart stance that refuses to let go of God's best dreams for the other person and continues to act and speak in an honouring way to them, and about them.
- We are to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3). Not all revelation comes from God; not even all the good-looking, good feeling stuff. The demonic are well able to disguise themselves as being good and give us deceptively good experiences (2 Cor 11:14-15). Just because you supposedly talked to a historical figure or saint does not mean it was that person or that the experience was a valid experience from God (although it very well may have been). God took Jesus into an experience where He talked to two men who had passed into eternity – Moses and Elijah, so it can happen – Matt 17:1-6. Can those you meet in an experience call Jesus their Lord? Do they inspire deep reverence and worship for themselves (warning bell) or do they actively dissuade you from that, and turn you to worshipping Jesus? Do they invite you to continue accessing them for revelation or do they turn you to Christ in the way they speak and act? Does what you're experiencing line up with what is revealed in scripture about God and the Kingdom?
- True revelation from God brings humility and pruning into our lives. In Scripture we see that true Heavenly experiences brought humility into the person's life who had them; and that also while having them they saw aspects of their nature that needed to be corrected. (Isa 6:1-5; Acts 22:6-10; 2 Cor 12:1-10) We cannot come face to face with the goodness, mercy, grace, purity, righteousness and holiness of the King and His kingdom without seeing areas of our lives and mindsets that need adjustment. That doesn't mean it needs to be a serious, or joy-lacking experience; even a fun-filled true Kingdom experience will have the effect of working in us humility and pruning us as we see where our lives and thought patterns do not align with the Lord and His kingdom.
- True revelation should bring fruit that is measureable and lasts. An experience may be real but if it has no measurable fruit in our life, or the lives of others, it is either an invalid or wasted experience. The experiences we have should bear good Kingdom fruit in our lives; things like causing us to worship and love the Godhead in a greater way, to be in awe of them - their nature, character, love etc. Those experiences should set us free in areas from bondages, and wrong mindsets. They should increase our love for other people, our respect for scripture etc. They should end up with us walking in a greater release of Kingdom realities on earth, e.g. healing the sick etc. Experiences without measureable fruit become self-focused at best, and narcissistic deceptions at worst. It is not all about you and your experience; it never was and never will be. The Lord's plan for your experiences in Him is way bigger than you, even though you will be blessed beyond measure in them.
- Your experiences say nothing about your spirituality, character or your maturity. They are not commendations and recommendations of you to others. They are not to promote you in your ministry. They simply say you had an experience and that you have a good Father who loves His children to experience revelation about Him and His kingdom.
- Too many of us take literally what is often symbolic. We must turn to Holy Spirit for the right interpretations of our experiences; it is part of His role to lead us into truth. All through scripture we see that very few of the visual revelations people experienced were literal in their meaning; they were mostly symbolic. They are given like this because we have been invited into a walk of dependency on the Holy Spirit, not on our mind and intellect. So we must ask the Lord for understanding and for His wisdom; our own understanding will in most cases translate our experiences wrongly because we think from a human perspective with human, and often worldly or carnal, thinking. All too often I meet people who have wrongly interpreted their revelations and have come to believe something that is not consistent with what scripture shows us or is consistent with the nature and character of the Godhead.
- We are called to be led by the Holy Spirit in all areas and that includes accessing revelation – even though we are called to access the things of the Kingdom by faith, rather than from just a sovereign download of revelation and experience, we should still be asking Holy Spirit if this is what He has for us to access at this time. Even in the midst of an experience we need to be led by Him, not just by our desires and wants. Often in the midst of an experience I will see something and want to investigate it, yet on asking Him He has said something like "Not this time, that's not what you're here for at the moment." Some might be tempted to think that that is staying in a place of immaturity but it is not immaturity, it is staying in a place of dependency, and that is far different. Immaturity is doing your own thing, your own way, irrespective of others and how it affects them.
- God can move extra biblically – in other words He can show us things that aren't in scripture. Throughout scripture we see many firsts and new things being revealed. God often shows things and then gives understanding later, but that doesn't mean all new revelation is from Him. And we cannot afford to blindly think it is. Even the elect can be deceived (Mar 13:22; 2 Tim 3) All revelations must be weighed and assessed by the things outlined above, especially by the overall counsel of Scripture, whether it lines up with the work of the Cross, and it must be judged by mature New Covenant Apostles, Prophets and Theologians. Sometimes that can take time to work out and the theology regarding new things can take years to form. Even in Scripture wisdom was applied when they said in Acts 5:37-39 …"if this counsel or work is of men it will come to nothing. But if it is of God you cannot overthrow it, you may even find yourself fighting against God." So we should not be quick to jump to judgment and call something heresy (after all we all have some wrong beliefs about the Lord and His kingdom to some degree). But when God does release new revelation into the Body of Christ we must be willing also to move forward in it, if it is proved to be a true revelation from Him, and not pull back and kick out because it doesn't fit our preconceived ideas of how God does things.
- We are called to grow up into maturity in Christ, into His image, not just into ethereal experience. Jesus is our example and what we are to be becoming like. He was both incredibly heavenly minded and intensely practical – He was not some Christian mystic lost in some esoteric experience that was wasted on Himself alone. His experiences had measurable fruit that lasted in His life and in the lives of others. We may have experiences, and even teach from them, but if they do not have the effect of changing us into the image of Christ then they are invalid and wasted experiences.
Experience is a vital part of growing, and all life is based on both experience and understanding; but if our experiences take the place of what Scripture tells us are part of God's will for our lives, then we are out of line. If they do not lead to us releasing the Kingdom into earth in tangible, measureable ways – living a greater outworking of love, honouring our brothers and sisters in Christ, feeding the poor, helping the widows and broken, bringing healing to those who are wounded physically and emotionally, discipling nations etc. then they become self absorbed experiences that do nothing except to heighten knowledge and possibly foster a feeling of spiritual superiority.
God is calling us to grow up into maturity, to be those who rightly divide the Word of truth, to rightly interpret our experiences, and to become mature believers who walk in true revelation and understanding that leads to the establishing of His Kingdom in the earth. And we are, albeit slowly; around the world there are people having genuine heavenly encounters that are resulting in lives and communities being radically changed. Let's continue to move forward in that holding up the plumbline of Truth to our encounters and then moving forward into all God is releasing with confidence because our revelations have been weighed and tested and proved true.
1. Plumbline - https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionary-of-bible-themes/7254-plumb-line