Revelation is the recognition of what is hidden or more precisely, the recognition of a mystery encompassing the Creation which in time becomes clearer.
Primordial Revelation, refers to the presence and manifestation of the divine, holy or sacred in the order of creation. People of the world have experienced the presence of the divine in stones, trees, places, animals, the sky sun, moon and stars. To primitive peoples the sky engendered in man a sense of the infinite and transcendent, a god who manifested itself in thunder, lightning, etc., a god above other gods. But this god was felt to be remote so that it was rarely prayed to. Experiences of the sacred have have been given forms in the cults of fertility and gods of agriculture and gods of the state. Due to man's fallible nature, much distortion and confusion about the reality of God came into being. God's true nature was unknown. The pagan world expressed hope in many things. The Romans, for example, worshipped the gods in hope of the temporal preservation of the Empire and in the hope obtaining immortality after death. These hopes did not arise from a future revealed by the gods and the Fall of the Roman Empire proved these hopes false. However, paganism was not completely in the dark about the future as Shillebeekx has observed, "That which was given distorted shape in these myths--projections of human experience in which grace was nevertheless obscurely active--at the same time faintly foreshadowing what was to come." (E. Schillebeeckx, OP, Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter With God, Sheed & Ward, NY, 1960, p. 10)
With the experience of Israel and Historical Revelation a new chapter of man's encounter with God begins. Revelation is still primordial in the sense that it reveals the presence of the holy in time and place yet is also different because it points to a future realization in hope. The manifestation of God to Jacob will make this abundantly clear.
Jacob was the son of Abraham. On his journey toward Haran he came upon a certain shrine as the sun was setting, so he took a stone from the shrine to use as his pillow. During the night he dreamt a stairway going from the ground to heaven with God's messengers going up and down. Suddenly the LORD was beside Jacob saying,
"I, the LORD, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you." When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, "Truly, the LORD is in this spot, although I did not know it!" In solemn wonder he cried out: "How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!" (Gn 28:13-17)
Unlike the Primordial Revelation which became distorted and based on false hopes, the Historical Revelation which began with the Hebrews, reveals a God of continuity, the same God communicated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that is, with the continuity of generations. It is a God who promises a future to the Hebrews, it is a personal God involved with the destiny of his people. It is a God who is coming into his creation culminating in the Incarnation and beyond. He is a faithful God who keeps his promises; He is the God of Hope.