APPROVED UNTO GOD
DREAMS AND VISIONS
By Jeannette Haley
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for
They shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8
Anything these days pertaining to the subject of dreams and vision should be accompanied by a huge sign that reads: CAUTION – to proceed any further can be dangerous. I liken it to standing waist deep in the ocean with the drop-off into the dark abyss on one side, and nothing but shallow water on the other. Turn one way and you’re in over your head and will drown; turn the other way and you’re not going to get very far. On top of that, sharks lurk in both extremes. Thus it is with the debate that often rages about whether dreams and visions are for today, or not. Since Satan works in extremes, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will direct our steps towards truth and wisdom, and anchor our thoughts in the immovable Rock of ages.
We know that God used dreams and visions throughout the Bible to communicate to people instruction, warnings, counsel and prophecy. The dreams of several Old Testament people are recorded in Scripture. They include King Abimelech of Gerar (Genesis 20:3), Jacob (Genesis 28:12, 31:10), Laban (Jacob’s uncle, Genesis 31:24), Joseph (Genesis 37:5, 9), an imprisoned butler and baker (Genesis 40), Egypt’s Pharaoh (Genesis 41), Midianites who would soon be conquered by Gideon (Judges 7), King Solomon (1Kings 3:5), King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Daniel 2:3, 4) and the prophet Daniel (Daniel 7).
The great divide, as I call it, in the debate concerning dreams and visions is between Genesis and Pentecost. Pre-Pentecost proponents declare that all dreams and visions for God’s people ended at Pentecost, and that is that, with the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32a, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered.” Peter quoted this portion of Scripture on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17, 18).
On the other side are those who staunchly dig in and maintain that these Scriptures are futuristic and are for the Kingdom Age (Millenium reign of Christ) only. You can stand on your head for a week and still not be able to come up with a contextual biblical explanation for this one.
Since we who are alive on planet earth at this time are clearly between these two points, that is, the historical first outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the future Kingdom age on earth, we have a choice to make. We can either believe that God still can, and does, speak to His people through, not only the indwelling Holy Spirit, but on occasion, and as He sovereignly chooses, through dreams and visions; or, we can decide to believe that, because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, God never gives His people any dreams or visions, ever. End of discussion.
But, is it? Anyone with even a smidgeon of knowledge about the New Testament knows that many “post-Pentecostal” people were given dreams and visions from God, and these were believers who also operated in the gifts of the Spirit. Consider Ananias. Acts 9:20 tells us, “And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.” What if Ananias had come to the conclusion that the days of dreams and visions from the Lord were a thing of the past? Thank God he wasn’t as some today who arrogantly clothe themselves in a type of “church-doctrines, traditions, teachings-of-men, and don’t think outside of the box straightjacket!”
What about Acts 10:1-8 which tells us about Cornelius who “saw in a vision an angel of God coming in to him” and instructing him what to do? And, what about Peter who “fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened”? (Read Acts 10:10-20). How does one explain away the visions that the Apostle Paul had? He had several visions in his missionary career. One vision sent him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). Another encouraged him to keep preaching in Corinth (Acts 18:9-11). God also gave him visions and revelations of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-6). Finally, there is the Apostle John who, while exiled on the Island of Patmos received the vision of the Book of Revelation. John’s vision explains in greater detail some of the events that God had shown to Daniel. Therefore, Joel 2:28-32 was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, is still being fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled.
The difference between dreams and visions is that dreams occur when a person is asleep and visions occur when a person is awake. Since Satan is proficient at imitation how does a real Christian know if what he or she dreams or sees in the spirit are of God or not? We need to always discern the source of any dream or vision we may have. First, a dream from God will stand out from any normal dreams a person may have. It will be definite in its impression on your mind and soul; it will be vivid, compelling, and unforgettable. It will move you to press into God in order to understand if it is literal, symbolical or both; and, it will be so deeply embedded into your very being, and impossible to forget as opposed to normal dreams, that you will know it is from God.
Keep in mind, the Holy Spirit does not impart dreams and visions to entertain us on a regular basis; rather, what He imparts into our conscious minds is ordained by the sovereignty of God for His purposes. This means dreams can be a warning, a commission, a revelation, or instruction. It has been my experience that God will confirm a dream He has given to me either through another dream that has the same elements or corresponding symbolism to it, or He will give another person the same dream at the same time. For example, a number of years ago He gave Rayola the same impactful dream three times with the same details of a future event, thus confirming that it was from God.
Born again believers who are grounded in the whole counsel of God’s Word have no problem in discerning if a dream or a vision is of God or if it’s an attack from the enemy. Everything has to be tested by the Word of God and the spirit behind it must be discerned. I have to state that warning and/or prophetic dreams, and visions, from God can bring an element of awesome fear to them because the content of such revelations is always sobering, and often shocking to our soul and spirit. But, when Satan intrudes with his version of a “dream” or “vision” the entire content is energized by an actual spirit of fear, which can result in sheer terror and even panic. God’s warning dreams are undergirded by His Spirit and Truth which, while sobering, are orderly and infused with His peace “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7.) We must always test dreams or visions (or “voices”) by the Word of God. Anything or anybody that does not agree with God’s Word should be automatically dismissed as false. Again, the spirit behind it must be discerned, you need to pray about it, and then “put it on the shelf” and wait on God concerning it, to either bring understanding to you, or bring about its fulfillment.
Today there are more false prophets cluttering the landscape than there are protesting libs and liars on the fake news channels. And, that makes up quite a multitude! False prophets, like noxious weeds, range from the obscure foxes that creep into churches, to the bolder wolves in sheep’s clothing that are looking for an opportunity to “share” their “dreams” and “visions”, complete with their own private interpretation to innocent sheep. This usually results in confusion and untold damage to souls. Sometimes “seeds of discord” are sown among the brethren (which God hates) that cause division in churches. God told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 13:1-4, “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”
The “false gods” of today that such dreamers and visionaries lead people to follow after is usually themselves. Instead of pointing people to the Word of God as their final authority, and instead of encouraging people to pray and ask the Lord if their purported “dreams” and “visions” are valid, they set themselves up as infallible “God-ordained,” “anointed” authorities that everyone must agree with, submit to, and follow. False prophets are always after a following, and therefore there is no end to their “dreams” and “visions” which are usually so lengthy, convoluted and bizarre that they could rival Sci-Fi. They act as if God is pouring out visions day and night into their heads (that only they can “interpret”) for them to post on their Facebook pages or Web Sites in order to gain not only followers, but financial support. In reality, real dreams and visions from the Lord are rare, and if and when they do occur, they are usually short and to the point. Sometimes when God’s people are going through a particularly difficult or potentially dangerous situation the Lord will give frequent warnings and guidance until the danger or situation is past, but again, the Holy Spirit is more than able to reveal specifically what people need to know or do in very short or limited content, or by a strong impression.
The question is, are there any real prophets in the Body of Christ today? No and yes. Allow me to explain. There are no prophets today comparable to the Old Testament prophets who were called by God and moved upon by His Spirit to speak for God to kings, monarchs and the people of Israel. (See 2 Peter 1:21.) Dennis Bratcher explains in his article about the prophets, “The phenomena of Old Testament prophecy can be traced historically as well as culturally. Setting aside the influences from surrounding cultures (and they were considerable), it is helpful to note the time frame in which Old Testament prophecy flourished. Even though Moses is referred to anachronistically as the paradigm of a prophet (Deut 34:10), Old Testament prophecy arose with Samuel in the eleventh century BC, and all but died out by the sixth century BC in the post-exilic era. There were a few prophets after the exile, but beginning with Ezekiel most were also priests and served a slightly different role in Israel (Haggai, Zechariah). Malachi, around 450 BC, is considered the last of the Old Testament prophets.”
False prophets that roam among the flock of God today try to dupe people into believing that they are equal in status, relevance and importance to the Old Testament prophets in that their “prophecies” are supposedly equal to biblical prophecies, and that their words are on a par with the Word of God. This is how cults are formed. Sometimes in Christian groups undiscerning people gravitate to individual “personal prophets” who always seem to be ready to give a personal “word of prophecy.” Thus we see that there are false prophets for the masses, and false prophets for individuals, but they all are under the influence of familiar spirits.
In the New Testament “Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied,” Luke 1:67.
Yet, the question still remains are there any real prophets today, or did they cease after Pentecost? The answer is yes, there are prophets in the Body of Christ according to Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:10, 14:4, but they are not in the same office, position or calling as the Old Testament prophets through whom the Holy Spirit established the Scriptures. New Testament prophecy consists of either forthtelling, which is proclaiming the Word of God in the present, such as in preaching, or foretelling which is future. Some of the other New Testament prophets were John the Baptist, the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John, Agabus (and other prophets from Jerusalem, Acts 11:27), plus certain other prophets named in Acts 13:1, Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32). Concerning prophetesses in the New Testament, Mary prophesied (Luke 1:46-55), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45) as well as the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36). Other women who prophesied were Philips four daughters (Acts 21:9-14.) Again, God, in Joel 2:28, 29 said, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” [Emphasis added.]
Therefore, in spite of all the false prophets in the world today that our Lord warned us to beware of, there are true prophets of God. They may be far and few between, but, they are not adding to, subtracting from or rewriting the Bible, nor are they seeking for a following. They are not usually well known, nor do they want to be, and they are not especially popular in either the world or in the worldly church because they only speak the truth, not what people with itching ears want to hear.
As for dreams and visions, yes, God still gives dreams and visions for His purposes, such as in the Moslem world. The reason for this is two-fold: 1) Most Muslims do not own a Bible, or have any means to hear the Gospel, and 2) they are very open to dreams and visions in their culture. This may rock some of our “doctrinal boats” but God is not limited by the neat little religious boxes man puts himself, and God, into. The Bible is very clear that where there are two or three witnesses, a thing is established, and there are ample witnesses from around the globe to establish this as being so. Furthermore, these new believers are willing to suffer rejection, persecution, and the loss of all things including family and friends. They are willing to undergo torture, and even death because of their faith in Christ. Their commitment to Jesus and the fruit of their lives bear witness to genuine conversion and salvation.
Finally, in all things we need to keep our priorities in line with God’s Word, knowing that “though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” 1 Corinthians 13:2.