Q: This may be a silly question, but I was wondering if the experiences that I heard about, or have read about Muslims seeing Jesus are real. I would like to think they are, but I don’t know how such matters work. I was hoping you could bring some type of understanding to me.
A: Your question is not silly. There is debate about whether such experiences are real or not. I can understand why some are skeptical about such incidents. However, when it comes to experiences, I must first of all keep that which is associated with spiritual matters in the right perspective. The first thing I must not do is judge them from my own understanding to avoid becoming a Thomas; rather, I must properly discern them (1 Corinthians 2:13-15).
I mentioned Thomas because he was told by the other disciples that Jesus had appeared to them (John 20:24-29). Because Thomas was in a despairing place he told them unless he personally witnessed it for himself, he would not believe it.
Thomas is a very interesting individual. As a Jew the Law instructs that within the mouths of two or three witnesses something is confirmed as being so (Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1). However, for Thomas it did not matter how many witnesses there were or how credible they were. Since it was not his personal experience he refused to believe it.
Sadly, we have the same scenario with the resurrection of Jesus. There were five hundred witnesses to His resurrection, but look at how many people refuse to believe the record that was left behind (1 Corinthians 15:4-6). The tragedy of it all is that if people refuse to believe in their heart that Jesus rose from the grave, they will be lost forever.
This brings me to the important point of discernment. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 tells us how God reveals a matter, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” If Muslims are seeing Jesus, it is because the Spirit of God is revealing Him to their spirit. In essence, they are not seeing Jesus in a literal/physical sense, but in a spiritual one. The thing we must remember is that all things are possible with God. He can reveal Himself in whatever way He pleases, and His way will prove to be higher and more excellent than our way. And, because it entails the spiritual realm we must discern it from a spiritual perspective and not judge it from our own intellectual understanding or reasoning.
The way I discern a matter is first of all, is there an agreement as to what these people perceive about Jesus? The stories that I have heard or read about concerning Muslims seeing Jesus have a lot of similarities to them. There is no way that there can be such agreement between these people unless there is a spiritual nature to it. Therefore, it is up to us to test the spirit behind the stories (1 John 4:1).
If the right Spirit is behind this revelation, then these people’s understanding of Jesus will line up to Scripture. The responsibility of the Holy Spirit is to lead people into all truth about Jesus, and the truth of Jesus has been clearly established in Scriptures. What I have read as to their testimonies so far seems to line up to Scripture.
Another important test is the fruit test. Jesus tells us we will know people by their fruits (Matthew 7:16, 20). What kind of fruits follow these people’s revelation of Jesus? In the testimonies I am aware of, repentance, salvation, changed lives, and consecration for service to Jesus follows them.
This brings me to the final test. It is the test that has been used to confirm the disciples’ faith towards Jesus. It goes like this, “If what the disciples encountered with Jesus is not true, why would they hold to it, especially when being persecuted and put to death? To die for a lie would be insane.” We forget that for Muslims to be converted to Jesus means being considered an apostate, resulting in possible persecution, torture, and death. In many cases their families also suffer horrible autocracies. Why would a Muslim risk everything if seeing Jesus was not real and life changing to him or her? He or she would be insane to die for a lie or a trick of the mind.
In the end days we are told that there will be signs and wonders. The Apostle Paul warned us that in the end days in 2 Thessalonians 2 there will be great lying signs and wonders. However, there are also going to be signs and wonders in relationship to God and His people. In fact, we are told by knowing our God, we can be strong, and do exploits (Daniel 11:32b)
This brings us to another important point, and that is, is it important whether I believe these experiences are true or not? To me if people agree or disagree with these experiences is not what I consider an “essential doctrine.” In summation, it is not going to determine their salvation. However, what it might affect is their openness to be encouraged and blessed by God’s intervention and work. It is like Jesus told Thomas, it was better for him to believe the witness of others than demand that he had to see it with his own eyes before he would believe. We must apply faith to all truths and works of God even if it does not always make sense to us. By doing so, we can also be assured of receiving the blessings that would come with such faith.