Should believers expect visions to be a part of their Christian experience?
Visions are visual and/or auditory messages originating from the spirit world given to a person while he or she is awake. Visions can be used by God to relay information that is not accessible in Scripture, either because it is not in Bible or because the audience does not have a Bible. Visions can also be used by demons to deceive people, especially when certain drugs are involved.
The Bible records several significant visions in which God warns or informs His people. Much of Daniel 7-12 is a vision. Ezekiel starts with one of the oddest visions of the Bible, filled with four-faced creatures and strange wheels. In Acts 10, Peter has a vision of animals descending onto a rooftop. And nearly all of Revelation is the record of a vision John received. Each one of these visions included new information that God wanted preserved in Scripture.
Once the Bible was completed, the necessity of God speaking through visions became less great. Hebrews 1:1-2 explains that "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…." Since the Word of God (John 1:1) has been revealed, we do not need visions as we once did.
Not all visions are from God. Visions can be real and really false at the same time. Buddhism was heavily informed by a vision Siddhartha Gautama had while sitting in a trance. In the time since the Bible was compiled, many visions have directly contradicted Scripture. Islam, Mormonism, and the Unification Church were all begun by people who had a vision.
The apostle Paul said, "even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). Many people still claim to receive visions from God, but if those visions contradict Scripture, they cannot be from God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). We must "test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1). We have been given the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), and we are promised wisdom when we ask for it (James 1:5).
If a vision isn't from God, where does it come from? There are several possibilities. It could just be a lie, concocted by a charlatan to serve his own purposes. It could be a case of lucid dreaming/false awakening, where a sleeping person feels awake and can control his dreams to some extent. Or it could be drug-induced; hallucinogenic drugs are often taken for the specific purpose of experiencing visions. And, of course, a person may have a vision he thinks is from God but is actually demonic in origin (1 Timothy 4:1). Satan wears masks (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Is it possible God could still give visions? Of course. Does He? Perhaps, but not to the degree He once did. Scripture is complete. Visions were generally for when Scripture was incomplete. Today, most of the authentic visions occur in areas that have not yet been exposed to Christianity or where the Bible is suppressed.
Visions are not and never were God's primary method of communication. God has spoken through His eternal Word, and He had it written down for us. We must be extremely wary when someone claims to have received a vision from God. Modern-day prophets are easily deceived by the "delusions of their own minds" (Jeremiah 14:14 NIV), and we are not to follow false teaching (Jeremiah 23:16). Instead, we are to test the spirits (1 John 4:1-3). Any vision that contradicts Scripture should be immediately rejected.
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