Charismatic and Pentecostal Page
DOES GOD SPEAK TO MEN TODAY
IN DREAMS AND VISIONS?
The question arises often as to whether God in this the dispensation speaks to men directly in dreams or visions? Many believe and teach that God does indeed speak to men directly today in the form of dreams and visions. Groups that teach this include the Catholics, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and most "Christian" cults.
Most of the cults were formed when their supposed prophets received special visions, visitations or revelations from God, and they supposedly were told to form special churches or movements. Among those groups are the Mormons, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist. Each claims God spoke or appeared to them directly and now they represent God and men should follow them.
This presents the believer with a problem? How can a person determine that what is being presented is really coming from God? Among the revelations the cults say they received there is great contradictions and yet each claim that what they saw or heard was from God. If their "revelation" came from God why does it contradict the teaching of Bible and also of others who make the same claim to receiving authentic revelation from God? The point is that dreams and visions are subjective. How can one determine they came from God and how can one interpret the dream?
On examination the dreams, visions and revelations men receive can be divided into two groups. The first group would include the cult leaders of false religions that are clearly not doctrinally sound and their revelations contradict the Scripture. The modern day revelations of this group are clearly not from God because God would never contradiction Himself.
Often the "dreamer" is perpetuating a hoax intended to deceive people into following them. They claim their visions or visitations from God gave them special authority to form their new movements and teachings. A prime example is Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormonism, who claimed God and Jesus appeared to him and told him all the churches on earth were false. He was to form a new church and preach the "restored" gospel. However, the church he formed and its teachings are wholly unbiblical which proves Smith received no visitation from God. God does not contradict Himself.
The second group would involve those who have had experiences in which they believe God or Jesus appeared, spoke to them in a dream or vision. In the second group are also those who had strange, vivid dreams that left them very emotional. This group is very sincere. Although we can dismiss the revelations of the first group as being spurious, what about the second group? Some among these are people who profess to be Christians and are very sincere in believing or wondering that what they experienced was from God.
We must ask by what biblical standard, principle or criteria are we to determine that what was experienced came from or was a revelation from God? In seeking the answer, we must go to the Bible determine what, "Thus saith the Lord." The only standard that God has given to us that does not change and is totally reliable is His written word. If the vision came from God then He would have given us guidelines to determine it is were truly from Him. We all understand that are visions that are faked, or those that did not come from God. The key is to let the Bible be the judge and not our speculation.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 explains that, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
This passage plainly tells us the word of God is sufficient for meeting all our needs for instruction from God. Further Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." God proclaims emphatically that His word is to be the "discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Therefore God has given us the tool or the means to determine if our experiences are from Him or not. His word sets the absolute criteria God tells us to use. Further in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus explained that many would come in His name preaching, casting out devils and doing many wonderful works when in fact they were actually workers of iniquity. This tells us that everything done in the Lord's name does not come from Him and warns us about those doing "wonders."
This paper will deal with the one question, does God give special revelation to individuals in the form of dreams, visions or special experiences today in this dispensation when God is working through the institution of the local church? It will be shown that God does not in this age speak to men through dreams, visions or any direct communication apart from the Word of God, and that it is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in illuminating God's word that believers are given understanding and direction for their lives. God's revelation is complete as contained in the sixty six Books of the Bible. That means he does not have further things to reveal to nations or individuals that are not in the Bible. The Lord guides and instructs us in our daily lives from His written word. Further, the Bible is all sufficient in directing a person to finding and carrying out the will of God for their lives, without the need of a dream, vision or special communication from God in that manner.
God did in fact, revealed himself to men in the Old Testament in dreams, visions, experiences, symbols, and a host of other means. During most of the Old Testament times the people did not have the written word of God, therefore God directed them through the prophet who recorded what God told them and that became the written word. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." (2 Peter 1:21)
However, God is now revealing Himself through His written Word, and that age of God speaking in visions and dreams has pasted. Hebrews 1:1-2a says, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son. . ." Jesus Christ is the Word of God as John 1:1,14-16 plainly says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." Jesus Christ is the word and you cannot separate the Lord Jesus from His word and Hebrews 1:1 is telling us that today God is speaking through the Bible, which is His word.
This does not mean that God does not work in a believer's life in directing him toward maturity and carrying out God's specific and unique will for that believer's life. It further in no way impedes a believer in His spiritual relationship to the Lord or of God guiding him to His perfect will. The power of God is not hindered in this dispensation, but to the contrary gives power to the believer that no other dispensation has experienced. In no prior time did men have the completed word of God to instruct them, nor did believers have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to illuminate their minds and hearts to God's truth. If we want to know God's will we can find it in the principles of His word. A principle is a truth that is unchanging and is applied in many ways in different situations. Today we can know everything that God wants us to know.
Many use Peter's quoting of Joel 2:28 in the message he preached on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:17. Their premise is that Peter is saying that their would be a great outpouring of the Spirit of God in this dispensation and God would speak to men in dreams and visions. Let us then examine these passages and seek the truth on the matter letting the Bible interpret the Bible.
"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: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem."
"But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
First let us examine Joel 2:28.
The first thing we must determine is when is God telling Joel that there will be a pouring out of His Spirit?
The first sentence states that, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh."
This means the pouring out of the spirit will come "after" something. An examination of Joel 2, clearly shows that the events preceding the "pouring out of the spirit," happens after the Great Tribulation, and after the destruction of the northern army, (Joel 2:20) which is Russia. The major theme of the Book of Joel, is of the coming of "the great and terrible day of the Lord to" (Joel 2:31). The Bible tells us that the coming Day of the Lord, includes the seven year Tribulation, Christ's Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation and Christ the ruling in the following Millennium.
The chronology of the events seen in Ezekiel 38, and Daniel 11:36-45 indicate that Russia will be destroyed during the last half of the Tribulation. The destruction of the nations in the campaign of Armageddon is followed by the Second Coming and the Millennial reign of Christ. Thus the pouring of the Spirit of God occurs after the destruction of the northern army and in the time of blessing promised of God.
Two other important facts should be noted. First, the prophecy is addressed to Israel. This is not a prophecy addressed to the churches. The churches are not in view here. Second, the prophecy stated that the spirit will be poured out on all flesh. The spirit of God cannot be poured out on the lost, yet this verse states that it will be poured out on "all" flesh. At the beginning of the Millennium, everyone will be believers. No lost persons will enter the Millennium, and thus the spirit of God could be poured out on "all" flesh because all will be saved.
Also, the prophecy states other events are in view in verses 30-32. These are clearly Tribulation events. (See Matt. 24) The churches are not in view in this prophecy which is addressing events that will happen after the present Church Age. These events refer to Israel and are not related or addressed to the church or this present dispensation.
After this dispensation ends with the Rapture of the Church, Christ's bride, then God's prophetic clock again begins to run as the events of the Great Tribulation unfold ending with the Second Coming of Christ and the setting up of the Millennial Kingdom.
The second question is this: In Acts 2:16-21, is Peter by quoting Joel 2:28, applying this prophecy to this present age in which God is working through the institution of the local church? It is clear that he events recorded in Acts 2, that happened on the day of Pentecost are not the same as are recorded in Joel 2. The context of Joel 2, is the end of the Great Tribulation, and the destruction of the northern army accompanied by great signs and wonders. The only event that is similar is the pouring out of the spirit.
The question, on the day of Pentecost, was what was happening to the men who had received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? They were perceived to have been drunk. (Acts 2:15) Peter answered and said what you see happening to these men is like what Joel said would happen in the Millennium. Peter was referring to Joel's prophecy as an illustration from Scripture of what the crowds were seeing. Peter was not saying that Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled. He was saying that the pouring out of the spirit of God at Pentecost was what would happen in the day Joel's prophecy would be fulfilled.
The pouring out, or indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, was not given to all in the Old Testament dispensation. The Holy Spirit was only given to individuals for specific service. Today, in the Church Age all believers are indwelled by the Spirit of God, and this indwelling started on the day of Pentecost. When this future out pouring of the Spirit of God would come in the Millennium it would be on "all" flesh. Clearly he was saying that in the same way, all believers in this dispensation would have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God.
Peter, in Acts 2:38, urged those that were present to "repent" and be receive Jesus Christ, and be baptized and the would receive the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There is no emphasis on speaking in tongues, prophesying, seeing visions or dreaming dreams by Peter.
There are several New Testament references to visions or dreams, but all are in the Gospel or the transitional period between the Old Testament dispensation and the full implementation of the dispensation of the present age when God is working with the Gentiles through the institution of the local church. Historically one can see the transition through the New Testament in which the sign gifts and miracles gradually ceased as God by inspiration was giving the New Testament to the early churches.
The early church was totally Jewish and remained so until gradually Gentiles were saved and added to the early churches. There was a transitional period of about forty years in time while the early church was slowly becoming a Gentile church. The Gospel was first preached by Peter on the Day of Pentecost and was delivered to the Jews only. All those who were saved on that day were Jews. God was offering to Israel their resurrected Messiah who had suffered, died and been resurrected and paid the sin debt of the world. (see Isa. 53). However, the Jews rejected the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. Paul said in the beginning of his ministry that the Gospel was to go to the Jew first. He said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16, also see 2:9-10). Paul later changed the direction of his ministry because the Jews bitterly opposed and rejected the Gospel. Acts 18:6, says, "And when they (the Jews) opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles."
In 70 AD, the Roman general Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and Judaism ceased to exist on earth as practiced in the Old Testament. The Jews lost their nation, their home land and the place of worship and sacrifice the Temple. Without the Temple the Old Testament commandment could no longer be practiced, thus Old Testament Judaism ceased. It has not been practiced since and is not being practiced today.
There is no mention of visions or dreams being used by God in any of the Epistles to the churches. The Epistles were written to instruct the early churches in all matters of doctrine and practice. 2 Tim. 3:16, states that in the early church pastors and members where instructed to seek their teaching and guidance from the Scriptures. If dreams and visions were operable then they would have been included.
What other evidence is their that God stopped using visions and dreams to communicate to men?
The Bible says in 1 Corinthian 13:8-10. "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."
The context verses 8-10 of 1 Corinthians 12-14 God instructions concerning the spiritual gifts. Prophecy was a temporary gift of foretelling the future. Likewise, the gift of knowledge was the ability to know information that was given directly by the Holy Spirit to the individual. Both of the gifts were the means by which the Lord gave us His written word the Bible. These two gifts were rendered inoperative when the New Testament canon was closed in 95-96 AD because with the completion of the Book of Revelation by the Apostle John the Bible in its entirety was complete. No one today the biblical gift of prophecy in that God is not giving new revelation to us. The last written Scripture was the Book of Revelation. One must now study the Bible in order to acquire knowledge and it is the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the word of God as a person reads and studies it. In the Scriptures preaching is often referred to as prophesying. However, the prophecy referred too here cannot not mean preaching the word of God because preaching will not cease after the Rapture of the church (see Matt. 24:13-14) and also there will be teaching of the Word of God in the Millennium. (see Isa. 2:3) Thus prophecies and knowledge which are said to cease or will be rendered inoperative "when that which is perfect is come."
The word for "perfect" is a neuter adjective used as a noun. This word "perfect" cannot refer to Christ because it is in the neuter gender rather than in the masculine gender. Christ is never in the New Testament referred to by a neuter pronoun. The masculine gender would have been used if the word "perfect" was a reference to Christ, but that is not the case so it must be referring to something else.
Thus, the word "perfect" must refer to a complete "thing" and not to a person. Some teach that the word "perfect" is a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This would mean that the gifts of prophecy, knowledge and tongues are operative today and will continue until the end of the Tribulation. However, the context of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, beginning with 1 Corinthians 12 and ending with Chapter 14 is not speaking of the Tribulation or the Second Coming, but is addressing the matter of the sign gifts. Thus this statement is certainly related to the subject of this passage which is the sign gifts.
1 Corinthians 13:1-2 establishes the subject of the chapter and begins with "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy. . . " Chapter 14 begins, "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him. . . ." Clearly the subject is gifts, and nothing in these four chapters refers to the Second Coming in any way.
It thereby the context of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 is plainly referring to the completion of the canon meaning the completed Word of God. Bowman says "It is interesting to note that "perfect" is used of the word in James 1:25 (cf. the Hebrew for "perfect" in Psa. 19:7). In this same connection, tongues shall cease when the New Testament canon was completed. Notice that verse 8, includes tongues along with prophecies and knowledge. Two of these shall be rendered inoperative and one shall cease "when that which is perfect is come." All three gifts were temporary and ceased at the completed New Testament." (The Charismatic Movement, Dr. Hoyle Bowman, Piedmont Bible College, Winston-Salem, page 23.)
Thus the significance of I Cor. 13:8-10, in the matter of the question of dreams and visions is that these special gifts of tongues, prophecies and knowledge were apart of the dispensation of the Law, and of God working with Israel. They were used by God to reveal and verify His truth to the Jews. Several things should be noted:
(1) In the church age, when God is not working with Israel as a nation these special gifts of communication are ceased. God used them to communicate with Israel. When Israel rejected God, He ceased communications with them.
(2) The reason they ceased, according to I Cor. 13:9-10, when the completed Word of God was present, there was no longer any need for God to communicate through these mediums any longer. God chose now to speak through the written Word. In 95-96 AD, when John finished the Book of Revelations the New Testament canon was finished and complete.
(3) A believer in the church, has something the Jews did not have. The Christian today has the Holy Spirit of God indwelling him. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate God's written word. Outside the Gospels and the Book of Acts no one is recorded as having a vision or dream from God to direct him.
(4) The apparent fact of history is that now God has chosen to reveal Himself to man, to guide and lead the believer by and through the Word of God, which is the written Bible. It is the new nature of the believer that enables him to understand the things of God, and the Holy Spirit who is the guide.
(5) Christ does not today appear to man nor does God.
(6) Dreams and visions in the Old Testament required many times an interpreter. By the very nature of what a dream or vision is it is not as clear a means of communication as is written instruction from God. God has chosen to communicate in a clearer way to the church, that by having the written record of his revelation to man.
One significant passage of Scripture that has an important bearing on this matter is Hebrew 1:1-2.
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in the last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Heb. 1:1-2
First note who the Book is addressed too? It is written specifically to the Hebrews. These were not lost Jews but those who had believed in their Messiah the Lord Jesus Christ. Next note what is the first statement made. God in the past spoke to the prophets in many different ways (dreams, visions, visitations ceremonies, laws, ritual and directly) is now in these days speaking to us through His Son.
John 1:1, states that Christ is the word and Revelation 19:13, confirms it. The Word is Christ and Christ is the Word. The opening statement to these Jewish Christians was that God now had a better way, that was through the Lord Jesus Christ. God was saying I am going to speak to you now in a different way; a more direct way. The Old Testament saints looked to the Coming of the Messiah and God in the past had revealed Himself mainly to them by symbols, examples and illustrations. Now there was no need of that. The Truth was come, that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
WHY DO SOME STILL BELIEVE THAT GOD SPEAKS THROUGH DREAMS AND VISIONS TODAY?"
They do not see things dispensationally. This means that they do not make a difference between God dealing with Israel in the Old Testament and God working presently in the New Testament church age. Many times they mistakenly equate the specific promises of God to Israel as being now directed to the churches.
The New Testament unmistakenly presents a different view of the relationship between God and the Church and God and the Old Testament saints. The church is presented as having a special place in the Kingdom of God, as being the "bride of Christ." The church is also referred to as the "body of Christ" and being Christ's joint heir. The fact is, the church has a closer relationship to Christ and a greater revelation than Israel had in the Old Testament.
The church became a Gentile body. In I Corinthian 1:22, Paul set the stage for his instruction to the Corinthian church. He said, "...the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom." The early churches were a mixed assembly of Jews and Gentiles. He then preceded to give them not a sign, but wisdom. One thing he dealt with was their total misunderstanding of the special sign gifts, which included miracles, that was given to the Apostles to authenticate that what they taught was the word of God. Some in the early churches were making the mistake of not making a difference between the institution of the church and Israel. Though the sign gifts where still operative at the writing of this book, Paul clearly de-emphasized their use.
When you have a written printed and accurate instruction from God you do not need God to speak directly to you. You do not need special signs to know what is the will of God or be directed by Him. The principles to handle any situation in life is found within the Bible and further the ministry of the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and apply these principles of God's word.
WHAT IS THE EXPLANATION FOR THOSE TODAY THAT HAVE DREAMS AND VISIONS, SPEAK IN TONGUES AND PRACTICE THE SIGN GIFTS?
Before you can answer that question we must understand that it is wrong to accept an experience, feeling or emotion over the Word of God. We are to judge our emotions and experiences by the Word of God. It is not correct to reverse the process. We must be willing to let the Word of God settle any matter of question. If we are not, then we are out side the influence of God and have no guide to truth. No matter how real the experience, its realness is not a valid with a means to authenticate it and only the Bible can do that.
It is impossible the to authenticate a vision, dream or the sign gifts as coming from God. The answer is certainly because God has not left us without adequate instruction to deal with everything we might encounter in life. When we look to the Bible we find that God has not given us even a hint as to how we are to interpret dreams or visions. He also has not given us even one example of anyone having a vision in the Epistles. God's obvious silence on the matter should lead us to question its validity. If the visions and dreams that some few modern day Christians are having were from God, the God would have given us a way to authenticate, interpret and verify them. Obviously, He has not and we must conclude the reason is that modern day visions and revelation are not from God.
Over the years I have had many people tell me that they had some special vision from the Lord. In every case, the person having the vision or some revelation from God was not a faithful and sound Christian. From my personal experience I have found that those who said they had revelation from God were either members of a doctrinally unsound church. were being mistaught, were overly emotional, or were themselves unstable in their spiritual life. For example one person who has been a friend for many years said he had a vision where God spoke to him and told him he had some special task for him to do. He related that he was asleep in a chair and woke from his sleep to see the vision. He said for a long time before this he had been seriously thinking about what God wanted him to do with this life. After the vision this person set out on a some special secret task in which he said was a new way to study the Bible that no one else knows. He worked on it for twenty years almost every day of his life. He was certainly sincere. However, he was not able to finish his project because he was elderly, he became not mental able to do even simple tasks now. He died shortly thereafter with his project not finished. He told me many time what he was doing would revolutionize studying the Bible. Time has proven that he wasted twenty years of his life in which he never attended any church, never witnessed for the Lord, nor supported the work of the Lord. He explained that he was asleep and awaken to his vision. When I suggested that I had often while dreaming I thought I was awake, but still in a dream state. I suggested that maybe this is what happened to him and had dreamed this because it was on his mind, he began very upset with me. Clearly, his vision was not from God because it caused him to disobey God's clear instructions that a believer is to assemble himself with other believers, to be a witness for Christ, and support the work of the Lord through the local church.
Another friend had a vision in which he said God appeared to him and told him to serve Him. His life was changed in that he no longer drank and did outward sinful things. However, he started attending doctrinally unsound churches because they supported him in his dreams and visions. He attended several churches, that were in doctrinal error and now many years later is in a totally apostate Protestant church. He is a wonderful man and a good friend, but he does not abide in sound doctrine. His vision is the source of direction in his life....not the Bible. He says he had been for sometime seriously considering what God wanted him to do with his life. This shows he was thinking deeply about the matter which means this was probably a psychologically produced event produced in his mind. He further says he awoke from a sleep and saw the vision which means he could have been in a dream-like state when he awoke. Many people who have had visions do not claim to be Christians or claim that their vision came from God which shows having visions can occur without there being any reference to God.
From my personal observations I have observed that there are several things that are common with people who have visions. First, they have been thinking about the subject of the vision prior to its occurrence or something triggers the dream. Second, it often happens in relationship to sleep. The person wakes up and has the vision. Third, the vision generally confirms to them what they had been already considering. Fourth, the vision generally does not bring them closer to the Lord, but directs them away from the Bible and/or sound doctrine. Fifth, without exception the person who has the vision was in doctrinal error and/or attending a church that was doctrinally unsound.
In conclusion two things are clear. First, there is no biblical support for believers having dreams and visions from God in this dispensation. God tells us in the Bible He speaks to us through His word. Second, dreams and visions generally has a detrimental and confusing effect in the person's life. Their vision sets a precedent and they remain unsound doctrinally in some areas.