Christians tend to think of supernatural phenomenon as being part of the Old Testament experience but not a significant part of life in the New Testament Church Age. However we have Old Testament prophecy, New Testament accounts and Historical evidence to show that Visions and Dreams are a vital part of the Christian faith and experience.
Old Testament Prophecy of New Testament Visions and Dreams
On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter quoted the Old Testament prophet Joel to explain the New Testament outpouring of the Holy Spirit. That quote, from Joel 2:28-32, specifically refers to the place of visions and dreams as practical expressions of the Holy Spirit’s presence in people’s lives.
Since the New Testament age was to be charged with the presence and anointing of the Holy Spirit, there was going to be abundant evidence of visions and dreams as a result. Peter’s quotation from Joel makes clear reference to these phenomena.
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, says 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” Acts 2:16,17.
Joel’s prophecy is consistent with what God had previously said about speaking to His people through visions and dreams.
“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.” Numbers 12:6
The prophetic capacity brought into the church by the Holy Spirit (“your sons and daughters will prophesy” Acts 2:17) should automatically include visions and dreams, as Joel and Peter declared.
The Early Church Experienced Visions
The New Testament gives us historical record of many visions experienced by the apostles and others at that time. Joel’s prophecy was evidently fulfilled, not only with the visions and dreams which we have recorded, but with many others. We see that the early Christians were not hesitant to accept and respond to prophetic insight given to them in visions and dreams.
God spoke to Ananias in a vision and told him to go and pray for Saul of Tarsus, after Saul’s conversion – Acts 9:10. God told Ananias that Saul had already had a vision of him visiting and praying for him – Acts 9:12.
Cornelius had a vision that led him to call for Peter – Acts 10:3, and Peter had a vision preparing him to minister to Cornelius – Acts 10:11.
Paul’s well-known ‘Macedonian Call’ came through a vision which he saw in the night – Acts 16:9. Paul later saw the Lord in a vision, comforting him – Acts 18:9. Paul had earlier had a vision in a trance in the temple in Jerusalem – Acts 22:17,18. Paul then saw the Lord speaking to him about going to Rome – Acts 23:11.
Along with those visions were times of supernatural prophetic perception and also angelic visitations. Paul perceived that his sea voyage would end in disaster – Acts 27:10, and an angel reassured him of their safety Acts 27:23,24.
Visions in Church History
Following the New Testament record we have many accounts of people who were given visions, dreams, prophetic insights, angelic visitations and the like.
It is recorded that Alexander the Great saw a vision of a Jewish High Priest affirming his victory on God’s behalf, and so he did not attack or destroy Jerusalem when he reached that part of the world. Constantine claimed that he had seen a vision of a cross and was told to conquer in that sign.
The Quakers trace themselves back to George Fox who claimed to have seen visions and who prescribed such experiences for his followers. The Armenian ancestors of Demos Shakarian, founder of the Full Gospel Business Men International (FGBMFI) were warned to leave Armenia and go to America, by someone in the village with a prophetic gift.
Multitudes of others have seen angels, had visions, dreamed dreams and sensed things that proved to be powerful in guiding, protecting or blessing them.
Dreams and Visions Today
It seems from my observation that the experience of dreams and visions is not evenly distributed among Christians. This is consistent with 1Corinthians 12:11, which says that the Holy Spirit distributes the Gifts or Manifestations of the Holy Spirit as He pleases.
“But that one and the selfsame Spirit works all these, dividing to every man severally as he will.” 1Corinthians 12:11
I have been with people who have seen angels in the meetings. I have interviewed people who have described elaborate visions and dreams which they have received. I have personally seen glimpses of things which have proven to be relevant and valid insights into situations I was working with.
However, the visions and dreams are not badges of spirituality. They are encouragements and promptings from the Holy Spirit. We must be faithful in our response to them. It is perfectly possible to neglect, ignore or reject the input, even that which has come by seemingly supernatural means.
Paul declared to King Agrippa that Paul had not been disobedient to the vision which he saw from heaven. And way back in the Old Testament the people were warned to believe the prophetic input, in order to get the benefit from it.
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” Acts26:19
” .. Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall you be established; believe his prophets, so shall you prosper.” 2Chronicles 20:20
Mature sons of God will be readily led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14) and will properly discern what God is saying, even by visions, dreams, angelic visits and prophetic insights. God just may decide to give a vision, send an angel or show His power to YOU, and it would be perfectly legitimate.