The Differences Between True and False Visions
By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon
Had any good visions lately? In the past 50 years or so, it seems that stories of visions inside and outside the church have increased to significant proportions.
The term vision has different applications, depending upon one’s worldview. From a biblical sense it may be used to describe an actual vision or revelation from God. For materialists the term is often used in a skeptical or derogatory sense. For example, they would argue that the resurrection appearances of Christ were merely “visions,” i.e., internal phenomena having no objective reality or even necessarily any reality at all, something like hallucinations.
In this article, we are going to look at visions from a biblical worldview in both a positive and negative sense. By doing this we can discern when a vision is true and when it is not true. In other words, assuming the vision is real, how do we know whether it is from God, the devil, or our own psychological makeup?
In the Bible we find over 100 references to the word “vision” or “visions.” Illustrations of some of the biblical prophets and individuals who received true visions from God include Abraham (Gen. 15:1), Iddo (2 Chron. 9:29), Isaiah (1:1), Ezekiel (1:1), Daniel (1:17, 8:15), Amos (1:1), Obadiah (1:1), Nahum (1:1), and others. In the New Testament, we also find many examples of visions, including to Zacharias (Lk. 1:22) and among the apostles (Mt. 17:9), e.g., Peter (Acts 9:10; 10:3), Paul (Acts 16:9, 2 Cor. 12:1) and John (Rev. 9:17).
There is no doubt that God has used visions in the life of His people in both the Old and New Testaments or that He continues to do so today when it suits His purposes. For different reasons, considered historically, visions may be infrequent in number (1 Sam. 3:1; Ez. 7:26, Lam. 2:9) or relatively frequent (Joel 2:2S; Acts 2:17; Hos. 12:10).
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia provides the following descriptive “short list” of biblical visions briefly describing how and why they come:
- The vision may come in one’s waking moments (Dnl 10:7; Acts 9:7); by day (Cornelius, Acts 10:3; Peter, Acts 10 9ff; cf. Nu 24:4-16) or night (Jacob, Gen 46:2); but commonly under conditions of dreaming (Nu 12:6; Job 4:13; Dnl 4:9)…. The character of the revelation through vision has a double aspect in the Bib. narrative. In one aspect it proposes a revelation for immediate direction, as in the case of Abram (Gen 15:2 and frequently); Lot (Gen 19:15); Balaam (Nu 22:22), and Peter (Acts 12:7). In another aspect it deals with the development of the Kingdom of God as conditioned by the moral ideals of the people; such are the prophetic visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah, and the apocalypses of Daniel and John…. From the nature of the vision as an instrument of Divine communication, the seeing of visions is naturally associated with revivals of religion (Ezk 12:21-25; Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:17), and the absence of visions with spiritual decline (Isa 29:11,12; Lam 2:9; Ezk 7:26; Mic 3:6).
One may see visions without being visionary in the bad sense of that word. The outstanding characters to whom visions were vouchsafed in the history of Israel—Abraham, Moses, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul—were all men of action as well as sentiment, and it is manifest from any fair reading of their lives that their work was helped and not hindered by this aspect of their fellowship with God.
An example of a godly vision outside the Bible would be that of Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome. Constantine was a pagan prior to the key Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. Just before this battle he saw a vision of the monogram for Christ, and he heard the words, “In this sign, conquer” Constantine was indeed victorious in battle and he took this symbol as his standard. The dramatic vision led to his conversion to Christianity.
Nevertheless, Scripture is equally clear that all visions are not from God. Some are from the vain imaginings of individuals and some are clearly demonic. False visions lead people away from God’s will and frequently into idolatry. In Matthew 4:8, a rather startling passage, Satan gave Jesus Himself a vision of all the kingdoms of the world: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’” We all know the outcome.
So how do we tell a godly vision from an ungodly one? A godly vision fits the characteristics of godly visions: The vision itself contains nothing opposed to biblical teaching and the results of the vision glorify God. (As we will see below, natural and demonic visions do the opposite.)
Consider the case of Constantine as an example of a godly vision. First, it led to Constantine’s conversion from paganism. Second, prior to the time of Constantine, the church had experienced severe persecutions. In fact, some were horrendous. And even the best arguments of the early apologists were unsuccessful, or not completely successful, in turning away the hostility of the Roman government. As one result of his vision, Constantine established the Edict or Constitution of Milan in 313 A.D. which required an expression of tolerance for Christianity. (It was not Constantine, but Justinian who actually made the church a state church and turned heresy into a criminal action against the state.) Third, Constantine himself convened the Council of Nicaea which played a key role in the history of the church relative to the formulation of the doctrine of the deity of Christ and also by extension, later, the doctrine of the Trinity at the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D.
In other words, as a pagan, it would be highly unlikely that Constantine would invent the story of a vision that supported a religion he had no interest in and was probably opposed to. The devil would certainly not give him such a vision. If the vision did not come from the mind of Constantine or from the devil, it had to come from God. Consider again its outcome. It helped convert Constantine to Christian faith. The vision resulted in the ceasing of persecution of the church, which permitted the church to grow dramatically. Indirectly, it led to one of the most important doctrinal creeds in the history of the Christian church. Indeed, given the fact that the church had experienced nine major persecutions prior to this vision, one would think the devil would have done all in his power to prevent such a vision.
So godly visions have certain characteristics; they teach nothing unbiblical and their end result is to glorify God. But there are also false visions.
False Visions in the Old Testament
Jeremiah the prophet had to repeatedly warn Israel about the people claiming to be God’s prophets who were really false prophets leading the people astray: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds’” (Jer. 14:14).
Jeremiah also warned, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. The speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord’” (Jer. 23:16). Further, “The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they give you were false and misleading” (Lam. 2:14).
In the above verses we see another manner by which to judge true and false visions. In these cases, the godly visions exposed sin and prevented divine judgment. But the ungodly visions of the false prophets, whether generated naturally or by the devil, helped to rationalize sin, and later, when sin bore its full fruit, led to judgment, in other words, godly visions speak the truth and encourage holiness; false visions speak lies, divinations and idolatry and lead to sin and judgment.
Obviously, visions that endorse evil and destruction in the lives of people, regardless of their source, are to the devil’s best interests.
God declared through the prophet Ezekiel that those who saw false visions were to have no part among His people:
- Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, “The Lord declares,” when the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, “The Lord declares,” though I have not spoken? Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign Lord. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord…. “those prophets of Israel who prophesied to Jerusalem and saw visions of peace for her when there was no peace,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezek. 13:69,16)
Listening to those who give false visions has its consequences:
- Son of man, what is this proverb you have in the land of Israel: “The days go by and every vision comes to nothing”? (Ezek. 12:22)
- Her prophets whitewash these [evil] deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says”— when the Lord has not spoken. (Ezek. 22:28)
Isaiah the prophet also mocked the false prophets, “And these all stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions” (Is. 28:7).
The prophet Zechariah warns: “The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd (Zech. 10:2). “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision. He will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive” (Zech. 13:4).
False Visions in the New Testament
In the New Testament also, we see that professing or even genuine Christians can be led astray by false visions, e.g., “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow” (Col. 2:18-19).
The NIV text note at this point comments that the term “what he has seen” probably refers to “professed vision by the false teachers” who were seeking to lead the Colossian believers astray. This is why the NASB translates this verse, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,…” (Col. 2:18). The word visions is italicized so the reader understands that it is not part of the original text, but implied.
False Visions in the Church
Modern examples of false visions include those found in the world of the cults and the occult (e.g., among psychics, astrologers, channelers, etc.) where they are legion and they bear all the fruit of false visions: false doctrines, sin, pride, idolatry, divination and other occult practices, etc. But false or dubious visions may also occur within the church. Consider those seen by Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts and David Wilkerson.
In 1980, Oral Roberts claimed a vision of a 900-foot Jesus promised him his “City of Faith” medical complex would be completed. The implication of this and subsequent visions/revelations was that Jesus would bless and prosper the “City of Faith.” In 1983 Roberts spoke of another revelation from God promising a major breakthrough in cancer treatment at the “City of Faith.” But the “City of Faith” did not survive and there was no cancer breakthrough.
In the case of Kenneth Hagin, he claims that in 1958 “the Lord Jesus suddenly appeared” before him, with an angel standing three feet behind Him. In I Believe in Visions he reveals, “He [Jesus] said, ‘This is your angel,’ ‘My angel?’ I asked. ‘Yes, your angel, and if you will respond to him, he will appear to you as I will at times; and he will give you guidance and direction concerning the things of life…’” Those who have read of Kenneth Hagin’s other visions from “Jesus” in his I Believe in Visions will realize these visions could not have come from God because their content was unbiblical, e.g., they supported Hagin’s false theology regarding his unbiblical “Faith” teachings. (We documented this in The Facts on False Teachings in the Church, The Facts on the Faith Movement and our Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs.)
We do not mention these illustrations to negate whatever good these men may have accomplished for the Lord, only to issue a warning. In Pentecostal, charismatic and other experientially-oriented Christian circles, there appear to be more false than genuine visions.
Because of this, Christians must become more discerning and less accepting of claims surrounding contemporary visions. Consider Kenneth Copeland as an example: In 1987, Copeland gave a prophecy “from Jesus Christ” in which “Jesus” promised that new and dramatic angel manifestations were going to increase in the church and that many “will have visitations from the spirit realm.” Concerning the angels, “Jesus” allegedly told Copeland:
- A very outstanding time is on the way. A time is coming when there will be manifestations of angels more than usual, more than there has been in the past. Many of you are going to witness for yourselves the angel that has been put in charge and in command of your ministry and your life. Many of you are going to have visitations from the spirit realm. Many of you will have divinely appointed visions and dreams…. Oh, there’s no time nor distance in the spirit realm. You’ll be connected together at times like you’ve never witnessed before. Suddenly, you will be standing in that [spiritual] country, and suddenly you’ll deliver a message and then suddenly you’ll be brought back in your kitchen again. Oh, I have some outstanding things, saith the Lord.
But this “Jesus” also denied his own deity when he said: “Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you are God…. They crucified me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was God; I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in me. Hallelujah. That’s what you are doing.” But in the Bible Jesus did claim to be God when He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9) and “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30) and “Before Abraham was, I Am” (Jn. 8:58, cf. Jn. 1:1, 14; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 1:3, 8-10; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1).
In a subsequent issue, Copeland explained that he does believe in Christ’s deity and that “Jesus” only meant to say He never claimed to be God while on earth. But Copeland is incorrect again. (For example, the Gospel of John is full of Christ’s claim to be God while on earth— Jn. 8:58; 10:30; 14:9; 15:26; 20:28, 29). Even the Kenneth Copeland Ministry Staff admitted in a letter dated February 9, 1988 (on file) that while on earth, “Jesus revealed His deity only in a very limited number of situations.” Copeland’s own staff admits that Jesus did reveal His deity on earth, thus denying Copeland’s statement.
False Visions in Roman Catholicism
Another example of false visions would be those of Catholic mystics throughout church history who have frequently had visions that confirmed unbiblical Catholic beliefs or led people into unbiblical practices. Catholic mystics and saints have had visions of purgatory in which they saw the souls of dead Catholics suffering horribly and in which these souls frequently cried out to them or otherwise communicated to them that they could ease their torments or get them out of purgatory by praying to Mary, participating in the Catholic mass, performing duties with the Rosary, etc. Obviously, the implications for the atonement of Christ, works salvation and the entire structure of Catholic theological belief is variously supported by these visions and therefore they could not have come from God. Nothing in Scripture indicates purgatory even exists, let alone that we or Mary can help people out of purgatory when we use the Rosary—that we should pray for the dead, etc.
Some Catholic saints and mystics have also had visions of “Jesus” with resulting stigmata, such as Padre Pio. Since the results of these visions, again, actively support unbiblical Catholic beliefs, such visions could not have been from Jesus Himself. This also is true for supernatural healings associated with these visions, which are frequently related to the veneration of or prayers to Catholic saints and mystics.
While we cannot exclude God’s mercy at any point, one must be skeptical of miracles that support false beliefs. When we subsequently consider the phenomenon of visions and apparitions of dead Catholic saints and mystics who may give supernatural healings and/or unbiblical revelations, it is even more difficult to accept such phenomena as having a divine origin.
False Visions and Miracles
As a final example of false visions, consider the TV special “Miracles and Visions: Fact or Fiction?” for March 31, 1996 on the Fox Network. This program discussed visions and apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the appearance of the stigmata, with serious wounds healing so quickly something supernatural seemed required; appearances of the Catholic host on a child’s tongue, statues that wept real liquid for weeks, glowing crosses in Medjugoria, Yugoslavia, statues of Hindu gods drinking milk by the liter, etc. The program observed in Medjugoria that, “the miraculous is commonplace.” In fact, this was declared by a former military intelligence officer who had personally witnessed miraculous events. In examining the miracles discussed on this show, we find that almost all of them support Roman Catholic belief. The miracles referred to were seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses and many were confirmed and/or authenticated photographically.
These kinds of miracles are apparently now happening around the world, in many different countries and in most of the 50 states. The program moderator noted, “Whether believer or skeptic, it’s hard not to be amazed by the sheer number of these events.”
The program also discussed weeping icons in Brooklyn, New York that ooze “healing oil, “visions” of Jesus in the clouds and of a blinking sun seen in Conyers, Georgia, where a woman “channels” revelations from the alleged Virgin Mary. In fact, Conyers, Georgia was called “a modern day Fatima”—no mean accolade.
In Fatima, also, thousands of people saw a vision of the sun that moved in circles and messages from Mary were given to teenagers. In Medjugoria as well, the sun “pulsated.” Thousands of people were convinced they saw the sun blink, pulsate or move in circles and in the case of its pulsating and blinking, this was said to have been captured on video. The program pointed out this was impossible to explain physically or scientifically. Obviously, whether in Conyers, Georgia, Medjugoria or Fatima, the sun did not pulsate, move in circles or blink, etc. No observatory recorded this and it would be physically impossible regardless. While a natural explanation may be possible for what people think they saw, we know the sun did nothing extraordinary.
However, the miraculous is also at least a possible explanation in some cases. There are incidents in occult literature of film being impregnated with false images and there are also cases of mass visions, both apparently accomplished by spiritistic power.
Regardless, in Conyers, Georgia, other things that people saw included strange cloud formations and thousands of rose petals falling from the sky in the dead of winter, something reminiscent of certain poltergeist events. Some people heard, in a statue of Mary, a heart beating.
Now considered as a whole, there is little doubt that at least some miraculous events are occurring, On the one hand, this may involve a simple manipulation of the mind whereby things are seen that have no reality external to the individual, as in the case of the moving sun. Or they may involve actual materializations or apparitions of “Mary” or physical phenomena such as the rose petals falling from the sky. In either case, the end result is a confirmation of unbiblical teachings, in this case, Roman Catholic theology, and in particular its Mariology and everything associated with it.
Significantly, there is evidence of direct physiological influence on Nancy Fowler, the lady who receives revelations from ‘“Mary” in Conyers, Georgia. She has been tested by scientists who have found that her EEG pattern goes into delta waves whenever she begins to receive messages from “Jesus.” The odd thing is that she goes into delta waves fully conscious, something that was said to be physiologically impossible.
True vs. False Visions
What do we make of all this? In light of the seemingly great number of these kinds of false visions happening worldwide, this might be considered a precursor to the statement of Jesus concerning the last days, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible” (Mt. 24:24).
As we have seen, godly visions honor God’s character and glory Him and when they contain prophecy, come true 100 percent of the time. Godly visions will declare God’s will, even if the vision is terrifying, as in the divine judgments of the book of Revelation or the Old Testament. Godly visions are also never unbiblical.
To the contrary, false visions usually don’t come true. But even when they do, they still lead people away from the God of the Bible, or confuse people spiritually—and they never bring honor and glory to God. In light of this, we must remember that Scripture declares that counterfeit visions can be accompanied by genuine miracles. In Deuteronomy 13:1-5 we read:
- If a prophet [i.e., a seer, one who has visions], or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.
Important Visions in the Bible
We began this article noting there were over 100 uses of the term “vision” or “visions” in the Bible. We conclude it by presenting a brief description concerning the most important usages. This material indicates that three common themes of godly visions are for 1) encouragement in difficult times, 2) warnings of future judgment for sin, whether national or individual and 3) giving specific information, e.g., regarding the future or other revelation of needed information at a particular time, e.g., Daniel’s interpretation of the dream that God gave to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
We hope the reader will find that reading these illustrations is instructive:
- Genesis 15:1—To encourage Abram concerning his inheritance.
- Genesis 46:2—To encourage Israel to go down to Egypt.
- Numbers 12:6 + Hosea 12:10—God reveals Himself to His prophets in visions and dreams.
- 1 Samuel 3:15—The young Samuel is given a vision-prophecy of judgment upon Eli.
- Job 7:14—Visions can be disturbing or terrifying (cf. Dan. 4:5; 7:15; Is. 21:2).
- Job 33:15-18—God may give believer or unbeliever warning visions in (or as) their dreams to keep them from sin and evil (cf., Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. ch. 2; Dan. 4:5, 25-27).
- Isaiah 1:1—A vision concerning the judgment of Judah and Jerusalem given to Isaiah.
- Isaiah 21:2—God sends a terrifying vision that has painful consequences to Isaiah.
- Isaiah 29:11—The ungodly do not understand visions.
- Isaiah 30:10-11—The rebellious and ungodly reject divine visions,
- Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16—False prophets give false visions, false hope, encourage idolatries, divination and self-delusion (cf. Lam. 2:14).
- Lamentations 2:9—Visions may be sealed up during periods of divine judgment.
- Lamentations 2:14—False visions do not expose sin or prevent judgment; they help rationalize sin (cf. Ezek. 22:28).
- Ezekiel 7:13—A vision of judgment.
- Ezekiel 7:26—Visions can’t be forced.
- Ezekiel 8:3—Ezekiel is taken in a vision to Jerusalem.
- Ezekiel 11:24-25—In a vision, the spirit of God takes Ezekiel to the Babylonian exiles who then tells the exiles of the vision.
- Ezekiel 22-24; 13:6-8—There are “false visions and flattering divinations” when God’s people have been unfaithful and rebellious (cf. 13:9, 16; 21:29).
- Ezekiel 43:3—Ezekiel is taken in a vision into the temple inner court.
- Daniel 2:19-23—A vision in the night to the prophet Daniel explaining the meaning of the divine dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar.
- Daniel 2:28; 7:1; 1 Kings 3:15—Visions can occur within dreams or be dreams.
- Daniel chs. 2 and 7—Visions to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel regarding the future kingdoms of the world and the second coming of Christ.
- Daniel ch. 8—A vision of the time of the end.
- Daniel 8:15—Daniel was “watching the vision and trying to understand it.”
- Daniel 8:26-27—The vision is sealed up and is “beyond understanding”; godly visions may bring exhaustion and illness.
- Daniel 9:22-24—The angel Gabriel explains Daniel’s vision to him.
- Daniel 10:1—A revelation from God, a vision concerning a great war and Daniel’s mourning and fasting for three weeks.
- Daniel 10:7—Only Daniel sees the vision, not those with him. (However the men were terrified and fled, so they experienced something.) The vision leaves Daniel extremely sick.
- Daniel 10:16-17—Daniel is overcome with anguish from the vision and weakened so that he can hardly breathe.
- Joel 2:28—In the Day of the Lord/last days, young men will see visions—this is fulfilled in Acts 2:16-19.
- Obadiah 1—Obadiah’s vision concerning Edom’s judgment.
- Micah 1:1—Micah’s vision about the judgment of Samaria and Judah.
- Nahum 1:1—Nahum’s vision regarding the judgment of Ninevah,
- Zechariah 1:8ff—Zechariah’s vision of God’s mercy to Israel and of judgment to her enemies.
- Zechariah ch. 13—God will remove false prophets from the land.
- Luke 1:22—Zechariah’s temple vision from the angel Gabriel regarding John the Baptist. (Note: even though this is stated to be a vision, it concerns an obvious space-time appearance of the angel Gabriel, i.e., not all visions are internal, mental events, cf., Paul’s vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9:10 below.)
- Luke 24:23—The women receive a vision of angels regarding Jesus’ resurrection.
- Acts 9:10—God’s vision to Paul and Ananias concerning Ananias’ healing ministry to the new convert Paul. (Note: by examining Paul’s conversion experience in Acts 9:1-9, and Paul’s account of it in Acts 26:12-19, we see that Paul referred to this experience as a “vision from heaven” and yet that it included space-time manifestations. In Acts 9:7, Paul’s traveling companions “heard the sound” and in Acts 26:13-14 it says that a light brighter than the sun blazed around Paul and his companions and “we all fell to the ground.”)
- Acts 10:3—The vision to the godly Roman centurion Cornelius to send for the Apostle Peter in Joppa.
- Acts 10:9—At the same time the messengers arrive from Cornelius, Peter falls into a trance and has the three visions of the “sheet” of animals coming down from heaven; this is the divine lesson which teaches him to accept the Gentiles as co-participants of the Abrahamic covenant blessings.
- Acts 10:19—Peter is “thinking about the vision” and the Spirit interrupts him.
- Acts 16:6—Visions may direct the course of evangelism. Here Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia beckoning to him results in preaching the gospel to those in Macedonia.
- Acts 18:9—Jesus speaks to Paul in a vision to encourage him to keep preaching.
- 2 Corinthians 12:1—Paul had momentous visions.
In conclusion, the above listing of visions in the Bible is conclusive proof that godly visions have particular characteristics and therefore that godly visions can be and are distinguished from ungodly, false vision.
- That the resurrection appearances were not visions or hallucinations is evident not only from the biblical text but common sense as well. First, the disciples were not psychologically susceptible to visions because they did not expect Christ to rise from the dead. Second, the total number of people who saw Jesus alive after His death (500 on one specific occasion, 1 Cor. 15:6) present far too diverse a psychological population to suggest they all experienced visions. Third, visions are normally of short duration whereas some of Jesus’ appearances were of very long duration such as along the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-28). Further, Jesus appeared over a period of 40 days at many different times and places; visions cannot do the kinds of things Jesus did, such as taking food and giving it to the disciples to eat; encouraging and allowing a skeptic to place his hands and fingers in his wounds, etc. True, some of the disciples at first thought Jesus was a ghost. This was a normal reaction since they knew He was dead, didn’t expect a resurrection, and would logically assume little else. But Jesus Himself replied, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see 1 have” (Lk, 24:39). Then He ate fish, something visions don’t normally do.
- James Orr (Gen. ed.), p. v. “Vision,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), pp. 3057-8; a more complete list is given in Naves Topical Bible.
- Harold O. J. Brown, Heresies (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), pp. 3, 76, 120, 186.
- Kenneth Hagin, I Believe in Visions (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1984), p. 93.
- Kenneth Copeland, “Take Time to Pray,” Believers Voice of Victory, February 1987, p. 9.
- Pre-publication copy.
- For a critique of Roman Catholic beliefs on salvation, see our Protestants and Catholics: Do They Now Agree? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publisher, 1995).
- E.g., the editors of Time-Life Books, Psychic Powers (Mysteries of the Unknown Series), (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1987), p. 117.
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Dr. John Ankerberg
Dr. John Ankerberg is founder and president of The John Ankerberg Show, the most-watched Christian worldview show in America. His television and radio programs are broadcast into 106 million American homes and are available in more than 200 nations in 12 languages. Author, co-author, or contributor of 158 books and study guides in 20 languages, his writings have sold more than 3 million copies and reach millions of readers each year online.
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Dr. John Weldon
Dr. John Weldon (born February 6, 1948) went to be with the Lord on August 30, 2014 following a long-time battle with cancer. John served for more than 20 years as a researcher for The John Ankerberg Show. During his tenure, he authored or coauthored more than 100 books, including the best-selling Facts On Series of books that has sold more than 2.5 million copies in 16 languages. His final book, published in July 2014 with Harvest House Publishers (coauthored with John Ankerberg), is especially fitting. How to Know You’re Going to Heaven offers a biblical and personal look at the way God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and the confidence the believer can have of eternity with Him in heaven (1 John 5:13). John’s life and work have touched countless others seeking to grow spiritually and better understand the Bible. His friends describe him as genuine, humble, and passionate to share the hope of eternal life with everyone he met. His work will continue through his many books, his online writings at The John Ankerberg Show website (JAshow.org), as well as through the many people John has personally influenced through his ministry.