“I Just Had a Vision!” written by Kevin Reeves, is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet is 16 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. This booklet is specifically geared toward passing out to those who are involved in movements such as the River movement, Latter Rain, Word Faith, IHOP, Kansas City Prophets, Toronto Blessing, or Brownsville Revival, etc.). Below is the content of the booklet (the names of people and churches have been changed). To order copies of “I Just Had a Vision!,” click here.
by Kevin Reeves
There is perhaps nothing so powerful as a vision. When the heavens open and our eyes look upon fantastic things once hidden, it can alter the course of our lives:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1–5)
A glimpse into heaven itself to behold the God of all flesh made Isaiah panic with self-loathing. His innermost heart was revealed in the light of the Lord’s glory, and there was no place to hide.
Who wouldn’t want to have a vision of this magnitude? And why shouldn’t we? On the day of Pentecost, the Christians present experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: “[A]nd your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
Never in the history of our planet have so many who call themselves Christian claimed visions from God. Encounters with Christ, angels, demons, even saints long departed have begun to appear in book form, crowding the charismatic section of our local Christian bookstores. The popularity of visions never seems to wane, and the more a person has and the greater the scope, the quicker he is skyrocketed to Christian stardom. People with virtually no genuine theological training are suddenly propelled into the teaching arena, regaling vast audiences with tremendous accounts of their own spiritual derring-do. And while the stories continue to scale the heights of plausibility, an amazed public looks on, vicariously a part of the panoramic excitement and often with hands folded atop a closed Bible in their laps.
Sadly and without exaggeration, Sunday services at New Covenant Fellowship, my former church, were routinely stopped to give opportunity to report a vision that occurred during worship. Many in the congregation would listen with rapt attention as one person after another would share what had transpired “in the spirit.” Sometimes demons would make an appearance; sometimes it was the Lord Jesus Himself.
Angels were a particular favorite. I can’t tell you how many times angels have made an impromptu appearance at our services.
Jeannette McElroy seemed graced with multiple visitations. On this particular Sunday afternoon, Jeannette had gone up to the front of the sanctuary, in the middle of a worship song, to speak privately with worship leader Beth Clayton, Pastor Phil’s wife. Beth held her hand over the microphone, listened momentarily to Jeannette, and then nodded. At the end of the song, Beth in triumph noted the presence of the two angelic beings seen by Jeannette. They were there to worship with us, she exclaimed, and she led the congregation into a brief period of shouting praise to God for sending His angelic emissaries.
No one halted the festivities to suggest examining the claim in the light of God’s Word. It was merely taken at face value and used to bolster our self-image as the church on the cutting-edge of God’s worldwide movement. By then several months into my own charismatic research, I exchanged a brief, frustrated glance with my wife, Kris.
When I later brought up the angel incident in an eldership meeting, Beth staunchly denied she’d promoted the vision. She maintained she had merely acknowledged Jeannette’s word and left it to the congregation to decide its veracity. But my wife and I were both there. The way it is described above is exactly the way it happened. Interestingly, none of the rest of the leadership in the room nixed Beth’s version, despite the fact that some were present during the “angelic visitation.”
The cries of “I saw!” reverberated throughout New Covenant Fellowship my whole tenure there. Sometimes the visions were two-dimensional, sometimes 3-D, and sometimes the person was actually caught up into them, in the same way the apostle John was translated into the heavenly realms in the book of Revelation. They moved as participants in the vision itself, walking, feeling, etc. As Pastor Tom consistently reminded the congregation of its prophetic calling, dreams and visions grew to paramount importance. They were used to chart our congregation’s very course, and any resistance or verbal doubt was severely frowned upon or openly dismissed.
Never having been much involved with either prophecy or visions, I had no foundation of experience from which to judge. I left the decision to the rest of the leadership, to accept or reject whatever came forth with the label of vision. Finally, during my last year as elder, I did my own Bible study on the subject, and what I discovered left me angry, frightened, and delighted. Angry, because I felt we had been duped personally and congregationally.
Frightened, because so many visions were coming forth on a regular basis with no real safeguard as to their origins. Delighted, because I was no longer held captive by supposed visions from God, which I had long suspected were other than from Him.
Many people cannot appreciate the gravity with which visions are accepted in many charismatic circles, and consequently cannot understand the bondage that results. If someone has a vision of “the Lord Jesus” and is given a message to convey to you, for you to treat it lightly is to despise the very words of God. You are bound to carry out the instructions of this visionary or face the consequences. The ensuing fear can be devastating, especially if the message contradicts your own conscience or understanding of the Scriptures.
The new believer is especially vulnerable because he is led to believe that all these visions are from God. Furthermore, any hindrance to, or lack of visions on his own part is due, he is told, to lack of maturity and failure to fully trust the leadership.
Accepting everything that comes down the pike as from God is like driving a car while wearing blinders. You can’t see the big picture. Your actual focus becomes so constrained that you miss necessary landmarks to indicate proper direction—not to mention the fact that sooner or later you’ll get sideswiped by a vehicle you never saw coming.
On the Wings of Angels
At my best count, there are less than thirty visions or dreams recorded in the entire New Testament, and of these only about fifteen took place in the book of Acts. And this in a period, from the birth of Christ to the last chapter of Acts, encompassing about sixty years.
I have come to the conclusion that visions are not the norm for a believer, but a rare occurrence. Of those saints in the Bible described as having bona fide visions from God, a mere handful had more than one recorded vision in their entire lifetime.
Furthermore, none of these occurrences were initiated by the individual, but were the result of a divine act of God. In explaining mystical experiences, which is the category visions fall into, I like this explanation by research analyst Ray Yungen:
While certain instances in the Bible describe mystical experiences, I see no evidence anywhere of God sanctioning man-initiated mysticism. Legitimate mystical experiences were always initiated by God to certain individuals for certain revelations and were never based on a method for the altering of consciousness. In Acts 11:5, Peter fell into a trance while in prayer. But it was God, not Peter, who initiated the trance and facilitated it.1
Compared with the frequency of modern visions by many charismatic churchgoers, these past biblical heroes seem almost deficient in their relationship to the Lord.
Concerning the visitation of angelic beings themselves, the scriptural record directly conflicts with such experiences. In our own meetings, those with frequent visions of angels had often depicted them as merely standing around, enjoying or participating in a worship service with us. Contrast this with the biblical model of angelic visitation. In both Old and New Testaments, angels are beings sent by God to give verbal messages (often concerning the future), to administer divine judgment, to strengthen and comfort, and to give specific direction, warnings, and deliverance from dangers. Their appearing was an amazing event; fear was the natural human reaction to their presence, or at the very least an awed respect. Visions of angels in the church of today, however, nearly always produce glee or a giddy joyfulness, little awe, no fear, and often the “angels” are just standing enjoying themselves and have no message from God. In heaven this may sometimes happen (we simply don’t know), but the scriptural precedent demonstrates their earthly visitation always heralded a direct message from the Lord and their very presence caused an immediate shock to the person witnessing it. In those times when angels hid their identity (Genesis 19) they were viewed as mere men, and when they made their identity known, the reaction was fear, shock, and awe.
Likewise, visions of any kind, in both Old and New Testament, appeared to be very rare occurrences. Acts 2:17 has been used to support the argument of increased occurrence of visions in the end-times, but the context of Scripture shows that we have been in the last days for the past two thousand years. If anyone should have had a preponderance of visions, you’d think it would have been the apostles, who knew the Lord Jesus face-to-face and wrote the New Testament under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
All in the Mind?
I believe that most of what are reported as visions are not such at all, but could be more appropriately termed mental pictures. The two are certainly not synonymous. Mental pictures occur constantly during our waking hours but don’t necessarily have anything to do with the spiritual, whereas visions always have their origin in the supernatural realm. As we speak in conversation, we see mental images, memories, etc., to correspond with the dialogue; reading gives us the same experience. Even television viewing offers the same scenario, as the images dancing across the screen click off our own past experiences or connections with our present situations. This can transpose into our times of prayer, giving us mental pictures that may or may not be of God.
This conclusion really upset my wife Kris (the first dozen times I mentioned it!) because she had often relied on mental pictures as a guide when praying for others. Encouraged by the leadership as prophetic, Kris watched the pictures that arose in her mind for clues to the spiritual condition of the person she was praying for, and the subsequent remedy.
After personal Bible study and serious prayer, she came to question this method and eventually discard it as a valid practice in ministry. The practice itself can be dangerous, actually maneuvering an innocent Christian in the wrong direction. In many cults, and, unfortunately in much of the Pentecostal arm of the church, it has already done just that.
That is not to say that all images we see are wrong. Some may be quite correct at times. But “[w]e have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place” (II Peter 1:19). The Word of God is the mirror in which to examine all our practices, thoughts, deeds, and desires. If God had left anything out of His written record, the void would allow all manner of personal interpretations or inventions to prosper. The resultant chaos would cripple any objective discernment.
According to the Bible, there are three sources of visions—God, the devil, and the flesh. Of these, only one can be trusted as to motive and authenticity. As for the other spiritual experiences originating with the kingdom of darkness or human sensuality, they must be discarded, and immediately. They are not impotent fantasies, but are corrupt from the word go and will quickly lead astray anyone whose attraction they capture:
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken? Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 13:3–8)
I cannot stress this enough—contrary to popular fallacy, there is no such thing as a harmless false vision. Its fraudulent nature alone is enough to condemn it in the eyes of God; those who give ear to it will eventually have their faith in Christ contaminated, perhaps shipwrecked. Attendees of the Peoples Temple were regaled with stories of angelic visitations and “revelation knowledge.” The reverend Jim Jones capitalized on his self-proclaimed intimacy with heaven to lead a group of followers into mass suicide in the Guyana bush.2 Don’t think that the average believer in Christ is immune to this kind of deception. In the wake of gold teeth and gold dust miracles showing up in various River congregations worldwide, stories of angel feather sightings have set a portion of the charismatic church wild with jubilee. One West Coast church said that “tiny white feathers and gold flakes” appeared during the service.3 Such occurrences were the next logical step in an already deception-heavy system of super-spirituality, rationalization, and the frenzied pursuit of illusion.
While there could be genuine godly visions that do take place today, they are very rare and not apt to guide people into the fantastic or to gather a following. Contrast this with the nearly cult status accorded some presumed seers, who not only relate a plethora of dreams and visions that contradict biblical foundations but who make a rather decent living doing it through books, conferences, special engagements, etc. The overused mantra of “God is doing a new thing and therefore the Scriptures don’t specifically address it” should be relegated to the ash heap. Any true heavenly vision may only confirm what is already in the Scriptures:
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. (I Corinthians 4:6)
Do not go past that which is written. Through Scripture, the Holy Spirit repeatedly makes the same statement in manifold ways:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:11)
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:13–17)
A master of camouflage, “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). We are admonished to put to trial those things we see or hear claiming to be from the heavenly realms:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (I John 4:1–3)
To confess means to agree with. Any spirit, vision, dream, prophet, experience, whatever, that does not agree with the revelation of Jesus Christ as set down in the Scriptures is not of God. Water may look pure, but unless we know the source from which it is drawn we may drink to our own ill health. A close examination with a magnifying glass may betray bits and pieces of debris, or worse yet, organisms roaming its depths that, taken internally, would cause debilitating disease.
Am I suggesting we carry around a magnifier to inspect anything coming our way? Perhaps that is just what is needed. For too long, we’ve covered our eyes with blinders instead and accepted a testimony to our detriment, simply because the person giving it named Christ and seemed sincere. Paul said even deceivers within the church would attempt to pass themselves off as the real article (II Corinthians 11: 3–4, 13). We can judge without being judgmental.
Peripheral issues we can overlook, knowing full well the sole reservoir of truth does not rest with us.
But in the presentation of Christ, there can be no leeway. A false image of the Savior—His character, words or deeds—will lead us away from the truth, and consequently, away from God. And eventually, that is what every fraudulent vision will do—take away from the person of Christ and demand our attention and adherence to its personalized message. I have seen it happen, as one vision after another proclaimed in my former congregation boosted our elitism and remolded Jesus just a bit more into the user-friendly image we preferred. With virtually no accountability, fear of redefining Christ’s biblically revealed character faded bit by bit into obscurity.
This current state of things within the church is just the outgrowth of an inner movement attempting to differentiate between truth and revelation. It is being stated by popular charismatic authors that truth is where God has been, but revelation is where He is at the moment. This dichotomy is a contrived one. The Word of God is truth and revelation both, and the timeless truth of God’s Word applies to all saints throughout all ages. Again, the implication of this kind of compartmentalized thinking is that the Scriptures fall embarrassingly short when it comes to equipping the saints for life in today’s world.
What should shame us as believers is the wholesale disregard for the only visible, objective, sure, written Word of God. In our mad dash to embrace the new thing, we have run right past the only place of refuge, God’s Promise, that can keep us from hurtling down the face of an impossibly steep cliff. I can testify to the broken lives and empty spirituality that remains when the initial high wears off. We had congregation members regularly spending their cash to jet to this or that prophetic conference. They just had to keep up with the latest move of God, and bring it back with them to New Covenant. Running after other gods, ancient Israel attained to this spiritual bankruptcy on a regular basis. But we can take heart, for their failures can be our lessons:
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
For those former seers willing to swallow a large helping of humble pie, there is most certainly hope. For those willing to repent, the grace of our Lord will lead past every soulish and narcissistic revelation, helping us to walk in humility and the simple freedom of Christ Jesus.
For the rest, the road can only lead further into deception and confusion, compounding itself with every new revelation that adds to, subtracts from, or contradicts Scripture.
I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; Which think to cause my people to forget my name. (Jeremiah 23: 25-27)
To order copies of “I Just Had a Vision!,” click here.
1. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd edition, 2006), p. 34.
2. In 1978, cult leader Jim Jones lead over 900 followers in a mass suicide in northern Guyana.
3. Mary Owen “Oregon Church Says Gold Dust, Feathers Fell During Meetings” (Charisma magazine, September 2000, http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/component/content/article/248-people-events/517-oregon-church-says-gold-dust-feathers-fell-during-meetings).
To order copies of “I Just Had a Vision!,” click here.