God gave this promise:
“I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28 NKJV).
I’ve taught many times on dreams and visions, but I feel led in this teaching to specifically focus on visions—what they are and the best ways to respond to them.
Throughout the Bible, God spoke to people in many ways, each unique and wonderful, through both dreams and visions. Many people use these two words interchangeably, and they are similar. Both involve our Lord giving direct revelation. However, one of the main differences is that dreams come to us during sleep, while visions occur when we are awake. In fact, in Numbers 24:4, visions, or “waking dreams,” are given “with eyes wide open.”
God uses dreams primarily to speak to us, reveal His plans, enable Spirit-directed communication, warn of impending trouble, establish prophetic revelation, and provide battle strategies.
Visions, though comparable, have a different purpose. God uses visions to reveal Himself, His glory, and to make Himself known and revealed.
God used visions with such people as Abraham (Genesis 15), Samuel (1 Samuel 3), Daniel (Daniel 7-12), Ananias (Acts 9), Cornelius (Acts 10), and Peter (Acts 10).
The apostle Paul received several significant visions. One instructed him to proclaim the Gospel in Macedonia (Acts 16), another encouraged him to remain longer in Corinth (Acts 18), and he also received a vision of heaven (2 Corinthians 12).
While exiled on the island of Patmos, John received the book of Revelation as a vision that offered greater detail of future events than Daniel had been shown.
Visions have continued through the years. And according to Joel 2:28, the coming days will see even more, especially through our youth.
Vision of the Fiery Inferno
I was a very young believer in early 1972, and I was praying in my bedroom, totally surrounded by the Lord’s glorious presence. Suddenly I had a vision of a vast multitude of people moving toward a large, deep valley where a raging inferno billowed. Thousands were falling into the flames. Then I distinctly heard the Lord speak to me, “If you do not preach, I will hold you responsible.”
I was overwhelmed by what I saw, all the sounds I heard, and the Voice that spoke to me. It was a life-changing moment, and I promised God I would serve Him with every atom of my being.
Even as I write these words to you today, the reality of that vision is still as unquestionably real to me as the day I received it!
From that moment forward, I’ve been driven to preach the Gospel to the millions, even billions, marching toward the raging inferno who desperately need to hear the message of God’s saving and healing power—many of them for the very first time.
For me, the vision of the fiery inferno was the first of a number of visions I have since received, and that experience drew me to a life-long study of both dreams and visions.
Let me briefly share what I’ve learned specifically about visions.
Characteristics of a God-given Vision
Each of us goes through life-changing moments when a new vision is given, but questions often arise. These are primarily the ways to show a believer that the vision is from God:
• A God-given vision reveals His holiness, glory, and power. The prophet Isaiah was given a life-changing vision:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to 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 were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
• A God-given vision exposes your own humanness and frailty. Following the revelation of God’s glory, the prophet Isaiah declared:
So I said: “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 my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
A vision always reveals God’s glory. When you see His glory and power, how can you help but be left with a sense of your own shortcomings and flaws?
• A God-given vision will leave you astonished and sometimes even numb for days. As the prophet Ezekiel sat among the captives by the Chebar River (Ezekiel 1-3), the heavens were opened to him and he received several visons from God—including the whirlwind, throne room of God, the living creatures, the wheels, and much more.
Following this vision, Ezekiel was astonished and speechless for days (Ezekiel 3:15).
• A God-given vision will always be followed by its interpretation. Daniel 7 speaks of the vision given to the prophet Daniel, then states, “my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart” (Daniel 7:28).
The King James version speaks the prophet’s troubling thoughts as “cognitions.” He didn’t understand his thoughts, so God sent an angel to explain the vision:
Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.” (Daniel 8:15-17)
Often you will have a vision that you don’t understand at first. When this happens, begin to seek God’s interpretation of what you just saw.
Five Steps to Turning a Vision into Reality
It’s one thing to receive a vision. It’s another thing when you don’t understand it or know what to do with what you’ve received. Thankfully, the prophet Habakkuk revealed five things you must do to bring your “waking dream” to fruition:
Habukkuk himself received (“saw”) a vision from God, a burdensome panorama of what was to come. The prophet quickly prayed, opening himself to what the Lord wanted him to see and do: I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected. (Habakkuk 2:1)
The first thing you must do is pray. Prayer is the key to dreams, visions, revelations, interpretation, and knowledge. Pray and ask God to reveal the meaning of your “waking dream” to you.
2. Write the vision down
Time can dim your memory. The enemy of your soul will do anything to keep your vision from becoming reality. You may forget important parts of what you saw. The Lord told Habakkuk exactly what to do: Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
3. Act upon the vision
“Run who reads it” refers to stepping out in faith and acting upon what God has show you. The instant you begin to act upon what you have seen, you begin cooperating with God to bring it to pass.
4. Wait for it
This may sound contradictory to acting upon the vision, but waiting is an important part of making the vision a reality. Even as you step out in faith, you must also realize that God’s timing is crucial: For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it. (Habakkuk 2:3)
A God-given vision will always be fulfilled. However, God is not limited to human time-tables. While you wait for a vision to come to fruition, cooperate with God in every way you can, waiting patiently for His perfect timing to fulfill it.
We are told, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7 ESV). Wait for Him. Seek the Giver of visions, not just the visions.
Andrew Murray wrote: “Give God His glory by resting in Him, by trusting Him fully, by waiting patiently for Him. This patience honors Him greatly; it leaves Him, as God on the throne, to do His work; it yields self wholly into His hands. It lets God be God.”
5. Don’t lose faith
“It will surely come” (Habakkuk 2:2). It may tarry, but “the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).
Anytime you receive anything from God, including a vision, understand that the enemy of your soul will do anything to keep you frustrated, defeated, and despondent, even taunting you to believe that the vision was a mere illusion.
Hold on to the promise, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). When you focus on God and His will for your life, the enemy’s power will be defeated and you will live in victory, even as you stand on His promises and walk in faith.
Remember how Samuel, as a child, was beckoned by God during the night. Twice he heard the Almighty’s voice in the darkness. Finally, on the advice of Eli his mentor, the youngster waited in the silence until he heard the voice calling his name.
Samuel replied, “Speak. I’m your servant, ready to listen” (1 Samuel 3:10 MSG). God told him to listen carefully, and quickly began giving instructions that would change the course of history.
Maybe what God desires to show you isn’t as dramatic as what Samuel received, but it is no less important.
Each of us goes through life-changing moments when a new vision is given and direction is set. From what I hear in person, through emails, and from the letters I receive, I believe this is happening right now for many of my partners as God prepares us for what is ahead.
What is God showing you, either in visions or the still, small voice inside you? After all, visions don’t always come in dramatic form. Sometimes God simply places something in your heart that He will illuminate and expand in time.
What has He placed in your heart to do? A new opportunity? A greater vision of what you are to do? A business idea? Improved relationships? Leading loved ones to the Lord?
Clear your mind. Spend increasing amounts of time in God’s presence, avoiding outside distractions and thoughts. Then listen as you wait.
The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote, “Take heed, and be quiet” (Isaiah 7:4). Being silent and heeding God’s still, small voice go hand-in-hand.
We are told, “Oh, that you would be silent, and it would be your wisdom” (Job 13:5), and “Teach me, and I will be quiet. Show me where I have been wrong” (Job 6:24 NLV). Silence allows you to pay attention to what’s stirring in your soul. Instead of quashing or ignoring what’s going on in your spirit, pursue even more strongly your time with God in solitude.
The more time you spend alone with God, the more you’ll learn how to recognize His voice when He speaks to you and the visions He places in your heart. Be alert for the Holy Spirit witnessing to your spirit. Always remember, the Holy Spirit will reveal truth to you only as you’re able to hear it.
And as God speaks to you, write the vision and make it plain.
My Special Request for You Today
In closing, let me share this word with you. I believe that the remainder of 2019 will continue to be a supernatural season of blessing and new direction for believers, and I want you to be part of what the Lord is doing!
He wants us to sow properly and purposefully toward the increase and expansion of the glorious and eternal Gospel that saves hearts and works miracles. His Word tells us:
“He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).
The word “necessity” in this verse means “compulsion.” God doesn’t want believers to feel forced to give, but because they love Him so much that they are joyful to give toward the spread of the Kingdom. The Greek word for “cheerful” is “joyful.” God is looking for men and women who will give cheerfully and joyfully toward evangelism.
As God expands your vision and as you take a step of faith in every area of your life, will you prayerfully ask Him what offering you should give today so untold multitudes can hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I am eager to hear from you very soon, and I pray that your gift will bring multitudes of lost souls to the cross.
At the same time, I pray that your offering will be multiplied into a vast harvest of blessings in your own life, in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, during the coming weeks and months!
The principles of sowing and reaping are given to us throughout the Old and New Testaments. These principles and promises are there for all to see, and I can bear witness to what He has done in the lives of so many believers who have been blessed immeasurably so they can continue to be a blessing to others!
And that is my prayer for you today!
Your gift helps me take the life-saving, miracle-working Gospel of Jesus Christ around the globe, and I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, how much I appreciate both your offerings, encouragement, and prayers as we labor together for God’s kingdom!
Will you stand with me today as we seek to reach out to the lost and needy all over the world? May God bless you abundantly for whatever you give toward the spread of His kingdom!