Visions: What are they?

The Question:

What is the difference between a dream and a vision?

- S. from Joliet, Illinois

Can you explain the difference between the types of visions people have. I had an open vision months ago. I was in prayer and this vision appeared before me. It was like watching a movie in a theater and was so clear and real.

K. from Richmond, Virginia


The Answer
Part 1: Dreams & Visions
Part 2: Kinds of Visions
Part 3: Testing Visions

Dreams & Visions (Part 1)

The first question is easier to answer (and shorter) so I will handle it first. A dream happens in a sleep state though it does not have to be a deep sleep. God may begin a communication with us even in that light twilight zone as we are falling asleep or in that groggy time as we are waking up.

It's possible to have a vision within a dream though you would not have a dream within a vision. (At least I cannot imagine falling asleep during a vision.)

Dreams and visions both involve "seeing" things but audio may be added to either. Once, as I was waking up, I heard a scripture verse mentioned but had no idea what it said until I grabbed my Bible. I realized God was drawing it to my attention for a reason so I meditated on it for my morning devotional.

Not all dreams are from God in the sense of them being supernatural communication but dreaming itself is from God and there is purpose to all of our dreams. Sometimes we process things in our dream world that we cannot seem to do in consciousness. Still, probably more dreams are from God than he is given credit for.


Kinds of Visions (Part 2)

In a short space, I can only give an overview so this is not a very complete treatment. Visions cause us to "see" beyond the natural realm. They may involve symbols and may need interpretation or they may be literal and easy to understand.

When Mary saw an angel in Luke 1, she was participating in one type of vision called an apparition. She saw Gabriel in the flesh even though angels are spirit beings. There was nothing to interpret in her vision; Gabriel announced to her exactly what was going to happen to her: "you will conceive in our womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." (Luke 1:31)

Another type of vision is more like the one mentioned in the question ("like watching a movie in a theater"). This is the type Peter had on a rooftop in Joppa in Acts 10:9-16 in which "he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground" The scripture says that Peter had fallen into a trance (which may also be part of a vision) and in this case symbols were presented which needed interpretation.

The apostle John probably received the highest level of revelation through the visions he had on the Isle of Patmos as a very old man. At first he heard "a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet" (Revelation 1:10) and then he began to see things and hear messages from Jesus to the seven churches. But there was more. "After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven" (Revelation 4:1) He was invited to "Come up here" and was then shown many end time events which were replete with symbols still being argued over by theologians today.

John's visions were spectacular and became the last book of the New Testament but various forms of visions are actually pretty common. Sometimes a person will simply get a flash of a picture, either internally or externally. Many with a prophetic gift specialize in "seeing" things and when that is the case, they are usually called a "Seer".

How should we handle visions?


Testing Visions (Part 3)

Visions fall under the prophetic umbrella and need to be bathed in wisdom and discernment to stay on track. If visions come with symbols they should not be interpreted carelessly. Action based on a vision should not be undertaken without confirmation, especially for beginners.

It should go without saying that visions need to be tested against scripture because the demonic realm can also produce visions and make apparitions. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, (and this goes for visions) but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)

It is a worthy endeavor for those who receive visions to read as much as possible about their gift and to attempt to get training and mentoring from an elder, more mature prophet. If anyone wants to start, I highly recommend The Seer by Jim Goll, Destiny Image Publishers © 2004.

The gift of prophecy is much needed today in our End Times so I'm glad we are told in Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets." Since this is the case, we certainly need to understand ALL that God is saying, both in what he speaks and what he reveals in visions.

Maybe you are one who is receiving his secret counsel right now?

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