Visons are different than dreams because you are awake when you receive them. You can receive visions with your eyes open or with your eyes closed. The visions can be for you or for others. God often uses visions to convey a word in ministry.
First, let’s look at the Bible. Here again is the prophecy from Joel.
“And it shall come to pass afterward
That 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
There are 52 instances in the Bible when visions are mentioned. Here are just a few references:
Numbers 12:8 I (God) speak with him (Moses) face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?
2 Chronicles 26:5 And he (King Uzziah) sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.
Daniel 4:13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; (the watcher declared judgement coming on Nebuchadnezzar)
Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul’s story– It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (It is believed that Paul was speaking of himself and the vision he had before his ministry began.)
Revelation 1:10-13 Here is John’s experience on the Isle of Patmos. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches …” 12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, …
These are visions with eyes open except in Daniel’s case where he has eyes closed but he is awake.
While you may or may not receive visions of national or worldwide importance, you are likely to receive important insight about your life or others.
Let me give you a funny example of one of my experiences with vision. I was at a prophetic conference and the speaker wanted to show us how God will respond to prayer when we are ministering to others. He said, “Find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Say a quick prayer. ‘God is there anything You want me to speak to Jane?’ Now, keep your internal eyes on Jesus and listen and see if any words come to you or you see anything. When you see or hear anything, tell your new friend.”
This sounded easy enough. I found my person, a young woman in her 20’s. We introduced ourselves to each other and I prayed to ask God for His word.
On my internal screen I saw a bologna sandwich. –Two pieces of white bread and bologna in the middle. “Bologna sandwich?” I questioned in my mind. Surely not. So, I tried again and got the same picture.
Inwardly I was still holding back. This picture seemed ridiculous and of little significance. But I turned to her and said, “I know this is going to sound strange, but I am seeing a bologna sandwich.”
Then before I could say another word, God’s words came pouring out. “You see yourself as a bologna sandwich, but God sees you as prime rib. You are highly valued to Him.” She burst out in tears, and I held her realizing what we see or hear doesn’t always make sense to us but God knows exactly how to get His message across. We must trust Him and share what we see and hear. It may be a lifeline for the one we are speaking to.
Another time I was doing Bible Study and came across the story of the woman caught in adultery. As I read it over slowly, God took me into a vision.
I saw myself as a young girl and I was standing behind a pillar watching this scene before me. A group of men came dragging a young woman. Her clothes were torn, and she had blood on her face as if she’d been hit. They threw her at the feet of Jesus and told Him, “We caught her in adultery.” Then they drew back waiting for Him to respond.
All was silent for some time and then Jesus bent down and wrote in the dirt.
Still looking down, He spoke, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Then He again wrote in the dirt.
Next, I heard the stones dropping. Pretty soon all of the men turned and left. The woman looked up and Jesus asked, “Where are your accusers?”
“They are all gone,” she said.
Jesus responded ,“Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”
At this point in the vision, she looked like she needed something to drink. I took her a cup of water. When I did, Jesus said to me, “Why don’t we just walk her home?”
So, I took one hand and Jesus took the other and we walked her to her home. When we got to her house, she bent down and hugged me, thanked me for the water, hugged Jesus, and slipped quietly into her house.
Jesus looked at me and said, “You never have to be afraid of anyone. I am with you. If you are giving love, they will receive it.” End of vision.
At the time I was involved in feeding the homeless in street ministry. Some of the people were acting out in ways I was not used to. I took the vision as counsel for street ministry and wrote it all down for posterity.
Four months later, I was asked to teach a class at a church. I had strong feelings about saying no, because I wasn’t sure how my teaching would be received since I would not be using church curriculum. But I went to prayer.
God asked me, “You don’t know if you want to teach the class, right?”
“Do you remember the vision about the adulterous woman?” He asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, the church here is an adulterous woman. She is worshiping other gods. I love her as much as I love you. Will you take her a cup of water for Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” I said. “I will,” I did teach the class and did have some negative feedback through it. But overall, it was a wonderful experience and all of us benefited.
God has reasons for giving us visions and dreams and they are not always 100% clear at the time. It is important to write them down.
In our next Hearing God lesson, we will talk a little more about the writing process. If the prophets of old did not scribe what they heard and saw, we would not have the records we cherish today.
Remember, God is ever present, and He wants a relationship with us more than we can imagine. Make time to pray, meditate on His word, pray, and listen.