Visions, dreams and “messages from the Lord”

It was documented brilliantly in the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ that the human mind can create people and events that seem utterly real but aren’t real at all, caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. How can a person say with certainty, therefore, that he’s receiving supernatural visions, dreams and messages from the Lord when they could have a natural cause too, like a change in medication, mental illness, intense stress, or simply eating too much before bed?

The human mind can be easily manipulated too. A hypnotist can make people think and do all kinds of crazy things, none of which are from God. Who can say with certainty, therefore, that the vision he saw, or voice he heard, came from God, when it could simply be his own mind playing tricks on him?

History has also shown how visions, dreams and “messages from God” can lead to all sorts of charismatic visionaries starting new religions that conflict with other religions in their beliefs and ideas about the afterlife. History is now littered with warring religions, denominational splits, wild speculation, failed prophecies, arrogant know-it-alls, chronic self-deception and horrible disillusionment, all caused by people who claimed they were receiving direct revelation from God.

So how can we know if something is from God, or not? Fortunately, God himself provided the means for detecting a real message from him. He sent Jesus Christ with all the messages we’d ever need, and then confirmed his choice of messenger personally by bringing him back from the dead. So all we need do when someone says he or she has a vision or a message from God is compare it to the message of the one messenger we know for certain came from God, and if it agrees, great; if it doesn’t, ignore it.

It won’t stop people claiming their visions and revelations are from God, of course, because it’s a great attention-grabber and it gives average folks centre stage and a following of adoring groupies. It won’t stop people making great pronouncements about their absolute authority as a prophet either, or stop their ugly warnings to those who “dare challenge the Lord’s anointed.”

But we CAN challenge them, because we’ve already got all the messages from God we need, delivered in person by God himself when he was here on earth with us. The only vision we need, then, is a clearer vision of what he’s already told us in his word. And to aid us in that quest, God promised us a Spirit helper (John 14:26), who also happens to be the “Spirit of truth,” enabling us to recognize a self-proclaimed prophet talking through his hat.


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