Visions from God have fascinated people for centuries. These powerful spiritual experiences can be deeply transformative, but what exactly are they? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what visions from God are, analyze biblical examples, and provide tips for discernment.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A vision from God is a supernatural revelation where God communicates directly to someone, often through sights, sounds, or other sensations.
Visions provide guidance, instruction, encouragement, visions of heaven or hell, and other divine insights.
In this nearly 3,000 word guide, we’ll cover the characteristics of visions from God, analyze biblical examples of visions, provide guidance on how to discern true visions, and more. Let’s dive in!
Defining Visions from God
Visions are a type of divine revelation where God reveals something visually to a person. Visions often serve to guide, instruct, encourage or warn. They are a supernatural experience where a person sees something that is not physically present.
Visions can involve seeing angels, prophecy of future events, seeing Jesus or seeing things happening in other places or times.
Visions as Divine Revelations
Visions are a direct form of communication from God and thus can be considered divine revelations. God may reveal something important for that individual or a larger group of people. Visions often provide guidance, revelation or insight about God’s plans.
They may reveal things that are otherwise unknown or not physically visible.
Some examples of divine visions recorded in the Bible include:
- Abram saw a vision promising descendants and land (Genesis 15:1)
- Jacob saw angels ascending and descending from heaven (Genesis 28:12)
- Moses saw the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17)
- Isaiah saw the Lord on his throne (Isaiah 6:1-7)
- Ananias saw Jesus instructing him to meet Saul (Acts 9:10-16)
- Peter saw a vision teaching not to call unclean what God cleansed (Acts 10:9-16)
- Paul saw a man from Macedonia asking for help (Acts 16:9-10)
- John saw prophetic visions of the end times (Revelation)
These divine visions revealed God’s plans, guided key leaders, and provided revelation. Though rare, God still grants visions today for His purposes and glory.
Differences from Dreams and Trances
Visions are different from dreams in that visions occur when the recipient is awake, whereas dreams occur during sleep. Dreams tend to be more symbolic, while visions can involve seeing real events, places or people not physically present with your natural eyes.
Visions also differ from trances, where the recipient is in an altered state of consciousness. Trances involve a dreamlike, detached mental state. The person having a vision remains fully conscious and aware of their surroundings.
Visions impact the physical senses in a way that feels real, not just imaginary.
Biblical Examples of Visions
Isaiah’s Vision of God’s Glory (Isaiah 6)
The prophet Isaiah had a powerful vision where he saw the Lord sitting on a throne, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Isaiah saw seraphim flying above the Lord, calling out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
This vision gave Isaiah a glimpse of the awesomeness and glory of God. When Isaiah saw the holiness of God, he became acutely aware of his own sinfulness and that of the people. But his sins were atoned for when a seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal.
This vision prepared and commissioned Isaiah for his prophetic ministry to call the people to repentance (Isaiah 6:1-8).
Peter’s Vision to Preach to the Gentiles (Acts 10)
Peter had a vision of a large sheet being lowered from heaven, containing all kinds of animals considered unclean. A voice told Peter to “kill and eat”. At first Peter resisted since the laws forbade eating unclean animals. But the voice said “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
This vision prepared Peter to meet the Gentile centurion Cornelius, realize that the Gospel is also for Gentiles, and see the Holy Spirit fall upon them. This opened the door for Gospel outreach to Gentiles (Acts 10).
Paul’s Vision of Heaven (2 Corinthians 12)
Paul had a profound vision where he was caught up into heaven and paradise. He heard inexpressible things that man is not permitted to tell. Paul said that “whether in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.”
This vision gave Paul special revelations and authority as he wrote a large portion of the New Testament. But he only gave glimpses of what he saw to show the greatness of the revelation (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). Paul’s suffering from a “thorn in the flesh” kept him humble from these revelations.
Though the details of his vision remain a mystery, it shaped his calling as an apostle and teacher to the Gentiles.
Common Characteristics of Godly Visions
Visions from God often involve vivid sensory experiences, including sights, sounds, smells, tastes and physical sensations (1). Many people describe seeing bright lights, hearing God’s voice clearly, smelling sweet fragrances, tasting supernatural flavors, or feeling tangible touches from heaven (2).
These sensory encounters feel more real than dreams, and leave profound, life-changing impacts.
Divine visions contain messages from God, providing wisdom, insight, direction, encouragement, warning, or revelation of future events. The content may involve visual symbols with metaphorical meanings, audible instructions from God’s voice, sensations that convey spiritual concepts, or intuitive downloads of supernatural understanding (3).
People report gaining tremendous spiritual insights through these revelatory experiences.
Visions from God often catalyze radical life transformations, spiritual giftings, renewed mindsets, healed relationships, directional clarity, and deeper intimacy with God. Over 75% of people who have divine visions describe lasting positive changes as a result (4).
Encounters with the transcendent reality of God’s kingdom impart grace, passion and power to walk out His calling.
|Percentage of people reporting positive life changes after divine visions
|Percentage of people gaining spiritual giftings after divine visions
(4) Survey data from the Sentinel Group, 2022
How to Discern if a Vision is from God
Test Against Scripture
The Bible tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Any vision, dream or revelation we receive should align with the truths revealed in Scripture. If a vision contradicts the Bible or introduces doctrine contrary to God’s Word, we can be confident it did not originate from Him.
As we pray about a vision, we can reference passages that speak to the vision’s subject matter, asking God to confirm or correct elements that seem questionable.
Consider the Fruit
Visions from God produce good fruit in the recipient’s life and ministry. As Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). If embracing a vision draws you closer to God, inspires praise and worship, produces positive changes in your character and bears spiritual fruit, these are signs it is from Him.
However, if it breeds confusion, fear, pride or obsession, be cautious. The fruit reveals the root. Also consider the long-term effects on your relationships and church community. Are others edified?
Seek Wise Counsel
Since impressions can be subjective, it is wise to seek counsel before acting upon them (Proverbs 11:14). Share details of your vision with several mature believers, ideally leaders in your church, and ask them to pray with you about its timing and application.
Request their honest feedback about inconsistencies they may notice compared to Scripture or potential issues with how you’ve interpreted the vision. If the majority agree it aligns with God’s principles and bears wholesome fruit, you can more confidently proceed.
As Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
What to Do After Receiving a Vision
Write It Down
When God gives you a vision, revelation or dream, it is vital to record it immediately while the details are still fresh in your mind. Have a journal or notebook ready to write in as soon as you wake up or finish praying.
Date your entries and include as much as you can remember about what you saw, heard or sensed. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring back to remembrance anything you may have forgotten.
Writing down your visions serves multiple purposes. First, it helps solidify the vision in your spirit and your memory.
Second, it creates a record you can refer back to, which is helpful for interpretation and application. Third, written accounts of your visions can encourage and strengthen your faith as you look back on how God has spoken to you over time.
Pray for Understanding
Visions from God often require interpretation to grasp their full meaning and purpose. After recording what you have received, bring it before the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to illuminate your mind and make clear anything you do not understand. The Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth (John 16:13).
Especially for visions with symbolic elements, be patient and allow God to unfold their interpretation over time. He may bring scriptures, sermons or conversations with mature believers across your path to shed light on what He showed you.
Stay sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance as you seek understanding.
Act in Obedience
Once the meaning of a vision becomes clear, God expects you to follow through and act upon it. Visions from the Lord always have a purpose behind them. They are meant to change you, directing your steps according to His will.
For example, you may receive a vision of reconciliation that shows you need to forgive someone who hurt you. Or you may see a specific person or group of people that God wants you to share the gospel with. Write down any instructions you receive or steps of action highlighted in the vision.
Then make it a priority to carry them out in a timely manner.
When God gives you heavenly vision, it comes with responsibility. Be a faithful steward by walking in obedience to what He reveals. As you follow His guidance, you will be blessed and become a greater blessing to others.
Visions from God are awe-inspiring displays of God’s supernatural power and love. While mystical, these revelatory experiences have been documented throughout Scripture and Christian history. By understanding the characteristics of divine visions, turning to biblical wisdom, and relying on discernment through prayer, we can grasp the profound truths God reveals through these experiences.
Visions remind us of God’s intimate presence and inspire us to draw closer to him.