Interpreting Visions According To Theological Lenses
Last week we talked about the need for prophets and teachers to work together in the body of Christ. Even prophets who are often very accurate can have areas where they tend to miss it due to their theology or their experiences coloring their revelation. We must test prophecy—no matter who the prophet is. Sometimes prophets have powerful experiences and they aren’t even sure what to do with them or how to interpret them at first. Good teaching can help to interpret revelatory experiences.
Today I’d like to share a few examples of how theology could color our interpretation of even true visions from God.
“They Are In God’s Hands”
I recently listened to a wonderful testimony from Dan Mohler. Dan is primarily a teacher, but he has had an open vision just a few times. This was one of them. The story starts at about 7 minutes and 55 seconds into this video.
Two babies were dying and they were unhooking the respirator. Dan was on the phone with the mom, ready to pray for the babies, when he saw his whole kitchen turn into a sky. A big hand came down from heaven and scooped up the babies.
Pause for a moment. What do most people think of when they imagine God’s hand reaching down from the sky and taking two dying babies? “God is taking them but don’t worry. They will soon be safe in heaven with Jesus.”
That’s NOT how Dan interpreted the vision. He told the mother “Honey, your babies aren’t gonna die. They’re in the hand of God.” They unhooked the respirators and the little baby who had no lungs laid there and breathed, and never died.
Dan admits that if his theology wasn’t what it is, he would have said “Don’t worry, they will be in heaven soon.” Even an open vision from God can be misinterpreted through a poor theological lens.
A Sword Over Rio De Janeiro
I recently saw a vision of a big angel in the sky with a sword pointed down over Rio de Janeiro. Sometimes I’m not immediately sure of the interpretation of a vision, but I understood this one immediately. I knew God was saying that He is extending the sword of truth over Rio to divide between truth and lies, dealing with injustice and systemic corruption.
I couldn’t help but imagine how many people might interpret such a vision. In last week’s post we referred to Shawn Bolz’s statement that most prophets who’ve prophesied about disasters and apocalyptic events have been wrong. An angel pointing a sword down over the city could be easily interpreted as a sign of coming destruction. That is, to somebody who is looking through a certain theological lens.
God had, in fact, already spoken to us through a vision about raising his banner of peace over Rio de Janeiro. We’ve seen several confirmations of this. In fact, I recently saw a white flag on a guy’s motorcycle in front of us. It had the word “peace” written on it. I wish I’d gotten the chance to talk to him about his flag!
I was already praying for Rio de Janeiro from a perspective of knowing God’s desire to bring peace. I didn’t even consider interpreting the vision of the sword as a sign of impending destruction. But another person who was praying in another way could have easily interpreted it as such.
The Devil Healing John Paul Jackson?
In an interview with Randy Clark, John Paul Jackson shared a testimony of a time when he was very sick and complaining, asking God to heal him. Suddenly he felt someone standing beside him and looked to see a short, old man by his side. He thought he was hallucinating!
He thought “Maybe this is an angel. If it is, he’s a pretty old angel. If this is an angel, God I want him to pray for me so I get well.”
The old man said “I’ve come to pray for you so that you might be healed.” John Paul Jackson felt something like warm honey fill his body and drive the pain out. Then the man disappeared.
John jumped out of bed, thanking God for sending an angel to heal him. Then he heard God’s audible voice “I didn’t send an angel.”
John was shocked! He fell to the floor and said “The devil healed me. God, you let the devil heal me. Why did you do that? I wasn’t complaining that bad! You let the devil heal me! You could have stopped him and you didn’t, and now I’m gonna die!”
Again, he heard God’s voice audibly “It wasn’t him.” God took him to a vision to see the old man praying in a hut in Mexico, asking God to use him before his death. God had carried the old man to John Paul Jackson to minister healing.
This humorous story shows us how easily a person having even a powerful supernatural experience can misinterpret something that happens. John Paul Jackson thought the devil healed him, until God made it clear that it was neither the devil nor an angel, but another Christian who ministered to him.
Prophets often need further clarification on a vision or revelation. Sometimes that clarification comes directly from God. But sometimes it also comes through other members of the body of Christ.
God recently gave me a vision of handing a pine cone to my wife. I initially had no idea what it might mean! Part of the interpretation came through a brother in Christ. This vision ended up being extremely encouraging for me personally. I’ll share it in another blog post, since I’m sure it will encourage my readers as well.
In a few months I plan to release a book questioning a doctrine that has gained popularity in the body of Christ based on a dream. I believe the dream may have very well been from God. But I find the interpretation of that dream very difficult to accept in the light of scripture. We should not see questioning a certain conclusion about a prophetic dream as dishonoring that prophet. We honor each other and acknowledge that we are all growing together as the body of Christ, until we reach the full measure of the stature of Christ. A study of church history is humbling, as it shows that even the church leaders of the past whom we honor the most differed vastly in their views.
Let’s learn to receive both prophets and teachers as gifts from God to the body of Christ. We do not dishonor prophets by examining their revelations in the light of scripture and acknowledging that sometimes even great prophets miss it or need more clarification on something. Neither should teachers dismiss prophets, since Scripture emphasizes their value in the church.