Abraham met three men one day and fed them (Genesis 18:2-8). They were the pre-incarnate Christ and two angels in disguise, yet Abraham knew they were more than ordinary men.
On the run from Esau, Jacob dreamed of a ladder that reached heaven with angels going up and down (Genesis 28:12-15). He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!” (28:17)* Years later, on his way back to Canaan Jacob wrestled with a man, the pre-incarnate Christ (32:24-31). Then he said, “I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved” (32:30).
On the back side of the desert in Sinai, Moses saw the angel of the Lord – the pre-incarnate Christ – in a burning bush (Exodus 3:2-5). God told him it was “holy ground” (3:5). A few weeks or months later, Moses and seventy elders of Israel saw God on Mount Sinai; a sapphire stone was under his feet, “like the very heavens in its clarity” (24:9-10). The glory of God was “like a consuming fire” on that mountain (24:17). After he destroyed the golden calf, Moses saw the back of God on Sinai (33:23). He was told he couldn’t see God’s face and live (33:20).
Near Jericho, Joshua saw a man – the pre-incarnate Christ. The Captain of the Lord’s army had a drawn sword in his hand and told Joshua he was on “holy ground” (Joshua 5:13-15).
After his victory on Mount Carmel, the prophet Elijah was fed by angels (1 Kings 19:5-7). Then he heard the “still, small voice” of God on Mount Horeb (19:12). Weeks later, Elijah ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire and a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).
After “King Uzziah died,” the prophet Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne” (Isaiah 6:1). He was “high and lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple” (6:1). Isaiah saw six-winged angels too (6:2). He cried, “Woe is me. … My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5).
After the prophet Ezekiel was taken captive to Babylon, he saw “visions of God” by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:1). It was an unlikely place, yet the “heavens were opened” (1:1). And just what did Ezekiel see? A cloud of fire, four living creatures, the throne of God “like a sapphire stone,” and the pre-incarnate Christ like the appearance of fire (1:26, 4-28). Ezekiel then fell on his face (1:28). Later, in “visions of God” he saw the abominations that the priests and people committed in the temple in Jerusalem (8:3, 3-18). Ezekiel witnessed their destruction and the glory of the Lord leaving the temple (9:1-10:22). He also had a vision of a valley full of dry bones, ones that lived again according to his prophesies (37:1-10). Twenty years later, in “visions of God” Ezekiel saw the Lord’s temple on a high mountain (40:2, ch. 40-48).
While serving two kings in Babylon, Daniel had dreams and visions of the end times. He saw more than four beasts ruling great empires (Daniel 7:2-8), a ram and goat fighting (8:1-12), and warring kings from the north and south (11:2-45). Daniel also saw the “Ancient of Days”; his hair and clothes were white and he sat on a fiery throne (7:9). “One like the Son of Man” came to him and received an everlasting “dominion, glory, and a kingdom” (7:13-14).
After the ram and goat vision, Daniel saw a man – the pre-incarnate Christ. Afraid, he fell on his face (Daniel 8:15-17). After his prayer for Israel and three weeks of fasting, Daniel again saw the pre-incarnate Christ in a vision (10:5-7). His eyes and face were like fire, with arms of bronze and a body like beryl (10:6). Daniel’s strength left him as he fell on his face and went into a deep sleep (10:8-9). “How can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord?” (10:17) It’s a good question.
“That’s the Old Testament,” I can hear people say. “It’s different now with Jesus.” Really? Zecharias, father of John the Baptist, saw the angel Gabriel in the temple (Luke 1:11). Unlike the old prophets, Zecharias voiced doubt and was struck with dumbness (1:18-20). Mary, mother of Jesus, also saw Gabriel and acquiesced to his prophecy (1:26-38). Joseph saw the angel in a dream (Matthew 1:20-23). After Jesus was born, angels appeared to shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).
Before his crucifixion, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain and “was transfigured before them” (Matthew 17:1-2). “His face shone like the sun” and his clothes became sparkling white (17:2). Then Moses and Elijah appeared and talked with Jesus (17:3). After hearing the voice of God in a cloud, the three disciples sensibly fell on their faces because they were afraid (17:6). Eleven disciples witnessed Jesus’ ascension (28:16).
On the road to Damascus, Saul saw a bright light and heard the voice of Jesus (Acts 9:3-7). Once blind, he had a vision of Ananias healing him (9:12). In a vision, Cornelius saw an angel telling him to send for the apostle Peter (10:3-6). The next day, in a vision Peter saw “heaven opened” and a sheet full of unclean beasts (10:10-12). Three times, God told him to “kill and eat” because “what God has cleansed you must not call common” (10:13-16). Paul went to the “third heaven,” Paradise (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Here he saw and heard things that “it is not lawful for a man to utter” (12:4).
God saved the best in his Word for last. On the isle of Patmos, John had a vision of the end times – the revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1). He saw a glorified Jesus: white head and hair, “eyes like a flame of fire,” a face like the sun, feet “like fine brass,” and a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth (1:13-16). John “fell at his feet as dead” (1:17). Later, a door to heaven opened (4:1). John saw God on his rainbow-like throne, “like a jasper and sardius stone in appearance” (4:2-3). Elders and living creatures worshipped God around it (4:4-11). John even saw the New Jerusalem (21:2-22:5).
I used to think these people were special, more beloved or holy than the rest of us. I was right, but I missed the mark. Yes, these people had “visions of God” because they were “greatly beloved” and holy (Daniel 10:11, 19). But were they more special? No. They were sinners descended from Adam and Eve just like us, since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Elijah was a man just like us (James 5:17). We’re even called “beloved” in Christ. God is God. He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, 1 Peter 1:17). In other words, God has no favorites.
So why don’t we see what these people did? We don’t believe and we’re not holy. We don’t fast and pray like Daniel (Daniel 9:3-4, 10:2-3). We don’t suffer for Christ like John (Revelation 1:19). We’re not humble like Moses (Numbers 12:3). We certainly don’t cry, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). We’re not drawn to God like a moth to a flame. Instead, we try to move as close to the world as possible without getting dirty. No wonder God shows us nothing! Then we have the audacity to insult him with our unbelief.
Many people today ridicule visions and dreams. But they’re either scoffers who know nothing about the spiritual life or “Christian” unbelievers who nothing about God. We must be careful, of course. Satan often masquerades as an angel of light, giving people false dreams and visions (2 Corinthians 11:14). God told Jeremiah that false prophets were doing just that in Judah’s final years as a nation, before Babylon sacked her (Jeremiah 23:16-17, 21, 25-27, 32-34).
Yet God says that in the last days, “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, [and] your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28). God has said, “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh” (2:28). So what’s your excuse? Confess your sins, humble yourself, and pray. Worship Christ with my YouTube playlist “Visions of God.” Seek his face!
* All Scripture verses come from the NKJV.