A Shrink Thinks

Visions and dreams – biblical visions

Visions and dreams – biblical visions
Alan Thomas
Alan Thomas Professor and Consultant in Psychiatry. Elder at Newcastle Reformed Evangelical Church.
02 June, 2024 4 min read

I ask most of the patients I see in clinic, ‘Do you ever see visions?’ And some, of course, since I’m a psychiatrist, reply ‘yes’.

But not all have mental illness. After all, many Christians past and present report seeing visions. And visionary experiences are frequently recorded in the Bible. So the question naturally arises as to whether these are the same kind of visions. If not, how do visions in the Bible differ from those I encounter in clinic? Or those reported by Christians today?

Again, I almost always ask about dreams, too (though for reasons quite different to Sigmund Freud’s!). And again, we know that dream experiences are often recorded in the Bible and frequently reported by Christians down the ages. So are these different kinds of dream phenomena? Over the next few articles, I will explore this fascinating area of visual experiences and attempt to answer such questions.

Visions and dreams occur throughout the Bible as means of special revelation, methods by which the Lord communicated to and through his servants the prophets. God used visions to communicate through his prophets (e.g. Numbers 12:6, Isaiah 1:1, Obadiah 1:1). Consequently, an alternate and common name for prophets is seer (e.g. 1 Samuel 9:9, 2 Chronicles 29:25) because they received the content of their prophecies via visions.

Hearers is not a synonym for prophets, but, as we’ll see, visions always included hearing words from God. So closely are visions and prophecy associated in the Bible that a paucity of the Word of the Lord is equivalent to a paucity of visions (1 Samuel 3:1).

Indeed, visions seem to have been the usual mode of communication by the Lord to his prophets because several books in the Bible are visions (Isaiah, Obadiah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Micah saw their books), and large portions of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah consist of visions.

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