Dreams, Visions, Words, and Calculations
Excerpt: There is great interest today in Bible prophecy. But much of the discussion is based upon speculation and hearsay. What are we to make of the many claims that people are receiving direct revelations from God about these things, or about various other methods of determining when Jesus will return?
In the Bible, when God sends an angel to someone, the angel speaks clearly and tells people exactly what to do, such as when Mary was told she’d bear the Savior, or when Cornelius was told to send for Peter. When the Holy Spirit speaks directly to people, the message is just as clear, such as that persecution would come to Paul, or that Philip should go to a certain place.
But today, many Christians sincerely believe that God speaks cryptically and expects them to solve riddles. For example, they will say that they were shown a particular number or date or event, but not told specifically when it would happen or what it would mean. Or if they are given a day and year, and the day/year passes without incident, they say that either it was delayed or that it happened but wasn’t obvious, or perhaps they misinterpreted the clues.
In addition, many attempt to calculate Jesus’ coming by various Hebrew calendars or “signs in the sky” that will only be seen by a few who either watch NASA reports or attach great significance to relatively rare astronomical alignments. In contrast, scripture speaks of prophetic signs as unmistakable to the entire world, causing panic and dread. There is nothing subtle or mysterious or cryptic about them.
Most who claim to receive these messages or insights are sincere and genuinely look for Jesus to return, and for this they are to be commended. But when we compare their claims to scripture, we see that these cannot be coming from God. If God grants a delay of judgment, he states clearly beforehand that the judgment would depend upon whether the people repent in response to a warning. So we cannot claim that every failed prophecy is a delay; rather, it is simply a false prophecy.
Now granted, Christians are not under the laws of Moses, such that someone falsely claiming a word from God is to be put to death. Neither can we say for sure that these people are listening to demons, because it is a serious thing to attribute to Satan that which is of the Holy Spirit, on the rare occasions when someone does in fact hear from God. But we can, and must, say that when something doesn’t line up with scripture, these people are at best only hearing their own thoughts. I’ve had some pretty realistic and convincing thoughts, impressions, or images pop into my head at times, but if I know they contradict scripture, I rebuke and dismiss them.
We are commanded to “test the spirits”, and we do this not by only seeking confirmations from others but by knowing the Bible. There are many, many synchronicities and coincidences in life, such as described in this article (standard disclaimer applies; I do not support or affirm the teachings of Carl Jung). Certainly there is more to such things than meets the eye, but this is not how God communicates with his people. There is not one shred of support for this in scripture.
If God wants us to know something, he tells us clearly rather than dropping clues and expecting us to solve them. He does expect us to read the Bible and study it, and to live to please him. But the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to various believers, such that we are meant to work together to understand scripture and grow spiritually. However, this is not what happens when people all agree to something that contradicts scripture. Wisdom and discernment are required in order to sift these alleged revelations, to determine true from false.
So if you’re looking for clues and solving riddles, you’re being sent on a wild goose chase. If you’re using a calculator to determine when Jesus will return, you’re looking down instead of up. If you try to see Jesus’ coming through a telescope, you’ll interpret everything as a prophetic fulfillment— and if everything is a sign, then nothing is. But all the New Testament tells us is to watch for Jesus, and while we watch we are to keep busy doing the work God has assigned to us. We must always be prepared for his arrival. Yes, we are to be aware of “the season”, which means to be observant of the condition of the world, but we must match those conditions to scripture.
If you’re looking for Jesus, then look for Jesus— not moons, signs, visions, dreams, or calculations. Much of what people believe about these things is rooted in misunderstandings and fads. The urgency to spread the Gospel is no more or less important today than it was in the first century. Jesus could have come back at any time, so what matters most is our motivation and character. Yes, look for Jesus and spread the Gospel, but keep doing what God has assigned to you. Pray for Jesus to return quickly and put an end to the suffering of this life, but also to make himself known to the lost so they can escape with us.
The caution Jesus gave to his disciples regarding the end times has an important lesson for us even now:
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Anointed!’ or ‘There he is!’, don’t believe it. For false Anointed ones and false prophets will rise up and perform impressive miracles and signs, to the point where even the chosen ones would be misled— if that were possible. That’s why I’ve warned you in advance. So if they say ‘Look, here in the desert!’, don’t go; if they say ‘Look, in this hidden place!’, don’t believe it. For the official arrival of the Human will be as the lightning that flashes across the whole sky.