Seeing in the Spiritual Realm
Chapter 01 – Prophetic Seeing
There is an old saying that goes,
A picture is worth a thousand words.
When it comes to prophetic revelation this principle is very true, because a large portion of the revelation that a prophet receives comes via the medium of vision.
Visions are the language of the spirit, since the sense of sight is the strongest of our five senses. If God communicates something to you, it comes up out of your spirit and into your mind via the five senses.
When this happens, the chances are that your mind will receive the message in picture form. It can be communicated using any of the five senses, but the most common is the use of pictures through the sense of sight.
If you think that this is not true, then try this simple exercise. Close your eyes and let your mind roam and do whatever it wants to. Let this happen for a few minutes until your mind starts to roam. Now answer the following questions:
As you let your mind roam what happened? Did you see something in your mind? Did you hear something inside you? Did you feel something physically deep within? Did you taste or smell something in your mind?
All of these are possible, but the chances are that your mind produced pictures more than anything else.
You may have also had a little come via the sense of hearing. When this does happen, usually you will hear words, rather than sounds. I will look at this in more detail in Chapter 08 when we consider Prophetic Hearing.
Assuming then that the largest part of your spiritual revelation is likely to come by you seeing something in the Spirit, it is important that you know how to make the right use of visions in the Prophetic Ministry.
In the early days of the Old Testament, the prophets of that time were called seers. That is because they had a reputation for seeing things in the spirit. This has not changed much in the New Testament. God still shows the prophet pictures by means of spiritual vision.
How Visions Come
I always thought that a vision had to be a supernatural event where you go into a trance and literally see a vision in the Spirit. I waited for this to happen to me but it never did. And when I asked the Lord to give it to me it did not happen either.
Then I realized one day that I had actually been seeing visions for some time. I just did not realize that those were visions. I thought they were the imaginations of my mind.
Once I identified what a vision really was, I faced a new problem. How did I know which of the pictures that came into my mind were from the Holy Spirit? What if the pictures that came up were just from my memory or my imagination?
And then I realized also that the pictures in my mind could be from another place. They could come from the enemy, who often puts thoughts into our minds.
So there are three possible sources of pictures that come up into your mind:
1. Satan or a demon power influencing you from the outside
2. Your own thoughts and memories, coming from your sub- conscious mind
3. Influences coming up from deep within your human spirit
Of these three, the only one which is truly a prophetic revelation is the third one. Anything from Satan might look like a spiritual revelation. But it is not from God and will lead you into deception.
Anything from your own heart will cause you to see things through your own experience. You will tend to see visions based on what you experienced in the past.
The danger of acting on these visions is that you might try to impose your own standards or experience on someone else. This is a common mistake in trainee prophets. They think that they are getting a word from the Lord. But it is really just an idea based on what they already know.
It is possible for the Lord to remind you about something you learned in the past. Many of the pictures you see may be things you saw before, or thought about before.
So how can you tell the difference between these three different sources and not get into deception? How can you avoid making the mistake of acting on a vision that was not directly from the Lord?
I cannot give you an easy answer to this. Usually it takes experience to get good at this. Often you have to make a few mistakes along the way before you get it right. But here are some guidelines that might help.
Satan is Always Forceful
If you have a sense of forcefulness or pressure that comes with the vision then be careful. Satan will always impose his will on you and force things into your mind.
So if this comes suddenly and forcefully out of nowhere, do not respond to it right away. If you think this may be from the enemy, then rebuke it and tell it to leave.
Inner Programming is Consistent
When you receive an influence from your own heart, this usually always follows the same pattern. What comes up will probably be something that you thought about before.
It might make perfect sense and be the logical way to look at things. In fact you could probably explain the whole logic of what you are getting. It lines up with your own knowledge and experience.
The Spirit is Unique and Gentle
When an influence comes up out of your spirit, it may not look the same as something you learned before. There may be similarities, but often it is very different.
You may have been expecting God to say one thing, but He says something totally different. Often the picture that comes up is so unique that you have to think about what it means.
The picture is clear but it is not something you thought about before. You have to figure out exactly what God is trying to say through this vision.
Finally, it never comes in a forceful way. In fact it usually comes so gently that you may think you imagined it. The picture pops into your mind, along with all the other thoughts that are there.
Your first impression may be,
“That is interesting. Where did that come from?”
Now it is up to you to get wisdom from the Lord on what to do with this vision. You will not feel obligated to share it because it came so gently.
If you wait a bit and ask the Lord for confirmation, you will find that the picture remains and keeps coming back again gently. There may be a struggle going on inside you. You wonder if you should share this or not. It seems such a strange picture.
If you rebuke it then it does not leave. If you try to move your mind away from it, then it slowly comes back. All of these can be confirmation that you are getting a vision from your spirit.
What to Do With Visions
Once you have made sure that what you are seeing is a vision from the Lord, you must do something with it. God gave you this vision for a reason. It was not just so you could have some fun with pictures in your mind.
The vision was given to help you minister to someone. If you were praying alone the vision could help you to pray for someone. Or if the vision was for you, then God is giving you direction for your own life.
If you receive the vision while ministering to someone, then the Lord wants you to reveal it to the person. Sometimes just sharing the vision alone might lead to powerful ministry.
There are times when you might not be able to make any sense of what you are seeing. But the person whom it is for might know exactly what it means. It might confirm to them something they have thought about.
So how can you share this vision with the person? You can do it by telling the person directly what you see. If you do not know what the vision means, then you can ask the person if it means something to them.
Often the Lord will give you what the picture means. Then you can share this with the person also. You tell them what you saw and what you think it means.
Another way to communicate what you see to the person is to convert the vision to a prophetic word. Sometimes the vision is actually God showing you what to prophesy.
So if you sense the spirit of prophecy coming on you as you see the vision then use it like this. Step out boldly by speaking a prophetic word. And as you speak, you will be able to describe the vision you are seeing as a prophecy.
When you do this, you will find that the wisdom to know what the vision means comes naturally as you speak. You will find yourself describing what it means as you go.
There is one time however, when you may not need to tell the person what you saw. This is where you are praying or interceding as a prophet when you get the vision.
You may be spending time in prayer, and as you begin to pray for someone, the Lord gives you a vision for that person.
Usually when this happens He is telling you how to pray for that person. He does not necessarily intend you to go to the person and tell them what you saw for them in prayer.
There may be a time when you will share this, but do not rush into it. You could tell the person that you were led to pray for them. And if they express some of their cares, you might share more.
For example after you have prayed for someone, they may tell you that they have been struggling with something. Perhaps the vision you saw for them links with what they told you. Then it might be a confirmation to them to share it with them.
You could share that what the Lord showed you lines up with the problem they have been having. They could then be encouraged to know that the Lord cares and showed it to you. It shows them that God is answering their prayers.
The one time you should never be in a hurry to share this is if the Lord showed you something private about the person. God is not in the habit of telling us about the sins of others. That is their own private business and is between them and God.
So if you saw a vision of a person doing something wrong, this would be a rare occasion. Often this kind of vision comes from the enemy and is designed to cause conflict and divisions.
If the Lord shows you the faults of someone else, it is so that you can pray for them and be available to help them if they ask for help. It is not for you to go to them and minister to that problem.
The Lord never imposes His will on us and we should never do this either. Many prophets think that the moment they get a revelation they should act on it. It takes wisdom and experience to know when to reveal what you saw.
Chapter 06 – Understanding Visions
There are two main kinds of visions that you can receive, according to how God gives them. I like to call these Internal and External Visions.
This links with what I have taught elsewhere on the anointing of God, which can be manifested internally or externally.
The most common visions are those given from the Lord via your own human spirit. This is an internal vision and it means that God does not speak directly to your mind. Satan does not have access to your spirit, so he cannot speak to you this way.
An internal vision is always given via your human spirit. That is where the Holy Spirit lives, so He will always speak from there. This is the most common form of vision and is available to you at all times. All you need to do is learn to tap into your spirit within.
The best way to develop your ability to see internal visions is to learn how to hear the voice of your spirit. That means you must practice listening to that inner voice. And you must practice responding to that inner voice.
Probably the best way to become sensitive to the inner voice is to speak in tongues often. When you speak in tongues you are bridging the gap between your spirit and your body.
At first this does not affect your mind at all, because speaking in tongues bypasses the mind. But if you keep speaking in tongues for a while, the flow begins to break through to your mind.
Your mind eventually runs out of input from your sub-conscious mind and all the stuff that has been pushed down there. Now it is ready to hear that deep inner voice that comes from the spirit.
If you practice this regularly and develop sensitivity to the spirit rather than the soul, you will get better at it. Then when the Lord speaks to you in a vision, there will be no blockages.
You will hear His voice more clearly, and your inner visions will become clearer. You will become so sensitive to the Spirit that you will detect right away when a vision is coming from there.
This will make you function far better in the Prophetic Ministry. And you will touch many lives using the power of visions.
External visions are the kind that most of us expect to receive but seldom get. These are often also called trance visions. They come from the external anointing of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit comes upon you.
When God gives an external vision He does not do it only via the spirit as for the internal vision. This is the only vision that is superimposed directly on the mind. That is because the external anointing always affects the body directly.
This can take different forms. The most common case is where your natural senses are suspended and you are seeing only the vision. This is a bit like you experience in dreams, although dreams are not necessarily visions from the Lord as we will see later.
In an external vision it is a bit like you are watching a movie on a screen or you actually feel like you are somewhere else and part of the scene. You do not see what is going on around you, but you can see only the vision.
There is a form of this kind of vision that is known as the ‘open vision’ which is a bit different. In an open vision your normal senses are still working, but an additional picture is superimposed on top of what you are seeing.
In this kind of vision you might still see your normal surroundings, but for example, Jesus or an angel may appear live to you and appear to be part of your surroundings. You can tell where they are standing and see them with your eyes open.
This kind of vision is rare, and you may never ever see a vision like this. That does not mean you are not flowing prophetically or that you are inferior as a prophet. The external anointing is always given under God’s control.
So if God reveals things to you in this way, then it is because He chose to, and not because you were more spiritual.
The Language of Visions and Dreams
Before we consider the subject of Prophetic Dreams I would like to explain a common experience that you will have with visions. This is the one thing that makes prophetic seeing different from prophetic hearing.
When you see a vision, the pictures that you see may be one of two different kinds. On the one hand God may show you real people, places and events. On the other the pictures you see may be only symbolic of principles that God wants to show you.
You cannot always assume that the person you see in your vision really exists. They may only be a symbol of something else. There are times when God will show you the real person, but this is not the most common situation.
One situation in which you are likely to see the real thing is where the Lord shows you something from the past. When the word of knowledge is given through vision, you will usually see something real and not symbolic.
For example, if you are praying with someone for healing of a past hurt or bad event, the Lord may often show you when this problem first appeared.
I often see the person I am praying with at a different stage of their life. I may see a woman as a young girl or a man as a boy. This shows me when their problem first appeared. Then I know where the healing needs to be ministered.
Sometimes you will see an incomplete picture and your mind will fill in the gaps. For example, before I met my wife Daphne, the Lord showed me what my future wife would look like.
I saw a vision of a woman with blonde hair and a slim body, who I could see was just slightly taller than me. I could also tell that she was younger than my previous wife. But the face of that person did not stand out. It was just the face of a woman from my own imagination.
When I finally met Daphne she was indeed tall, slim and blonde. She was much younger looking, but she had a totally different face to what I saw in my vision.
The Lord wanted to show me only what my future wife would look like. He did not show me exactly who she was ahead of time.
We sometimes use the term ‘dark sayings’ to describe the fact that what we see may be symbolic. A person dressed in a dark suit for example, may mean a person who is clothed in darkness, or having problems.
There are many different symbols that your visions may contain. Often the symbols chosen are obvious, and they will nearly always be something related to your own experiences.
You will find that after a while you will get to identify which symbols are most common to you.
The symbols that you see in the Spirit though, may not apply to anyone else. Do not assume that a symbol is universal. The Bible does have some symbols that are used over and over again. And if you know these symbols, the Lord could use them in your visions.
But it is more likely that over time you will learn to identify some of the things that you see in your visions. You should seldom need to consult someone else to ask them what your vision means.
The only time this is necessary is if the vision is for someone else. If you share the vision with them, they may understand exactly what it means, whereas the symbols may mean nothing to you.
A night vision is a vision that is given while you are asleep. Many confuse dreams and night visions and assume that these are the same thing. But this is not true at all.
Dreaming is a process of the soul by which it carries out a process each night of purging, rearranging and releasing stress.
When you go to sleep carrying the stress of the day, your soul tries to release the tension of the stress by creating dreams that allow you to release that stress.
This process is not spiritual at all, and even animals experience this. So to interpret all dreams as night visions would be a big mistake. Certainly animals do not have visions.
There is however another element to dreams that is not necessarily the release of stress or the purging of bad experiences. It is a process of rearranging of the sub-conscious mind.
The sub-conscious contains all the memories of our waking hours, but it is stored in such a way that the data may be accessed when needed during our lives.
Each time you face a situation in life, your inner mind looks for a solution based on the information that has been fed in there during your life.
If this data is not somehow catalogued and arranged for access, this could be a slow process. But in experience it takes only a fraction of a second for your mind to access its databanks and come up with an answer.
You will notice that when a person is faced with a sudden crisis or unexpected situation, there is a momentary pause before they take action.
In that moment a deep inner process is taking place. The mind takes the data from the current situation and feeds it inwards into the inner mind. It looks for matching data, or something from the past that links with the current situation.
When it finds what it is looking for, the answer is sent back to the conscious mind, and the will kicks into action to do something about the situation.
For this to happen efficiently, the sub-conscious has to daily rearrange its data banks. New data has been added during the day. And some of that data is similar to experiences from the past.
Your inner computer therefore takes the new data and fits it into the data banks. If the data is new then it is stored in a new place. But if the new data is more up to date that older data, then your inner mind may decide to dump the older data.
When this happens, the only way that the data can be dumped is to pass it back to the conscious mind where it came from. This results in data being communicated via the senses, as I explained earlier.
Of course the most common sense is the sense of sight. So the main content of your dreams consists of vision, or things seen. But your dreams also contain all other sensory input.
So a dream can be as real as life, with all the senses functioning. But the data that is thrown out does not come out in the same form as it went in. It comes out all mixed up like garbage.
The vast majority of our dreams are like this. They have no significance whatsoever, and to try to understand them or look for symbols in them would be pointless.
What they can often tell us though is what kind of things are in our heart. Our dreams can often be a mirror to show what is happening inside. Inner conflicts, aspirations and frustrations are often portrayed in dreams like intense movies.
These are not night visions. And to interpret them as a message from the Lord or a prophetic direction is a big mistake. A night vision is the same as a day vision. The only difference is that you are asleep when it comes.
The principles that I shared above concerning visions therefore apply to night visions in exactly the same way.
It is not my intention in this book to deal with interpretation of dreams and visions or the symbols involved. This has been dealt with effectively elsewhere in my book on Prophetic Visions and Dreams. So if you want more detail, I suggest you get hold of that.
Learn to recognize the voice of your own spirit and the pictures that the Lord paints directly into your mind. He will give you the wisdom to understand what they mean, and you can use them to carry out an effective Prophetic Ministry.
Seeing prophetically is one of the main functions of the New Testament prophet, who is a seer just like the Old Testament prophet. But the New Testament prophet is very different to the prophets of the Old Testament. I hope to show you some of these differences in this series, but I will not cover all of them.