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WORD STUDY: CHAZÔN/CHALÔM

Visions and Dreams

By Stanley M. Horton

The Pentecostal outpouring with the evidence of speaking in other tongues came upon all believers on the Day of Pentecost, continued through the early centuries that followed, and in revivals throughout Church history.


The Pentecostal outpouring with the evidence of speaking in other tongues came upon all believers on the Day of Pentecost, continued through the Book of Acts, through the early centuries that followed, and in revivals throughout Church history.

Does the Holy Spirit still give believers visions and dreams? In Joel 2:28, Joel prophesied that the Holy Spirit would give believers visions and dreams when God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter, exercising the gift of prophecy, confirmed Joel’s promise, "Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:17).

The context in Joel emphasizes the fact the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. He will minister through sons and daughters, old and young, God’s servants both men and women. "All flesh" includes all people of every background, every color, every nationality. Clearly, God wants every believer, from every class of society, to be involved. The Pentecostal outpouring with the evidence of speaking in other tongues came upon all believers on the Day of Pentecost, continued through the Book of Acts, through the early centuries that followed, and in revivals throughout Church history.

In the Hebrew, zichnekhem, "your old men," is derived from zachan, "beard," and meant mature men with a full beard. The emphasis is on maturity and experience rather than on age. These were men who were wise, able to judge what was right and wrong, but they would need to have God’s Spirit poured out on them to dream God-sent dreams that would bless His people.

The Hebrew word, bachurechem, "your young men," is derived from bachar, "to choose, to select." These weren’t ordinary boys. The Hebrew has another word, na‘ar, for that. These young men were fully grown, about 20 years old, full of vigor, and unmarried. Proverbs 20:29 refers to their koach, "strength, stamina." But even they can weakly totter and fall in the race of life (Isaiah 40:30). They need the fullness of the Holy Spirit if they are to see God-given visions and be used by the Spirit to carry them out.

Some have supposed that the visions of young men look to the future while dreams of mature men look back to the past. This is not biblical. The whole Bible has a forward look. The word "dream" (Hebrew, chalom) is mentioned over 60 times in the Old Testament. Sometimes it refers to ordinary dreams (Isaiah 29:8; Psalm 73:20), but it often refers to prophetic dreams or dreams that give a revelation of God and His plan or purpose. Jacob’s dream of the great, wide ladder stretching from earth to heaven (Genesis 28:12–15) and Solomon’s dream at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:5–15) are examples. God used these and many other dreams as an indirect means of communicating with His people. Moses was the only one in the Old Testament that God communicated with directly (Numbers 12:6–8). The corresponding Greek words in Acts, enupniois enupniasthesontai, "dreams they shall dream," could also be translated "they shall have visions in dreams." This again indicates dreams and visions being used somewhat interchangeably in the Bible.

Not all who claim to have God-given dreams can be trusted, however. The Bible warns against those who dream dreams and use them to turn us to other gods or false worship (Deuteronomy 13:1–3). The same passage shows that the dreams the Holy Spirit gives will cause us to love God and follow and obey Him. We can also apply what the Bible says about the congregation judging or weighing carefully manifestations of the gift of prophecy. That means seeing how they line up with Scripture as well as thinking about what God wants us to do about them. If they are truly God-given dreams, we should not treat them as if they are mere entertainment.

Vision (Hebrew, chazon) is derived from chazah, "to perceive, to foresee." It is sometimes a synonym for "dream." The corresponding Greek word in Acts, horaseis, means supernatural visions, usually meant to give a message to the public. Sometimes these bring symbolic pictures of the future, such as in Daniel’s dreams and visions in chapters 7–12, and Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, where the dry bones represented the scattered people of Israel whom God would restore to their land, forgive, and put His Spirit in them (Ezekiel 37:1–14). These visions needed God-given interpretations. Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams of the cupbearer, baker, and Pharaoh (Genesis 40:9–41:30) were given him by God (Genesis 40:8; 41:16), as Joseph said, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Genesis 40:8). Daniel’s interpretations also came from God (Daniel 2:20–23), though sometimes God used the angel Gabriel to give him the meaning (Daniel 8:15–17; 9:21–23).

The same word for vision, chazon, is also used of God’s revelation in a whole book of the Bible, as in Isaiah 1:1; Obadiah 1; and Nahum 1. The word emphasizes that the entirety of the prophecy was a God-given, Spirit-inspired revelation. This is another indication that dreams and visions from God will always be in line with His Holy Word.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us that when there is no vision the people perish (or it can mean they throw off all restraint, as we see in so much of today’s society—and therefore perish). The rest of the verse lets us know that the vision has to do with God’s Law (Hebrew, torah, "instruction," a term that includes the whole of God’s Holy Word).

In the 1906, Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, California, a number of dreams and visions were recorded. My mother was 11 years old at the time. One day she was quite sick, but her father and mother did not want to miss the meeting. Wonderful things were happening in every service. So they prayed for her, tucked her in bed, and left her. Then she had a vision where she saw two trains on parallel tracks. At each station the young people on her train would go across to the other train and persuade people to come and join them on theirs. After a time, the other train veered away and she heard a terrible crash in the distance. Her train came into a beautiful station and she was ushered into a magnificent palace. She saw Jesus talking to a man. Their clothes were sparkling. She looked down and her dress was sparkling. Then Jesus pointed to her and said to the man, "See that little girl. I healed her." Then the vision ended and she got up from her bed totally healed. The next night she gave her testimony in the Azusa Street mission and this encouraged others to believe for healing.

Today, with the pressures of the world against Christians and the Bible, believers, young and old, need to be encouraged to be open to God-given dreams and visions. The Holy Spirit wants to use them to encourage us to trust God, believe His Word, and rejoice in the hope of the future that His Word promises.


Stanley M. Horton, Th.D., is project coordinator for the Pentecostal Textbook Project and professor emeritus at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, Missouri.

 

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