Spiritual Encounters with God: Visions and Voices
James R. Aist
“‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17
Everyone who has been “born again” has the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, living in them (click HERE). I am convinced, therefore, that all true Christians have had, and continue to have, spiritual encounters with God, even if they are not accustomed to recognizing them as such. Here are some examples. When, at your “conversion”, God replaces your spiritually dead human spirit with a new spirit from God – one that is spiritually alive – you have just had a miraculous spiritual encounter with God! When you are reading the Bible and a verse of Scripture seems to leap off the page and drop a new insight or revelation into your spirit, you have just had a spiritual encounter with God. And, when you sense a “leading” to pray for a specific need, you do so, and you see the answer to your prayer materialize “against all odds”, you have had a spiritual encounter with God. Among Pentecostal and Charismatic believers, such personal, revelational encounters with God are commonly referred to as “Rhema.”
In John 5:24, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life.” This series is an important part of my life testimony. It consists of a number of uncommon encounters with God, comprising different spiritual experiences I have had over a time span of 63 years, so far. I will describe and interpret each encounter as best I can, but feel free to take issue with any of them as you like. However, as you are reading, please keep in mind that God interacts with each of His born-again children however He chooses, and one’s lack of a corresponding spiritual encounter with God does not rule out the validity of another’s. Acts 2:17 says,” ‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” We are still in the “Last Days”, my friends, and many of us believe that we are in the last of the Last Days..
For some reason, my spiritual encounters with God have usually taken the form of visions. Before I get into the specific visions, let me clarify how I experience them. The closest thing I can compare them to is what we commonly refer to as a “daydream.” With a daydream, one does not fall asleep as with a common night “dream.” Rather, while awake, one’s conscious awareness shifts away from the present situation to another situation that occupies one’s mind temporarily. In this context, then, the visions to which I refer here were experienced as if they were “daydreams from God.”
A Conversion Vision. I passed from spiritual death into eternal life in Christ in 1953, when I was eight years old. My new birth was accompanied by my first spiritual encounter with God, during a revival meeting (click HERE for the full account). On the second night, when the evangelist began to preach, I found myself listening intently to what he was saying; it was as if he was talking to me, personally. He didn’t deliver a “hell fire and brimstone” message at all that night. Instead, he focused on how God loves me so much that he sent His only Son, Jesus, to sacrifice his life for my sins by dying on the cross for me. As he was explaining just how amazing such a love is, I had a vision. I first saw something like a dense fog or cloud that parted in the middle, then a soft and diffuse light appeared, and then God spoke into my mind saying something like, “What he is saying is true. You can depend on it. Believe it and do not depart from it, no matter what.” Then the vision faded away, and I was so excited that I could hardly wait for the invitation to come forward and confirm what had just happened: God had saved me through a glorious vision and message from heaven that validated to me, beyond any doubt, the evangelist’s message of God’s love for me that night!
The Handwriting on the Wall. I was forty years of age when this vision came to me. It was springtime,1985. One Sunday morning I began to pray earnestly, asking God what He wanted me to do with the rest of my life. Just four days later, in the middle of the night, I was awakened suddenly and sat straight up in bed, aware of the presence in the room of a “spirit being.” By this time I had enough Bible knowledge (e.g., 1 John 4:1) to say to it, “Who are you?” There was no verbal answer, but something bright appeared on the wall to the left. So, I looked in that direction and saw, in large, bright, bold lettering, a Scripture reference: “DANIEL 9: 22…” Then the writing slowly faded away. Having made note of the writing on the wall, I lay back down and went back to sleep. Now, up until then, I had virtually no idea what was in the book of Daniel, except for the story of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den.” So, the next morning, with the aid of a study guide, I studied the book of Daniel through twice, and I found out that Chapter 9 is often referred to as the “backbone of Bible prophecy”, because it predicted to the day when Jesus would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem! As a result of that vision, I became a student of the Bible then and there, no longer just a casual and occasional reader of it. And, I have a sense that from that encounter onward, I have had a heightened insight into the meaning and understanding of the Scriptures, perhaps similar to the impartation given on the road to Emmaeus, as recorded in Luke 24:45, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
The Homeless Man. Next, I would like to share with you a vision God gave me in the late 1980s that reveals His heart toward people who are among the “down and out” of our society. I was sitting in my car one day, waiting for my wife to finish having her hair “done.” Along came what appeared to be a homeless man. His clothing was dirty and tattered, his head was down and he had a slow, plodding gait, as one defeated by life. As I watched him pass in front of me, suddenly his form became somewhat transparent and another man’s form was superimposed upon his. This other man was clean, well-dressed and walked with his head held high. After they had taken a few steps in unison, the image of the second man disappeared, and then I saw just the homeless man as he walked out of sight. For just a few moments, God had given me a glimpse of who He saw walking in front of me: not a disheveled, defeated and hopeless man, but a happy, successful man full of hope, the kind of man God wanted him to be! Then I received the interpretation of the vision: There, but for the grace of God, go I!
The Love of God. It was a Saturday morning in the late 1980s, and I lay in bed for a few minutes before getting up for the day. Because of a praise song that was playing in my mind, my thoughts turned to the amazing love that God has for us. Then I saw a vision representing, in crystal-clear graphic form, the love of God. It was like a rainbow, but perfectly straight. I was impressed by how pure and absolutely unchanging and constant was this beautiful, “Technicolor” beam of light. After what seemed like 5-10 seconds, the vision vanished. Then I realized that God had just shown me what His love is like, in a vision!
Christ in Us. In May, 2007, I was listening to a really good teaching on how God sees Christ in us, and the question occurred to me, “What does that actually look like?” Then, in a vision, I saw a group of about 6-8 people standing in a dimly lit space. I didn’t see their physical, exterior bodies, but each had a kind of spiritual body in human form, translucent and grayish, with defined eyes, kind of ghost-like, but not scary. Then I noticed that a couple of them had taken on a soft glow, which radiated gently from their entire body and set them apart, visually, from the others. When the vision was over, I realized that this vision was the answer to my question: God sees a glow in the believers, because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in them, and that glow is, in effect, a manifestation of Christ in them.
The House Rebuilt. It was the Summer of 2007, and I was listening to the pastor teach about how, when we are saved, God makes all things new. He began with an illustration of a construction site that he had observed over the course of several months, in which an old house was being rebuilt both inside, room by room, and out. His point was that that’s what God wants to do with our lives. Then a vision came to me. I saw a construction site, but, instead of leaving the skeletal framework of the house standing and rebuilding from there, the workers had demolished and removed everything, and had begun to rebuild on a brand new foundation. When the vision ended, I understood that this is a better illustration of how God wants to rebuild our lives: totally, from the ground up, beginning with a new foundation! “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17.
The Baby in Jesus’ Hands. This is a prophetic vision. In 2015, my daughter began chemotherapy for breast cancer, to be followed with surgery. I shared my belief with her that God was going to carry her through this ordeal and bring her out on the other side fully healed and restored, and she agreed with me. One morning, not long after the chemotherapy began, I was thinking about her situation, and I had a vision. I saw two outstretched hands holding a baby wrapped in a white cloth. At first, I was puzzled by this vision. Why did it come to me at such a time? Then, suddenly, I understood what it meant: We have nothing to worry about, because Jesus has my daughter safely in His hands, and He has since she was a newborn. The vision confirmed what we were believing; that she is going to beat the cancer! By the way, my daughter is now cancer-free, to the glory of God.
The Hand of Jesus. I received this vision May 3, 2017. I was reflecting on the great difficulty many Christians have in trusting God fully. Then I saw the hand of Jesus extended down from heaven. Here is my interpretation of this vision: “I don’t ask you to let go of your worldly attachments and then reach up and try to take My hand. No, first reach up and take My hand and hold on tight, and I will never let go. Put all of your trust in Me. Then you can let go of the things of this world that you have been clinging to instead of Me. I am your security and your destiny. There is no other.”
God spoke directly to many of the Old Testament saints, including Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and David. He also spoke directly to Peter, Paul and John. I have heard reliable testimony of God speaking directly to many of our contemporaries. And, on four occasions that I can recall, I have heard the voice of God speaking into my mind.
Let me explain exactly what I mean when I say “I heard the voice of God speaking into my mind.” We all form our own thoughts inside our minds, and we register them in our minds and recognize them as just common, ordinary thoughts of internal origin. Thoughts that we hear spoken by someone else, however, are registered and recognized as “audible” words received through our ears and conveyed to our minds from outside of our own minds. Then there are the written thoughts of others that we read into our minds. When I say I heard God speak into my mind, I am referring to words that are spoken directly into my mind without being first received by my eyes or my ears. These words register in my mind as clearly as do words that are audible, but I don’t “hear” them in the common sense of the term, and I don’t mentally manufacture them as I do my own thoughts. They are just suddenly there, as if they came out of nowhere, and they are very clear and rather loud as they register in my mind. I strongly suspect that they originate with the Holy Spirit residing in me. Here are the four that I can recall:
1) “What he is saying is true. You can depend on it. Believe it and do not depart from it, no matter what.” As recorded above, under “Visions”, this is the spoken message I received during a vision that came to me when God saved me. It is self-explanatory.
2) “Without God, you are nothing.” God spoke this into my mind during a worship service. There was nothing going on in the service that would have triggered me to manufacture this thought on my own; it seemed to be unrelated to the immediate context. I took this to be a terse and sobering reminder of who God is in relation to who I am, and a warning against operating with a spirit of pride;
3) “Stop criticizing!” I received this message from God while I was driving my car and trying to drive also the cars of other motorists in my vicinity, if you know what I mean. I took it to be a direct command for me quit operating with a spirit of criticism; and
4) “You don’t have to live like that.” God told me this while I was at home one day, feeling bad about caving in to a temptation yet again. The devil had been telling me that, based on the recent past, I had no reason to expect to have victory over this sin going forward. But God spoke a word of encouragement into my mind: “Do not believe the devil, but go ahead and overcome this “besetting sin” in your life.” That’s the amplified, paraphrased, James version anyway.
If you ponder the nature of the messages in these four encounters for a moment, you will see that they are all the kind of message that the God of the Bible, through the Holy Spirit, would want to get across to one of His sons. To me, that is at least consistent with the conclusion that they were, in fact, words from God, and I received them as such.
I have recorded these encounters with God so that you will know that God is still interacting personally with His living elect and to encourage you to be alert and quick to recognize some of the ways that God initiates personal encounters with you, for your edification.
(To read more of my bible-based articles, click HERE)