Prepare yourself to discover things in the Bible you may not have known were there! A few years back, the things we are now going to explore together were more or less new to me.
1 Cor. 12 describes five gifts, all of which are prophetic in nature:
The gift of prophecy
The gift of wisdom
The gift of knowledge
The gift of interpreting tongues
The gift of the discerning of spirits
These gifts may be regarded as relatively down-to-earth and not too challenging (except the gift of the discerning of spirits). Exploring these gifts can be compared to wading out in the shallow, safe part of the prophetic swimming pool. The Bible, however, also paints another dimension of the prophetic, which is more heavenly-oriented and which can be a bit shocking to us Westerners.
This blog post is mostly laid out as a Bible study, so that the Word of God gets a chance to really speak to us. The texts we soon will take a closer look at do not only describe things that happened back then, but things that have been happening all through church history to this day. I know a number of seer prophets who regularly see similar things happen in their own lives. This Bible study is necessary in order to understand how Biblically based the seer prophets’ experiences really are.
I’m aware of the fact that this post is a little longer than usual, but I encourage you to take time to read it. The rest of the blog series rests on the Biblical foundation I present below.
Let us now explore the deep end of the prophetic pool!
Prophetic spirit and trance
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth… (Acts 10:9-11)
Word came to Saul: “David is in Naioth at Ramah”; so he sent men to capture him. But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah and went to the great cistern at Seku. And he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?” “Over in Naioth at Ramah,” they said. So Saul went to Naioth at Ramah. But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence. He lay naked all that day and all that night. This is why people say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Sam. 19:19-24)
The texts speak for themselves and show us that the Spirit can propel us into a prophetic trance. A trance is a state where a person to a great extent loses his or her awareness of their surroundings and is completely wrapped up in a vision, a word from God or an experience. In the second text we can see how the prophetic spirit resting on Samuel and the prophets he trained was so strong that it also came upon anyone getting close to them.
Being ”in the Spirit”
On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet… (Rev. 1:10)
At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. (Rev. 4:2)
This text tells us that John was ”in the Spirit”. What does that mean? Let me present the two alternatives I find most plausible:
- In his spirit John was actively turned towards God and ready to receive revelation through the Holy Spirit.
- In his spirit John was positioned in the heavenly realm, i.e. outside of his body.
Regardless of which, this doesn’t seem to have been anything unusual to him. On this occasion when John was in the Spirit, Jesus chose to reveal himself in His glory and kick-start a long series of visions and revelations.
Ezekiel, on the other hand, seems to have been ”in the spirit” as in alternative 2 above:
I looked, and I saw a figure like that of a man.[a] From what appeared to be his waist down he was like fire, and from there up his appearance was as bright as glowing metal. 3 He stretched out what looked like a hand and took me by the hair of my head. The Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem… (Ez: 8:2-3)
Here the prophet Ezekiel (definitely a seer) describes how he was lifted up ”between heaven and earth”, given visions and transported in the spirit between different places.
Heavenly visions and interaction with the heavenlies
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah. 6:1-8)
In this case the prophet Isaiah did not only see visions of heaven, but seems to have been transported to the throne room of heaven where he is called into ministry and prepared. Heavenly experiences of similar nature are not unusual among modern seers.
Seeing angels in the unseen realm and having angelic visitations
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:13-17)
This was not an angelic visitation, i.e. that angels chose to step into our physical reality in order to deliver a message or actively reveal themselves. The prophet Elisha, however, could see into the unseen realm and prayed that his servant would be able to do the same thing.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
But Peter kept on knocking… (Acts 12:13-16)
It is interesting that interactions with angels seem to have been so commonplace among the first Christians that it was easier for them to believe that Peter’s personal angel had turned up on their doorstep than to believe that Peter had got out of prison. They didn’t even appear overly excited by this angelic visitation, but it seems to have been business as usual. Many seers that I know regularly have angelic visitations, both in the physical and in the unseen reality (read more about the unseen reality in this blog series).
Spiritual and physical transportation through the power of the Holy Spirit
I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. (2 Cor. 12:1b-4)
In this passage Paul describes how he, in his spirit or possibly in his body, was taken into heaven. Please notice that he indirectly confirms that God can transport us in the spirit as well as physically. To Paul, both these options were possible. Do we see it the same way?
For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor. 5:3-5)
”I am with you in the spirit” has become somewhat of a classic joke among many Christians, but Paul is serious when he says that he could be together with the Corinthians in his spirit.
For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. (Col. 2:5)
Paul makes a clear distinction between being physically and being spiritually present with the believers in Colossae. He also says that he sees how things are going for them as disciples. At the time he wrote this Paul was in prison and there was no way he could see, in a natural way, how things were going for the Colossians.
When he went in and stood before his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?”
“Your servant didn’t go anywhere,” Gehazi answered.
But Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? (2 Kings 5:25-26)
In this passage it seems as if Elisha chose to travel in his spirit in order to observe Gehazi’s betrayal. This description reminds us of Paul’s words in the texts quoted above. Furthermore, Israel’s enemy Syria was of the opinion that Elisha listened in on the king in his bedroom (2 Kings 6:8-10). It is possible that this happened by means of Elisha ”travelling” there in his spirit in order to listen.
Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” … When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (Acts 8:26, 39-40)
First Philip gets directives from an angel (like I said, meeting angels was common in the early Church). Then, when he has finished his commission, the Spirit takes Philip away and ”teleports” him to Ashdod. In this case it is not a transportation ”in the spirit”, but a physical transportation.
In view of what I’ve shown above, according to the Bible we can expect seers and other kinds of prophets (but also people with other gifts) to experience the following:
- Outpouring of prophetic spirit and trance
- Being in the spirit
- Heavenly visions and interaction with what one sees
- Seeing angels in the unseen realm and receiving angelic visitations
- Spiritual and physical transportation
These things are Biblical and throughout Church history prophets have had such experiences. As you will see further on in this blog series these things are part of the seer prophets’ everyday lives even today. There are definitely aspects of Old Testament prophetic ministry that are not valid today, but the things we have been studying above are not among them. All of my examples from the Old Testament are repeated in the lives of John, Paul, Peter and Philip.