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Interpreting Dreams and Analyzing Prophetic Claims

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Question #1:  

Dear Bob,

I apologize to coming to you on such short notice, but I had to come to you with this to see what this might mean. I know that God speaks to us through dreams, or at one point I read that, once? I just had a dream (I literally just woke up a few minutes ago) that in itself isn't wrong or bad (in fact it was fairly entertaining/scary to watch). I need to organize my thoughts here. I know a lot of it will sound random or nonsensical, and I'm not sure what one element of the dream is. I don't know if anyone comes to you with dream-based emails like this, but this one element kinda terrified me. [details omitted] And then I woke up.

So, for the most part, just about a wacky yet fairly average dream for me, but the new thing is it contained people who worshiped the evil one. I don't think I've ever dreamed anything like them before. Is it just another section of an otherwise over-imaginative dream? I don't know. All I know is it was terrifying, and don't know what that could mean. I mean, in the context of the dream, as soon as I figured out who those people were I left the room as quietly but as fast as I could and was frightened of them. I'm sorry for coming to you with this, and I know it sounds utterly just ridiculous and random and everywhere, but I wanted to come to you with it while it was still fresh in my mind.

Response #1:  

I make it a practice not to interpret other people's dreams. It is certainly true that God sometimes uses dreams to get our attention about something or other:

For God does speak—now one way, now another— though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn them from wrongdoing and keep them from pride, to preserve them from the pit, their lives from perishing by the sword.
Job 33:14-18 NIV

I'm not sure I see anything like the above in what you report (but we all have to draw our conclusions about such things in our own hearts).

As a general rule, I would advise not paying much attention to dreams unless a person is very sure that the dream is spiritually significant. The general rule of thumb is that unless the principle being communicated lines up directly with scripture and with what we already know to be true, all such things should be disregarded (especially if the source is someone else). For more on all this, I would ask you to have a look at the following links:

What does the Bible say about Dreams and Visions?

Dreams, Visions, and the Interpretation of Prophecy

Scripture versus Personal Experience

How to interpret our dreams?

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

I am having God's call upon my life for sometime now and I have been praying about it. [contents of three highly positive dreams omitted] I have been praying for the physical manifestation but nothing yet. What do I do? I need your counsel. What are the interpretations of these dreams? And what do I do?

Response #2: 

Dear Friend,

I have no particular expertise in the interpretation of dreams. Joseph and Daniel were prophets and were given their abilities by the Lord, and the circumstances of their interpreting of dreams seem to have been unique.

(1) God, from antiquity having communicated to our fathers in the prophets at many times and in many ways, (2) has in these last days communicated to us in a Son, [the One] whom He has appointed heir of all things, [the One] through whom He created the universe.
Hebrews 1:1-2

For the Church, rather than requiring special prophetic communications, we have been given the Holy Spirit and the Bible – so that we may see our Lord Jesus all the more clearly through the truth, now that He has come in the flesh, died for the sins of the world, and been resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father.

At other times, God has spoken to men in dreams in the Bible, but always made it very clear that He was the one speaking and also what the dream meant. For the rest of us, as born again believers in Jesus Christ we do have the Spirit of God, and in the Spirit, after much prayer and meditation, if a dream has significance we may be led to gain some confidence about what it means – should it reinforce truths we already know and believe. My own impression of these things is that if the dream really is from God, then 1) no new doctrinal information will be given which is not already knowable from scripture; 2) if the dream is meant as an encouragement or a prod or a means of guidance, careful examination of one's life and situation through prayerful introspection in the Spirit will yield the same result – so that the dream merely affirms what one might already be able to know; and 3) therefore dreams for most of us are not, even when they most definitely do have a divine origin or divine element, meant to be a "magic bullet" to solve our problems or answer all our questions.

Spiritual growth is the only true way of drawing closer to the Lord so as to know with ever greater specificity and confidence precisely what He wants us to do. We all should know the answer to that in general terms: grow up spiritually through careful attention the truth of scripture and as taught in an orthodox teaching ministry; move forward and closer to Jesus through testing in ever growing faith through applying the truth we have placed in our hearts by faith; help others do the same through the proper functioning of our spiritual gifts in whatever ministry the Lord calls us to. The last area is the one where some time and effort often needs to be spent before things become clear; blessedly, however, God uses prepared people, so rarely is anyone truly called to ministry (any genuine ministry) before making progress in spiritual growth and passing some significant tests. Here are a few links you may find helpful in this:

The Gift of Interpretation of Dreams

Interpreting Dreams

What does the Bible say about Dreams and Visions?

Dreams, Visions, and the Interpretation of Prophecy

Dreams and demon influence

Scripture versus Personal Experience

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

What are some basic ways to tell if a dream or vision is from God or the evil One?

Response #3:   

It is also possible (an possibly the most likely thing) that a dream is just a dream without any special provenance. However, I would say that if a dream is encouraging and or in accordance with biblical principles, we may take it that it comes from God (or at least is reflecting our good thinking and good walk with the Lord during waking hours), whereas if it is discouraging or runs afoul of the truth we know and believe from scripture, then we may discard it, whatever the source.

Question #4: 

Thanks for all your help. I want to know if as Christian we should pay attention to dreams. Can Jesus or Holy Spirit speak to us through dreams? I had a dream that a friend who had fire accident initially died and I pray about it but I thought I did not pray well. He died the third day after the dream. I told someone about the dream and was told by a man of God that God showed it to me before my friend's death, that God can speak to anyone thru dreams. Should I start paying more attention to my dreams? Thanks in advance.

Response #4: 

While it is very true that there are many biblical instances of God speaking to His people through dreams, in this time of the Church Age, since we have the Bible, there is no revelation of new information not contained in scripture forthcoming from any source (dreams and putative "prophecy" included). That does not mean that God cannot or does not give us dreams of guidance and comfort. What I would say about that generally is that we should always test with the Word of God whatever we experience that we think may be of a supernatural origin. If what we see or dream or experience is consistent with the Word of God, then well and good. If it is not, it is safe to say it is not of God. As far as specific information as in what you report, in biblical examples God gives believers prior knowledge of specific events so that they may act on that information, as when Joseph is warned "in a dream" to flee to Egypt. I don't know of any examples where believers are given dreams which do not seem to have any practical application, except for general encouragement (and that does not seem to be the case here). If I am understanding correctly, while I don't want to dismiss the possibility of something more, it would seem to me that this may be a case of a natural and normal premonition when we are worried about something. Clearly, if a family member is deathly sick and we dream that they die, and then they do die, well, this would not necessarily be a helpful dream or an important communication for us to receive. If a person in this situation tells me that a dream helped them by preparing and comforting them ahead of time, I can only say that nothing happens in the world without God's prior knowledge, and that His plan has taken everything into account. So to answer your question I would not encourage anyone to pay more attention to dreams; if the Lord means to get our attention in that way, He will surely have no trouble doing so. The main point is not to let the dreams other people claim to have influence us to believe things that are not in line with the Bible. Here is something I have written about this before:

Healing, Miracles, and Dreams: Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff by biblical Means

Keeping you in my prayers for your continued progress in the Word and service to our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Bob,

Last night, I think I may have had a bona fide demonic attack. It was short but it was intense. I was dreaming, when I had this ominous spirit brooding around me in my dream. [details omitted] I was so scarred, but I was able to say "I order you to flee in the name of Jesus." Immediately afterwards, it vanished and I woke up.

If this truly was a demonic attack, then I hope that it ended up chained in the Abyss for good. As of late, Satan and his minions have been hitting me especially hard. Friends think that these demonic attacks are the result of me sinning or disobeying God in some way. As someone who has the healthy fear of the Lord, I naturally do not want to cross Him or tempt Him, least I become "delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the body".

Sincerely,

Response #5:   

God may encourage us in many ways, and while I would be most reluctant to draw specific conclusions about doctrine or what to do with one's life based upon a dream that was not so absolutely clear and unequivocally coming from God for that purpose, we may certainly acknowledge that God may be involved in positive dreams. Since your dream was the opposite, however, please take my comments below as meant primarily to address dreams that are not of that positive, encouraging type.

Dreams are funny things indeed. It is one of (many) areas about which we wish we had more information (and I certainly will want to be asking about this on the other side). From the biblical point of view, there are two types: 1) dreams sent specifically by the Lord for a special purpose (and these seem to be very rare indeed); 2) all the others. What we are to make of dreams that are not specific communications from the Lord (and, judging by the biblical descriptions of such dreams, these are always very clearly just that on the rare occasions they are given to rare individuals for rare purposes) is not spelled out in scripture. I will say that I don't find any biblical evidence for us to "make" anything in particular out of anything we perceive in a dream as if it had any particular significance – exactly the opposite of what modern psychology/psychiatry thinks. In fact I think that would be very dangerous. Because if the content of the dream is not from God, then from whom would it be? Whether there is a demonic element involved or the dream is merely the product of our own minds, the sin nature no doubt has a large part in their production. As I say, the process of dreams is a mystery to everyone, with modern "science" being more in the dark than anyone else about the truth of them. In either case it is not as if it would be prudent to draw any conclusions from our dreams. As Christians who do know something of the truth of scripture, and we are in the business of retraining our minds and of suppressing our sin natures – through the truth. If I were to speculate at all on this sort of thing it would be to posit that dreams are sometimes reflective of that struggle between what the flesh and the Spirit desire as we attempt to constrain our thoughts and desires into biblically acceptable channels (there will be more on this in the next installment of the Peter series; for now see "Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?", "The Battlefield", and "Sin and Spiritual Transformation").

So if I were to take anything from your particular dream it would be only positive, and I would take pains to discard the negative parts. I have always considered it a decidedly good thing whenever a dream has a positive spiritual element (as in your confidence in victory through the Lord evident in what you report). That means that one has been seriously enough involved in spiritual things during waking hours (Phil.4:8), that this point of view is being imprinted on the mind conscious or otherwise, and that good perspective is forcing its way into one's dreams – a definite victory (not that we should feel defeated when/if this doesn't happen in our dreams, not at all).

Demons could easily destroy us if they were allowed to do so. They are not. So since demons cannot just willy-nilly show up out of the blue and physically attack us when we are awake (because the Lord does not allow it), so it has to be the case when we are asleep.

Thus my advice is ever to stay away and steer clear of all such thinking. If I had a similar dream, rather than respond to it or pay undue attention to it after the fact, the best thing would be to forget it and pay it no mind. Demons would like us to think they can do more than they can, but we Christians are called to freedom and to spiritual courage, and knowing precisely where we stand in this regard of spiritual warfare is a part of that: we are willing to endure whatever the Lord calls us to endure, but we are not going to be cowed by things that terrify others, especially when we know (from scripture) the limits of the enemy.

Peter was able to walk on the water with the Lord, and did so . . . until he became afraid for all the wrong reasons. We have to adopt that same attitude of faith in the face of all things which otherwise might seem terrifying (whatever they might be), potential demon attack included. We are going to continue to live and survive and thrive because the Lord has a purpose for us here on this earth, and the gates of hell will not be able to turn away our attack – because it is empowered by God the Spirit, directed by God the Son, and decreed by God the Father.

Bottom line: if a dream is discouraging in any way, pay it no heed; if it is encouraging, you may take it as an encouragement from the Lord – but I would be very wary of drawing any conclusions (beyond general encouragement) or building any doctrinal content on what you may dream. While it is true that the Lord does use various means to guide us, I would be very careful about taking a major life-decision based on a dream – unless it was unequivocally clear that God had sent the dream and done so for precisely that purpose. As I say, I don't find any biblical support for that happening very often in the history of the world, and certainly not in the Church Age where we are to give our primary attention to the truth contained in the Word of God.

Please see the following links (which I hope will be of some help in these two areas where admittedly not as much is known as we should all like to know):

The Participation of the Resurrected Church in Removing Satan's Forces (in CT 6)

Satan's Tactical Methodology (in SR 4)

Spiritual Warfare IV

Spiritual Warfare III

Spiritual Warfare II

Spiritual Warfare I

The Interpretation of Dreams and Visions I

The Interpretation of Dreams and Visions II

Vision and Dream

Interpreting Dreams

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend!

In Jesus Christ whom we serve in this fight,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Dr Luginbill

I enjoy your website and the insights found there. I get enriched in spirit and sense a calling in my life.

A few weeks ago I had a dream, and I have not been able to get it off my mind, please tell me what you think about it, and maybe explain the meaning of it to me I beg you sir, this is the dream: [details of highly positive dream omitted] Then I awoke and I prayed

Kind regards

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you – and thanks so much for your kind words about this ministry!

As to your question, Joseph remarked when asked by Pharaoh to interpret his dream: "I cannot do it but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires" (Gen.41:16 NIV).

I do not have this gift (of interpretation), but I will share with you that it is not at all uncommon for the Lord to build up our faith by providing us with necessary encouragement, and this may come through dreams or signs or miraculous events – usually not things which are direct communications or visions or angels or other such things that are of a "hyper-supernatural nature" as that is not the time in which we find ourselves (this is the age of the scriptures being the supreme and sole guide to faith and practice), but clearly enough "from Him" that we are encouraged even though these things are experienced by us alone and not by others. In terms of details in dreams, the more scripture we learn, the better we can tell how what we have been given fits in with scripture – because beyond all argument if anything has definitely come from the Lord it will not contradict scripture. So the benefit of such a dream or vision or sign or miracle is the confidence it builds up in us who already believe, and in the underlining of truths we have already learned and committed to our hearts by faith. It is the Word which is the foundation; these sorts of experiences are encouraging but only as supports to the Word. Anything "new" that may come in a dream should be suspect – the Bible contains all the revelation for the Church.

Here is what Peter said about one of the most amazing visions anyone has ever experienced, that is, his witnessing of the preview of our Lord's second advent on the Mount of Transfiguration and Jesus' conversation with His two heralds, Moses and Elijah:

And these words I myself heard as they were delivered from heaven, for I was with Him on the holy mountain (cf. Matt.17:1-8). Yet I consider the prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible) even more reliable (i.e. than what I saw with my own eyes). You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:18-21

Like Mary then, we should "treasure these things in our hearts", and know that the Lord is providing for us in all ways, including giving us encouragement of His superintendence of all things, and be motivated all the more to put His Word in first place in all we think, say and do.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

As always Robert, thanks for setting things straight. I was wondering, does your website have a section that deals with the capture of Jesus? Judas betrayed him but the events after that have become hazy (to me) as a result of watching movies like Passion. More to the point, what chapter in the Bible gives us the clearest picture of what happened? If you *talk* about that on your website that would also suffice.

Normally I am not a believer in dreams but I had an odd one last night. [details omitted] I have sleep issues and never remember my dreams so it was surreal and I must admit, it left me with a good feeling. I have been battling with demons of fear for a long time.

Response #7:   

On "good dreams", I think we are allowed to feel "good" about them, recognizing the truth of any truth behind them (in this case, the fact that we are saved and will go to heaven and will meet our loved ones who are likewise saved), taking care not to build doctrine on them (after all, dreams are essentially allegorical, often even when they are definitely from God: e.g., Joseph's dreams).

On the life of Christ, what I do have will be found beginning at the link in BB 4A: "The Last Passover".

Question #8:

Shalom Bob,

Thank you for your very kind and scholarly response. If you be so kind as to help me with a further brief point of clarification regarding this same subject it will be most appreciated.

Thus, with respect to the three specific Jesus temptations cited in my previous post - would these three distinct Jesus temptations be generally and categorically inclusive of "like as" (kath’ homoiteta) temptations to us (i.e., Hunger, Idolatry, and Tempting God)? Moreover, should we then extrapolate these three specific Jesus temptations and generalize them as teaching examples for ourselves of how to overcome Satan’s temptations by following Jesus’ three specific methods?

Meanwhile, the discussion that brought these questions to your scholarly doorstep is respective to an argument regarding a Believer’s "visions/dreams". To this end, I have always been of the persuasion that suggests that Satan or his demonic cohorts have the "limited" and restrained ability on special occasions to surpass the individual Believer’s volition causing demonic visions/dreams – in the like manner that Satan seemed to have caused the mortal man Jesus to be shown a vision of ALL of the kingdoms of the world in an instant/moment of time as part of His temptation.

And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
Luke 4:5 (KJV)

Thus, do you think that Satan and his demonic accompaniment can actually perform such involuntary dream/vision intrusions respective to the Believer?

Your kind response will be most appreciated.

Response #8:   

Jesus Christ is our "model" and our "forerunner" in all things (Jn.13:15; 1Cor.11:1; 1Pet.2:21; Heb.6:20), but of course with the stipulation understood that we are not perfect as He was and is. So when it comes to the three temptations, I would say that indeed we may take some guidance from these examples, noting first and foremost our Lord's countering of these satanic lies with scriptures which directly refuted them. As to how these lies/temptations should be categorized and understood for our own application, I have written quite a lot about this and would invite you to have a look at the following links:

Satan's Tactical Doctrine (in SR 4)

Satan's System of Propaganda (in BB 2A)

The three satanic lies (in BB 3A)

Progression of the three lies (in CT 3A)

The three lies at the last judgment (in CT 6)

Synopsis of the three satanic lies

Atheism and the three lies

As to the question of demonic interference with our dreams, I would not be surprised to find out there is some such capacity. At any rate, just as good and evil words and deeds flow from the superfluity of a person's heart (Lk.6:45), it seems to me that dreams are much influenced in this way too – so that any believer who is advancing and occupying him/herself with the delights above instead of below is probably going to be less vulnerable in respect of such 'bad dreams'. When a dream comes from God, He always makes that abundantly clear; in a similar way, dreams that are 'otherwise' ought to be obvious to any believer who is not a spiritual infant, provided he/she is on the right road forward. But there is a limit to what the evil one and his minions can do, even if we don't know where the boundaries are: they would destroy us immediately, if God did not forbid it and back up that prohibition with unlimited power. So while we cannot be dogmatic about a subject not delineated in scripture, it would seem to be true that there definitely are limits to any such demonic action, and this confidence should allow us not to be overly "terrified" by bad dreams as believers. Considerable demon interference would seem to be a very rare thing for those who are walking closely with Jesus Christ: compare the exceptional leeway granted Job's demonic tormenters for a season as part of his exceptional testing to demonstrate his equally exceptional spiritual prowess (Job 7:14).

But one thing is clear: the devil actually did tempt our Lord as stated in the gospels. This was no dream.

And the devil took him up and showed (i.e., actually did it: indicative mood in Greek) him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
Luke 4:5 ESV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hey Bob,

I am known for 'beating a dead horse' lol, so what does this literally mean - Jesus knew their thoughts? Some believe angels can enter our dreams, manipulate atomic matter, so what about Jesus, after the Holy Spirit came upon him when he rose straight up out of the baptismal water and went into the wilderness for 40 days, only then do we read of the miracles that Jesus performed. So did Jesus know the thoughts of earthly inhabitants?

Did Jesus literally read their minds?

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
Matthew 12:25 (KJV)

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.
Luke 11:17 (KJV)

But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.
Luke 6:8 (KJV)

And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,
Luke 9:47 (KJV)

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
Matthew 9:4 (KJV)

Response #9:   

Our Lord is surely a special case. Even so, I think these passages probably mean that our Lord 1) had a perfect understanding of human nature and also absolutely perfect wisdom, which is the application of knowledge through the Spirit. So He could read people like we read a book – without actually being able to see inside their heads – in His humanity, that is of course. In His deity, He knew our thoughts before He created the universe. But it is a principle of kenosis that our Lord was limited in terms of how His deity was allowed to help His humanity (see the link), and it seems to me that this is probably another one of those areas of restraint for the sake of carrying out the perfect mission perfectly. Being able to see into other people's thoughts is something no other human being can do, so it might be considered an "unfair advantage" – and our Lord went to great lengths to live this life as we must live it so that the sacrifice at Calvary would be valid in every way.

As to angels, they can certainly manipulate matter. How and when and why they do (and what they are allowed to do – restraint of the fallen angels is essential, otherwise we believers would all be instantly dead) is another matter. Scripture doesn't say. But I don't see any biblical evidence of them being able to "enter our dreams". However it is that God gives people dreams is another matter.

If we garden all day long, we are likely to dream of weeds and seeds, e.g. So I suppose it is not greatly difficult for angels, fallen or elect, to "prod" us in certain ways from the outside in order to get our thinking moving in one direction or the other, whether consciously or subconsciously. But as far as being able to get into our spirits and minds, that would seem to be a clear violation of the principle of free will, and choosing is what the entire plan of God and human history are all about.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Remember Mary K Baxter? She describes a hell that sounds contrary to the bible. She says that there is a funhouse for devils, a belly of hell and says people can forever loose their salvation while alive. She says there are different areas of punishment. Do you find all of this to be incorrect?

Response #10:   

This is another false prophet as anyone who has read the Bible can see very easily: and the things you report as her positions are clearly not in scripture. For a more detailed discussion, please see the link: Mary K. Baxter? (Q/A #2)

Question #11:  

Hello Robert. Thank you for the information on mary k baxter, the reason I was so worried about her being a prophet was because she said Jesus told her that the unforgivable sin was opening a seminar against the holy spirit and the minute he did it he lost his salvation.

Response #11:  

Anytime someone says, "Jesus told me . . . ", a wise Christian will stop up his/her ears. Our Lord communicates with us through the Bible and the Holy Spirit's illumination of its truths (through personal reading and orthodox Bible teaching). If our Lord was giving new information directly to someone like this, said person would be a modern day prophet and his/her word would supersede the scriptures. In other words, making such a claim is a very clear disqualification prima facie.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Matthew 7:15 NKJV

Question #12: 

I have another question about Mary K Baxter. It is said that she shipped her book worldwide in different languages, and she performed miracles in a church (not sure what they were). What do you make of this?

Response #12: 

I can assure you that no one is performing miracles – in a church or anywhere else. There will be miracles performed before our Lord's return – by antichrist's false prophet.

She has book? So do the Mormons and the JW's and RC's (the Apocrypha), e.g.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hello brother in Christ. I came across your site and found out great things in your writing. I love the way you convey things spiritually.

I would like to ask many questions to you, but for now let me just throw two topics about the spiritual beliefs or shall we say doctrines of one of the popular churches today. This church is really powerful in praise and worship, but just confused with two things – Speaking in Tongues and Oneness of God in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ or Modalism.

Is ‘speaking in tongues’ necessary or a requirement for man’s salvation?

Is ‘Oneness of God or Modalism’ a valid doctrine in the light of Scriptural teaching?

Thanks you so much! Hoping for your response.

In Christ’s Mighty Name,

Response #13:   

Good to make your acquaintance – and thanks much for your kind comments.

As to your questions:

1) No indeed. Salvation comes solely through faith by grace. It is a gift of God, not of works (whatever the works, even something like tongues or water-baptism or circumcision which are found in scripture – and misunderstood for the most part), lest any man should boast: Ephesians 2:8-9. More than that, speaking in tongues today, or what passes for it in Charismatic churches, is not biblical tongues – as far as I have ever been able to discover. To speak in tongues, biblically, a person must be actually gifted by the Holy Spirit to do so. That is to say, it is no good pretending. Anyone can chant nonsensical syllables – this happens in all manner of pagan religions and cults. Actual, biblical tongues was the supernatural ability to speak in a real human language that the person with the gift had never studied and could not otherwise understand himself. It was primarily an evangelical device (that is how the Spirit used it during the first Pentecost, after all), and could also be edifying – when a Christian with the gift of interpretation was present and could "translate" the language the person in question was speaking. I have never seen any documentation of a person speaking an actual language they did not understand – although people make this claim all the time.

Today we have the canon of scripture complete, and the situation that made this and other visibly supernatural empowerments necessary in the early Church era no longer apply (1Cor.13:8-12).

I have a great deal of information of this subject at the website. Please see the following links:

The Gift of Tongues: Part 1

The Gift of Tongues: Part 2

Tongues and prophecy

Tongues: does 'no man' understand?

Is speaking in tongues biblical?

Is speaking in tongues a sin?

An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

"The baptism which now saves you": 1st Peter 3:21.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.

2) God is "one" – in essence; but God is also three – in person. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three distinct persons who share the same divine essence. That is the classic (and correct) definition of the Trinity. That is not "modalism" – which is a heresy. Traditionally defined, modalism understands God as being only one person (although God is three in person), but merely manifesting Himself in three different ways. That would make it impossible, just for example, for Christ to be the God-man – since He is often in dialogue with the Father and His earthly life consists in doing the Father's will (things that would make no sense if God was really only one person). In any case, modalism is a dangerous heresy which is inconsistent with being saved.

Of course, when people use any word or technical term, it is not always clear either a) that they understand the term correctly, or b) that they have not invested the term in question with some esoteric, personal meaning. Blessedly, God knows the heart of every person, and God provides the truth necessary to be saved for all who are willing to accept Jesus' sacrifice so as to be saved. Here are a few links which you may find helpful on this score:

The Persons of God: The Trinity

The Essence of God and Deity of Christ

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ I

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

Bob Luginbill

Question #14: 

How are you all? I am alive in the Lord due to you and your wonderful ministry. I will never cease to give thanks for your wonderful website! Although I go to an evangelical church close by, I have found Watchman Nee's ministry in Coventry and have started going to their meetings as well. Most churches don't abide by 1Corinthians 14:1-4 , as they have just one preacher . Don't you think this is what is preventing members from prophesying?

Thank you again for your wonderful ministry.

Response #14: 

Very good to hear from you!

I am happy to hear that you have found a place or two to fellowship with other Christians. Finding a good safe place is very rare these days – unless it is "safe" because nothing whatsoever is being taught.

As to your question, as I have often remarked, polity questions have much exercised the church visible for centuries (really for millennia), but the reason why such questions admit of no detailed answer is because scripture doesn't provide it; and scripture doesn't provide a raft of details because polity is meant to be flexible. So whether there is one main teacher and other helpers or a number of helpers and one main teacher (all groups end up in this same place eventually because of human nature), and whatever they are called doesn't really make any significant difference. What matters is whether or not the Word of God is being taught substantively as the main reason for assembly, and whether or not what is being taught is correct. Everything else is window dressing. Of course nowadays in most churches most everything is just that, window dressing only, and when something is taught it is usually wrong in whole or in part.

As to 1st Corinthians 14:1-4, Paul certainly uses these verses to make the point that tongues as they were being practiced in the early Church were often disruptive, and he regulated their use in this and the following verses. Prophecy, however, was also a gift given only to the early Church. Like tongues, it "ceased" when the canon of scripture was completed (1Cor.13:8). This is an important point too, because otherwise people could claim to have direct revelation from God which was different from scripture or at least not in scripture and we would have to give them a hearing. As it is, if anyone says anything not in scripture or especially if it contradicts scripture we know it is not true. So the issue for discernment today is interpretation (i.e., is so and so interpreting what the scripture says correctly); but we don't have to worry about evaluating the validity of somehow saying "God told me __X__ !" God is not giving direct revelation to anyone at present, so that anyone who says this sort of thing can and most definitely should be ignored.

I keep you in my prayers day by day – thanks so much for your encouraging and kind words!

Your friend forever in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello Dr Luginbill, I pray you are doing well

I was wondering, are there only 9 gifts of the Holy spirit? Would you be able to break each down? How would we as believers know who has which gift, especially the less supernatural ones?

Response #15:   

Hello Friend,

It's a big topic! And it's one I'm soon to be working on for the forthcoming "part 5 of Bible Basics: Pneumatology: the study of the Holy Spirit" [now available at the link].

What I can say now is that there are very likely more than nine gifts; in fact, we are told that God's grace is multifarious when it comes to the gifts believers receive:

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
1st Peter 4:10 NLT

What this and other related passages say to me is that there are most likely an infinite number of permutations of the gifts cited in scripture (even if all gifts are mentioned), and that in combination with other gifts (for many believers are multi-gifted), the situation in truth is that no two believers are gifted in precisely the same way, even if they are led to perform similar roles in similar ministries – for we all have our own set of (and variations of) gifts, our own ministries, and our own effects from the Lord:

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
1st Corinthians 12:4-7 NKJV

As to the specifics, here are some links for additional information – and do feel free to write back about specifics:

Spiritual gifts and spiritual growth

What does the Bible say about spiritual gifts?

BB 5 "Spiritual Gifts"

Knowing how we or others have a gift is very much a matter of spiritual growth. A Christian who is truly following Jesus to the point of growing up in Him through His truth, and who has made good progress on the road to Zion, handling the tests that come the mature believer's way, can almost not fail to recognize particular spiritual strengths or contemplate the ministries to which they might be effectively applied. These considerations go hand in hand with the guidance of the Spirit, and it is more important, practically speaking, for most Christians to recognize how they can effectively help the Body of Christ to grow than it is to identify some particular gift. In many cases I have observed, ministry has come first, and recognition of or relation to a mentioned gift has followed after. Teaching gifts do constitute an exception since specific and lengthy preparation is necessary before these can be effectively employed. The main thing is not to allow one's thinking in terms of ministry (the point of gifts) to be canalized into traditional molds, as if the church-visible models are the only ones. If a person is a good listener and occasionally in listening puts a fellow believer on the right track according the truth of scripture in a loving and encouraging way, it doesn't really matter whether or not the believer in question recognizes that he/she has a gift of wisdom or a gift of knowledge (or both), e.g.

Thank you so much for your prayers! They are greatly appreciated. Effective support of the Body through prayer is an essential ministry – and some are more gifted in this than others.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Bob,

Can you explain why the "Pentecostal Church" embraces and promotes the continuing of Apostles and Prophets as authoritative offices of the church today as a part of their reference of a Five Fold Ministry? It is my understanding that both offices were designated to give instruction to the church until the word of God was written. The written word has now been given as the gift of instructions to the church by the hands of the Apostles who were used as the foundation or original layer of the church with being the cornerstone who sent them in the original assignment to make disciples of men. The foundation has been laid and the church has been built.

In the book of Acts, the Apostles appointed Deacons over the temporal interest of the church whole they continued in the assignment to complete the word in writing. We have access to every prophesy concerning the church written in the bible. I conclude therefore that this is erroneous doctrine to support the power struggling ego’s of men who desire to elevate themselves above their measure and another source of confusion in the church. The original assignment in purpose for these 2 offices have been fulfilled.

The human oversight of congregations today are assigned to Pastors and the traveling preachers without oversight of a congregation are called both Missionaries and Evangelists. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Response #16: 

I believe you've answered your own question: I completely agree that if there is any rationale for what the Pentecostals and others are doing when they wrongly proclaim the continued existence of lapsed spiritual gifts it is "erroneous doctrine to support the power struggling egos of men who desire to elevate themselves above their measure" – well put!

Acts was indeed a transitional era wherein many things happened as holdovers from the Jewish Age (continued attendance at the temple and its rites, e.g.), and from the brief period of Christ's ministry (water baptism), while some things happened which were one time events (Pentecost, and having "all things in common" in Acts 3:44-45), and still others which were mistakes (Peter's reluctance to commune with the gentiles, Paul's paying the vows of the Jewish Nazarites, the "election" of Matthias, etc.). See the links:

Historical and Transitional Nature of Acts

Peter's "Learning Curve" in the Time of Transition

More on the Transitions in Acts

You can find the bulk of what I have written about the spiritual gifts, lapsed and continuing, teaching and service, at the following link:

Spiritual Gifts (in BB 5)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dear Professor Luginbill

We were wanting to know what your thoughts were on the accounts of Heaven given by the child Colton Burpo. If you are unfamiliar with these accounts, you will find them in the book "Heaven is For Real" (which we can mail you a copy of if you'd like).

Also, another child, prodigy and painter Akiane Kramarik, is mentioned in the book. Have you seen her paintings of Jesus, as well as her many others? She is no longer a child, but still paints. I'd like to know what you think of her as well.

Is there anything in their testimonies that conflict with your Biblical understandings? Thank you!

Response #17:   

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your question. It's one I get quite a lot – at least in substance. These days, there are all manner of groups and individuals who claim to have a special relationship with God, special information about Him, special dreams, special visions, special powers, etc. However, Christians who put their faith in the Son of God and in the truth Jesus Christ has revealed in scripture will be wise to be quite skeptical about any one or any group which maintains that they know something the rest of cannot know from reading the Bible (or listening to the teaching of those who have it made it their life's work). Can God do all the things claimed? Of course. The real question is whether or not He has done what is claimed in individual cases. How are we to know? First, if anyone or any group makes a claim that is contrary to what is in scripture, then we know it is false. Second, if anyone or any group sees or says something that, while not evidently contrary to scripture, is not specifically capable of being validated by scripture, then it is probably false – or at least it is certainly not verifiably true, and in that case should be viewed with healthy skepticism if not rejected altogether. The latter incidences constitute a greater threat to growing Christians. That is because while we may not be fooled by something which is outright false, Satan has a way of wrapping his lies in large quantities of the truth – and a little of this sort of leaven has a tendency to leaven the whole lump. That, after all, is how the devil got to Eve; not by telling her things that were blatantly false, but by telling her half-truths mixed in with and thus covering up the big lie. The net result in all such cases is a lie, however attractive and seemingly innocuous, and we know that truth and lies will not long coexist: one always forces the other out sooner or later.

This is all a long way of saying that the details in the two cases you mention are not really important. Both individuals claim special experiences which are not repeatable by the rest of us; both claim special knowledge that is not in the Bible. If God wanted us to have such information, why is it not in the Bible? There are plenty of good reasons why prophecy and visions of the like claimed in these two cases are not in fact being empowered by God today – and if such things are not from God, then Christians need pay no attention (and will end up being sorry for any attention paid).

I have written quite a bit about this issue in general and will give you the links below, but please do feel free to write back about any of the above:

Third Party Testimony: We Believe God and His Word – Not People

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

Temporary Spiritual Gifts

Cessation of Sign Gifts

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior, the only Truth.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hows about I read your several articles about third party reports, and you spend 20 minutes looking up Colton and Akiane. Deal?

Response #18:   

I did (and have) spent some time on these two – time enough at any rate.

I would be happy to address any of the particular claims. For example, when the lad says he saw Jesus on a rainbow colored horse, well, scripture tells us that the Lord will return at the second advent on a white horse (Rev.19:11); there are no rainbow colored horses in the Bible (or rainbow-colored anything else, for that matter). Rather than getting into finding fault with other people's experiences, it seems better to me just to ignore them, and deliberately so. If there were anything of importance in anything either of these two say they saw or were "given", then that would be in the Bible – you may be sure of it. Moreover, if something is not in the Bible but claimed in this fashion, believing it anyway is very dangerous, spiritually speaking. Satan told Eve that she would not die if she ate of the tree, and while that was true in one sense (she did not immediately keel over in physical death), it was a lie in all of its substantive features: she died spiritually at the moment of eating, was condemned to die physically in due time, and would have suffered eternal death as well as a result – had not Jesus died for her sin along with all other human sins.

Many of the "additional details" such reports provide may not seem as dramatically negative, and may not be in truth (they many not be even technically wrong), but even if everything such people reported turned out to be true in the end (and I can assure you that such is most definitely not the case), paying them heed would still be a terrible spiritual mistake. Why? Because it sets believers up to look for the truth not from the source God has provided, that is, the Bible, but from other sources which are in fact not of God.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2nd Timothy 4:3-4 ESV

We many sure that these reports are not of God because such prophecy has come to an end with the completion of the Bible (1Cor.13:8-12; see previous links). And even if someone wants to argue that person A is reporting according to the will of God even though person B may not be, please tell me how a believer is supposed to be able to tell the difference between persons A and B? They both claim to be inspired.

Moreover, in order to be benefitted by any such "testimony", you have to believe it . . . and then you are believing a human being, not the truth of the Word of God – and there is a big difference. On top of that, people who put there faith in one such person will soon be putting their faith in other such people, and sooner or later one of those people is going to be an outright agent of the devil. This is one reason how it is we know that such persons are not "of God": there were prophets in ancient Israel and in the first early years of the book of Acts – but no more. There were ways that God gave these prior prophets to make their legitimacy clear (miracles et al.) – but no more. Now it is all about Jesus Christ – the truth of Him and His coming into the world to die illuminated by the Spirit for us written down in Word of God through Him who is the very Word incarnate:

(1) God, from antiquity having communicated to our fathers in the prophets at many times and in many ways, (2) has in these last days communicated to us in a Son, [the One] whom He has appointed heir of all things, [the One] through whom He created the universe.
Hebrews 1:1-2

I urge you to give all such "exciting" information and its purveyors a wide berth. I note that in both cases both individuals and their families are benefitting financial. This may all seem innocuous, but the real harm comes in breaking down the spiritual resistance of believers who allow themselves to be taken in, so that they are "set up" thereby for more dangerous apostles of the evil one. Believing lies and rejecting truth always go hand in hand in the end.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

I'll be reading your articles. One immediate thought on the horse bit was that white is the same as rainbow because put through a prism, white light turns to rainbow. Are you arguing against excitement period? I see nothing in 2nd Timothy arguing against excitement, just "suiting one's passions". I'm also interested in your interpretation of Acts 2:17. This may already be covered in your articles, so if it is, just tell me so. Or I'll find out first as I read.

Response #19:   

If we were to use the generous interpretation which you suggest (regarding the prism), we might be able to justify all manner of things not in scripture but not absolutely and obviously contradicted by scripture. I'm afraid that would make room for much of the Apocrypha and most of the pseudepigraphical works produced since (the Book of Mormon comes to mind). One of the problems here is that some of the lies in these documents are so subtle that it is not necessarily possible for the average believer (or even literary expert) to pick up on the potentially negative consequences of the fabrications at first glance.

I have nothing at all against believers being excited about the truth of the Word of God – I encourage that might and main! But when people get excited about information that is not the truth (even if it is not obviously a lie) it inevitably produces spiritual vulnerabilities. Such excitement cannot be from the Spirit (since the Spirit uses only truth), so where is it coming from? At best it is fleshly; at worst, demonically supported. In either of these two cases such excitement/emotion is like a narcotic: it wears off quickly and requires ever increasing dosages to produce the same effect. Before one knows it, those who go off down this road are involved in all manner of undeniably false and dangerous things for the sake of recovering that original "excitement" of the emotional "high". Getting excited about actual doctrine in scripture takes work, effort, discipline and consistency, and it may not rise to the heights of expression one finds in circles where prophecy and miracles and the like are all the rage – but it has the virtues of being genuine, actually "of the Spirit", and pleasing to the Lord.

As to Acts 2:17, Peter applies this passage from Joel to the events of Pentecost, and rightly so. However, this was not – nor does Peter say it was – the final fulfillment of the passage in question. It is true that the Church Age is part of the "last days" in the sense of being the penultimate age which terminates with the end times events, the Tribulation and the Millennium which follows. Joel 2:28-32 will only be completely fulfilled during the Second Advent and the Millennium. That is the "great and awesome day of the LORD", accompanied by "wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke" when "the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood", when Jesus returns. And only during the Millennium will the universal pouring out of the Spirit "on all flesh" come to pass, which must include at least all believing Israel at that time, and with the "sign" gifts abiding throughout the Millennium – as opposed to being a temporary inaugural event as in the Church Age: we have the Spirit as believers, but the "sign" gifts "ceased" once the canon of scripture was completed (1Cor.13:8-11; see the link: "The Millennial Pouring out of the Spirit" in CT 6).

Here are some other pertinent links:

Miraculous gifts ceasing

Third party testimony regarding miraculous gifts

Are Miraculous Spiritual Gifts still in Operation Today?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi,

I recently, well today, came across your website while I was researching on "speaking in tongues" and "slaying in the Spirit" as I have been bombarded by pressure to see these as God ordained occurrences and although I am a profound believer in the Power and Presence of God, like you, I have not to this day seen any application or manifestation of either thing where I could honestly say it was Devine in nature in any way, shape or form.

The Bible holds no evidence from what I see for slaying in the spirit without any doubts. However, the thing I find most sad is how easy the devil can take a precious gift of the Spirit and twist it to his own advantage and perpetrate such a lie. I guess this is really a fulfilment of the end time prophecies though, he will "deceive even the elect"!

I think I read pretty much all your articles and it was great to read, however, I am not certain that I agree completely with your perspective regarding some of the spiritual gifts not being currently given, I don't remember hearing this before. I can understand your application of the texts and at first read it appears quite sound but it has given me something to chew over, extremely thought provoking and perhaps help explain why these gifts are being so widely faked.

Some of my current thoughts were that as listed by Paul, tongues is like right at the bottom of the importance list and the easiest to fake. From personal experience I have seen the discouragement and sadness that insistence on everyone speaking in tongues can force onto Christians and especially new Christians. Its horrible.

Thank you for a wonderful website and keep up the good work.

Response #20:   

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for the positive comments.

In addition to tongues, the two most prominent abuses I have found in attempting to claim gifts which have not actually been given are in the realm of (false) prophecy and (false) healing. Clearly, God can give any gift He desires. The question, as with tongues, is whether or not He is actually giving the gift or, on the other hand, is a person merely claiming to have something he/she does not really have. It's no small thing to claim to have the gift of healing, for example, and deceive other people with various theatrics. People who do these sorts of things from whatever motivation will have to answer for their deeds. My concern is mainly for my fellow Christians who might be deceived. We tend to be kind and loving (a good thing) and gentle as doves (as we should be); but we often fall down in being less than discerning where it comes to putative Christians making some fantastic claim. We believe God (He can do it); the problems start when we begin to believe people who are merely claiming (falsely) to have something from God which they do not have.

Here are some other links on related topics which you may not have seen (do feel free to write me back about any of this):

God Heals - in His way (not our way)

Healing, Miracles, and Dreams

Beware of Third Party testimony

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

I have read portions of your new MARRIAGE section. As you quite correctly point out, this is an area where modern conventions create a host of permutations which are not directly addressed in scripture. My understanding on "binding and loosing’ applies in these instances.

When we are faced with dilemmas of these types we often find solutions which not only less than perfect, but, under the current dispensation are sometimes irreconcilable. Any choice available may technically be a ‘sin’. In these cases I firmly believe that as the Lords children we need to use all the common sense we can muster, determine the most equitable arrangement and consult with the Lord about our options. Our final decision made ‘in the Spirit’ is either binding on us or loosed for us. In other words our decision will be upheld by the Lord since we acted in the extraordinary circumstances by declaring it in His name. I would always view this as a VERY serious act and one that after having committed to it is legitimate and binding. I am not entirely sure if this is a ‘correct’ application of ‘binding and loosing’ but I use it as such.

What do you think?

Response #21:  

While I would agree that being decisive after careful consideration of a matter is usually a good thing, I would certainly want to allow myself and others a degree of flexibility to allow for those situations in which – after additional information comes in – we realize that we have been wrong. Anyone can be wrong, and it is very easy for believers – even spiritually mature and battle-tested believers – to mistake emotion for Spirit-filled guidance from time to time. This world is a battlefield, and we, Christ's soldiers on it, are not perfect in our constitutions (having sin natures) and not perfect in our spiritual growth (only our Lord Jesus ever achieved that). On top of this, of course, our adversary is a master of deception and lies. Whenever we begin to take the attitude that we are perfect, or close thereto, then we are going to start deceiving ourselves (and that has more dire consequences than the mistakes we are bound to make from time to time could ever have). Just as no officer can expect to take his unit into combat and not suffer casualties, so no believer can engage in the forward march of spiritual growth and expect to come out without stumbling from time to time (e.g., Jas.3:2). In fact, that is all the more common for those who are indeed following Christ's mandates to advance spiritually – because these are the Christians the devil actually spends time and effort opposing.

On "binding", in scripture this only refers to the giving of the gospel whereby those accept it are loosed, whereas those who do not are "bound" (see the links:  "prayers for binding" and "binding and Satan").

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

What do you know of this book? - The Urantia Book

http://truthbook.com/

http://truthbook.com/jesusonian-foundation

Response #22: 

I'd honestly never heard of this before, but apparently it's been around since the 1920's.

There seems to be no end theosophical speculation out there. Whenever a group or individual claims prophetic status for works of this sort, it's always time to run for the exit. Some pretty wacky stuff here! Of course, this sort of thing (i.e., apocrypha and pseudepigrapha) has been going on for at least 3,000 years or so (that we can document)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

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