Heavenly visions always dim the awareness of the afflictions of an earthly experience.
When Stephen, an early follower of Jesus, was taken before the Jewish council for teaching about Jesus, his eloquent defense of Jesus was so powerful it “cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). They became so enraged that they would later stone him to death (Acts 7:58). At this moment, however,
. . . he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56).
Heavenly visions would carry Stephen through the fires of woeful ignorance, bitter envy and hateful revenge. In spite of the horrendous action of his tormentors, Stephen “cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge (Acts 7:60).
In a world where there are so many choices to contemplate in the mind, it is often difficult to maintain focus on the true essence of life. Recognizing this difficulty, a missionary to Algeria, Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), wrote, “Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” Inspired by this great truth, Helen H. Lemmel (1864-1961) penned the words,
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the savior
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of eath will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.
Heavenly visions understand from where weariness and being troubled come.
What is it about life that often makes it so easy to become weary and troubled? As we face the living of life, there seems to be a force at work that makes us susceptible to gloom, despair, and agony. The New Testament writers were able to pinpoint this great enemy of the peace and rest of our soul. They proclaimed that the temptation toward a sense of being forsaken and a sense of being destroyed always comes from within our own thinking and not from the circumstances we are encountering. Weariness and debilitating trouble come not from the circumstances we face but from how we are facing the circumstances. Sadly, our own imaginations become the great adversary to the serenity of our soul and can only be conquered by heavenly visions.
The teaching of Jesus illustrated exactly where the power of destruction occurs. When he told his followers that he must go to Jerusalem and be killed (Matt. 16:13-28), Peter responded with “not so Lord, be it far from thee.” Jesus then said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou art an offence unto me.” Peter’s expression, “Not so Lord,” placed him in an adversarial role in the outworking of the will of God for Jesus.
The reason why Peter now found himself in opposition to the Father’s will was he simply did not understand the ways of life. He knew Jesus was the Christ by a revelation from the Father (Matt. 16:16), but he did not know exactly how that was going to be worked out by the will of God in the life of Jesus.
Jesus told Peter that his problem began when he had exercised his mind and came up with a faulty conclusion: “For thou savourest [translated from a word meaning, “to exercise the mind”] not the things that be of God, but those that be of man” (Matt. 16:23). Peter’s own imaginations had brought him to an erroneous belief. This faulty thinking not only put Peter in opposition to what Jesus said was going to occur but it brought about a sense of “O soul, are you weary and troubled” to Peter. At this point in the life of Peter, he became an adversary to the purpose of God for the life of Jesus
Heavenly visions pinpoint the origination of the soul being weary and troubled.
Peter would eventually come to understand this basic struggle in the soul of man. He came to realize that the control of his mind would be the battleground for heaven or hell in his life. He would later write, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober . . .” (1 Pet. 1:13). He now knew that the mind is actually the procreative power (the loins) of the quality of life. He implored the readers of his letter not to attempt to experience life in the thinking of their own mind. He admonished them to not become entangled by the intoxicating flight of their own imaginations. Heavenly visions will enable the soul to stay sober. Heavenly visions will sustain the mind in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter closed his writings with the same warning: “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary . . .” (1 Pet. 5:8) seeks to intoxicate you with the cares of this life to destroy your soul. In other words, once the mind begins to escalate its worrisome thoughts of a current problem, your soul becomes intoxicated with its own created anxiety. The mind runs out of control and “sleep won’t come the whole night through.” Instead of living in the peace and rest of a sound mind controlled by the Holy Spirit, the soul is being devoured by the runaway imaginations of its own thinking.
Paul also knew of the destructiveness of the mind. Standing among people that were steeped in religious activities, he said, “. . . I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious” (Acts 17:22). Their zeal to be religious had led them into meaningless beliefs and practices that carried no godly significance. The imaginations of their mind had created all kinds of religious activities that were actually carrying them away from God. They were more in line with occult practices than the ways of God.
He would later admonish another group of highly religious people: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). It is only the thinking of your mind that can create within your mind something that can be exalted above the knowledge of God. The mind can create its own world of fantasy, which eventually produces the debilitating imaginations of anxiety.
Although these vain imaginations have no validity other than to the mind which created them, they can become very powerful. To the degree the fantasy is believed to be true is the degree of power the deluded person now finds himself in bondage to his fantasy. This vain imagination stands in the life of that person as the adversary to the ways of God.
Heavenly visions are the only cure for the real fires of hell.
James gives perhaps the most descriptive explanation of the ultimate adversary to the peace and rest of the soul. James, the voice of consistency among the early followers of Jesus, simply stated that belief means nothing unless it is manifested in one’s actions. Regardless of what one says or thinks, it is what one does that is the real test of who or what that person is. The deeds of a person, not just the deeds but also the thoughts behind the deeds, reveal the true essence of the person. James connects the outward deeds with the true essence of the inner self.
Thus, when James wrote that the tongue is the most unruly member of the body, he is not just talking about the tongue. He is also talking about that which controls the tongue, the mind. The tongue does not speak unless the thoughts of the mind put it into action. Just as James stated that “the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead . . .” (James 2:26), he would also imply that the tongue without the mind is speechless.
James warned of the power and potential destructiveness of the thoughts of the mind with their subsequent manifestation by the tongue. He wrote, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). He also stated, “And the tongue is a fire [producing the fires of hell], a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6). The reason why the unruly tongue produces the fires of hell, which is always ultimately experienced in the mind, is simply that the words of the tongue are inseparably tied to the thoughts of the mind. Just as the body without the spirit is dead and faith without works is dead, the tongue without the mind is dead. Heavenly visions are the only cure for the fires of hell.
Finally, James proclaimed, “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). Simply put, you can be a perfect man by not offending in word or you can burn in hell by the thoughts of your mind and their subsequent verbiage. The tongue speaking in the heavenly language of the Holy Spirit gives no offence. The tongue speaking in the language of the carnal mind offends all. The ultimate adversary to the ways of God in every man’s life is always the carnal mind, the mind out from under the control of the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly visions overcome the adversary of God in your life, your own mind.
The enemy of your soul, the forces of the adversary to God, always comes from the inner working of the mind of man. As Paul warned the Philippians,
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things (Phil. 3:18-19).
The glory of man (the intellectual power of the mind under control of the Holy Spirit) becomes the shame of man (the thinking of the carnal mind taking man down and away from God with every thought).
In a world created by his fantasies and imaginations, man now believes he controls the events of his life. God still rules every action of the universe, but in the make believe world of his mind man thinks he is in control. Man’s own imagination becomes the great adversary to the ways of God in the life of every man. The fires of hell are real and Jesus is the only answer that can quench the fires of heated conflict and the gnawing maggots of bitter envy. “O soul, are you weary and troubled,” “turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” Heavenly visions by turning your eyes on Jesus can “gird up the loins of your mind.” “Be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” is a heavenly vision.