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It is important to understand that not all prophetic people receive open visions. A person can have a mantle of prophet and be very powerfully used of God and still never have one of these experiences. Receiving an open vision has nothing to do with a person's spirituality or the validity of their calling. Rather, it has everything to do with God's plans and purposes, and with the sovereignty of God.
Let me explain the difference between a vision and an "open vision". A vision is where God shows you a picture or image. You may see it in your mind's eye or you may see it with you physical eyes. It may be a still picture, like a photograph. An object may appear before you in three dimensions .. for example, you may see a lamp before you that was not there before and it looks as real and solid as if it were really there. Or you may see an image superimposed over what you are looking at, sort of like a double exposure photograph. You may see a moving picture, something that looks more like a movie and reveals a story. These pictures may be in black and white or they may be in color. There may or may not be sound accompanying them. But in all cases, you are being shown an object or image and you are looking at it. Sometimes you don't really see the picture with your physical eyes, you may just have an impression of what it looks like, but you are still "getting" a picture. All of these are examples of visions.
Here are a few examples of visions from scripture...
Example Of A Still Picture
Amos was shown a vision of basket of fruit in Amos 8:1. It was just sitting there, it does not move or do anything. But God showed it to Amos, and he could see it. And then God dialogued with Amos about the picture and explained what it meant.
Example Of A Moving Picture
Amos is shown a vision of fire sweeping over the crops and destroying them in Amos 7:4. He is also shown a vision of locusts swarming and destroying the crops in Amos 7:1. In both of these pictures, there is movement and action.
Example Of A Moving Picture With Sound
Joel had a vision of an army of locusts in Joel 2:1-11. In this Joel describes several motions and accompanying sounds. For instance, Verses 4-5 says, "4 They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. 5 With a noise like that of chariots they leap over the mountaintops, like a crackling fire consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle." There were many different descriptions of movements, a progressive story unfolding and sounds being heard.
An open vision is a bit different from a vision. A vision shows you something and gives you a divine revelation, but your role is passive, you are an observer. In an open vision, you take on a much more dynamic role. You are not being shown something, you actually become a part of the vision and you interact with the objects in it. It is as if you are thrust smack dab into the middle of the vision. In the most dramatic of open visions you can hear, see, taste, feel and smell the things that are happening around you. In some cases, some of the senses (usually sight and hearing) operate but others do not. Let's look at a couple examples of open visions from scripture:
Peter in Acts 10:9-15
Peter has a vision where a sheet containing all sorts of unclean animals is let down in front of him. Peter is very hungry and God tells him to "kill and eat." This means that Peter had the capability of interacting with the elements in the vision. However, Peter refused to do so because the animals were not kosher. Then God rebuked him for calling things unclean that God does not call unclean. This vision was repeated three times. Acts 10:10 says that Peter was in a trance when he had this vision. In other words his physical body was unmoving, but in his spirit, he was inside of the vision and interacting with it.
John's Vision in Revelation
This was a combination of a divine visitation and an open vision. For now, let's just look at the open vision components. In chapter 4, John heard a voice speak to him and was called up into the heavenlies. He said, "At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in Heaven..." (verse 2). From this we assume that his physical body was not transported up into Heaven, but John's essence (his soul and spirit and his personality and being) was taken up "in the Spirit" into the heavenlies. John had entered into the vision. In this vision, John saw and heard many things. Some were literal, but a lot of them were symbolic.
For instance, Jesus appeared as a Lamb in Rev 5:6. We know that Jesus is not physically a lamb, He is a man (as well as being fully God). But in this vision, the role Jesus had performed as God's perfect Passover lamb was represented in the appearance of a lamb. And John heard people worship Jesus, calling Him the "Lamb" (Rev 5:12-13) and ascribe all glory and honor to Him.
John watched a lot of things in this vision, as an "observer." But he also interacted with the vision at different times. For instance in Rev 10, John was instructed to take a book from the Angel's hand and eat it. This is definitely interaction as opposed to straight observation. John asked the angel for the book (verse 9) and then the angel gave John the book and John did something with the book. He ate it, as he was instructed to do.
Here we see the sense of touch and the sense of taste were in operation. John said, "Then I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter." (Rev 10:10) In other words, it gave John an upset stomach. In Chapter 11, John was given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple and the alter of God.
From John's perspective, he was not watching a vision like a person might watch a movie at a theater. John was transported into the vision and he was living it. And that is what an open vision is like.
When we have an open vision, we will probably be "in the Spirit," rather than in our physical bodies. I am not sure why this is, but it may have something to do with what Jesus said in John 4:23-24, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
Perhaps the most well known open vision of recent times is the vision that Rick Joyner documented in a book titled The Final Quest. This vision brought Rick through a series of events, from an incredible spiritual warfare battle into the Lord's presense, to experiences in the heavenlies. In this vision, Rick saw things, heard things, talked to people, manipulated objects and otherwise "lived" the experience. Rick received the vision over a prolonged period of time and in different ways. Rick says that part of it came in a dream. Parts came from a vision (where he was watching the scene unfold before him.) Part came while a state that Rick describes as a trance. Rick uses the terms "open vision" and "trance" differently than I do. He defines an "open vision" to be what I would consider a moving vision, where you see the picture unfold before you like watching a movie; you can watch but you cannot interact with what you see. Rick uses the term "trance" to describe what I consider an open vision, where you actually participate in what you see. Open visions (or "trances" as Rick calls them) and occur at different levels of intensity ranging from something so faint that it could almost be your own imagination to completely replacing your present surroundings with the vision. Rick describes it very well in the introduction of his book, where he says (on page 11),
Trances are like dreaming when you are awake. Instead of just seeing a "screen" you feel like you are in the movie, that you are actually there in a strange way. Trances can range from those that are rather mild, so that your are still conscious of your physical surroundings, and can even still interact with them, to those where you feel like you are literally in the place of your vision.
Rick goes on to describe how he received his very impression vision (still on page 11):
.. but the overwhelming majority was received in some level of trance. Most of it came on the level where I was still conscious of my surroundings, and could even interact with them, such as answering the phone. When they were interrupted, or when things got so intense that I would have to get up and walk around, when I sat back down I would immediately be right where I had left off.
When I had my very first open vision, I was not sure that it qualified as a vision because it did not behave the way I thought a vision should behave. I expected that if you had an open vision, you would not be able to seen anything but the vision, that your natural surroundings would not be visible at all. But my vision began as being superimposed over my physical surroundings. As the story progressed I became so involved in my interactions with the Lord and with others in the vision that I stopped noticing my real surroundings. I am not sure if vision swallowed them, or if I simply stopped paying attention to them as my attention became rivetted to what was occurring in this open vision. At one point in this vision, the Lord offered me a choice that really scared me. I became so frightened that I seemed to "pull out" of the vision. I was suddenly back in my bedroom sitting on the bed.
I was unsettled by this experience and decided to take a shower. I shed my clothing, turned on the water, and stepped into the shower. As I stepped into it, I stepped back into my vision. At first the vision was superimposed over the shower stall, and I could hear the running water and feel it on me. I remember feeling embarrassed that I would be back in the heavenly setting in my "birthday suit". I glanced down at myself to find I was clothed in a white robe. It literally looked like I was wearing a robe.. I could still see and feel the water showering down on me, but somehow the robe I found myself wearing remained dry.
After a while, the reality of this open vision consumed my attention and I became unaware of my physical surroundings. I was back in the earlier vision where it had left off before. The vision was quite an experience. I received a commissioning from the Lord and an impartation of some anointings that began to manifest in my life immediately after that. When the vision ended, I found myself back in the shower.
I have talked to others who have had open visions and I find that it if not uncommon for there to be a mixture of seeing the vision and seeing your natural surroundings at the same time. Sometimes the entire vision is like that and other times the intensity of the vision increases and it seems to "swallow up" your natural surroundings and you find yourself transported into the setting of the vision.
I talked to Jim Paul on the phone a few days after he had an open vision, and he shared it with me. He had been in bed sleeping and was awakened by the sounds of a woman screaming in labor. Jim sat up and looked around his room.. it was just like it always was. He got out of bed and started to the other room where he heard the woman in labor. Jim said that he somehow "knew" he was in an open vision. He entered the room, and the woman had just given birth to the baby. He was able to see the baby in great detail and was instructed to pick it up. Then the Lord began to explain to him what He was seeing and experiencing. When the vision concluded, he was back in his own bedroom, sitting on his bed. In the vision (and in the spirit) he had gotten up and walked to the other room. But in reality it appears that his physical body had remained sitting on his bed.
A prophet cannot control whether or not they will have an open vision. This is something the Lord initiates. At times open visions will be very literal, but at other times objects in open visions will be symbolic. However, when God uses symbolic objects in an open vision, the person experiencing the vision usually seems to know what they represent. The intensity of an open vision may vary as well. Some open visions totally replace your physical surroundings and other open visions are very faint, perhaps impressions and pictures superimposed over your natural surroundings. Just as there is a great deal of variety in how the Lord shows a "seer" pictures and images, there can be a great deal of variety in how the Lord gives an individual an open vision.