This practice is rampant today.
In evangelical circles, there is The Shack by William P. Young and in pentecostal circles there is The Final Quest by Rick Joyner. Kenneth Hagin, one of the founders of the prosperity gospel, had visitations from Jesus (who told him it wasn’t wrong to be rich). Liberal churches such as the United Church of Christ don’t have a book by an author, but they have an attitude which is captured in their phrases “God is Still Speaking” and “Never put a period where God has placed a comma (a quote by Gracie Allen).” The Mormons claim that Joseph Smith had a special revelation given to him by an angel on golden plates. This is now their “Book of Mormon.”
The early church battled against the same type of heresy. The Gnostics were claiming to have special revelation that was given to them during the time Jesus was still on the earth after the resurrection. The apostles had to battle against these teachings because they perverted the doctrine of grace and removed Christianity from the realm of historic truth into the realm of transcendent experience.
If gnosticism was allowed to stand, then the gospel wouldn’t be grounded and rooted in history. It would become a spiritual concoction based on experience. There would no longer be a standard of truth based on reality. Isn’t this what Joyner and Young are doing to the church? They’re sharing their vision of Jesus, rather than the Jesus revealed in scripture.
It’s important to not let these special visions of Jesus stand because anybody can create their own Jesus then! How will truth survive?
The scriptures also tell us that this kind of special revelation turns men into types of “super-apostles”(2 Corinthians 11:5)– each becoming more competitive in their attempt to outdo each other with a more magnificent vision or dream.
John explained that the gospel was given out in the open to those who saw Jesus in the flesh. The disciples even touched him with their hands. He explains: “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it (1 John 1).”
Jesus wasn’t a ghost, vision, or dream. He certainly wasn’t a made-up character. He was real. He was a man made of flesh and blood. He spoke words from his mouth. These are the words recorded in the scriptures. Dreams and visions of Jesus (except those given to the prophets and apostles) aren’t based on historical authority, but rather transcendent on individual authority–which is really no authority because anyone can do it.
Christianity must have a reliable source for truth, and dreams and visions, while titillating, are not trustworthy, and they usually lead to spiritual competitiveness and wrong doctrine. This is why Paul said:
“Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man
over against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6b)