(Theophany and Angelophany.)
One of the
features of Bible
history, both in the Old and in the New Testament, is the
reference which the holy writers make to special revelations of the
means of appearances, visions, and dreams. in practically every case of
kind which has been recorded, these appearances were attended by
immediate communications of God to men, usually regarding some event
to take place in the near future. The Bible itself speaks of these
revelations, making a distinction between true and false dreams and
“If there be a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known
in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream,” Num. 12. 6. “Your old
shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions,” Joel 3, 28. The
of testing whether a prophet be true or false is described in Deut. 13.
prophesy unto you a false vision and divination. and a thing of naught,
deceit of their heart,” Jer. 14, 14; 23, 16.
In some cases, God Himself appeared, either in a voice, in some visible form, or in a more or less tangible image in a vision or in a dream. Moses was privileged above all the people of Israel on account of the manner in which the Lord communicated with him. “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold,” Num. 12, 7. 8. To Abram the Lord spoke in a vision, Gen. 15, 1, also to Jacob in the visions of the night, Gen. 46, 2. In the case of Samuel it was a vision in a dream, 1 Sam. 3. To Solomon the Lord appeared in a dream by night, 1 Kings 3, 5. A large part, if not all, of the prophecy of Isaiah was received by him in a vision, Is. 1, 1. The Lord spoke to Ananias of Damascus in a vision, Acts 9, 10.
Although they are closely related to the foregoing, a special class may be made of the appearances of the “Angel of the Lord,” the revelations of the second person of the Godhead, the “Angel of the covenant,” in the Old Testament. The Lord appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, Gen. 16, 1. 17, and rained brimstone and fire upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, Gen. 19, 24. The Angel of the Lord found Hagar in the wilderness, Gen. 16, 7. 9. He appeared to Moses at various times, Ex. 3, 2; 14, 19; Acts 7, 30. Gideon saw Him when he was threshing wheat by the wine-press. Judg. 6, 11. 12. To Manoah and his wife the Angel of the Lord predicted the birth of Samson. Judg. 13. He gave a command to Elijah the Tishbite, 2 Kings 1, 3.
From these visions and revelations. which are properly termed theophanies (appearances of God) we distinguish angelophanies (appearances of angels) either in dreams or in an ordinary meeting, face to face. Thus the Angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias in the Temple, Luke 1, 22, and to Mary in her home, Luke 1,27. To Joseph an angel of the Lord spoke repeatedly in a dream, Matt. 1, 20; 2, 13. 19. The warning of God to the wise men was also given in a dream. Matt. 2, 12. That the “man from Macedonia“ in the passage above, Acts 16, 9, was an angel seems fairly certain.
A final form of communication or extraordinary revelation was that by means of visions in the strictest sense, when the senses of the person concerned were affected in some unusual way and he was in a state of transport, or ecstasy. This was the case with Peter at Joppa, Acts 11, 5. It was probably also the condition of Paul at the time of his conversion, Acts 9; 22; 26. He himself describes such an ecstatic vision when he was caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for man to utter, 2 Cor. 12, 2, 4. Into this class belongs also the vision which John had when he received the information and saw the pictures which he has recorded in the Book of Revelation.
It is well to remember, in connection with the many dreams in our days, for which people seek and receive explanations from mediums, fortune-tellers, etc., what Luther says: “Therefore we should not believe the dreams, nor explain them as it seems well to our reason, but leave it to God, as Joseph says, Gen. 40, 8. Although they are common to both Christians and Gentiles, yet no one knows what they mean unless the Holy Ghost also explains them. As. Peter, 2 Ep. 1, 20, commands that we should not believe any explanation in spiritual things, unless it be from God.. .. Therefore, dreams may come and dreams may go: do you not interpret them; let God make it sure, be not, sure of thyself.” 65)