Tom: This is our Understanding the Scriptures segment, and we are going through the Book of Acts. We are in Acts:10:8—but, Dave, a little background: these verses deal with Cornelius, a Roman centurion. The Scripture says that “he was a devout man, one that feared God, and an angel appeared to him and the angel instructed him to send for Peter, who was at the house of Simon the tanner.”
Dave: In another town.
Tom: Right. So, picking up with verse 9: “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.”
Dave: That’s interesting—“Not so, Lord.” You know, we’re supposed to say “yes” to God. “No, Lord, I’m not going to do that.”
Tom: Well, he may have thought that the Lord was testing him here, and he would want to give Him an honest answer.
Dave: Tom, you’re right, that could very well be what he thought. “Fell into a trance…” Just before that we had the centurion—he saw in a vision. It wasn’t that an angel actually came and appeared to him, although that can happen, and it wasn’t that a sheet actually was lowered from heaven with all these creatures in it—although that could have happened, too—but it was a vision for Cornelius the centurion. Peter is like in a trance; he’s kind of drifted off into a dream state, you would say, and God is speaking to him in this way. Literally, he sees…you would have to say it was a vision like Cornelius. He sees this thing happening, he’s not fully conscious, and yet he is able to respond and say, “Not so, Lord.” We don’t understand exactly what was going on there, but, Tom, we have to have a word of caution, because one thing that you will notice in the Bible: there are no techniques for getting in touch with God, or for having an angel appear.
Tom: And, Dave, when there are, it’s called divination, and the Bible condemns it.
Dave: Exactly, but that’s the way of the world. So, for example, Calvin Miller in his book The Table of Inwardness, he says one door opens to the world of the spirit imagination— that’s how chapter 7 begins. And he tells you you should visualize. Now, Cornelius was not visualizing an angel, and Peter was not visualizing—why would he have been visualizing, you know? Or Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline, he says, “You can have Jesus really come to you. If you visualize Jesus and get a clear picture, He will even come and talk to you.” Now, that is, as you said, occultism. That is not what is going on here.
For example, if you went to Jeremiah 42, the disobedient rebels, who are still around after most of Israel has been carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar’s men, they’d say to Jeremiah, “Well, go to God and get a message from us.” All they want is a message that agrees with what they want to do. They’re not going to obey God. It doesn’t say that Jeremiah lay down on the couch and put his hand over his third eye on his forehead, as Edgar Cayce used to do.
Tom: Dave, last week we had a segment in which, through Christianity Today, you had children in Sunday schools, an environment was set up in which they were to hear from God. Whether these children were believers or not didn’t make any difference. This is leading them into what they called “spiritual disciplines”, but what, in fact, is a form of occultism, or divination.
Dave: So obviously the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ, who is at His Father’s right hand in heaven, is not at our beck and call. He doesn’t come to be with us when we visualize Him, and this is the technique of every witch doctor—you know, it’s shamanism. That is not what was going on here; God initiated this.
You see, the problem is, if we initiate it and if we have some method or some technique whereby we can get in touch with God, that is wrong. We’re told to simply pray to God and talk to Him. So we need to get that clear. That is not what was happening here: there was no technique, there was no attempt by Cornelius the centurion to contact an angel, there was no attempt by Peter to get a sheet let down from heaven—God initiated this.
And you know, Tom, it reminds me again of a verse in Scripture—I’m sure I can quote it, but I want to be exactly certain of it—Jeremiah 14, where God speaks through Jeremiah to the false prophets, and he says…well, let me read the whole verse: “Then the Lord said unto me [that is, unto Jeremiah], The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.” So, Jeremiah doesn’t have some technique. He said, “Okay, I’ll ask the Lord,” and [Jeremiah] 42:7, it says: “After ten days, the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah.” So even Jeremiah the great prophet, he couldn’t get God to talk to him anytime he wanted. He certainly didn’t use visualization, and, Tom, it’s a tragedy that this is being taught today.
I don’t know that we’ve said much about it, but the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible put out by Richard Foster and others, like Eugene Peterson, and so forth, is leading people into occultism. At the same time, it downgrades the prophecies of Scripture, tells us that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are just from pagan myths, and they’ve kind of edited it to make it sound like it’s one God instead of polytheism, monotheism. We don’t find that in the Bible, it is forbidden, and we do not find that happening here in Acts 10. Maybe that’s too much time spent on that, but let me just quote what God says again: “I didn’t send them; I didn’t command them; I didn’t speak to them; they prophesy a false vision and divination, the deceit of their hearts.” That’s what you’re going to get involved in if you start using these techniques.
Tom: Dave, I think it’s important—20 years ago, you know, I had the privilege of helping you with The Seduction of Christianity. There’s another aspect that we pointed out in that book, and that is altered states of consciousness. See, somebody is reading about a vision and a trance, they think, “Oh, if I could just get myself ready or prepared, I could hear from God.” Certainly drugs might be something that a Christian might avoid, but you can do it through sensory deprivation, through fasting, through all kinds of things that are pressed toward hearing from God, and that’s contrary to what the word of God teaches.
Dave: It’s called an ASC, or an SSC—it’s shamanic state of consciousness, or an altered state of consciousness, and let’s quote Sir John Eckles again—Nobel prize winner for his research on the brain. He said, “The brain is a machine that a ghost can operate.” In the normal state of consciousness, your spirit is the ghost, if you want to call it that, that operates the brain, an altered state on drugs or Eastern meditation. The normal connection between you and your brain is loosened, and that allows another spirit, a demonic entity, to interpose, tick off the neurons in the brain, create a universe of illusion, and this is where these psychedelic experiences, the visions of false prophets, and so forth, come from. The angels that Benny Hinn says visited him for an entire year every night, that was not angels; it was either he’s lying, or his imagination, or he was in an altered state—I don’t know. Okay, we’ll have to come back and we’ll get down to what actually happened here.
Tom: Well, Dave, this vision of Peter’s, it took him back. This was something so contrary to what he thought and what he understood.
Dave: And what he was expecting.