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Does God Still Give Visions?

Jimmy Akin

Many Protestant churches—including some of those I attended before I became Catholic—are of the view that God no longer gives visions.

“The age of prophecy is over,” they say.

Other Protestants—notably those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements—think otherwise. So does the Catholic Church.

Catholic theology commonly distinguishes between what is known as public revelation and private revelation. Public revelation—which is the kind of revelation we find in Scripture—is binding on all Christians in all ages. By contrast, private revelation is binding only on those to whom it is given.

The Catholic Church teaches that public revelation is closed until the Second Coming. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive Covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ [CCC 66].

Private revelation, however, is ongoing:

Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.

Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium [i.e., collective sense of the faithful] knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.

Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such “revelations” (CCC 67).

But just as some in non-Catholic circles have claimed that the age of miracles is over, so some have claimed that the age of revelation—even private revelation—is over.

Yet this is something that Scripture never says. None of the New Testament authors say that God is going to stop using visions and related phenomena prior to the Second Coming.

St. Paul expresses the proper Christian attitude toward these phenomena this way:

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good (1 Thess. 5:19–21).

The Church Fathers were of the same opinion. When the Apostolic Age closed and the age of the Fathers began, they did not think that God had suddenly stopped giving visions. They recognized that new visions were not on the same plane as the revelation found in the Bible (public revelation), but they acknowledged the ongoing presence of private revelations in the Church.

It wasn’t until the time of the Protestant Reformation that people began to deny the concept.

For more information, you can read about the views of the Church Fathers on the subject here, or in my book The Fathers Know Best.

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