There are many who claim that people in closed Muslim countries “see” Christ in dreams and visions so I thought it worthwhile to publish this letter from one who, working for a trustworthy mission, (Middle East Reformed Fellowship) knows the church situation well and has first-hand knowledge of the places and people.
Dear Brother Julian,
Among the many Muslim converts I personally discipled, I have encountered a number of such tales (mostly from Iranian Shiite background converts/seekers). They reported what they had believed to be some sort of “sightings” of Jesus in a dream or vision. Usually initially I ignore these claims and not counter them right away but focus on teaching the converts/seekers as much of the “whole counsel of God” in the Scriptures as they can absorb. Yet, I always asked them to describe to me the figure/features/looks of the person they believe they saw. In almost every case they described the most commonly circulated and preferred portrait of Jesus painted by a Mormon artist — a good-looking, tall blond, blued-eyed person with beautiful long hair and an attractively trimmed beard! (Incidentally, unlike the Sunnis, the Shiites make room for religious portraits, including of Mohammed. Their portrait of Arab Mohammed is almost a copy-cat of the Mormon’s portrait of Jesus!) The Mormon’s and other portraits of Jesus are allover the place. Originally they were popularized in traditional churches (to which belong most Christian minorities in Iran and Arab countries). This, however, has changed as many evangelicals now use such pictures and sadly I have seen them hanging in many churches and homes of Reformed people!
In time, I ask such converts, as I often deliberately do when preaching to confused “missionaries” and others — does the NT tell us how tall Jesus was, the color of His eyes, skin or hair, the shape of his nose etc? Usually there is an initial uncomfortable silence. It is shocking that even ordained ministers at times admit that they have never even thought of asking themselves these questions! The fact is that the Holy Spirit is very deliberate when infallibly does not tell us any such information. The Holy Spirit is consistent. He already taught against such adulterous teaching in second commandment …
Almost all groups who popularize such tales and use them in their fund-raising materials and talks seem either uncomfortable with or disinterested in solid and confessionally-based Bible teaching. (And the tales about signs and wonders and the persecution stories do touch the hearts and open the wallets/pockets of good-hearted people!) Repeatedly, I have challenged writing tales claiming specific sign/wonder events (as well as persecution stories, including Muslims crucifying Christians in Sudan!) in some promotional literature. The best responses I got back were things like “but we reported only what was reported to us by others!!”
Rev Terry Flanagan, also from MERF, adds :-
I visited the home of some fairly secular Shiite (Iranian) Muslims some time ago. When I asked one of the children who the handsome, long haired man in a picture was, she said “God”. It turned out that the picture is supposedly of the missing 12th Imam, Mahdi, who is said to return at the end of the world (bit like a 2nd coming). The picture seemed heavily influenced by the popular versions of “Jesus” pictures currently around the world.
It is one thing to claim that Muslims may have dreams that cause them to seek out Christians to tell them about Jesus, however, I am very sceptical of claims of actually seeing the resurrected, ascended, Christ in a dream. Every time I’ve asked anyone who has claimed to have seen Jesus, “What did he look like?”, I get the description of a Sunday school/Hollywood picture of Jesus (good looking, with long hair).
Actually the long haired version of Jesus arose in pictures drawn by Renaissance artists in the 17th century. These artists were impressed by images of Greek gods. Jesus would have had short hair (1 Cor. 11:14) unless, like John the Baptist, he’d taken a Nazarite vow (which also forbids alcohol). In fact, the earliest pictures of “Jesus”, from around the late 3rd century, are of a short haired man.
Does not Peter say to the congregations to whom he wrote, “Even though you have never seen him you love him”? (1 Pet 1:8). If we can see Jesus in visions and dreams, how could he make that claim?
In Romans 10:14,15 Paul asks, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”‘ Would he need to ask such questions if one of the means of spreading the Gospel was through dreams?
If ever there was a time when Muslims would not need dreams to tell them the Gospel, it is now. Via the internet, the entire Muslim world has access to Bibles and Gospel messages in Arabic, Farsi (Iranian), Urdu (Pakistan), African and Indonesian languages.”
Sincerely in the Lord,
“Declaring the Whole Counsel of God” Middle East Reformed Fellowship Headquarters: P. O. Box 40052, Larnaca 6300 Cyprus Voice +357 24627860 / 24652331/ 24650957 Fax +357 24626311 Mobile +357-99682237 Email address: email@example.com web: www.merf.org Rev. Victor Atallah, General Director