Information about the “out-of-body” experience is both vast and subjective. Out-of-body experiences range from involuntary out-of-body experiences or near-death experiences that happen after or during a trauma or accident, to “astral projection,” in which a person voluntarily tries to leave his or her body behind and ascend to a spiritual plane where truth and clarity can be found.
A few famous Christians have had what might be called, in today’s world, an out-of-body experience, most notably the apostle Paul.
“It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” 2 Corinthians 12:1–4
In the verses preceding this passage, Paul lists his “boasts” or the things that, if he were counting on works and good deeds to secure his salvation, would get him into heaven. Though he seems to be referring to someone else, he is speaking of himself in the third person. Paul includes this apparent out-of-body experience in his list of boasts. Out-of-body experiences are sensational, but, as Paul says, “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory.” This does not mean that his out-of-body experience wasn’t real, only that he is not relying on it to really benefit himself or others in any way.
A voluntary out-of-body experience, or an “astral projection,” is spiritually dangerous. A person practicing astral projection or trying to achieve an out-of-body experience in order to connect with the spirit world is practicing the occult. There are two forms of this. The first is called the “phasing” model, in which the person tries to find new spiritual truth by accessing a part of the mind that is “shut off” during everyday life. This practice is connected to Buddhism or postmodernism and the belief that enlightenment is achieved by looking within oneself. The other form, called the “mystical” model, involves the person trying to exit the body entirely, with his or her spirit traveling to a mystical plane unconnected to the physical world.
The Biblical accounts explicitly warns against occult practice, or sorcery, and that warning can be applied to voluntary out-of-body experiences and astral projection. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies” Galatians 5:19–20.
There is great potential, when trying to access the spiritual world, of opening oneself up to demonic activity that can lie to us about God and confuse our minds.
There is a significant difference between an out of body experience and a dream or vision from God.
In times past, God spoke to people sometimes in dreams. Examples are Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis 37:5–10); Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 2:12–22); Solomon (1 Kings 3:5–15); and several others (Daniel 2:1; 7:1; Matthew 27:19). There is also a prophecy of the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28), quoted by the apostle Peter in Acts 2:17, that mentions God using dreams. So God can speak through dreams, if He chooses to.
However, we must keep in mind that the Bible is complete, having revealed everything we need to know from now until Christ return. This is not to say that God does not work miracles or even speak through dreams today, but anything God says, whether through a dream, vision, impression, or “still small voice,” will agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Dreams or visions from God cannot usurp the authority of Scripture.
If you have a dream and feel that God gave it to you, examine the Word of God and make sure your dream is in agreement with Scripture. If it is, consider what God would have you do in response to your dream (James 1:5). In Scripture, whenever anyone experienced a dream from God, God always made the meaning of the dream clear, whether directly to the person, through an angel, or through another messenger (Genesis 40:5–11; Daniel 2:45; 4:19). When God speaks to us, He makes sure His message is clearly understood.
Prophetic dreams occur many times in the Bible and are experienced by all sorts of people, including prophets (Daniel 7:1), ungodly kings (Daniel 2), and average men (Genesis 31:24). Sometimes the dreams required interpretation, as with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. Other times, no interpretation was necessary as God spoke clearly to the dreamer, as in the story of Abimelech and Abraham’s wife (Genesis 20:1–6). The definition of a prophetic dream might be something like this: a supernatural night vision that contains foresight. Daniel was careful to give praise to God, who alone gives the wisdom to interpret such dreams (Daniel 2:20–23).
It would be impossible to say, definitively, whether or not God gives prophetic dreams to people today, but there is no biblical prohibition against it, like speaking in tongues, many believe its not for today, but the Bible nowhere states the gifts of the Spirit have an expiration date or that they are relegated to a particular group only. There are many reports of prophetic dreams, especially in areas where access to the Bible and the gospel are limited. God may sometimes use dreams to guide people to places where they can hear the gospel and be saved. A wide variety of spiritual or prophetic dreams are reported by a wide variety of Christians in many countries.
If you think you have had a prophetic dream or have heard a firsthand story from another person who has had a prophetic dream, the first question to ask is “is this dream from God?” Compare the content of the dream and its message to the Scriptures; if anything seems to contradict God’s words or His nature, it is wise to disregard the dream—even if it comes true. God will never go against His Word. The Bible is the standard for truth and the revelation that God has given. We can always ask God for wisdom (James 1:5) when examining a dream.