Drama with God...in the Middle East
“Ali, have you heard about a rather unusual phenomenon happening with Muslims all over the Middle East?” I asked.
“Phenomenon?” “I don't think so.”
“Muslims are having dreams about Jesus. I hear about it in every country we visit. Jesus is honoring them today. He loves them and is appearing to them regularly. Have you ever wanted to learn more about Jesus? I can tell you dream stories from anywhere you want—Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan—just pick a country.”
“Okay… , Iran.”
After the first story, Ali asked for another, then another. Then Ali’s fascination bubbled out.
“I would be honored to have a dream about Jesus. I’m going to pray that I'll have one!”
I couldn't help but chuckle at his enthusiasm. “Me too,” I promised.
The Real Story
The real story about Muslims in the Middle East today may not be global terrorism. The real story may be that God is opening the closed hearts of Muslims by giving them spectacular dreams and visions of Jesus. Jesus is reaching out to them with His offer of eternal life, earned by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. God loves the people of the Middle East, and His church is vibrant in the core of the world's spiritual conflict.
We are imams, and we all studied at Al-Azhar University. During our time there, each of us had a dream about Jesus, and each of us has privately become a follower of Christ. For a time, we didn't dare tell anyone—it would, of course, have been our own death sentence. You can imagine our amazement when the Holy Spirit revealed there are other imams who have found Jesus as well. Now we meet three times a week at night to pray for our families and for the people in our mosques to find Jesus too.
From Saudi Arabia
When Nasreen began having dreams about Jesus (who is called Isa in the Qur’an), the encounters were so enticing that she followed each with a prayer to the only God she knew: “Oh Allah, send your prophet Isa to me to teach me again tonight.” The powerful, kind man appeared only an instant in her dreams, but His love enveloped her at once. She told a Christian friend, “I am following Jesus now. I just cannot resist His love. I am praying my husband will have Jesus dreams too.”
“Who is it?” Dina screamed at footsteps she feared belonged to an intruder in the house.
Then Dina’s mother peeked through the door to her daughter's room.
“Mother! How did you get out of bed?”
“Dina, last night after you turned off the light I thought, ‘I will die tonight.’ I wondered which imam I should pray to one last time. Then I saw His face. Right there in my room.”
“Which one was it, Mother?”
“Dina, it wasn't an imam. It was... Jesus. I woke a few minutes ago and realized I felt no pain. I can walk! I feel well again.”
From Jordan (Jamilla)
“I have never felt love as powerful as when Jesus spoke to me. His eyes dazzled me. He stepped close and wrapped powerful arms around my shoulders. He talked to me like a friend, or perhaps more like a counselor. I'm not sure how I first knew it was Jesus. He just assumed I knew who He was. I have worked all my life to please God, but this Jesus has changed my thinking. I may die for this, but I must follow Him. I must.”
[Hamdi, the first known believer among the unreached people group known as Alawite, grew up in an influential family. He never considered that he might find the truth about God outside his family's four walls. That is, until Jesus began visiting him.]
Amir (a house-church leader) opened his front door and studied the unknown man standing outside.
“My name is Hamdi. I must talk with you this moment.” Hamdi began an explanation of his visit: “I know you are a Christian. I am an Alawite. My father is a sheikh and one of our major leaders. He schooled me well in the Alawite faith. I know many secrets of our religion that others were not told since I was to follow in my father's footsteps.”
“At first I had dreams only now and then—maybe once or twice a month. It went on for about a year. But then the Jesus visits began to intensify. I have had a dream about Jesus for the last forty-five nights.”
[Amir introduced Hamdi to Jesus from the scriptures, and, finding the hope and peace he was searching for, Hamdi embraced Jesus as his Savior. Today, Hamdi's drive to share the truth that changed his life has fueled the growth of a house church. He tells people that Jesus is the new plan for Syria.]
Mateen could feel the vitality in his soul when he arrived at his beloved cluster of juniper trees in the valley. Before he could utter the first word of gratitude to Allah, he felt a peculiar sensation. He knew he was not alone. Instead of fear, peace flooded his body. Then he saw the eyes, and Mateen knew he was looking at Jesus. Jesus assured Mateen of His love.
For three months, Jesus met with Mateen every time he hiked the valley. Just as the Man from heaven had done with people in the Bible, He asked the peace-loving man from Afghanistan to follow Him. And Mateen said he would.
[Today, Mateen is one of the country's approximately thirty thousand followers of Jesus. Because he loves Jesus so openly, he knows he will probably die for his faith. But he says, “I am not afraid and I have the peace of God. Once He gave that to me, I have everything. Jesus is all I need.”]
A Biblical Text for Dreams and Visions
Throughout the twenty-century history of Jesus’ church, God has focused on different people groups in various eras. There have been great spiritual awakenings in Asia, South America, Europe, the United States, and Africa. Today, God is reaching out to multiple people groups that have one thing in common—a huge proportion of the people are Muslims, and they are spread all over the globe.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He chose followers from backgrounds that raised a lot of traditional eyebrows: a harlot, a tax collector, an insurrectionist, a foul-mouthed fisherman, a skeptic. Muslims may fall into a nontraditional group. And Jesus is doing what He has always done: He is moving in their direction.
Dreams and visions are part of the Judeo-Christian foundation. In the Old Testament story of Abraham and his son Ishmael, it was the person of Jesus, the angel of the Lord, who appeared to Hagar, Ishmael's young mother. When her mistress, in emotional jealousy cruelly sent her away, Hagar was without hope in the desert. But God heard her desperate cry, showed her compassion and kindness, and made her a promise of many descendants.
Muslims have Jesus to thank for finding Hagar and providing for her need. Most Muslims believe they are descendants of Ishmael. Though the Abrahamic blessing was not transferred through Ishmael, the future of this great people was assured by the intervention of Jesus. Today, Jesus is making His presence seen and felt by Muslims through dreams and visions—that give insight into the person of Jesus and His offer of salvation.
A Test of Legitimacy
How do we know that Muslim background believers truly believe in Christ? The answer is simple: They are willing to die for Him. Muslims who want to follow Christ face the possibility of dying for their faith. Those who have had dreams about Jesus and receive His offer of salvation become His disciples—and they are willing to die for the One who appeared to them. Jesus recognizes the afflictions they will face as they follow Him. His compassion compels Him to make personal visits to Muslims, to encourage them in their walk toward Him.
Muslims who embrace Jesus have a fire for God that is rarely seen in our “less emotional” Western cultures. They cling to Jesus urgently, because often they are the only follower of Jesus in their family—or in their village. They have a passion that is contagious, often risking persecution, imprisonment, and even death to lead others to Christ.
Legitimate visitations from Jesus to Muslims have common characteristics.
- The dreams do not suggest anything not supported by the Word of God. Even though God uses dreams and visions, it is also true that most cults started with one, so it is crucial to measure whatever is seen in a vision by Scripture.
- Muslims who have dreams about Jesus remember the experience, complete with concrete details.
- Muslims who have dreams about Jesus realize their experience is purposeful. The dream launches them on a quest to know more. Since humans have a deep-down desire to know God, the dream makes them thirsty to know more.
- When Muslims have dreams about Jesus, they grasp that Jesus loves them and welcomes them. This leads them on a search to know Jesus personally. Once they find Him in all His glory, many Muslims have no trouble repenting of their sins and committing to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives.
- A dream or a vision about Jesus brings definition to a Muslim's life. It becomes part of his or her personal testimony on the way to knowing Jesus.
The Bible is Central
In today's Muslim dream/vision phenomenon, the Bible plays a crucial part in completing a Muslim's understanding of who Jesus is and what salvation is all about. No one goes to sleep a Muslim and wakes up a Christian. But often after a dream, a person's salvation experience is more deeply grounded in the Word, since the dream recipient has more heartfelt questions about what he/she has seen. When they receive explanation and clarification from the Bible, they possess a firm faith, not an un-Christian collection of beliefs. The spiritual journey to the Father may occur quickly but it often covers several years—but always, the Bible figures centrally in their understanding of who Jesus is.
Good News in Troubled Times
The good news coming from the Middle East is that the sons of Abraham are being reconciled—to Christ, and to each other. The power of the cross of Christ and the cleansing effect of His blood are bringing peace to many in the Middle East. Love is the magnet that attracts the people of Islam to Christ. Love is the message that sets the Christian faith apart. Muslims are learning that Christianity isn't a religion—it is a relationship with a loving Savior.
“When Christ came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:17-18).