Trances are not merely the domain of shamans, New Agers, and DJs with pumping beats. A trance is not hypnosis, although hypnotized people do experience a trancelike state. Trances are not relegated to the realm of witches and warlocks, though these dark agents do use trances to enter into astral projection, a counterfeit of the biblical concept of being transported in the Spirit.
The enemy always works to counterfeit what God is doing, and because of this many have feared to even learn of the trance realm. The reality is trances are biblical, and we need to understand what the Bible says about them. What is a trance? Before we go any further, it’s helpful to see various definitions that will lay a foundation for your faith.
Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines trance this way, “An ecstasy; a state in which the soul seems to have passed out of the body into celestial regions, or to be rapt into visions.” A trance is a state of one who is “out of himself,” according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary.2 The word trance comes from the Greek word ekstasis, form which the word ecstasy is derived.
According to The King James New Testament Greek Lexicon, ekstatis means “a throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of mind, whether such as makes a lunatic or that of a man who by some sudden emotion is transported as it were out of himself, so that in this rapt condition, although he is awake, his mind is drawn off from all surrounding objects and wholly fixed on things divine that he sees nothing but the forms and images lying within, and thinks that he perceives with his bodily eyes and ears realities shown him by God.”
I suppose it’s hard to describe it if you’ve not experienced it, but Smith’s Bible Dictionary goes a little deeper, saying a trance is: “The…state in which a man has passed out of the usual order of his life, beyond the usual limits of consciousness and volition, being rapt in causes of this state are to be traced commonly to strong religious impressions. Whatever explanation may be given of it, it is true of many, if not of most, of those who have left the stamp of their own character on the religious history of mankind, that they have been liable to pass at times into this abnormal state.”
The International Bible Encyclopedia defines trance this way: “The condition expressed by this word is a mental state in which the person affected is partially or wholly unconscious of objective sensations, but intensely alive to subjective impressions which, however they may be originated, are felt as if they were revelations from without. They may take the form of visual or auditory sensations or else of impressions of taste, smell, heat or cold, and sometimes these conditions precede epileptic seizures constituting what is named the aura epileptica.”
What the Bible Says About Trances
We only see trances mentioned five times in the Bible, but that is more than enough to set a principle of a way God moves on us and speaks to us. By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is established (see Deut. 19:15). We’ll start with the Old Testament, where we see two mentions of trances and then move to the New Testament, where we see trances mentioned three times. (Find out more about this in my new book, The Seer Dimensions).
Balaam, the false prophet who a king tried to hire to curse Israel, went into a trance. We read about that in Numbers 24:1–4:
And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him.
And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open (KJV).
Notice when he fell into this trance, his eyes were open. He was not asleep, but it seemed he was in a sleeplike state, not moving.
Peter fell into a trance that opened his eyes to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Let’s look at the entire account in Acts 10:10–17:
Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”
But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.”
And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.
Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate.
Notice, Peter saw a vision in the trance. Many people who fall into trances report having seen visions. Some others can’t even describe what they have seen or didn’t see anything.
Paul fell into a trance in Acts 22:17–21 in which the Lord gave him a warning and a commission to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
I was in a trance and saw Him saying to me, “Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.” So I said, “Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.” Then He said to me, “Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.”
Notice, that Paul got instruction in the trance, just as Peter did. Trances, like any other supernatural encounter, are purposeful.