The gift of visions is described in Joel 2:28-29, and more so in Acts, chapter 2. Visions are given for guidance, warning, and revelation and they are a manifestation of either the Word of Wisdom, the Word of Knowledge, or in connection with discernment.
All visions happen while you are physically awake, verses the dreams which happen while your asleep. There are 3 types of visions that a gifted person may experience. They are “Spiritual Visions”, “Trance Visions”, and “Open Visions”. The intensity of each of these can greatly vary. Some may be very simplistic, while others may be extremely dramatic!
During the experience of a spiritual vision, the gifted person will be fully aware and in control of their natural senses, yet they “see” spiritually (not naturally). They also may happen at any time and at any place. They occur as ‘mental-flashes’ of people, places, or events which can be received as anything from a very short, simple picture, a mini-film, or a lengthier event that is unfolding. While generally speaking, knowing the difference between typical day-dreaming and seeing a vision is quite easily differentiated because of the nature of the vision being much different than it would be if your mind was just ‘wondering’. However, if a person is not experienced in operating in this gift, it is possible that they might, at first, confuse such ‘sights’ as having an over-active, very vivid imagination.
Trance visions, however, are so strong and “real” that the person experiencing them will “zone out”. The experience of that could best be described as that person being literally, “spiritually catapulted” to a different level of reality or somewhat like an “out of body” experience. This person will not be in full control of their senses, nor will they be aware of any current surroundings or happenings; they will be “too zoned out” to respond to things going on around them.
An open vision, while having the similarities of a spiritual vision – being in full control of your senses- is quite different. The experience of this results in seeing ‘spiritual beings’ (angels and/or demons), ‘spiritual places’ (heaven or hell), or ‘spiritual events’ (wars, rapture, etc). The activity within open visions can also vary in degree, from watching each occurrence as if you were a proverbial fly on the wall to spiritually being inter-active with the events, places, or beings that you are witnessing.
Again, the gifted person must be aware of the dangers of claiming that such gifts are done by their own will and accord – or – as claiming false/fleshly visions as being true Words from God.