SHOULD CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF DREAMS?
Dreams can fascinate believers at times. From the visions of Daniel in the Old Testament in Daniel chapter 7 to Peter’s dream of clean and unclean animals in Acts 10:9-17, it seems that dreams cover almost all the books of the Scriptures.
Also, in the modern context, it seems like many Christians have come to Christ by seeing Jesus in a dream.
Dream interpretation, Jewish in its imaginative attentiveness, involves psychological matters and the reality of repression. But isn’t limited to those concerns. Dreams are of larger realities and possible futures.
The children of the Enlightenment do not linger over such mysterious experiences as dreams regularly. We try to enlighten what is before us and conquer the mysterious and the eerie to make the world a better and manageable place. We perform well in our management while we are awake, and we keep the light, control, and power on 24 hours a day.
Except, of course, that we have to sleep, we need seasons of rest and, therefore, of vulnerability—our flags of control. We become open to stirrings that we don’t initiate. These stirrings appear to us in the night unbidden as dreams that direct us. They invite us beyond our initiative management.
The ancient world and the biblical tradition were aware of dreams. The ancients recognized that the unbidden communication in the night opens sleepers to a world different from the one they controlled during the day. However, the people during the ancients times dared to believe that this unbidden communication was a venue in which God’s holy intentions, perplexing and unreasonable as they might be, come to us.
What are some instances of dreams throughout Scripture? What does the Bible say about dreams explicitly, and does God speak to us through dreams? And how much belief should Christians put in their dreams today?
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF GOD COMMUNICATING THROUGH DREAMS
Of course, every instance of dreams in the Scriptures cannot be dived into. However, a few instances of dreams will be highlighted:
• Joseph (Old Testament): You can’t talk about Joseph, the son of Jacob, without talking about his dreams. Granted, he spent much of his time interpreting dreams when he was in the Egyptian prison, but he had a dream of his own before he came to Egypt (Genesis 37). These dreams indicated that Joseph’s family would bow to him in the future. It comes to fruition as they come to him for food during a great famine. In reality, the dream was intended to foretell the future.
• Daniel (Old Testament): Like Joseph, he mostly interprets dreams rather than having them, but in Daniel 7, he experiences the disturbing dream of four beasts. Theologians also attributed each beast to a certain empire (Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman/End Times Kingdom). The dreams served to show the events and kingdoms to come.
• Joseph (New Testament): Joseph, the father of Jesus, sees an angel in a dream who warns him to flee to Egypt before Herod is planning to take the life of his son (Matthew 2:13). This dream served as a warning.
• The wife of Pontius Pilate (New Testament): As Jesus awaits trial in the court of Pontius Pilate, his wife warned him against condemning Jesus because she knows of his innocence (Matthew 27:19). The vision taught her of the true existence of Christ.
Dreams often use symbolism to teach a lesson, divulge elements of the future, or help us learn more about God.
WHAT THE SCRIPTURE SAYS ABOUT THE DREAMS FOR US
Although most of the dream references in Scripture apply to certain dreams that God has granted to a certain person, the Scripture says a few things about dreams:
• Acts 2:17: Many believers will see dreams in the End Times. Although it does not indicate precisely what they will see, it may be a dream of Heaven, of God, or the future.
• Ecclesiastes 5:7: This verse appears to caution about giving too much hope to dreams. “Much dreaming is meaningless.” Therefore, we should not linger too long on dreams, and instead, turn to the Scriptures to hear the words of God to us.
• Jeremiah 29:8: This verse warns us against placing our faith in the dreams of others. Often false prophets speak of dreams that did not take place to sway the people of God. Christians need to be careful whenever someone talks of a dream, and they must check everything they have said about that dream against the Scriptures.
HOW MUCH BELIEF SHOULD CHRISTIANS PLACE IN DREAMS?
Christians should read the Scripture if they have a vivid dream that seems to have a purpose or authority more considerable than the regular dreams had any other night.
In some instances, there are Muslims who have seen Jesus in their dreams, and such dreams happen because they don’t have access to the Word of God and have not read the Scriptures themselves. Dreams form a temporary path for them to encounter God.
When you look at the number of dreams in the Bible, most of them are in the Old Testament. Because most of those who lived in the Old Testament had little access to the Word of God, or in the case of those who lived before Moses’ time, God used dreams and visions to communicate His messages to people.
Although dreams and visions have been known to take place in the Old Testament and the New Testament, we must bear in mind that our primary basis for what God has to say to Christians is the canon of the Scriptures.
The Bible does mention Christians having dreams in the last days, but these dreams can never usurp Scripture in terms of authority.
God may place a dream in the life of a Christian to alert them of a future occurrence, display a sign that is important to the life of that believer, or communicate a certain message. If a Christian has such a dream, he is supposed to test the spirits by opening the Bible and reading what it has to tell about the subject of that dream.
Furthermore, though dreams may fascinate us, Christians should not envy other Christians who have dreams. Dreams have no greater authority than the Scripture, and most Christians have the word of God at their disposal.
DOES GOD STILL COMMUNICATE WITH CHRISTIANS THROUGH DREAMS TODAY?
God has indeed spoken to certain people in the past through dreams, but back then, it was an uncommon occurrence. Hebrews 1:1-2 suggests that God’s major way of interacting with people today is through the written Word that God has inspired, not through visions or dreams. The Bible warns Christians to be on guard against spirits (falling angels or demons) trying to mislead (1 John 4:1). One of how people are misled is through paranormal activities.
The Bible talks of certain dreams that are deceptive in Jeremiah 23:25-27. Most dreams are a normal part of the sleeping state. The Bible speaks of the unreal and fleeting nature of dreams (Psalm 126:1; Isaiah 29:8).
Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “For a dream cometh through the multitude of business,” suggesting that normal dreams are the inevitable outgrowths of the stimulation we experience in our waking hours. Dreams may come from our feelings, from what we hear others say, and from the material we read or watch.
As Christians, we must protect the knowledge that comes to our minds. For example, if we expose our minds to violence or sexually focused content, these stimuli may cause unwanted dreams. Paul gives us excellent guidance on how to guide our thinking in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Having done everything we can to ensure that we have a healthy environment and think of positive thoughts, we can ask God to bless us with quiet and restful sleep. Psalm 127:2 says, “He gives his beloved sleep.”
Joel prophesied of a future time, before the return of Jesus Christ when there would be signs of Heaven, and “your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28-31). The apostle Peter used this interpretation to help explain the extraordinary miracles on the Day of Pentecost. But it is obvious from the New Testament example that Christians are to follow the Word of God from the inspired Scriptures and valid biblical teachings, not from private interpretations (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
It is necessary to know that not all visions are God-given. It could be that you ate something odd, or that your mind just kept working after a busy day. Dreams could also come from Satan. The adversary of our souls is not ignorant of the power of a dream. Let 1 Samuel 28 be a warning to us. It describes a time when King Saul seeks counsel from a medium not of God.
INTERPRETATION OF DREAM
Listening to the Holy Spirit is the most important aspect of having a truthful understanding of dreams.
It is only natural and right to try to understand the meaning of dreams. It’s not divination, and it’s not to be confused with such. We are not to seek for dream and interpretation as our way of getting through life. We are to seek God and His Word.
Dream Interpretation is not mentioned as a spiritual gift, but a dream given by the holy spirit would be interpreted by the holy spirit. (Genesis 40:8, c).
God gave the dream that Pharaoh had in Genesis chapter 40, and God gave the meaning to Joseph. God gave the dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had in the Book of Daniel, and we see that God gave the interpretation to Daniel.
We are to rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to validate and explain visions and dreams from God.
God is not going to give us dreams to entertain us or stop us from depending on Him and His Word.
HOW TO HANDLE VIVID DREAMS
1. PRAY: Before doing anything else, pray that God shows you the source of a dream and what He wants you to know.
2. LISTEN TO THE LORD: Take a moment and sit quietly before the Lord to hear His voice. When you sense His peace, then you can be assured that His Spirit was the source. Hearing from the Lord can save you, just as it saved the three wise men. They were told in a dream that they should return home in another way, escaping King Herod and saving the infant Jesus (Matthew 2).
3. WRITE IT DOWN: Write down what you know about it. When you believe that the vision is not of the Lord after you have prayed, then forget about it. So if you believe that God is in it, journal what you believe He’s speaking to you.
4. GO FOR A GODLY COUNSEL: Sharing your dreams is biblical. Pharaoh sought counsel from Joseph, and a generation was saved from starvation (Genesis 41). Just be wise about whom you share your dreams. Be especially careful of friends who consult books to interpret dreams (1 John 4:1). Most times, these books are philosophies that leave God out of the equation.
5. LET IT BE: The Lord will bring to your remembrance His dreams. Most people’s dreams are vivid, but the ones you should pay close attention to are the ones you remember years after you had them. Occasionally, while sitting in God’s presence, He’s going to remind you of a dream to reinforce the lesson He’ wants you to learn. The danger comes when these dreams preoccupy our thoughts instead of the One who gives us these supernatural visions.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER
If people experience visions and dreams today, it may fulfill what the Scriptures say about this happening more often in the Last Days.
However, it shows us that God still speaks to those who can’t be reached by the Scriptures.