Dreams have a way of capturing our imagination. Some of us experience adventures in our dreams, others wrestle with conflict and terror. And sometimes our recollection is so vivid that our dreams seem real.
But could our dreams be more than just products of our own imaginations? Might some of them have divine origins? Can God talk to you through dreams?
God may talk to some people through dreams. Most dreams originate from the human mind, but God may choose to gift some people with messages delivered in dreams.
Dreams in the Bible
Scripture records several instances of God speaking to people through dreams. Some of the better-known examples include:
He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.Genesis 28:12-13
There is no ambiguity in Jacob’s dream. Here, God speaks directly to Jacob without an intermediary as He reiterates the promise first given to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.
[Joseph] said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”…
“Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had?” … 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.Genesis 37:6-11
Joseph is the person that most Bible readers associate with dreams. Later in his life, he famously interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and helped Egypt to withstand seven years of famine.
Joseph’s dreams of ruling over his brothers were not well received by his brothers. So they devised a plot to sell Joseph into slavery. Ultimately, that road would lead to the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams when his brothers came to Egypt to buy food during the famine.
The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these.Daniel 2:26-28
On two occasions, Daniel interpreted the dreams of King Nebuchadnezzar. On the first occasion, the king had so little confidence in his wise men that he refused to reveal his troubling dream to them, and insisted that they both tell him the dream and interpret it.
God gave Daniel both a vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:19) and the wisdom to interpret it. Later, King Nebuchadnezzar would turn to Daniel to interpret a second dream (Daniel 4).
The Magi and Joseph
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they [the Magi] returned to their country by another route.Matthew 2:12
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”Matthew 2:19-20
When Jesus was still a small child, the Magi’s visit set King Herod on a murderous rampage. Herod was determined to remove any threat to his reign and his dynasty. So when he heard that the foretold King of the Jews had been born, Herod ordered the slaughter of all boys under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.
In separate dreams, God directed both the Magi and Joseph (Mary’s husband) to safety in order to avoid Herod’s sword.
In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.Acts 2:17
In his sermon on the day of Pentecost at the launching of the church, Peter quotes the prophet, Joel, promising that through God’s Spirit, people will prophesy and receive visions and dreams.
Of the Spiritual gifts described in the New Testament, prophecy is the only one that is named in each list (Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:10, Ephesians 4:11). Prophecy does not mean ‘predicting the future,’ as we often assume. In Biblical terms, a prophet is one who speaks for God. And God might reveal truths to the prophet through words, visions, or dreams as He determines.
Which Dreams are from God?
As stated earlier, most dreams are products of human minds. Even those with the gift of prophecy experience dreams of their own making.
When discerning any spiritual revelation, whether it is delivered in word, vision, or dream, scripture invites us to test the spirits:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.1 John 4:1-3a
Does a dream confirm and apply the truth of Christ revealed in scripture, or does it conform to the ways and patterns of the world? God will not contradict Himself. Any message that does not align with scripture is not of God. The Bible is the primary means by which we know His character and His will.
As Christians, if we suspect a dream is from God, we should seek wise counsel among our fellow believers to help us discern the truth. As we pray, we ought to ask God to deliver confirmation of any dreams or visions so that we can know they are from Him.
It is God’s desire that we know His voice, which will always resonate with the voice that we know from scripture. As Jesus declares:
When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.John 10:4
So God still speaks to us today. And he can talk to you through dreams if He chooses. But in doing so, He will always remain faithful to His written and revealed word.