Does God use dreams as a means to tell us something? How will we know if it’s from God?
Dreams and Visions
Joel the Prophet wrote of a time to come where God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28), and several men in the Bible did have dreams and visions. The list is extensive, and includes Isaiah the Prophet, the Apostle Peter, and the Apostle Paul, so in the past, God has used visions and dreams among His Prophets and Apostles as a message; sometimes even inspired Scripture. The vision of the unclean meats shown to Peter was God’s way of saying that salvation is not only for the Jew, but also for the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16). When the baker and the cup bearer both had dreams, these dreams were sent from God (Gen 40). It was the same case with Pharaoh (Gen 41). Joseph acknowledged that he could not interpret dreams, but only God could do that, but God enabled Joseph to interpret the dreams of these men, so dreams are sometimes a way in which God communicates with people. But, does that mean every dream is from God, or most of our dreams are messages from God? Not likely. God can and does use dreams as a way of telling us something, but whether it’s from God or not can be highly subjective…meaning, we could be wrong! Still, from the many people I’ve heard from and read about, I know God is using dreams in their lives. Surely not in every case, but some were obvious from the end results.
Jesus is Calling
There are so many accounts that I’ve read or personally experienced about a person having a dream about Jesus Christ, that we can rule it out coincidence. There are so many different people from all over the world that share similarities in their visions that it can’t be written off as chance. And almost 95% of these reports that I receive are always about Jesus Christ. Usually I refer them to Scripture to let them know more about Jesus, and I believe the Gospel of John is perfectly suited for that. One man who contacted us saw Christ up on a large hill, and He was calling the man to Himself. He exuded a bright, white light, and he had such a sense of peace that he could hardly describe it. There was a feeling of joy, and he felt loved and accepted. This man asked me if it was Jesus calling him. I told him I cannot interpret dreams. Only God can, but I told him that Jesus’ desire is that everyone comes to repentance and faith (John 3:16-17; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). Later the man left his false works-based religion, and rested in the sufficient work of Christ on Calvary. Another man had a very similar and recurring dream for six months. When he finally was able to contact a Christian, he told him about the dream, and the man gave him a Bible. The man trusted in Christ that very night after reading the Gospel of John, and incidentally, he never had that dream again. He was sure it was God Who sent it. I believe it was too!
I love one definition of visions. They are like waking dreams. In that sense, visions are more real than a dream, but God has also used visions to inform others, or record something. The Book of Revelation and John’s vision would be a great example of how God used visions in a person’s life, but visions may wain at times due to the sinful state of the nation (1 Sam 3:1, 28:6). The Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Genesis 15:1 says that when “the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Most Bible scholars agree that God sent this vision to reassure Abram because he had just defeated an alliance of kings in rescuing Lot, and he may have been worried that they would ally with one another and attack him (Gen 14), so God may have sent this vision to reassure Abraham that he would not be attacked. In the Book of Genesis, “God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am” (Gen 46:2). Today, God speaks most clearly in Scripture.
God gave Old Testament prophets both dreams and visions. Prophets that had visions included Nathan, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zechariah. Jeremiah wrote, “And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer 14:14). Today we must be careful about other people’s claims about visions or dreams. When someone tells me, “God told me to tell you” I stop them. Why would God use a third party to tell me something when He can tell me directly or the answer’s already there; in the Bible. Some dreams you can tell are from God. For example, God used a dream to inform an unsaved king, King Abimelech that he was going to die if he touched Abram’s wife. The Word says, “God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill u kill an innocent people” (Gen 20:3-4)? All of these dreams or visions were clearly from God, and not of human origin.
Does God use dreams as a means of telling us something? How will we know if it’s from God? First of all, God would never send us a dream to tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word. If you get such a dream, it’s not from God, and is just a random dream that we all have. You can’t base your life or decisions on dreams. Dreams are just too difficult to try and make reason of them all. Some dreams may not be from God, but in fact, from the Enemy (2 Cor 4:4), and experience or dreams can never be placed above Scripture. The Bible is the final authority, not dreams or visions. A former missionary had a dream where he felt God was telling him to divorce his wife so he could go into the mission field permanently, but he never made it. Yes, he divorced his wife, but after the divorce was settled, and all the lawyers got paid and the property liquidated, he couldn’t even afford one missionary trip because they had to split their debts too. That man’s dream was not from God but from satanic sources (Eph 6:12), but at times, God does send dreams to tell us things. We must remember that no man or woman can interpret dreams (Gen 40:8, 41:15; Dan 4:18). Some are obvious callings to Christ, so if their dream shows them their need to repent and trust in Christ as their only hope (Acts 4:12), and dozens and dozens of them have, then this dream is from God. God is trying to tell them to repent and believe so that they might be saved (Mark 1:15). I pray that you too, will put your trust in Christ.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is an ordained elder of the Brethren Church and a Pastor and Prison Minister in the State of Kansas, but also a writer at Christian Quotes and What Christians Want to Know which address questions about the Bible. He also plants ministries like nursing home ministries, Outreach for the poor, and other evangelistic activities, and check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.