Dreams have always been a mysterious and intriguing part of the human experience. For thousands of years, people have looked for meaning in their dreams and have tried to interpret the symbols and messages contained within them. As Christians, it’s natural for us to wonder – what does the Bible have to say about dreams and their interpretation? Get ready for a deep dive into dream interpretation from a biblical perspective!
Dreams are mentioned numerous times throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Biblical figures like Joseph, Daniel, and Paul were all said to receive dreams from God that revealed important information about the future. This has led many Christians to believe that God still speaks through dreams today, and that our dreams contain divine messages if we can properly interpret them.
But what is the right way to interpret dreams from a biblical perspective? Should we view every dream as a message from God? Are there principles from Scripture we can use to discern which dreams are significant and how to unpack their meaning? This article will explore what the Bible teaches about dream interpretation so you can understand dreams and visions better as a Christian.
Here are the key takeaways you’ll discover:
- God spoke through dreams at specific moments in Scripture, but not all dreams are divine revelations.
- While symbolic dreams require discernment, some dreams in the Bible depict actual events.
- Biblical dream interpretation relies on the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and an understanding of Scripture.
- The meaning of symbols in dreams can often be uncovered through prayer.
- Dreams provide an opportunity to receive correction and insight from God.
- Guidelines from Scripture can help guard against misinterpreting dreams.
Let’s explore each of these principles in depth!
Not All Dreams Are Divine Revelations
In the Bible, there are dozens of dreams that occur, from Abraham to Pilate’s wife. But are all these dreams direct messages from God that we should try to interpret?
The first key point is that while God did speak through certain dreams at specific times in Scripture, the Bible does not indicate that God speaks through every dream we have today. Biblical figures like Joseph and Daniel were gifted dream interpreters, but that does not mean God gives divine visions in the same way to all believers.
And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” (Genesis 28:13 NKJV)
However, other dreams in Scripture simply reflect human anxiety or subconscious fears, such as when Job had nightmares after his suffering began:
You scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions. (Job 7:14 NKJV)
While we can ask God for insight into our dreams, we should avoid the assumption that He is speaking through every dream in a prophetic way. Instead, we have to test dreams carefully against the truth of Scripture.
Some Dreams Depict Actual Events
Although symbolic dreams require discernment, some dreams in the Bible reflect real events that either happened already or would happen in the future.
For example, when Jacob dreamed about spotted sheep, it foretold how he would breed Laban’s flocks:
Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ …Then the Angel said to me in my dream, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.'” (Genesis 31:11,12 NKJV)
Years later, Pharaoh’s dreams about seven fat and seven scrawny cows predicted seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine in Egypt. Joseph declared that God had shown Pharaoh what He was about to do (Genesis 41:25).
While visions are often symbolic, these examples show some dreams reveal factual information about current or future circumstances orchestrated by God. Of course, we must be careful to confirm dreams with Scripture and other evidence before concluding they are completely accurate revelations from God.
Dream Interpretation Relies on Wisdom and Scripture
In the Bible, interpreting dreams went hand in hand with receiving dreams from God. For Joseph and Daniel, supernatural wisdom was required to understand the symbolism within the dreams of others.
When asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, Joseph immediately credited God as the source of interpretation:
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.” (Genesis 41:25 NKJV)
Daniel followed a similar pattern when asked to explain King Nebuchadnezzar’s disturbing dream about a tree being cut down:
Then Daniel (whose name was Belteshazzar) was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him. So the king spoke, and said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies!” (Daniel 4:19 NKJV)
Rather than relying on worldly methods of fortune-telling, Joseph and Daniel sought interpretation from the God of heaven. As Christians, we should do the same when discerning dreams. Through prayer and careful study of Scripture, the Holy Spirit can guide us to interpret dreams wisely.
Pray for Insight into Dream Symbolism
Since symbolic dreams require discernment, praying for God’s insight is key to unraveling their meaning. When symbols or metaphors appear in dreams, we can ask God to illuminate their significance based on Scripture and His personal message for our lives.
For example, in Genesis 40, Joseph interpreted two puzzling dreams from Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker: one about three grapevines, and another about three cake baskets. Because God showed him the meaning, Joseph was able to predict that the cupbearer would be restored to his position, while the baker would be executed.
Without God’s help, the grapevines and cake baskets made little sense. But Joseph depended on the Spirit’s wisdom to interpret the symbolism correctly. Similarly, as we pray about dream symbols that seem confusing, God can reveal their personal meaning to us.
Dreams Provide Insight and Correction
At times in Scripture, God brought correction and instruction to His people through dreams to expose sin or reset their path. Take, for example, when God appeared to Abimelech and warned him not to touch Abraham’s wife Sarah:
But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” (Genesis 20:3 NKJV)
Though not explicitly stated, Abimelech’s dream implies he was on the brink of adultery. But God intervened with a warning. When we experience conviction in a dream, it may be God desiring to steer us back into holiness.
Furthermore, in Matthew 1, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm Mary’s miraculous pregnancy, directing Joseph to marry her and name the child Jesus despite the social stigma. Without that pivotal dream, Joseph might have responded differently. God can use our dreams to realign our thoughts with His perfect plans.
Guidelines for Testing Dream Interpretation
Though God may speak through dreams on occasion, we have to be careful to interpret them based on Scripture, not human wisdom. The Bible gives several guidelines to avoid misinterpreting a dream’s source or meaning:
- Compare dreams to Scripture: God will not contradict His Word (Isaiah 8:20).
- Be wary of false prophets: Dreams can be manipulated or fabricated (Jeremiah 23:25-28).
- Avoid dreaming up a new gospel: Even visions from angels cannot alter the Gospel (Galatians 1:8).
- Suspend judgement: The meaning and source may not be obvious right away (Genesis 40:8).
- Seek counsel: Share the dream with mature believers who know God’s Word (Proverbs 1:5-6).
By following these biblical principles, we can prayerfully interpret dreams without jumping to conclusions or basing entire doctrines on subjective experiences. Our lens for understanding dreams should always be Scripture, not personal revelation.
Dreams are intriguing part of how God sometimes communicated in biblical times. And they remain one way God may bring guidance into our lives today if we approach them with wisdom and discernment. By relying on Scripture, prayer, and godly counsel, you can begin unraveling the meaning of your own dreams and visions without misinterpreting their significance.
Remember, not every dream is from God. But when God does speak through a dream, it will align with His Word and character. Expect Him to use dreams to bring conviction, encouragement, direction – but not entirely new doctrine. As you gain understanding of your dreams, keep your eyes fixed on the truth of the Bible as your guide.
The next time you have a perplexing or vivid dream, don’t dismiss it too quickly. Come before the Lord with an open and receptive heart. Ask Him to illuminate any meaning and personal application from the dream. And filter it through the lens of Scripture, which stands as the supreme authority for testing all dreams, visions, and experiences. When you approach dreams this way, you’ll be equipped to discern God’s voice and obey His direction. Sweet dreams!