Dreams and visions are mysterious ways that God chooses to communicate with people. Throughout Scripture, we find examples of how God used dreams and visions to interact with individuals and guide them according to His purposes. As modern day believers, it’s important for us to understand what the Bible teaches about dreams and visions so we can properly discern when God is speaking to us in these supernatural ways.
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the biblical foundation for dreams and visions, examine key examples from both the Old and New Testaments, provide guidelines for testing dream interpretations, look at common symbolic meanings, and outline important takeaways for applying this teaching to our lives today. By taking the time to study God’s Word on this subject, we can grow in our relationship with the Lord and our ability to discern His voice through revelatory spiritual experiences.
- God speaks through dreams and visions as a way to guide, instruct, warn, and reveal His plans.
- We must test dream interpretations against Scripture and godly wisdom.
- God can speak symbolically in dreams, so we should pray for discernment of meanings.
- While dreams and visions are impactful, God’s written Word is the highest authority.
- As we draw near to God, we can grow in understanding His supernatural communication.
A Biblical Foundation for Dreams and Visions
In Scripture, we find that God chooses to communicate with people through dreams and visions to accomplish His purposes on earth. While we must approach all dreams and visions with discernment and test them against the Bible, God does speak through these means even today.
The Old Testament mentions dreams and visions over 200 times, demonstrating how this was a regular way for God to communicate in biblical times. In Jeremiah 23:28, God says “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” Says the LORD.” This verse establishes dreams as a legitimate form of divine revelation, along with God’s written Word. At the same time, it emphasizes the importance of testing dreams against the Scriptures.
The New Testament also confirms that God continued using dreams and visions to communicate after Christ’s resurrection. In Acts 2:17, the apostle Peter quotes the prophet Joel who said, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.” This indicates that prophetic dreams and visions would characterize the entire Church age leading up to Christ’s second coming.
As born-again believers, we can be encouraged that God still speaks through these means today, just as He did with believers throughout the Bible. At the same time, we must filter all dreams and visions through the lens of Scripture and godly discernment, never elevating them above God’s inspired Word.
Examples of Dreams and Visions in the Old Testament
The Old Testament contains many examples of God speaking through dreams and visions to accomplish His divine purposes. Here are some notable instances:
Jacob’s Ladder (Genesis 28:10-17) – Jacob had a dream of a stairway to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. God stood at the top and promised Jacob that his descendants would spread abroad to all corners of the earth. This vision established Jacob’s calling and confirmed the Abrahamic covenant.
Joseph’s Dreams (Genesis 37:5-11) – As a young man, Joseph had two prophetic dreams from God showing that his family would one day bow down to him. This revealed Joseph’s future leadership, although his jealous brothers responded by selling him into slavery in Egypt.
Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (Daniel 2) – God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a perplexing dream which none of his advisors could interpret. But God revealed the meaning to Daniel, showing four future kingdoms leading up to the Messianic kingdom. This affirmed God’s sovereignty over human history.
Ezekiel’s Vision of God’s Glory (Ezekiel 1:4-28) – The prophet Ezekiel had an awe-inspiring vision of God’s glory on His heavenly throne. This vision validated Ezekiel’s calling and ministry to speak God’s word.
Joseph the Husband of Mary (Matthew 1:20-21) – An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, confirming that Mary miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit and instructing Joseph to name the child Jesus. This affirmed Jesus’ identity and mission as the Savior.
These examples demonstrate how God consistently spoke through dreams and visions to guide key figures, reveal His plans, and accomplish redemptive purposes during biblical history.
Examples of Dreams and Visions in the New Testament
God did not stop speaking through dreams and visions after the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Here are some key examples from the New Testament:
Cornelius Calls for Peter (Acts 10) – The Roman centurion Cornelius received a vision from an angel, telling him to send for Peter who would share the gospel with him. This vision opened the door for the Gentiles to be included in the Church.
Paul’s Vision of the Macedonian (Acts 16:6-10) – While traveling to spread the gospel, Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man urging him to come preach in Macedonia. This divine vision directed the course of Paul’s missionary journey.
Peter’s Vision of the Sheet (Acts 10:9-16) – Peter had a vision of a giant sheet containing ceremonially unclean animals being lowered from heaven. A voice told Peter to “kill and eat”. This signified that the gospel was going to the Gentiles.
Paul’s Vision of Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) – Paul describes an incredible vision where he was caught up into heaven and heard things too wonderful to express in human language. This underscores the reality of heaven and our future hope.
John’s Visions in Revelation – The apostle John recorded his divinely inspired visions of the end times, the second coming of Christ, and the glory of the new heavens and new earth in the apocalyptic book of Revelation.
The New Testament writers accepted dreams and visions as ongoing ways God reveals His truth and will. At the same time, these revelations never contradicted or superseded the authority of Scripture itself.
Testing Dream Interpretations Against Scripture
While God does speak through dreams and visions, every dream we have is not necessarily from the Lord. Since our minds can produce strange mixtures of thoughts while we sleep, we need to test dream interpretations carefully against the light of Scripture.
Here are some guidelines for discerning dreams and dream interpretations as recommended by the Bible:
- Compare the Dream to Scripture – God will never communicate anything contradictory to His Word through dreams. So compare the dream’s message to the truths of the Bible. If it does not align, reject the interpretation.
- Check the Interpretation’s Fruit – Does the interpretation of the dream encourage spiritual growth and godliness, or does it feed selfish ambition? Good fruit indicates a true message from God.
- Get Wise Counsel – Share unusual dreams with mature believers and ask for their insights. The Bible says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14)
- Consider Timing & Plainness – God often communicates a dream’s meaning within a short period, not years later. Also, does the interpretation require mental gymnastics or is it straightforward?
- Confirmation – God will usually confirm the meaning of a dream in multiple ways. Has He provided various confirmations through His Word, other believers, circumstances, or even additional dreams?
With these biblical principles in mind, we can prayerfully evaluate dream interpretations and discern when God is genuinely speaking versus when a dream arises from the subconscious or even deceiving spirits. Testing dreams against Scripture and godly wisdom protects us from false guidance.
Common Symbolic Meanings in Dreams
Since God often communicates symbolically in dreams, praying for discernment of symbols is key. Here are some common biblical meanings that frequently appear in Spirit-inspired dreams:
- Water – The Holy Spirit, cleansing, refreshment
- Mountain – Power, rulership, kingdom of God
- Sun, Moon, Stars – Authority, dominion, glory, enlightenment
- Trees & Gardens – Spiritual life, personal growth, church community
- Snake – Deception, temptation, the devil
- Wedding & Marriage – The bride of Christ, union with God, covenant
Of course, each symbol could have different meanings depending on the context. And certain dreams speak plainly without symbolism. But paying attention to consistent scriptural symbols equips us to better grasp God’s message in dreams. With practice and prayer, we can grow in understanding the language of the Spirit.
The Authority of Scripture Over Dreams & Visions
While God does supernaturally communicate through dreams and visions, Christians must be careful never to elevate spiritual experiences and revelations above the authority of Scripture. God’s Holy Word recorded in the Bible is the supreme and final authority for testing all other spiritual guidance.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible thoroughly equips us; nothing more is needed.
Also, Isaiah 8:20 offers this vital test: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Any dream or vision contradicting the Bible falls into deception rather than true divine revelation.
So while dreams can powerfully supplement God’s Word and spur personal growth, they never supersede Scripture itself. Anchor your Christian walk in the living Word of God.
Drawing Near to God for His Supernatural Communication
While God sovereignly chooses how and when to speak to each individual, Scripture encourages us to purify our hearts and draw near to God to better receive His supernatural communication. As we prioritize seeking the Giver above just seeking manifestations, He awakens our spiritual senses to discern His voice in dreams and visions.
The prophet Joel exhorted Israel saying, “Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the people, Sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elders…Let the priests, who minister to the LORD, Weep between the porch and the altar.” (Joel 1:14, 2:17). Setting aside regular times of fasting, prayer, worship, and Bible study helps tune our spiritual ears.
As you devote yourself to pursuing intimacy with the Lord, expect Him to speak to you in surprising ways. But stay rooted in Scripture, submit all revelations to prayerful discernment, and yield every dream interpretation to the authority of the Bible. With this approach, God will use dreams and visions to mature your faith and light your path.
Dreams and visions are biblically valid and supernaturally potent forms of divine communication, serving to guide, instruct, protect, encourage, and inform believers through the ages. As we devote ourselves to studying the Scriptures, pursuing intimacy with Jesus Christ, and testing all spiritual experiences against God’s Word, we can grow in confidently discerning God’s voice through our dreams. His gracious supernatural messages, when properly understood and obeyed, will always lead us into greater wisdom, faith and blessing. We serve a wonderful Father who delights in communicating with His children in both natural and supernatural means according to His perfect will and timing.