Divine vs Natural Dreams
Does God still speak through dreams? How do we know that it is God, and not just our own minds?
Does God speak in dreams at all?
God has spoken to people many times throughout the Scriptures by means of dreams. Examples would be Joseph son of Jacob (Genesis 37:5-10), Joseph the husband of Mary (Matthew 2:12-22), Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-15), and several others (Daniel 2:1; 7:1; Matthew 27:19). There is also a prophesy of the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28), quoted by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:17, that mentions God using dreams. So the simple answer is yes, God can and does speak through dreams.
Dreams of Divine origin
Anything God says, whether it is a dream, vision, impression, or “still small voice” will agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word.
Dreams cannot be put into a place of authority over the Scriptures. Again, IF God were to speak to a person in a dream, His message would be in perfect agreement with His Word.
If you have a dream and feel that perhaps God gave it to you, prayerfully examine the Word of God and make sure your dream is in agreement with Scripture.
If so, prayerfully consider what God would have you do in response to your dream (James 1:5). In Scripture, whenever anyone experienced a dream from God, God always made the meaning of the dream clear, whether directly to the person, through an angel, or through a messenger (Genesis 40:5-11; Daniel 2:45; 4:19).
When God speaks to us, He makes sure His message is clearly understood.
Why does God speak in dreams?
You may wonder why God may need to use a dream to speak to you, when, in fact, He could have used another means to speak to you. When you are asleep your conscious mind cannot fight God’s message.
Often when we are awake, our conscious minds gets in the way of hearing from God, but when we are asleep God is able to do things to us that we cannot contest.
When you’re asleep you’re vulnerable. You lose control of your life, and God has it. This is when God can really speak to you.
1. Warn of sin. God is concerned about our lifestyle. Abimelech was admonished in a dream about committing adultery with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.
But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” (Genesis 20:3)
Through this dream, Abimelech repented.
2. Guidance. God will also guide you through dreams. He did it for Joseph no less than five times (Matthew 2) and for Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19).
Joseph, husband of Mary: he had a dream from God when he was only seventeen years old (Genesis 17:2).
3. Encouragement. Sometimes God gives you a dream to simply encourage you. For example, when Gideon needed reassurance to fight the Midianites he was inspired through a dream and its interpretation.
Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”
His friend responded, “This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”
When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he worshipped God. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.” Judges 7:13-15
4. Protection and provision
Daniel was a young aspirant when God gave him a dream and the interpretation in order to protect everyone from Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath (Daniel 2:19).
Solomon, a young king. He had dreamt that God gave him wisdom. He called himself “a little child” (1 Kings 3:7) when he had the dream.
Prophecy about upcoming events, or information about current circumstances. Example: Joseph’s dream about having his family bowing to him predicted an elevated future status.
6. Warn against sin in life
This also is part of guidance. God will warn us that we are in sin, to bring us back to repentance.
Notice, in each of these cases, the dreamer knew exactly what the dream meant. If God sends a dream, he makes his meaning clear. If a dream is not clear to you, it may not bee from God. It may be just a natural dream.
Do Dreams Belong to the New Covenant?
On the day of Pentecost, when the New Covenant was established, Peter preached (Acts 2:17),
“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”.
Dreams are for our age. In fact, according to this promise, dreams would be more frequent in our time. Dreams belong to the last days, the days we live in.
Scripture demonstrates what is called Hebrew Parallelism. This repeats itself in different words, and attempts to paint a broad brush by including sons and daughters, young and old, visions and dreams.
It is not meant to convey that only young men have visions and only old men have dreams. It is saying that visions and dreams belong to everyone—young and old alike.
Can you have dreams from God too?
God works by means of faith. If you have faith that God will do something in His Word, then He will do it. The reason many believers don’t have many dreams from the Lord is because they don’t have faith in them. Exercise your faith for dreams.
Start by asking God for dreams. You have not because you ask not.
Expect that you will have dreams from God.
Put your faith into action by placing a notebook and pen next to your bed, and when you have a dream, write it down. Daniel did!
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. Daniel 7:1
Not Every Dream is from God
The majority of our dreams will be natural dreams. This is our mind, which God gave us, working through, and processing issues in our lives.
The conclusions our minds come to can be correct, or incorrect, so we have to reflect on what they tell us.
There are many causes of dreams including worry. “…a dream comes when there are many cares…”(Eccl 5:3).
Satan can give counterfeit dreams, especially when the dreamer is involved in occult activities.
The lust of the flesh can cause X rated dreams.
Bitterness can cause dreams whereby you kill people, or fear can cause you to have nightmares.
Many dreams are confused mixes of concerns or events that the mind is still working on. Just reflect on them, and do not worry about them.
One thing I see is what I call “wishful thinking” dreams, or their interpretation. This is when we take a dream that is natural, or carnal in nature, and claim God said something. This is delusion.
Obviously you must use discernment to know if a dream is from God or not. The Holy Spirit will provide this, so we do not go in the way of error.
One of the common mistakes people make when interpreting their dreams is to take the dream literal. Most dreams are symbolic—like Joseph’s dream of stars, Pharaoh’s dream of cows, or Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue.
How can you tell if a dream should be taken literally or symbolically? If everything in the dream seems possible and real, then it probably is a literal dream.
For example, if you’re driving your car going to your job and get into an accident, then probably you need to take it literally, and pray for protection.
On the other hand, if there is a part in the dream that seems improbable or unreal, then you should interpret the entire dream as symbolic. If, for example, you’re driving another car, or going to a fictitious place then the dream is symbolic, even if the accident seems real. The dream is speaking about spiritual danger, not physical danger.
You need to learn to think symbolically. It takes practice. Increase the vocabulary of symbols. As your vocabulary of symbols increase, your ability to understand your dreams will get better and better. The more you know the general meaning of symbols, the easier it will be to interpret dreams, and you’ll be more accurate.
Use an online bible site, and enter in the symbol for a search. See if you can find that symbol, object, person, place, etc in the bible, and find out more about it that way.
Beware of using New Age type books to interpret symbols. These books twist the meaning of symbols.
These are two good Christian books on dreams.
Exploring the World of Dreams by Benny Thomas and
Understanding the Dreams You Dream by Ira Milligan.
Also, this is more psychology oriented:
The Dreamers Dictionary, by Stearn Robinson & Tom Corbett
Keep in mind that a symbol may mean something different to different people. If someone lives in India and dreams of a cow, and an American farmer dreams the same thing, the cow will probably have a “religious” meaning to the Indian, while it means “livelihood” to the American.
There is a difference between dream and a vision. Visions can occur during dreams, and many times do, but they still have their own unique qualities:
1. You are in the presence of God. You will know this and be shocked, stunned, fearful, or overjoyed. You are awestruck. You will lose all sense of time, and forget everything that ever happened to you, like instant amnesia. All you know is what is in front of you. All other thoughts are dead during that time.
2. You will be aware that something of great importance is being given to you. The fear of God will take hold of you, and you will not dare misrepresent it, for fleshly purposes.
3. Revelation knowledge. You will learn something that is consistent with scripture, or does not contradict it in any way, but may be totally new. It can have an earthly application, like an upcoming pregnancy, or a new love in one’s life. It may show you your relationship with God, or a truth about the world, or future, that He wants you to share.
4. If prophetic in nature, it will be crystal clear, 100% credible, and will occur exactly as it is given to you. You will have no doubts at all that this will come to pass. You may be even given details in the vision, as to when it will occur.
5. Complex symbols may be used, but they will be very scriptural, and the meaning will reveal itself, in God’s timing. They will always line up with scripture. For example, the beast in Revelation is interpreted by the interpretation given for Daniel’s beast. A winged lion is still Babylon. A leopard is still Greece. A bear is still Medo-Persia (Iran). The horses in Revelation will be the same ones mentioned in Zechariah. If you see the same symbols, then the meaning has already been interpreted in scripture for you.
6. Time will not dilute the vision, or make it lost in your memory. You will never forget what you saw. You will remember every detail 30 years, or a lifetime later.
7. You will feel highly energized by the vision, and when it is finished, you
will immediately wake up, if asleep, or become highly alert, if you are already awake. It will be all you can think about for a long time. It will change you spiritually and mentally. You cannot go back to who you were before the vision.
Carnal Dreams – dreams from the human consciousness
This will not have the divine characteristics mentioned above. Personal desires, fears, impressions, confused thoughts will manifest. Thoughts and temptations to lust, anger, greed, jealousy, etc, will fall in this realm.
Satan can interject thoughts into dreams, so it is good to guard the mind while awake. Sometimes, bugs, snakes, etc come to torment us. If this is done, night terrors and temptations will be less likely. Also, it is this nighttime arena where we work out daily problems and find solutions.
One can dream about their impressions of God and worldly events in an ordinary dream, but what makes this different is that their flesh or mind controls the interpretation. One could say it is a delusion of the ego, in order to satisfy a need to be important, or be a part of something that impresses others. In the divine dream, the needs of the ego are crushed, and God rules.
The natural “god” dream is also based on common knowledge of the bible, or can be obtained from worldly sources. A good example are all the “visions” about the end times- like World War 3, or war with Israel. People are declaring doom over the world.
So what? This is not news.
The bible predicted this, and it is now in today’s newspaper. People are just repeating what everyone already knows. God does not enter a dream, and waste his time, telling you something that even the heathen know about.
Prophesies and visions of carnal origin are also long winded, and put you to sleep, having to read, or listen to it all. The length is to keep your attention on the dreamer, not God, as being someone special.
God is usually more blunt, and concise. He even knocks you off your feet with the first sentence, and first image. He is not full of hot air. He is full of power. When it is from Him, and not your own mind, you will really, really know it.