Dreams can sometimes fascinate believers. From the visions Daniel experienced in the Old Testament (Daniel 7) to Peter’s dream about clean and unclean animals (Acts 10:9-16) it seems as though dreams lace almost all the books of Scripture.
Even in the modern context, it seems as though many believers have come to Christ through seeing Jesus in a dream (see an article about such encounters here).
What are some examples of dreams throughout Scripture? What does the Bible have to say about dreams explicitly and does God still speak to us through dreams? And how much stock should Christians place in dreams today?
Biblical Examples of God Communicating through Dreams
Of course, this article cannot dive into every instance of dreams in Scripture. However, it will highlight a few instances of dreams and why the matter:
- Joseph (Old Testament): You cannot discuss Joseph from Genesis without diving into dreams. Granted, most of the time he spent interpreting dreams (Genesis 41), but he did have a dream of his own before he entered Egypt (Genesis 37). These dreams hinted that Joseph’s family would “bow to him” in the future. This comes to fruition when they come to him for food during a great famine. In essence, the dream had a purpose to foretell the future.
- Daniel (Old Testament): Like Joseph, he often interprets dreams rather than has them, but in Daniel 7 he witnesses a terrifying dream of four beasts. Theologians have attributed each beast to a certain kingdom (Babylon, Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans/End Times Kingdom). The dreams served to show events and kingdoms to come.
- Joseph (New Testament):Joseph, Jesus’ father, sees an angel in a dream who warns him to flee to Egypt before Herod can take the life of his son (Matthew 2:13). This dream served as a warning.
- Pontius Pilate’s wife (New Testament):When Jesus stands at trial with Pontius Pilate, his wife warns Pilate against having anything to do with him, because she knows of his innocence (Matthew 27:19). The dream informed her about the true nature of Jesus.
This article shows all the dreams in Scripture and the meaning behind them. Dreams often employ symbolism to teach a lesson, divulge elements of the future, or help us discover more about God.
What Scripture says about Dreams for Us
Although most dream references in Scripture refer to certain dreams God has given to a certain person (see above), Scripture does mention a few things about dreams:
- Acts 2:17: In the End Times, many believers will see dreams. Although it doesn’t specify what exactly they’d see, one can infer it might be a vision of Heaven, Christ, or of the future.
- Ecclesiastes 5:7: This verse seems to warn against placing too much hope in dreams. “Much dreaming . . . (is) meaningless.” Therefore, we shouldn’t dwell too much on dreams, and instead, turn to Scripture to hear God’s messages to us.
- Jeremiah 29:8: This verse warns us against placing our faith in the dreams of others. Sometimes false prophets will speak about dreams that did not take place to sway God’s people. Christians have to be careful whenever anyone speaks about a dream and should test everything said about that dream against Scripture.
How Much Stock Should Christians Place in Dreams?
Christians should consult Scripture any time they encounter a vivid dream that seems to have a meaning or authority greater than the regular dreams most of us experience each night.
In the article above which talks about Muslims who have seen Jesus in dreams, those dreams occur because they mostly do not have access to God’s word or have not read Scripture for themselves. Dreams form a temporary bridge for them to encounter God.
If you take a look at the frequency of dreams in the Bible, most occur in the Old Testament. Since most who lived in the Old Testament had limited access to God’s word, or in the case of those who lived before the time of Moses, God used dreams and visions as a way to communicate His messages to people.
Although visions and dreams have been known to take place after the Old Testament and after the New Testament, we do have to keep in mind that our primary basis for what God has to say to Christians is in the canon of Scripture.
The Bible does mention believers having dreams in the last days, but those dreams should never usurp Scripture in terms of authority.
God may place a dream in a Christian’s life to warn them about a future event, show a symbol that is important for that believer’s life, or to convey a certain message. Whenever a Christian encounters such a dream, they should test the spirits by opening the Bible and reading what it has to say about the subject of that dream.
Furthermore, although dreams may fascinate us, Christians should not envy other Christians who have dreams. Dreams don’t have a greater authority than Scripture, and most believers have God’s words right at their fingertips.
Why Does This Matter?
If people are experiencing visions and dreams today, it may fulfill what Scripture says about this happening more frequently in the Last Days.
However, ultimately, it shows us God is still speaking to those unreached by Scripture.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Fernando
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. Having dealt with chronic anxiety for five years, she understands the struggle of anxious thoughts. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 3,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog, which receives 63,000+ monthly hits. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released, and they just contracted the sequel. Find out more about her here.