By Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever dreamed about something before it happened? While the Bible records prophetic dreams, you may wonder if God really still gives such dreams today. Let’s explore how God may send you messages about the future through your dreams.
What Are Prophetic Dreams?
Prophetic dreams feature messages from God that predict future events. Those dreams may involve seeing and hearing something as it actually happens later, or perceiving symbols that represent what will happen in the future. During prophetic dreams, God sends foresight to people while they’re sleeping.
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Prophetic Dreams in the Bible
In Numbers 12:6, God declares: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.” The Bible records many instances of prophetic dreams, which many different types of people experience. Those include dreams about topics such as:
- Encouragement to follow God’s guidance (like Joseph’s dream in Matthew 1 encouraging him to not be afraid of Mary’s pregnancy and move ahead with their plans to wed)
- Warnings (such as Pharoah’s dreams in Genesis 41 warning him to store up food to prepare for a coming famine)
- Helping people who in need (such as Paul’s dream in Acts 16 urging him to go to Macedonia, where people needed to hear the gospel)
Both the Old Testament and New Testament describe a variety of prophetic dreams. Those dreams sometimes provide information about individual people (like Abimelech’s dream about Sarah in Genesis 20 and Pontius Pilate’s wife’s dream about Jesus in Matthew 27) and sometimes give information about future historical events (such as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 and Daniel’s dream in Daniel 7).
Prophetic dreams often contain a call to action – to make a decision or to say or do something that God is leading people to do. The dream that Joseph had in Matthew 2 to return home to Nazareth from Egypt by a different route than the one he had planned (in order to prevent Herod from murdering Jesus) called for him to make a decision in response. The dream that Solomon had in 1 Kings 3 called for him to speak up in response to God’s question in the dream: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5). The dream that Paul had in Acts 16 challenged him to take action right away to help someone.
Does God Still Give Prophetic Dreams?
God does still give prophetic dreams to people. Both when you’re awake and when you’re asleep, God constantly communicates with you, using whatever methods are best to reach you. You can be especially receptive to hearing from God while you’re sleeping. That’s because sleep relaxes your mind, so you’re less likely to allow stress or fear to prevent you from tuning into what God is saying. While you’re dreaming, your mind is more open to receiving new information and inspiration than you are while you’re awake.
Job 33:14-15 explains that God speaks often through dreams, even when we don’t recognize that is happening: “For God does speak – now one way, now another – though no one perceives it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they slumber in their beds,”. Indirectly, the Holy Spirit speaks to us while we sleep as part of the process of renewing our minds. All of our dreams help us deal with our thoughts and feelings in ways that support our minds’ renewal.
Sometimes God speaks to us directly through our dreams, by sending us direct messages – and sometimes those messages contain a prophecy about the future. The Bible declares in Acts 2:17 that the Holy Spirit speaks to us today through dreams: “‘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.’”
When God sends prophetic dreams, there is always an important purpose for doing so. In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I tell the story of how a friend of mine experienced a prophetic dream that ended up saving my unborn daughter’s life. God warned my friend about a situation that my doctor and I were unaware of, and my friend woke up with a strong urge to pray about it. As she prayed during the night about her dream, the Holy Spirit helped her interpret it. She called me in the morning to tell me the message, and later that day my doctor confirmed it. If my friend had lacked the faith to respond or the courage to tell me, my daughter could have been stillborn. Thankfully, she responded to God’s call, and my daughter was born healthy. More than 20 years later, I still praise God for speaking through that dream!
God may indeed choose to send you messages through your dreams about something important in the future when that method of communication can get your attention the best. Be open to what prophetic messages God may want to send you through your dreams!
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Messages God Gives Through Prophetic Dreams
Here are some types of messages that God may convey through prophetic dreams:
Wisdom for positive change: God may send you a message that to help you better understand your own attitudes and behaviors and how they’re affecting your life, so you can see what’s healthy and what needs to change. Or God may send a message that highlights your interests and talents, to help you figure out how best to pursue what God wants you to pursue.
Healing: God may remind you of the hope that he offers you to heal from whatever past pain you’ve suffered. God may give you a vision of how your life can become better in the future if you place your trust in God and follow where he leads you.
Creative ideas: God may send you creative ideas that are designed to inspire you, motivate you to pursue new adventures and projects, and help you solve problems to improve the future.
Warning: If you or someone you know is facing a dangerous situation but is unaware of it, God may send you a warning message about it through your dreams and show you what steps you can take for future preparation and protection.
Encouragement: When God communicates encouraging messages to you in dreams, those messages will either build your confidence in who you are or help you discover and fulfill the potential for what you can do in the future. God may urge you to take the risks necessary to pursue something that he wants you to do, assuring you that you’ll have his help available to you every step of the way.
How Can We Trust Prophetic Dreams?
We can’t place our trust in dreams themselves, but we can reliably trust God to give us the wisdom we need to understand prophetic dreams.
If you’re wondering about a prophetic dream, seek the Holy Spirit’s help to accurately interpret that dream. Jesus says in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit is a counselor who will teach people all things. No message is too difficult for the Holy Spirit to help you understand. As 1 Corinthians 2:10,12 points out: “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. … What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
The Bible cautions us to beware of false prophetic messages from dreams. In Jeremiah 23:25-27, God laments: “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship.”
If God sends you a message through a prophetic dream, he will clearly explain its meaning to you when you ask him to help you understand it. Real messages from God won’t be confusing. As 1 Corinthians 14:33 declares: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…”.
Carefully reflect on, and pray about, any prophetic dreams you have. It can be helpful to record whatever details you remember about a dream, soon after you wake up from it. You can write down words and draw images. Then, you can study what you’ve recorded and go from there. Learn more about any symbols (such as colors, shapes, and numbers). Consider the possible connections between the content of your dream and your waking life. What do you think God is trying to tell you through your dream? Pray about your thoughts and ask the Holy Spirit to clarify the message for you.
You can seek discernment from God by praying about any dream you have. Don’t rely on your feelings, or on any type of formula, to interpret your dreams. Instead, ask the Holy Spirit (your counselor) to guide you to the correct interpretation.
Always keep in mind that any message that is actually from God will align with the truth that God has already revealed in scripture. Also, God only gives prophetic messages to accomplish good purposes. 1 Corinthians 14:3 assures us: “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.”
Don’t forget to thank God for sending you a dream message, and for helping you understand it. After God gave the prophet Daniel the wisdom to interpret a dream, Daniel responded with praise: “Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: ‘Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” (Daniel 2:20-22).
The bottom line for interpreting prophetic dreams is to seek God’s wisdom about them. God is the source of wisdom – regarding dreams, and everything else in life. Only God can tell you what your dreams truly mean. So, you should place your trust in God rather than in any dream, and go to God with your dream questions. Be open to hearing from God while you’re asleep as well as while you’re awake. When you’re paying attention at night as well as during the day, you may experience the wonder of a prophetic dream!
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