Many people today are claiming to have visions and dreams, but how can we know if they’re from God. What are the dangers of trying to interpret these dreams and visions?
Most of us have probably heard about someone who had a dream or a “vision,” and considered it a direct message from God, and well it could be, but the danger in trying to interpret dreams is that dreams are so random and come in so many shapes and sizes that we can’t always assume that it’s a message from God. For one thing, there is another god in this world, and he’s a deceiver, always wanting to have us go ways that are contrary to the Word of God. The Apostle Paul understood that the enemy would try to subvert the gospel and wrote that, “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2nd Cor 4:3-4). It is possible that some have even seen angels, and what appears to them to be an “angel of light,” but we’ve must be very cautious about these experiences. The Apostle Paul said that, “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2nd Cor 11:4), so we must test all things according to the standard of the Word of God. A dream might be from God, and even a message from God, but God speaks most clearly and precisely in His Word, and not in dreams or visions. The Bible is the gold standard for all things.
The Bible speaks about a time when “it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” (Joel 2:28a), but what is that which was said to “come to pass afterward?” It was the restoration of the nation of Israel to their land, and that has not yet happened since it cannot be said of Israel today, that they “shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else” (see Joel 2:27). Certainly God has not yet poured out His Spirit upon all flesh. Just look at the evening news and you’ll see that, but that day is coming, but it will only be after Christ’s return, when Israel is restored, and the nation finally comes to know God as a whole. After that, Joel prophecies of Israel, “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28), but it is only after a time when God “will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Joel 2:30-31). Several of God’s people had dreams and visions, and even a few people who were not believers, like the Pharaoh and King Nebuchadnezzar, but even in these cases, it was not Joseph or Daniel that interpreted the dreams, but God Who interpreted the meanings and Who then He told Joseph and Daniel the meanings. As much as I have looked in the Bible, there is no one who that I could find that has a gift of interpretation without God giving them the interpretation. Even Daniel acknowledged that only God “gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness” (Dan2:21-22), including what we dream about in the darkness of night. It’s always wise to seek godly counsel or talk to other believers if you’ve had a dream or think you’ve had a vision from God. God is God, and He can use any means He desires to use, but we must make sure it’s not interpreted as something contrary to the will and to the Word of God…and this is not the normative way that God speaks to His people today (Heb 1:1-2).
God used a vision when trying to make the Apostle Peter understand that the gospel is now open to the Gentiles, but if you read about the account (Acts 10), you can tell it was from God and not man, because He heard God’s voice, but this was a very unique circumstance. It was a momentous event in time because God was now calling people from all nations and from all tongues on the earth. Before, the Jews, even after conversion, wanted very little do to with the Gentiles, but now the age of grace and not race had come. Now, there is no more Jew or Gentile (Gal 3:28-29), but all are one in Christ. God used extraordinary means to intervene in Peter’s life with extraordinarily good news for the Gentiles (us!). Salvation is now freely offered to all who would believe, regardless of who a person is. It’s not a matter of race anymore, but a matter of grace. Do I believe God can send us dreams or even a vision to try to tell us something? I cannot limit God. God is God and He can do as He pleases, but I would say it’s not the normal circumstance for believers, however for those who are not believers (at least yet), it may take a dream or vison to draw them to Christ. Many people who have no access to the Bible or the witness of another Christian have had dreams about Jesus, and the interesting thing is, some of these have been Muslims and Buddhists, and amazingly, they are 100% certain it is Jesus. How do they know that, I ask them, and they tell me, “I can’t explain it, but I just know it was Jesus?” I am convinced God is still using dreams to reach those who cannot be reached by others, but less so for those who already know Christ. Here on our website we have a “Contact Us” link, and we continually hear from Muslims (and people of other faiths) around the world wanting to know more about Jesus, and asking what their dream meant, and why would He be visiting them? It leaves a natural opening to present the gospel, and an opportunity to tell them that Jesus, and that He’s more than a prophet or teacher. He is the Son of God Who lived a sinless life, died an unjust death, and rose from the dead, but it’s not this that attracts these Muslims to Jesus….it is the utter sense of His love, and the light that they say “radiates around Him.”
Can God still use dreams and visions? As I said before, He is God, and I am not, so God will do whatever is necessary to reach someone with the gospel, or send someone a message that they might never get elsewhere, and for those who have no access to Christian witnesses or a Bible, Jesus might come to them in a dream or vision or possibly even a manifestation, but if you tell me that your dream and vision is God telling you to do something contrary to His Word, then I would tell you that your dream or vision is not from God, and if not from God, guess where it might be from (2nd Cor 4:3-4)? Jesus will move heaven and earth to reach one lost soul, and nothing in this world can prevent it, it’s just that we have to be careful about any dreams we might have or someone else has. There’s a demonic influence that would love to steer us wrong and off the path of obedience, so place all things against Scripture, and if it lines up with the Word of God, it could well be a message from God, and maybe He’s trying to tell you something that you might not understand by other means. He is God and He is unlimited…and we are decidedly not.