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Ask A Pastor: Does God speak to us through dreams?


Does God still speak to us on earth through the use of dreams?


First, we need to be very cautious with this topic as there has been a dangerous obsession with dreams and visions in our time. The example of Alex Malarkey, “The Boy who Came back from Heaven,” (see wikipedia) is a warning to us.  We should be thankful for Alex’s honesty!  Many visions are also proven to be false when they do not reliably predict the future. The Word of God does not treat misleading dreams lightly! (Deut. 13:5) In the time of Jeremiah, false dreamers claimed to have seen encouraging things when God’s true message for His people was far more challenging. (Jeremiah 29:8) Be careful, this is dangerous ground!

Second, it has never been ordinary for God to reveal himself through dreams.  Throughout the thousands of years that the Bible covers, there are only a handful of people that received visions in a few short time periods.  The focus of God “speaking to us” is now Jesus Christ, who is the “be-all-and-end-all” of revelation.  Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  His Word is complete and needs no additions. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If you would like God to speak to you: read your Bible, listen to the preached Word, study, and pray!

Third, dreams usually have simple and reasonable explanations.  In his commentary on Daniel 2:2, John Calvin wrote the following about dreams over 400 years ago:

We know dreams to arise from different causes; as, for instance, from our daily thoughts. If I have meditated on anything during the daytime, something occurs to me at night in a dream; because the mind is not completely buried in slumber, but retains some seed of intelligence, although it be suffocated. Experience also sufficiently teaches us how our daily thoughts recur during sleep, and hence the various affections of the mind and body produce many dreams. If anyone retires to bed in sorrow from either the death of a friend, or any loss, or through suffering any injury or adversity, his dreams will partake of the previous preparation of his mind. The body itself causes dreams, as we see in the case of those who suffer from fever; when thirst prevails, they imagine fountains, burnings, and similar fancies. We perceive also how intemperance disturbs men in their sleep; for drunken men start and dream in their sleep, as if in a state of frenzy. As there are many natural causes for dreams, it would be quite out of character to be seeking for divine agency or fixed reason in them all.

Calvin had the same explanation for most dreams as many modern scientists would!  To put it simply, your dreams often have as much to do with what you had for dinner last night as anything else. If you have a dream, think back to your thoughts or experiences over the past few days.  What have you watched, read, listened to, or experienced? How were you feeling?

Fourth, we should still be cautious not to dismiss that a dream may be used by the Lord.  A bad dream may be a real sign of a guilty conscience. (Matthew 27:19) Such a dream could lead to repentance or crying out in prayer, and that should not be dismissed as an insignificant experience. Throughout the Middle East, we also hear of Muslims converted, at least partly, through dreams.  They often recount seeing a light and knowing they should leave Islam behind and follow Christ.  This may be because they have already heard the gospel, or have heard of others having the same dream, and so have a “normal” dream based on their thoughts. Yet it may also be that the Lord knows that they need much comfort and strengthening in terrifying circumstances.  I would be dismissive of many dreams in our current culture, but reluctant to judge dreams that convict of sin, or lead a sinner to Christ, or even which comfort a true believer who is in hard circumstances.  In the end, however, even if such dreams are genuinely helpful, they do not add to God’s revelation.  They would lead to a Christ-centered, fruitful, and Bible-based faith.  They will focus one more fully on the Word, rather than distract from the Word.


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