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Dreams And Visions

A dream is a state of mind, in which images, thoughts or impressions pass through the mind of a person who is sleeping. A vision is a state of mind, in which images, thoughts or impressions pass through the mind of a person who is awake. The main difference between a dream and a vision is that dreams occur during sleep, whereas visions happen while fully awake.

Dreams and visions had a prominent place in the religious and historical writings of ancient peoples. In ancient times, dreams and visions, even those of pagan kings and pharaohs, were thought to convey significant messages from God (Gen. 41:1-36, Dan.4:4-5.). In the Bible, many of these dreams and visions have prophetic implications and are of national or global importance.

But God’s desire is still to speak to us plainly, face to face without going through dreams and visions:

Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, he said, "Listen to My words: "When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal Myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?" Numbers 12:5-8

Miriam thought that she was more superior and spiritual than Moses because she had also "heard from God", through probably dreams and visions (Num. 12:2). But God told her off. Moses saw God plainly, face to face, and not through dreams and visions! Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Num. 12:3). Dreams and visions can cause great pride. Remember young Joseph who boasted to his brothers and parents about his dreams. He landed in Egypt as a slave. Much later in the jail, he learnt his lessons. God then promoted him to become the prime minister of Egypt.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). If one does not have the Word of God or a particular verse, God may give a dream, a vision or an impression of an object or a word or a scenario so that he will be diligent to seek out the answers in His Word! No dreams and visions should be interpreted without having the Word of God as the basis.

Many true prophets of God, while prophesying to others, see visions of this disease or that disease, this problem or that problem. They then prophesy and proclaim the Word of the Lord for the persons, giving them the instructions to follow. Many claim to see angels. And angels are sent by God to announce good news (Gen. 18:9-10; Luke 1:13,30; 2:8-15); to warn of coming dangers (Gen. 18:16-19:29; Matt. 2:13), and also to destroy and execute judgment of evil (Gen. 19:13; 2 Sam. 24:16).

Elihu clearly stated that God speaks through dreams and visions for specific reasons and purposes:

For God does speak-- now one way, now another-- though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, He may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Job 33:14-18

Dreams and visions are not meant for private consumption and self-glorification. Like the spiritual gifts of God, having more dreams and visions do not imply that one is more holy than the others. More dreams and visions may, on the contrary, mean more warnings, more turning away from errors, more humbling to go, and more dangers ahead.

In a dream God warned Abimelech, the king of Gerar, not to touch Sarah, because she was Abraham's wife (Gen. 20:3). An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph the carpenter in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20). Joseph, through this dream, was warned not to divorce Mary.

Biblical dreams and visions bring supernatural insight and awareness. They are only profitable when God sends the revelation and interpretation to His servants, the prophets. Pharaoh dreamed but Joseph the Dreamer received the revelation from God, and interpreted the dreams. Without the proper interpretation and revelation, too many dreams may become nightmares and too many visions may cause blindness. Pharaoh dreamed but was deeply troubled till he got the revelation from Joseph. Saul, on his road to Damascus, saw a vision of the Lord in broad daylight. He was blinded till Ananias came to his rescue (Acts 9).

One of the purposes for dreams and visions is to give guidance and direction to God's servants as they are to foretell the future. And these dreams and visions may come in cycles or in a series like those of Joseph, Daniel, Ezekiel and John the Beloved Apostle. All of these need godly revelation, interpretation and wisdom to carry out the instructions. In each of these cases, the dreams and visions pertain to events of the future. God granted the ability to interpret these dreams to Joseph (Gen. 40:8; 41:12) and Daniel (Dan. 2:20-45). John’s visions at Patmos are still in the midst of unfolding! Joseph was also given the task to carry out the instructions of the dreams and their interpretations – in preparation of the 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine.

As dreams and visions are often associated with prophecies, they must be treated with great responsibility and accountability. Whenever God sent us dreams and visions, He had a purpose to be fulfilled. There is no place for hide and seek, trial and error. Many prophets carried the Word of the Lord by their own life examples. They are responsible and accountable. God counts them worthy to bear the message. The messengers became the message themselves, living epistles being read by all men. Dreams and visions call for accountability and responsibility.

Like false prophets who falsely claim to utter revelations that come from God, to foretell future events, or to have God's power to produce miracles, signs, and wonders, people with false dreams and visions must be recognized and rejected, even when their dreams and visions do come to pass:

If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, Who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. Deut 13:1-5

"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 fathers forgot My name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has My word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not My word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Therefore," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from Me. Yes," declares the LORD, "I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, 'The LORD declares.' Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams," declares the LORD. "They tell them and lead My people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least," declares the LORD. "When these people, or a prophet or a priest, ask you, 'What is the oracle of the LORD?' say to them, 'What oracle? I will forsake you, declares the LORD. 'If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, 'This is the oracle of the LORD,' I will punish that man and his household. This is what each of you keeps on saying to his friend or relative: 'What is the LORD's answer?' or 'What has the LORD spoken?' But you must not mention 'the oracle of the LORD' again, because every man's own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God. This is what you keep saying to a prophet: 'What is the LORD's answer to you?' or 'What has the LORD spoken?' Although you claim, 'This is the oracle of the LORD,' this is what the LORD says: You used the words, 'This is the oracle of the LORD,' even though I told you that you must not claim, 'This is the oracle of the LORD.' Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of My presence along with the city I gave to you and your fathers. I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace-- everlasting shame that will not be forgotten." Jeremiah 23:25-40

Always remember the third commandment: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name." (Exodus 20:7) Do not say the Lord this and the Lord that if He does not say this and that.

Some people think that they are so special that God gives them dreams and visions every day or every hour. They are only special if they have the revelation, interpretation and wisdom, through the Word of God, to unravel the mysteries. Personally, I think God’s special people are those stated in Psalm 1:2-3, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."

If God does send us a dream or a vision, let’s be diligent to carry out the instructions as it is being revealed and interpreted through the authority of the Word of God and the leadership of Holy Spirit. Seek God, and not dreams and visions. If they come, they come.

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams." (Acts 2:17). Young men seeing visions because without visions, young men will perish, wandering aimlessly. Without dreams, old men will die early having no desire or hope for living! I know of many Jews and Muslims coming to receive Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord through dreams and visions. Once or twice in a lifetime but not on a daily or monthly basis. Like a mission statement, dreams and visions should not change from day to day like a chameleon. We cannot tell people that our dream is to be a pastor on one day, and then a successful businessman on another. Our integrity and trustworthiness will be at stake.

We live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Faith in God and His Word, and not by having dreams and seeing visions! Preach His Word, and not your dreams and visions. Too many churches have ended chasing dreams and visions, and foregoing preaching the pure Word of God.

When dreams and visions contradicted the Word of God (even when they did come to pass), the ancients Jews stoned their false prophets and dreamers!

"Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again." Deut 13:10-11

One question in two: Does Jesus have dreams and visions? What about David – the man after God’s own heart?

Clue: Remember Moses.

Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary

Please also read:
A Moment In Time
Information Overload
Revelation Explained

A Vision Of Heaven