Can we decipher information about our spirituality from our dreams?
A dream is a series of images, events or ideas that are present within the mind of a person while they are asleep. Sometimes God used dreams to reveal His will to people in Old Testament times (Num. 12:6). The fact that God also communicated to pagans through dreams means that dreams are not necessarily a measure of one’s spirituality (Gen. 20:3; 31:24; 40:8-19; Dan. 2:1-45; 4:5-33). Also, prophecies from dreams that are fulfilled are not necessarily from God (Deut. 13:1-5).
Two Greek words in the New Testament have been translated as “dream”. Firstly, “onar”, which means “a vision in sleep” (Vine) was used for a message from God either by an angel (Mt. 1:20; 2:13,19) or in some cases the messenger was not mentioned (Mt. 2:12,22; 27:19). Secondly, “enupnion”, which means “what appears in sleep” (Vine) was used to describe the dreams of old men (Acts 2:17). It was also used metaphorically in Jude 8 to describe the mind of apostates in the church—it may indicate that their thoughts were evil or out of touch with reality.
Dreams will accompany the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish people in their last days as a nation (Joel 2:28-29). This was quoted on the day of Pentecost, which was a partial fulfilment of this prophecy—the Holy Spirit indwelt the believers from this time (Acts 2:17-18). However, there is no other mention in scripture of dreams with respect to the New Testament church. So, there is no biblical precedent to use dreams to indicate a person’s spirituality today.
The bible often links the words “dreams” and “visions” (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17). The Greek word for “vision”, “horama”, means “an appearance or vision” (Vine). The following New Testament characters saw visions: Ananias (Acts 9:10); Paul (Acts 9:12; 16:9; 18:9); Cornelius (Acts 10:3-5) and Peter (Acts 10:17,19). These instances, which all involved the work of apostles in establishing the church, may have been the visions referred to in Acts 2:17.
Dreams occur in our subconscious mind, which is an unreliable measure of one’s spirituality. Today, God prefers to communicate to our conscious mind through the Bible (Heb. 12:1-2). Unless a dream or vision agrees completely with the Bible, it is not from God (Is. 8:19-20). So, God does not need to use dreams today as He can use the written Bible and the indwelling Holy Spirit to communicate His will to us.
We shouldn’t be obsessed with our dreams, as they may be related to the pressures of daily life (Eccl. 5:3). After all, surely our conscious thoughts and behavior are better indicators of our spirituality than our unconscious thoughts!
Written, April 2005