What Does the Bible Say About Dreams and Visions?

Last week I received a message from a victory group leader asking what the Bible teaches about dreams and visions. We know about people in the Bible having significant dreams (like Joseph and Daniel) but does God still reveal things to us that way?

One of the fascinating books I read more than a year ago was Nabeel Qureshi’s “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” where he recounted his dream of standing outside a narrow door and not being able to get into a wedding feast; a dream he later realized was taken straight out of the parable of Jesus in Luke 12:22-29. Qureshi was a Muslim who had been wrestling with the decision to accept Christ but was held back by so much intellectual doubting. Seeing a series of three dreams was his final confirmation of the divinity of Jesus. Today, Qureshi is one of the itinerary speakers at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. (Edit: In September 16, 2017, Nabeel Qureshi died of stomach cancer).

I don’t have a fully worked out understanding of the Biblical teaching of dreams but as far as I understand the Bible, I believe the following:

1) God sometimes speaks through dreams and visions. In fact, he speaks to us through anything but the final test if the message really comes from God is the Scriptures. God would never say anything to us that contradicts the Bible. If your dream doesn’t line up with the Bible, ditch it.

2) Dreams and visions sometimes serve as precursors or signposts of the gospel message. Most of the stories I heard and read about people coming to Jesus through dreams were led to someone who eventually taught them the gospel, much like what happened to Cornelius in Acts 10. In this account, Cornelius saw an angel but the angel didn’t preach to him. Instead, he pointed Cornelius towards Peter who later preached the gospel to his entire household. A God-given dream is usually a nudge in the right direction, an incomplete revelation that needs unpacking through gospel preaching and discipleship in a local church.

The way I understand it, Jesus reveals himself to Muslims through dreams because Islam theology teaches that the true God speaks to them through dreams and visions. This expectation for Allah’s revelation is God’s way of bypassing the walls of the Islam religion.

3) Dreams and visions might confirm what God has already been telling you all along. It doesn’t always work that way but sometimes it does. A word of caution though: You don’t make a life decision because of a dream. You make a life decision because you have given it enough thought, because it makes sense, and because people you trust can see that your decision is sound and wise.

4) It is not healthy to be overly fascinated with dreams and visions. God gave us a normal way of understanding our world, our call, and our Christian lives. It’s called common sense. Not just any common sense but a common sense that is informed and shaped by the Word of God. I think it is an insult to God’s gift of intelligence to forego the use of our intellect because we would rather chase after something subjective and mystical.

5) I believe some of the reasons why God rarely speaks to us through dreams are because: (a) we already have the full revelation of the gospel in Christ; (b) we have our Bibles to guide us; and (c) we already have the Holy Spirit inside us.

Few days after I received this question, my friend informed me that the dream was actually about love life. So much for all my theologizing!

It was all good though. We had a good laugh about it and finally concluded that good decisions are usually a combination of Biblical convictions, common sense, favorable circumstances, general agreement among friends and family who are spiritually mature, and maybe even dreams and visions if God graciously gives them to us.

As for the issues of the heart, well, I believe that decisions about love life are best made when you are awake.