Summary: A look at the reliability of Dreams versus the written Word of God
I have personally had dreams that were quite profound and insightful on a supernatural level. I have also had some pretty crazy dreams where I was watching from the sidelines as an observer to see where it was going. All that was missing was a bag of popcorn!
I am a strong believer that God occasionally use dreams to circumvent rational logic, reason or judgment of someone who is consciously resistant mentally to what He is trying to spiritually communicate to them because the mind is more open and receptive during sleep than through natural causes which God speaks and operates.
The Bible does tell us that God revealed His will to select people through the rare occurrence of dreams or visions before the completion of the New Testament, such as Joseph and Mary, who was told in a dream to immediately flee Israel to Egypt. The Apostle Paul was told to travel to Greece and minister to the Macedonians in a dream (Gen 37:5-10; 1 Kings 3:5-15; Dan, 2 and 7; Matt 1:20; 2:13,19; Acts 10:9-16; 16:9).
God can speak to anyone today in dreams or visions because He is God and can do whatever He wants, whenever, and however He wants. However, God has revealed His will, and His character and nature, through His written Word, the Bible, which is His primary way to communicate with us, and not through private interpretations (Heb 1:1-2; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Tim 3:15-17, 4:2-4; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
In spite of all the ‘supernatural’ hoopla over dreams, there is no clear scientific theory that definitively explains why people have them. Because they tend to use symbols as their language, they don’t always mean what they seem to at first. For the most part, they are an association of ideas caused by possible psychological conditions such stress and fear, or even a physical disorder of some kind.
Dreams are a natural outgrowth of stimuli received through “much activity” during waking hours such as one’s thoughts, what they hear others say, as well as from material they read or watch, or from a food or beverage they consume before falling asleep (Eccl 5:3).
All foods and beverages are chemical compounds that elicit emotional and physiological reactions. What a person eats or drinks, and when they eat or drink, can affect their dreams because of the physiological effects of eating certain types of food, or a large meal, as well as drinking various kinds of liquid before sleeping. The temperature of the body and metabolism can increase, as well as gastric discomfort or distress when eating something that doesn’t sit well, which can disrupt and upset the initial stages of sleep.
The Born-Again Christian needs to carefully check any ‘dream’ or vision’ they receive with Scripture to be sure it is from the Lord. They must guard their heart against the information that comes into their minds (Phil 4:8). Anything which contradicts Scripture and the character and nature of God is not from Him. The heart of human beings is deceitful and desperately wicked, so it is capable of being deceived because of the temporary and imaginary nature of dreams (Jer 23:25-27; Ps 126:1; Isa 29:8; 1 Jn 4:1).
It must be pointed out that dreams were a frequent means of deception and idolatry (Deut 13:1-3; Zech 10:2). The Bible places ‘revelation’ from dreams below prophecy and even divination (Num 12:6; Joel 2:28; 1 Sam 28:6).
Overall, the Bible attaches relatively little religious significance and importance to dreams. As stated previously, there are a few references to communication from God through dreams. One time in the New Testament a quotation is used for illustrative purposes only (Acts 2:127) and another six references are found in the book of Matthew concerning warnings and announcements (Matt 1:20; 2:12-13,19,22; 27:19). However, nowhere does Jesus refer to dreams.
God implores the Born-Again Christian to rely exclusively on the Scriptures that were “once for all delivered to the saints” and not to rely on dreams as do the ungodly (Jude 3-16). Before Jesus willingly died on the Cross to be the final sacrifice for the sins of the world, “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1-3 ESV). This is why there is a New Testament.
The Bible is the absolute perfect revelation of Jesus Christ and the only infallible, inerrant, inspired source of knowledge about Him and the only reliable source to hear His voice. There is NO mystery left hidden in the Bible that is of any significant spiritual importance to the Born-Again Christian. Those have been revealed in Jesus, who is all we need (Eph 1:9; 3:3-9; 5:32, 6:19; Col 1:26,27; 2;2; 4:3).