Does God speak through dreams today?

Written on: October 31, 2023

Article by: Roy Davison

What is a dream?

Everyone has dreams. Dreaming is when your mind creates pictures and stories while you are asleep. Dogs and cats also dream. The brain generates a series of images, sounds, and sensations that seem like real happenings.

The Bible mentions various kinds of dreams: regular dreams, prophetic dreams and fake dreams.

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Solomon says: “For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words” (Ecclesiastes 5:3).

In the Old Testament, God spoke at times to patriarchs, kings and prophets through dreams.

Examples of this are King Abimelech (Genesis 20:3, 6), Jacob (Genesis 28:12; 31:10, 11), Laban (Genesis 31:24), Joseph (Genesis 37:5–11, 19, 20) and Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1-8). God appeared in dreams to King Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-15), to Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1-9; 4:5-19ff) and to Daniel (Daniel 7:1).

Many miracles occurred in connection with the birth of Christ which included God speaking in dreams to Joseph (Matthew 1:20; 2:13, 19-22; Luke 2:39 ) and the wise men (Matthew 2:12, 13). These things occurred before the church was established.

In the Christian age, God speaks to us through Christ: “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, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1, 2).

Dreams are sometimes told by false prophets.

God warns us not to be deceived by them. “‘I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbour, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:25–28). [See also Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Jeremiah 29:8, 9 and Zechariah 10:2.]

Also in the New Testament, certain false teachers are called dreamers: “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8).

The gift of prophecy in the early church included dreams.

Dreams are one of the ways God gave messages to prophets: “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6-8).

The gospel was revealed by Jesus during His ministry on earth and – after He returned to the Father – through His apostles and prophets by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Paul writes about the mystery of Christ “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). He also says that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

The apostles themselves could of course prophesy (Revelation 10:11). Prophecy by others was dependent on the apostles.

Paul speaks of “the gift of prophecy” in 1 Corinthians 13:2. Like the other special gifts of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prophecy was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands.

After some disciples of John the Baptist were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, we read: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).

Since this ability was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, the gift of prophecy and the attendant prophetic dreams cannot exist in the church today.

After the New Testament was completed, prophecy was no longer needed. The apostles in the first century were commanded by God to make the gospel known to all nations through Scripture. Paul writes that the mystery of the gospel is “now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith” (Romans 16:26).

The Scriptures now provide us with all the revelation that we need: “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 Timothy 3:16–17).

Thus, God does not speak through dreams today.

One young man claims that God has revealed things to him in dreams. He bases this claim on Peter’s quotation from Joel after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost:

“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘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.

And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days;

And they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:16-18).

He claims that the last part of verse 17, “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams” applies to him today. In Hebrew poetry the same idea is repeated using different words. Thus the second part of the verse (Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams) is an extension of the first part (Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy).

Prophetic dreams are thus dependant on the gift of prophecy. Someone who claims that God speaks to him in dreams today is claiming that he has the gift of prophecy.

This is not possible because the gift of prophecy was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands. And the apostles are no longer with us.

The “apostles’ doctrine” now comes to us through Scripture. The dreaming of dreams prophesied by Joel applies only to apostolic times, and even in the first century, not all Christians prophesied (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:6).

The holy apostles and prophets in the first century, with Christ as cornerstone, are the foundation of the church. They have made the gospel known to all nations through inspired Scripture.

Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled by specific events during the early days of the church. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the signs mentioned were unique to that time period and were related to laying the foundation of the church before the written New Testament was completed.

God does not speak through dreams today. The prophetic Scriptures are the way prophecy comes to us. “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19–21). Amen.