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A Theological Look at Spiritual Dreams

By Bryan Carraway
Guest Writer Dreams are one of the most overlooked forms of communication used by God. The Word of God consistently reveals God as speaking to people through this universally experienced and mysterious phenomenon. The Lord uses dreams for a variety of purposes:

- to warn global leaders of future events. (Gen. 41:1-8)
- to provide revelation to His prophets Num. (12:6)
- to warn us against certain decisions. (Matt. 27:17-19)
- to reveal His divine destiny for our lives. (Gen. 37:5-8)
- to answer our recent petitions and prayers. (I Kings 3:5-15)

Acts 2:17 confirms that God continues to use dreams as a means of communication in the New Testament age. Since this is the case the question must be asked, "Are all dreams from God?" Are we to wake up every morning looking for some hidden, spiritual message in our dreams? The answer is no.

Dreaming is a natural physiological function that is common to every human being and is necessary for maintaining adequate mental and emotional health. If one is deprived of REM sleep (the sleep cycle at which dreaming occurs) for a substantial length of time the person can incur serious medical and mental complications. So while most of our dreams are just the result of natural human functioning, every Christian needs to be aware that sometimes God uses this natural function in a supernatural way.

When to know a dream is from God, i.e. a "spiritual dream," and when it's just a natural dream can sometimes be hard to discern. No doubt it's a very subjective experience but most of us have had the feeling that some dreams are not like the rest. The images linger, the emotions are strongly affected, and we get this feeling that what we just experienced is a message from above; a message that needs explanation. When we do receive a spiritual dream they are usually one of three types.

1. Warning Dream - This type is meant to warn us about some future attack from the enemy or some difficult time ahead. This could be a warning about a friend, spouse, or child. These are given so that we might pray and intercede for the individual. Often times the calamity is not decreed from above and through prayer the hardship can be avoided. Example from Scripture: Abimelech warned not to sleep with Abraham's wife. (Gen. 20:3-7)

2. Confirmation Dream - This dream simply confirms that what you believe to be true about a person or situation is in fact true. This type of dream is used to give you the emotional impetus to act on what you already know to be true but have thus far been unresponsive towards. Example from Scripture: Pilate's wife's dream confirming that her husband should release Jesus from custody. (Matt. 27:17-19)

3. Prophetic Dream - A dream which reveals the future concerning yourself, another individual, a nation, etc. Example from Scripture: As a 17 year old, Joseph dreamt about his future place of honor and high governmental service. (Gen. 37: 5-8)

Spiritual dreams are God's sole prerogative, so we must always be ready. When they do come we need to quickly record them and then begin to pray for the interpretation. Spiritual dreams when heeded, keep us in the will of God and remind us that we do indeed serve a God who knows us intimately and who takes the time to speak to His children individually for our own safety and care.

Related articles:

Guidelines for Successfully Interpreting Spiritual Dreams

Interpreting Common Symbols in Spiritual Dreams

More Discipleship Resources on the Spiritual Life Channel

CBN Teaching Sheets

Bryan Carraway holds a master's degree in Practical Theology from Regent University. Over the last ten years he has served churches in Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia. He ministers in churches today via his teaching/preaching ministry with his message of sanctification and the fuller life in Christ.

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