What About Biblical Cautions Concerning Dreams?
A joint article by Mark Virkler & Charity Virkler Kayembe
If the enemy can deceive us into believing that most of our dreams are not from God
we will ignore the wisdom, revelation, and counsel Heaven is downloading nightly.
From Mark Virkler
How can I believe dreams bring a reliable message from God when I have sexual dreams and terrifying dreams and nonsense dreams and “pizza dreams”? Well, that is a very good question. Let’s see if we can’t find an answer.
The weight of biblical evidence is that God gives the dream
The Bible says dreams contain reliable messages which are to be acted on: I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons (Ps. 16:7 NKJV). Over 50 dreams are discussed in Scripture and when people awoke they acted on these dreams. About 1/3 of the Bible records these stories, so that is hundreds of chapters in support of dreams. We explore these in depth in two of our books, Hearing God Through Your Dreams and Hear God Through Your Dreams Workbook. Please review them both for a complete discussion concerning this.
For an examination of four potential foundations of a sexual dream, you may review this blog. We also discuss this more in the Nightmares session of our DVD series (viewer discretion advised). And if we question whether God can speak through sexual symbolism, we need look no further than the book of Song of Solomon.
Terrifying dreams may come from God as illustrated in this verse: Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram… (Gen. 15:12).
False dreams come from others, evil people who are seeking to turn the hearts of God’s people away from God. Each of the following warnings illustrates this. You will see that every warning is about others’ dreams – not your own dreams – and in each case they are seeking to turn people from the living God (Jer. 14:14; 23:16,25-27,32; Ezek. 12:24; 13:1,7; Deut. 13:1-5; Jer. 27:9-11; Zech. 10:2).
Sin can open the door to demonic attack
“Now a word was secretly brought to me, and my ear received a whisper of it. In disquieting thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair on my body stood up. It stood still, but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes; there was silence; then I heard a voice saying: ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker? If He puts no trust in His servants, if He charges His angels with error, how much more those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, who are crushed before a moth? They are broken in pieces from morning till evening; they perish forever, with no one regarding. Does not their own excellence go away? They die, even without wisdom.’” (Job 4:11-21)
So that could probably be debated if the message came from God or from an evil spirit. It surely does contain negatives and would appear a bit accusative, so one could argue it is from the accuser.
In the chapter immediately preceding the above quote from Job, we find Job saying “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25). So fear was his sin and provided an open door for demonic attack.
We know sin opens the door for satan to have a legal right to attack us. As I poll people in my seminars they confirm that as they grow in their Christian life, demonic attack in their dreams diminishes. Some people totally tear down their spiritual walls of protection before they come to Christ by participating in drugs, immorality, the occult, etc. Others grow up in more protected Christian environments and accept the Lord at a very young age, before they have torn down their spiritual walls. The former group is likely to have more demonic interference in their early Christian life, and the latter group less.
In my own experience working with dreams I have had only one dream that God told me in my journaling, “Do not consider it. It is from satan.” It was a dream of intense fear, my body awoke frozen in place, and it took several minutes before I could even move. At that point in my life I had a demon of fear, which has since been cast out. Except for that one dream, the rest have been from God. So based on my four decades of dream work, I would guess that 99% of my dreams have come from God.
Only ONE passage in the Bible warns about paying attention to my own dreams!
Wow, hundreds of positive verses and chapters and ONLY one passage warning me to be cautious about listening to my dreams. This scripture needs to be examined as it sure seems to be in opposition to the general revealed will of God concerning dreams.
“For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words… For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness.” (Eccl. 5:3,7 NASB)
So what is this passage talking about? “Much effort” is involved in the process. The Hebrew word translated “much effort” shows up 8 times and in the KJV it is translated “travail” 6 of these 8 times. So do my nighttime dreams come through much effort and travail? I don’t think so. They effortlessly appear. No work, effort or travail required.
So what kind of a dream comes with much effort? May I propose accomplishing a “destiny dream”? For example, Abraham was given a destiny dream at age 75 that he would be the father of a multitude (Gen. 15:5-6). It took him until age 100 to see the beginning of this destiny dream fulfilled, which was accomplished through the birth of his son, Isaac (Gen. 21:1,5).
Yes, there was a lot of effort put into this birthing process, and some mistakes along the way (Gen. 16). So instead of suggesting this one passage negates and nullifies the other hundreds of positive verses on dreams in the Bible, we can understand that God did not change His mind, that He does speak through dreams, and that it is our waking life destiny dreams that come through much effort.
The Right Question – by Charity Kayembe
We know that in order to get the right answers, we must ask the right questions. During the Q&A portion of my dream workshops I am often asked: Are all dreams from God? I explain the Scriptures covered above, but then clarify and offer an even better question we could be asking. The real concern on most people’s hearts is: Are all my dreams from God? And that is much easier to answer.
Holy days bring holy nights. That means if you are saved and Spirit-filled, if you’ve been through deliverance and built up your walls of protection, if you are in the Word and filling your mind and heart with truth, and if you are living as holy as you know how to live – then YES, all of your dreams can come from God.
How do I know? Because all mine do.
I’ve been interpreting my dreams for over 30 years, and as I share in our book, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a dream that wasn’t from God. And if that is my experience, then it is definitely available as a potential and possibility for every other follower of Jesus as well. We know the character of God; He is a good, good Father. Does He stop guarding us when we’re most vulnerable? Can He not be trusted to protect us while we’re asleep?
What I’ve found is that the biggest reason people don’t believe that God is the Giver of their dreams is because they simply don’t understand the symbolic picture language He speaks at night. They get confused by their scary or sexual dream and mistakenly assume if dreams are valid, these dreams must be revealing they are being attacked by satan at best, or they are a lustful, carnal Christian at worst. If we can just dismiss these confusing dreams as “pizza dreams” and not from God, then we don’t need to pay attention to them. The enemy makes us feel ashamed of the dreams, so ignoring them becomes the easiest course of action.
Satan’s Sneaky Strategy
Most everyone believes God can speak through dreams, but they think it happens once in a lifetime or once every few years, and it’s clear and literal and they wake up with an immediate and perfect understanding of the dream’s message. That’s how they know they’ve heard from God.
I believe one of the most successful strategies satan has used against the Church in recent years is to deceive them into believing one simple lie. By and large, most Christians in our western culture believe the lie that most of their dreams don’t come from God. Sure, they concede He might use dreams occasionally, but we need to sift through our dreams, categorize them, and disregard most of them because they don’t make sense to us, so they must not be from Heaven.
This may appear to be a minor misunderstanding, but it is, in fact, huge. God declared in His Word that He speaks oftentimes through dreams. He speaks over and over again while we’re sleeping, but nobody even notices or pays attention:
“For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; He keeps them from pride. He protects them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death… Behold, God does all these oftentimes with men, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.” (Job 33:14-18, 29-30).
Satan doesn’t need to intercept the messages God is sending to us through our dreams; he just needs to convince us to ignore them. If the enemy can trick us into believing that the silly dreams and scary dreams and strange dreams aren’t from God, then he has successfully stolen the vast majority of revelation God is downloading to us nightly. Even though God is speaking through our dreams and we are receiving and remembering those dreams – if we don’t believe they are valuable – we will continue to discount, dishonor and entirely dismiss that revelation as not being worthy of our time to give consideration to.
So again, it doesn’t matter if unbelievers’ dreams are from God. In fact, we know scripturally that many of them are! People who did not worship Yahweh – for example, Abimelech, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Pilate’s wife – all received legitimate and accurate revelation from Heaven through their dreams. So if those who don’t follow God are able to hear from Him while they sleep, why wouldn’t we, as the Church, expect to hear from our heavenly Father nightly ourselves?
Silly and Sacred Simultaneously
We must be aware of the enemy’s tactics and not come into agreement with his lies. He whispers, “That dream was silly, that’s not from God. It was strange, it was sexual, it was scary – those dreams aren’t from Heaven. You better not tell anyone about it or else everyone will think you’re crazy.”
Well, a loaf of bread destroying a military encampment sounds pretty crazy to me. Good thing Gideon didn’t think so and write that off as a “pizza dream.” He would have never gone to war and defeated the Midianites, delivering God’s people from oppression. Instead of dismissing the dream because of its symbolic nature, he honored the translation of the picture language, acted on the interpreted revelation, and made the dream come true (Judges 7:9-22).
What about some sheaves of wheat bowing to you? Or the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to you (Gen. 37:6-10)? Oh my, that sounds like idolatry! Extremely strange, not to mention extraordinarily prideful. That’s obviously a soulish dream and not to be received. Good thing Joseph didn’t feel that way. What we might call “weird dreams,” God considers “the word of the Lord” (Ps. 105:19). And as ultimate confirmation, the prophetic revelation hidden in those odd dream symbols did come true (Gen. 43:26-28).
What about farm animal dreams? What if we saw some skinny cows devouring some fat cows? Sounds like a twisted version of the Nature Channel documentary I watched before bed; I’ll chalk that up to my tired brain recycling irrelevant leftovers from my day. Thankfully, Pharaoh had the intuitive wisdom to not ignore the picture language God was communicating to him through in the night. The people of Egypt, Israel, and all the surrounding countries would have perished in the upcoming famine if he hadn’t paid attention to his seemingly silly bovine dream (Gen. 41:1-57).
Or how about a little stone attacking a big statue and then transforming itself into a gigantic mountain that covers the entire planet? Nebuchadnezzar – the pagan ruler who besieged Jerusalem and took the Israelites captive – had this dream (Dan. 2:1-49). So besides his dream being metaphorical and unclear, it’s probably from satan since he’s an unbeliever, right? Well, thankfully even this evil king had enough humility to recognize an incredibly important principle: Just because the dream didn’t mean anything to him, didn’t make the dream meaningless. And even though it was full of symbols and strangeness, Daniel was able to translate the picture language and interpret God’s message to him through the dream.
Why All Bad Dreams Aren’t
But what about scary dreams? If I fall asleep and darkness and terror come upon me, surely God has nothing to do with that, does He? We always go back to Scripture for our answers and as we’ve already discussed, Abram received an extraordinary gift from God through his “bad” dream (Gen. 15:12-21). It was a dark and terrifying nightmare. Good thing Abram didn’t just dismiss that as demonic attack but instead honored the dream from Heaven.
The establishment of the Abrahamic covenant was God’s supernatural contract with the Jews, pledging His faithfulness as they were called and chosen by Him. God’s covenant with Abraham was the promise that Jesus would come one day, and in Him, all the world would be blessed (Gen. 18:18). The foundation of thousands of years of faith began with this spiritual agreement between our heavenly Father and Abraham, our father of faith. And it all happened in a dream.
While you may appreciate these biblical examples, what if they feel a bit foreign and far-removed from you? You still might be wondering how this is relevant to your life and what it means for your ostensibly disturbing and dark dreams. While we unpack all of these concepts much more thoroughly in our training resources, let me share a couple of contemporary examples from my own dream life and that of my students to give you a vision for how this actually works.
Soulish or Spiritual
Many believers mistakenly assume if there is an unpleasant emotion in the dream, then it is soulish and should be dismissed as “not from God.” However, what I have found most often is that if I feel anxiety or anger in my dream that is actually Holy Spirit highlighting that dark emotion, encouraging me to repent of it and surrender it to Him so He can replace it with His peace and love. If I (consciously or not) ignore or suppress my feelings during the day, I’ll end up having these types of dreams at night and they are simply a red flag from the Lord indicating some prayer work needs to be done. Therefore it is not a “soul” dream to disregard; it is an invitation from God to have a conversation with Him about these heart issues.
Similarly, when teaching on children’s dreams I often share the testimony of two boys who picked up on the spiritual atmosphere of the city they were staying in on a mission trip. The children both had violent and bloody nightmares two nights in a row, which might be dismissed as simply their own fears of being in an unfamiliar place, or most likely, a demonic attack.
However, the boys’ parents rightly honored the dreams as revelation from God, recognizing they were receiving a word of knowledge and flowing in the gift of distinguishing spirits. Children are naturally prophetic and sensitive to the supernatural realm and through their dreams they were accurately discerning the spiritual environment.
Upon conferring with the local pastor, it was discovered the massacres the boys witnessed in their dreams had, in fact, taken place on that land generations before. The mission group acted on these nightmares, understanding them to be “supernatural intelligence” for strategic prayer. The team did identificational repentance for the sins committed that were allowing demons to remain in that place, they received communion and took authority in Jesus’ name, and through their intercession and worship they cleansed and shifted the atmosphere.
Not surprisingly, the resulting outcome was peaceful dreams and no more nightmares. Again, what could have easily been dismissed as demonically sourced, I would see as accurate spiritual discernment. It was not an attack from the enemy, but a gift from God.
We see then how Holy Spirit speaks through all kinds of dreams. What might seem ridiculous is actually revelation. What might seem silly is simply symbolic, and is, in fact, a sacred message to us from Heaven.
What About You?
I encourage you to prayerfully consider what you believe. Have you been deceived into thinking that most of your dreams are not from God? If so, what kind of revelation and warnings and gifts and prophecies are you missing out on simply because you have believed a lie?
If you have been quick to categorize most of your dreams as silly or strange or soulish or satanic, dismissing the vast majority as meaningless and leaving only a handful of dreams for God to speak to you through, you can change your thinking today. Biblically speaking, “repentance” means to change your thinking, so right now I invite you to change your mind on what you’ve believed about dreams and pray this prayer with me from your heart:
Dear heavenly Father, You are so awesome. We thank You for Your love for us and that You always want to connect with us. Thank You so much for dreams and communicating to us through them.
If we have not honored dreams in the past, we repent for that. We change our thinking to line up with Your thinking and perspective, God. We know You spoke in the Bible through dreams over and over again and You want to do the same thing in our lives today (Job 33:14-18).
We purpose in our heart by Your grace to honor dreams and receive Your revelation through them. We know interpretations belong to You and we thank You for Your Spirit’s power that helps us remember our dreams and translate Your messages through them (Gen. 40:8; Jn. 14:26).
God, we see in Scripture how You not only spoke through dreams, but even spoke through nightmares (Gen. 15:12-14). We see how You warn and protect us through these dreams, so we choose to honor them too (Matt. 2:22). Thank You, Father, that You transform bad dreams into blessings. We purpose to hear from You through all of our dreams and act according to Your counsel.
Your Word says You give to Your beloved in our sleep (Ps. 127:2). Thank You that You declared You would reveal Yourself to us in visions, You promised You would speak to us in dreams (Num. 12:6). Thank You that Your Word says that You visit us in the night and give our hearts counsel and instruction while we sleep (Ps. 17:3; 16:7).
We pray that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened, that we would see You and hear You in our visions of the night (Eph. 1:18). Father God, thank You that the dream is certain and its interpretation sure, and that You will do whatever is necessary to get Your message though to us because You love us so much (Dan. 2:45).
Father, thank You for Your relentless pursuit of our hearts. Thank You that when we are asleep our hearts are awake to commune with You, our Beloved (Song of Solomon 5:2). Thank You for Your contingency plan of dreams. You are amazing, God. You thought of everything!
We bless You, we honor You and we love You, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.