Question: Does God sometimes send dreams to people to show them the way to go?
Answer: On one occasion while Israel was in the wilderness, Aaron and Miriam protested against Moses’ being God’s exclusive spokesman. God made it known that Moses was His spokesman (prophet), and He also indicated that He might use other prophets, to whom He would reveal His will by means of dreams (Num. 12:6).
On the other hand, Jeremiah the prophet spoke out against the lying prophets of his time, who sometimes used their dreams to deceive the people. To them God issued this challenge in Jeremiah 23:28-29: “The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the straw to the wheat? saith Jehovah. Is not my word like fire? saith Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”
It is clear that, while the Patriarchal System and the Law of Moses were in effect, God did use dreams to convey His will to people at times and that He condemned the lying dreams of the false prophets. In Hebrews. 1:1-2 we learn that God spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways (“at sundry times and in divers manners,” as the King James Version says). One of these ways was dreams. He used the dreams of Joseph’s fellow-prisoners and of the pharaoh in Egypt, asinterpreted by Joseph, to make known His plan for Jacob’s family and for Joseph. At a much later time, He used the dreams of two Babylonian kings, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, as they were explained by Daniel, to show forth His will for the kingdoms of men and the kingdom of the Lord. There should be no denying that God did use dreams at this time for the purpose of divine revelation, and that men sometimes claimed for their counterfeit dreams the status of truth, though they spoke falsely.
Joel 2:28-32 gives a picture of God’s using various means to reveal His will under the new covenant of Christ, among them being dreams. As this passage is quoted in Acts 2 by Peter on Pentecost and applied to the final covenant of the “last days,” we must conclude that revealing the will of the Lord then also was sometimes done by means of dreams and visions.
What does all of this teaching have to do with us today? Is God still using dreams to reveal His will? Let us recall that God used dreams to reveal His will. If God were still revealing that will, then He might employ dreams, if He willed to do so. Also remember that dreams called for someone to interpret; the miracle of the revelation by dream was accompanied by the miracle of interpretation. God would also have to provide the interpreter, lest the dream be confusing as to its message.
The New Testament teaches that God has finished the work of divine revelation. This can be seen in the following teaching:
- The Scriptures are completely adequate to equip the man of God for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
- The faith (message of faith) has been delivered once for all (Jude 3).
- The apostles of Christ expected to be guided into all truth by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13), thus certifying their message as truth and declaring any later messages and latter-day revelations as strong delusion or working or error (2 Thes. 2:11).
- Because the revealed message of the New Testament is complete, needing no addition or permitting no subtraction, no dream or vision could be useful or needed for the work of revelation. Any claim for such must be a false claim, like the lying dreams of Jeremiah 23. Many are the proponents of latter-day revelations, but the writing of the Apostle Paul classifies them as people who do not receive a love for truth but having pleasure in unrighteousness.
How then should we view those people claiming to have dreams, wondering if they be from God? Regardless of the persons involved, God’s Word teaches that He would no longer use dreams in that He no longer is revealing truth. Could it be possible that He uses the dreams that some have to remind them of the teaching of His Word or to stress some principle of truth? It could not be claimed that God sends the dreams, but people do often have dreams based on their waking thoughts and experience, including their thoughts about God and His will in relation to their own lives. To the extent that these waking thoughts are a part of their dreams, God might use them in His general providence, even as He uses people and experiences of life to impress lessons to encourage, warn, and comfort His people. Do dreams reveal truth today? No! Might they sometimes impress ideas and lessons already taught in the Holy Scriptures, as the examples of others do? Yes.
The unvarying truth of God’s word must remain inflexible, if it be truth. Like the other means used by the Lord to remind us and to encourage us, the waking thoughts found in our dreams must be measured by the standard of divine truth. Apart from it they are useless, at best, and dangerous, at worst.