Does God still use dreams and visions to communicate to His people?
Does God give people certain abilities to interpret dreams? Joseph, the son of Jacob was a dreamer but these were not like most dreams which are often so obscure, random, and by chance that we can’t put any real stock in them, however Joseph had a dream sent from God and told his brothers about it, and said “we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf” (Gen 37:7) but “His brothers said to him, ‘Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words’” (Gen 37:8). These dreams would later come true (Gen 50), but most people think of Joseph as an interpreter of dreams, but was he? When Joseph was unfairly thrown into prison along with the cupbearer and baker (Gen 40:1-3), both the cupbearer and baker had dreams, so when Joseph saw that they were troubled (Gen 40:7), they told him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me” (Gen 40:8). Clearly, Joseph could not interpret them without God because “interpretations belong to God.” When I am asked what a person’s dream means, I tell them, “I cannot interpret dreams…no man can. Only God can.”
When the Apostle John had a vision, which is recorded in the Book of Revelation, it says “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea” (Rev 1:10-11). Many of God’s prophets had visions like Samuel the Prophet (1 Sam 3), Isaiah (Isaiah 1), Ezekiel (Ezk 11), Daniel (Dan 1), and several others, but the difference between the visions the prophets had and those of today is that the prophet’s visions were recorded in Scripture, so clearly they were visions sent from God. That’s why they are in His Word. As for the reports of people today who have visions, it’s impossible to verify their authenticity because our standard is the Bible. Joel does mention young men having dreams and visions and God pouring out His Spirit, and that happened on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and there were at least three occasions in the first century church where God sent a vision as a way of communicating with His people, but when I hear of people who have had “visions” I am very cautious. No vision can be from God and be contrary to His Word, besides, Scripture indicates a closed cannon (Heb 1:1-2; Jude 1:3) There are warnings about those who have supposed visions from God and the consequences are very serious and even in Jeremiah’s day, God says “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds” (Jer 14:14). Surely, it is still happening and they are not speaking in God’s name because He “did not send them.”
When we’re exposed to false teaching, how can we recognize a counterfeit? Do what the FBI does. They study one hundred dollar bills so much that in an instant, they can spot a phony. If they didn’t know the real thing well enough, they’d never know a counterfeit, so the more you’re exposed to the Word of God, the more you’ll sense something’s wrong when reading or hearing teaching or preaching. The Apostle Paul gives us advice on how to be able to discern truth from error and wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). The world will conform you like clay and you’ll hardened into whatever shape they mold you into, but if you are transformed by the renewal of your mind, which is a work of the Spirit of God, you can test whether something is God’s will or not and you can know what is acceptable and not acceptable. God’s Word and God’s Spirit protect against error by increasing your discernment over perfect teaching and man-made teaching. The same is true for people who claim to have had dreams or visions from God. I know God can do what God wants to do because He is God, but it seems that we already have all we need to know in the Bible. We don’t need any “PS” to what God has already spoken in these times past (Heb 11:2). If we are not satisfied with Genesis 1:1- to Revelation 22:21, then something’s wrong. In these pages is the very power of God (Rom 1:16; 1st Cor 1:18). There is no reason to take away or add to what has already been written. All Scripture is inspired by God but are visions and dreams? It’s impossible to tell in most cases.
More than once, someone has come up to me and said, “God spoke to me brother and He told me that you would/should/could…(fill in the blank)” to which I say, “Why would God not speak to me personally? In fact, He already has in His written Word.” Imagine you had a friend you wanted to send a message to but instead of calling them or emailing them, you asked someone else to do it for you. Why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call them yourself? I don’t’ see the first century church having such experiences. As for me, I would cling to what I know instead of trying to speculate what this or that dream or vision meant. Have you ever considered the possibility that the dream could come from the Enemy? Sometimes a dream can be mistaken for a vision and a vision for a dream, so I am putting my complete trust in the Word of God and nothing else. We have the inner Word (the Spirit) and the outer Word (the Bible) which points to the Living Word (Jesus Christ). What more could we possibly need. When someone who claims to have a dream, vision, or message sent from God, I would be very cautious.
Read more here: How Can I Know When God is Speaking to Me?
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.