I love dreams. I love the contours of God’s voice, the creativity He puts into His relationship with each of us. I enjoy interpreting dreams because every dream from God is an expression of His heart to the dreamer, and I get to see one more facet of His love.
In my last post, I addressed this question: “How do I know if my dream is from God?” I explained that dreams can come from one of three sources—the enemy, the human soul or God—and I mentioned some of the ways we can recognize dreams from the enemy and dreams from the soul. In this post I want to explore how to recognize dreams from God.
Dreams, being a form of revelation, hold to the same rules as revelation. To be from God, a dream needs to do the following:
- Agree with Scripture;
- Carry the character of God and fit His personality;
- Be truthful, accurate;
- Bear good fruit;
- Point to Jesus; and
- Be full of color and light.
The Scripture Test
A dream from God will not violate what He has already revealed in Scripture. Like other forms of revelation, dreams are never intended to create doctrine or establish a rule of faith or practice for all people at all times—only the Bible can do such a thing.
It isn’t a dream from God if it tells you to steal, commit adultery, murder or violate any other moral commandment. Similarly, it isn’t a dream from God if it tells you not to pray, that another god is God, that you shouldn’t go to church or share your faith, that you shouldn’t serve or give. Dreams from God will not change Scripture.
The Character Test
One of the keys to recognizing God’s voice is knowing the difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction is about activity, whereas condemnation is about identity. Conviction is specific, whereas condemnation is vague. Conviction cuts to the heart but leaves hope for change, while condemnation strips us of hope for change. When we are dealing with condemnation, we begin to believe the weight of our sin is so great that we will never be free.
The Holy Spirit shows us where we aren’t living out the new life we have in Christ, so we can repent and come back to His heart. The enemy, meanwhile, slanders and accuses us until we are left hopeless and feeling defeated. When the Holy Spirit brings conviction, we can repent and turn back to His ways, and the weight of the conviction lifts. But when the enemy is condemning us, it doesn’t matter how much we repent—it won’t feel like enough.
A dream that leaves you feeling hopeless, like you will never be good enough for God or like you’ve done something that forever marks you and holds you back from His purpose for you—that is not a dream from God. It is from the enemy. Rebuke such dreams and don’t believe them. Instead, ask God to show you His heart for you.
The Accuracy Test
The word revelation refers to something you didn’t know previously. Just because a “revelation” is accurate doesn’t mean it is from God (see Matthew 7:21–23). At the same time, God doesn’t lie, so all revelation from Him will be accurate.
Understanding the difference between what is from God and what is not from God will keep us from chasing after deceptive signs, wonders and even deceptive revelation. Though the accuracy test is important when determining if a dream is from God, the other tests need to be employed as well.
The Fruit Test
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). A dream from God will never direct you to hate someone, become fearful, lose control or accuse another person.
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
— James 3:14–17
The Jesus Test
In Deuteronomy 13 and 18, God gives keys to recognizing true and false revelation. When discerning the source of a dream, this is the main question we should ask: “Does the revelation point us to a god other than Jesus?” The spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10), which means that all true revelation will lead us to Him.
Did the dream tempt you to put your trust in anything other than Jesus? Or did it cause your heart to fall more in love with Him?
The Color Test
God is light, and around His throne is a rainbow of color. The Bible often uses light versus dark and day versus night as metaphors for good and evil, God and satan. A dream from God will often be full of color and bright light.
The Main Thing to Remember
The foundation of discerning your dreams is relationship. As you draw closer to God, He will reveal what is from Him and what is not. If you approach dreams and supernatural experiences from a position of relationship, you will find yourself walking on safe, steady ground. Your Father is good and He wants to speak to you. When you ask Him for bread, He won’t give you a stone (Luke 11:11–13).
John E. Thomas is the president of Streams Ministries and the co-author of The Art of Praying the Scriptures: A Fresh Look at Lectio Divina with John Paul Jackson. Teaching on prophetic ministry, dream interpretation and the Kingdom of God, he travels internationally and works to help restore the awe of God to a world that has lost its wonder. John and his wife, Dawna, live outside of Dallas, Texas.
To learn more about dreams and dream interpretation, check out Dream Foundations as well as other resources from John E. Thomas and John Paul Jackson at www.streamsministries.com.