And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. - Acts 2:17-21 HCSB

Sometimes, God speaks directly to us in dreams.[1][2] However, in a day when beautiful coffee table books on angels and dreams are a dime a dozen, we need to remember that these divine dreams were not always very pleasant. Often, they were positively nightmarish.[3] At one time, this was a highly sought-out form of divine communication and those who lost this gift were greatly troubled.

The prophetic dreamers were not always able to interpret their dreams. Sometimes, they needed interpretive help. Gideon required the help of a friend to interpret his dream.[4] Nebuchadnezzar demanded the aid of magicians, astrologers, but ultimately he needed Daniel (a renowned and much honored interpreter of dreams and visions[5]) to interpret his dream and tell him what to do with it.[6]

Joseph interpreted the dreams of the chief baker, the chief cupbearer and the pharaoh.[7] Interestingly, however, Joseph did not interpret his own dreams in his youth. His brothers and father jumped to the right conclusion but he did not. Either his abilities to interpret were not yet fully developed, or he had an innate sense of modesty and did not want to publicly claim the obvious conclusion that he would rule.[8]

The servants of God were given visions and dreams for specific reasons and/or to convey special messages. For example, Jesus gave a vision of His future Kingdom on earth to Peter, James, and John, no doubt as a witness and encouragement both to them and to us.[9]

These dreams were never lightly given. Apparently, Hashem only uses this form of communication when the circumstances warrant. Even then, such revelations were ordinarily (but not always according to Acts 2:17-18 and Joel 2:28) directed to His ministers and specially chosen servants such as Jacob, Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel.[10]

We must keep in mind that false prophets also claim to dream in the name of the Lord in order to lead us astray.[11]Religious leaders often are tempted to give their message divine authority by claiming to see visions, have prophetic dreams, or to speak to angels. Those who do so falsely can be sure that the Lord God will visit their iniquity upon them.[12]

This leaves us with the responsibility to “test the spirits” and make sure that the person who is sharing what they claim to be a prophetic dream is a valid prophet of God. Their lives must not be characterized by sin or rebellion. Their message must not contradict the Word of God. It must not lead people away from the God of the Bible to worship some other lesser god, or their own vain imaginings and feelings.[13]

[1] Genesis 28:10-13; 37:5-11; 41:15-16; Judges 7:13-15

[2] 1 Samuel 28:6,15

[3] Job 4:12-21

[4] Judges 7:13-15

[5] Daniel 1:17; 5:12-17

[6] Daniel 2:24-28

[7] Genesis 40:5-8; 41:15-16

[8] Genesis 37:5-11

[9] Matthew 17:1-9

[10] Amos 3:7

[11] Jeremiah 23:25-32; 27:9-10; 28:9-10

[12] Zechariah 10:2-3

[13] Deuteronomy 13:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22