Dreams- Part 1: Purposes, Sources, and Types of Dreams

3 Reasons for Dreams

In our exploration of dreams, we must gain understanding of God’s purposes for dreams. They are gift from God, first and foremost, and when stewarded with God, they can bring great blessing. In the book of Job, a man named Elihu describes God’s important purposes in dreams and visions (Job 33:14-18). The first reason being, “He seals their instruction.” The Hebrew word here for instruction means “an admonition or some form of direction.” This passage was written before the entire Bible was compiled and the written Word of God was placed in the hands of common people. Some people who refuse to believe that God still speaks today— directly to or through His people— would suggest that God no longer uses visions and dreams because we have the Bible, and these were ancient and outdated visionary methods called “pre-New Testament methods.” These people should consider the many specific aspects of our lives in which we need direct confirmation or instruction from the Lord. Here are some examples:

  • Does the Bible specifically tell you the person you should marry?
  • Does the Bible reveal which life occupation you should pursue?
  • Does the Bible reveal the place you should live?
  • Does the Bible reveal where you should work?

The Bible is God’s inspired Word and gives us promises, prophecies, and practical teachings that help us to live on earth as we walk with God. There are, however, many practical aspects in life that must be discovered through intercessory prayer or through a word of wisdom or knowledge (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-10), including a word of instruction that may be revealed from the Holy Spirit in a dream or vision. For example, Pharaoh’s dream opened a window of opportunity for Joseph to initiate God’s plan of provision during a time of famine. It is important also to note that this dream of Pharaoh (a pagan ruler, nonetheless) took Joseph from a prison to a palace (Genesis 41). We are also told that in the last days God will speak through visions and dreams (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).

The second purpose of a dream from God is to turn people from their own direction to the direction of God. It says this in Job 33:17, “That He may withdraw man from his purpose and cut off pride from him [disgusting him with his own disappointing self-sufficiency].” We know that pride comes before a fall, so God wants to correct our direction to keep us from falling. A dream can reveal God’s will or plan for you. Think about when the wise men came to Jerusalem inquiring of King Herod to tell them where the prophecies said the Messiah would be born. Herod had the scribes and chief priests look up the location, and they found it to be the town of Bethlehem. But that town was full of people, and they needed a precise location to find the child. Herod asked them to tell him once they found the Messiah. After the wise men found Jesus, they were going to return to Jerusalem to share the news with the King. But the Lord instructed them in a dream not to return, but to depart another way (Matthew 2:12). The Lord interrupted their pre-arranged plans and provided protection for them through an alternative route. He changed their direction. Later, an angel warned Joseph in a dream to get out of Bethlehem with Jesus and Mary, as King Herod was sending soldiers to kill all children under the age of two (Matthew 2:13).

A third reason for dreams is to keep our souls from the “pit” and from the “sword” (Job 33:18). When you hear the word pit, you may assume the writer is alluding to the literal pit of eternal hell, but the Hebrew word used here is shachath, which means “a trap or pit set to for a person’s destruction, specifically something a person would fall into or be caught in.” And the word sword that is used in the passage of Job as a metaphor for war, fighting, and violent destruction. Ecclesiastes 7:17 asks, “why should you die before your time?” I believe that a person can die prematurely. The reason being because people still have free will, and can operate outside of God’s will in this life, thus falling into their own destruction. This can occur through illegal drug addiction, alcoholism, gang-related violence, accidents, etc. Obedience to a literal or spiritual vision from the Lord is important and can serve as a warning of danger or an instruction to follow. If you look at the book of Acts, you will see continual activity of the Holy Spirit bringing instruction and warning to the apostles. They knew the voice of the Holy Spirit, who guided them to interpret dreams and visions, and they followed His voice. Paul said, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19). It becomes clear to us that obedience brings the positive outcome in all instances. So, we must protect our connection with Holy Spirit in order to properly discern dreams and visions. The Bible clearly teaches us that visions and dreams from the Lord are heavenly visitations to give instructions, warnings, and direction. However, God is not the only source of dreams.

Sources of Dream Transmission

God is a Creator of dreams, which are His way to communicate directly with us concerning our destiny as well as the destinies of our families, our nation, and our world. Many people, particularly in the Western culture, never recognize God speaking to them in this way because they have been conditioned by a skeptical and sophisticated society to discount the language of dreams. Unfortunately, this includes many believers. But God is awakening His people to the efficacy of dreams and dream language. He wants us to become good stewards of the dreams He has given us so that we can walk according to His will.

So, if we are dream receivers, can there be more than one transmitter? For us, dream transmission originates from any one of the following three sources. The first is God Himself. The Lord speaks to all individuals, believers, and unbelievers alike. He is the primary source of dreams, and it’s important that we not categorize dreams into a box with “new age” theology. God designed dreams, not man, and He is the Master Dream Weaver.

The second transmitter or source of dreams is natural man. Natural or “soulish” dreams and vision are produced by the natural processes of our mind, will and emotions. Dreaming is a normal part of human brain function when in a deep sleep state. Sometimes if we are not careful, we can confuse a natural dream with a dream from God. This is especially dangerous when the dream is presented to others as being of divine origin. Scripture cautions us against making this mistake.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the [false] prophets who prophesy to you.
They are teaching you worthless things and are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own mind and imagination
And not [truth] from the mouth of the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:16

There is unfortunately a third source of dream transmission, and it originates in the realm of demonic darkness. False and occultic dreams fall into this category. These are dreams that are demonically inspired, deceitfully crafted by evil agents of darkness. We see this false revelation in the book of Acts. In chapter 16, there is a girl who has a python spirit of divination. All her revelations were transmitted to her by demons and not God. Believers can have dreams sourced by demonic forces, and so that is why it is important to exercise discernment to properly identify the sources of our dreams. Believers should not feel ashamed when they have a demonically sourced dream, but there are ways in which we can protect ourselves against these dreams at night. And we will explore that in a later post.

Three Types of Dreams in the Bible

In the Bible, prophecy and dreams were to be tested in the same way and, according to scripture, we find that prophecy and dreams were treated equally.

If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make Myself known to him in a vision and speak to him in a dream.

Numbers 12:6

King Saul complained that God would not speak to him or answer him “by dream or Urim or by the prophets” (1 Samuel 28:6). By this, we can see that these were normal ways people heard from God during that time. According to the Hebrew translation, Urim means “light,” and it was the name of the priestly device for obtaining oracles. On the high priest’s ephod lay a breastpiece – a pouch inlaid with 12 precious stones engraved with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel – that held the Urim. By means of the Urim, the priest inquired of Yahweh on behalf of a ruler or king. For believers today, Jesus is our High Priest, and He is the light of the world. To take it one step further, He lives within the believer, and so then they become a light to the world. The Holy Spirit now illuminates prophetic words, visions, and dreams to the children of God. There is no longer a need for a Urim to receive words form the Lord.

The first type of dream we find in the Bible is a simple message dream. We see Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, understanding the dreams concerning both Mary and King Herod. There was no real need for interpretation. These kinds of dreams are direct, to the point, and self-interpreted.

The second type of dream is the simple symbolic dream. This kind of dream isn’t as direct because of the symbols within in. Oftentimes the symbolism is clear enough that the dreamer and others can understand it without any complicated interpretation. In Genesis 37, Joseph has a dream about the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him, and it was clearly understood by his brothers and father. Jacob berates Joseph when he hears his second dream: “Are we to come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to you?” They understood the symbology.

The third type of dream is the complex symbolic dream. This type of dream needs interpretative skill from someone who has unusual ability in the gift of interpretation or someone who knows how to seek God to find revelation. This dream happens to Pharaoh, and Joseph interprets his dream. It is also found in Daniel 2 and 4, when Nebuchadnezzar had dreams that puzzled him.

We are in a season where the Lord is “reordering our day.” Did you know that according to God, the day begins at sunset? That is why the Sabbath began at night. The Holy Spirit wants to restore the power of the night watch in the Church. I believe there are many prophetic dreamers that are being awakened by Holy Spirit in this hour. It’s time for us, as God’s sons and daughters, to walk in the day and possess our inheritance. If we are going to do that, we must learn how to rule in the night. There is a sword of revelation to build the Church for the future and unlock the Kingdom of God. Are you ready to rule at night with Christ? Make sure you subscribe to my blog so you can get notified when a new post is published. This is the first of five posts on dreams. The next post will be about dream elements, including settings, people, smells, songs, numbers, etc.


Goll, James W. Dream Language: The Prophetic Power of Dreams, Revelations, and the Spirit of Wisdom. Destiny Image, 2006.

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