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Towards A Biblical Theology Of Dreams

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Close Encounters Of The God Kind

Towards A Biblical Theology Of Dreams

The whole world seems to be mesmerized with close encounters with aliens.  Accounts of flying saucers and alien abductions abound.  Whether you believe these accounts or not, they are becoming far too common place to simply ignore.  So, as I thought about the theme of “Encounters With God,” I felt impressed to use the subject of “Alien Encounters” as a launching pad for our biblical discussion of “Encounters with God.”  So, we are presently involved in a series of messages entitled:  “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”

Whether you believe in alien “Close Encounters” or not, you must admit that anyone who claims to have had one is changed forever!

Similarly, when a person has a close encounter with the Jehovah God, it is an experience that changes that person’s life forever.

In addition, when a person has a close encounter with a UFO, it cannot be totally explained.

Likewise, when a person truly encounters God, something happens that he/she cannot totally explain or rationalize.

        In the first three sermons in this series, we worked hard to develop a definition for a “Close Encounter Of The God Kind.”  That definition is

A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever; causing them to move and grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief.

In the fourth message in this series, we explored one of the major barriers to experiencing a close encounter with God.  We called that barrier:  “The Brain Barrier.”  “The Brain Barrier” is the American, Greek influenced tendency to separate and exalt the intellect above the emotions.

        We then began to explore twelve “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”

In the fifth message, we explored Abraham’s first encounter with God.

In the sixth message, we explored God’s encountering of Abraham through a test.

        In the last message, we explored God’s encountering of Jacob through a dream.  We discussed the fact that this church is built upon a dream and the Word of God.  I shared with you the initial dream from God and its ongoing interpretation and application to our church.  In so doing, we talked about developing a theology of experience that would include dreams.  Well, as I began to think about this and decided to take one sermon and take a stab at beginning to develop a theology of dreams.

(So, let’s begin to do just that.)

It is not enough to merely develop and believe theological propositions, and it is not enough to merely experience the person and power of the Holy Spirit without being able to ground those experiences in the Word of God.  We need a theology of experience that leaves room for legitimate, biblical experience on the basis of the experiences that are recorded in the narratives and history of the Word of God in the light of the didactic or teaching passages of the Word of God.

        At this point in my life, I don’t have the time or the ability to write a complete theology of experience, but God is beginning to lead me in that direction.  I am beginning to put this together in our doctrinal statement with respect to the filling or baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Let it suffice to say that a theology of experience will be a theology that will set a biblical framework or context for believers in Jesus Christ to experience the person and power of the Holy Spirit.  Whether we understand it or not and whether we believe it or not, experience plays a major role in the founding, history, and perpetuity of Christianity.

        Even though I can’t develop a complete theology of experience at this time, any theology of experience must include a theological perspective on dreams.  As I studied for our last message, I began to develop a biblical theology of dreams.  So, notice the title of this morning’s message, “Towards A Biblical Theology Of Dreams.”  This is not a complete or even good theology of dreams, it just my first step towards systematizing what the Bible has to say about dreams.

(So, let me present that to you this morning.)

        In the Bible, God spoke to and encountered people through dreams.  In the Bible, the words for dreams and visions are almost identical and are used interchangeably—the only difference being that visions may occur when one is awake, while dreams and visions occur when one is asleep.

I believe that God still speaks to and encounters people through dreams.  To be honest and thorough, I must make you aware of the fact that there are good biblical scholars who would disagree.  They are primarily cessationists, who believe that virtually all spiritual manifestations have ceased.  I believe that I have proved biblically, at least to my satisfaction, on Wednesday nights, that there is no biblical statement for that belief.

On the contrary, there are Scriptures that promise certain manifestations until Jesus comes.  Therefore, I believe that God still encounters people through dreams.  This being true, we need to use the Bible as our guide to dealing with dreams, and the Bible should be our guidebook on how to interpret dreams.  Don’t pick up a book on interpreting dreams from the bookstand at the grocery counter, while you are waiting to check out.  The Bible must be our guide and measuring stick of the things that we experience in our lives.

(With this minimum belief, let’s see what we can learn from the Bible.)

I.                  The Prominence Of Dreams In The Old Testament.

Dreams are a prominent part of the Old Testament.  I believe that is because the Old Testament has a great deal more narrative material than the New Testament.  When we come to the New Testament, the historical/narrative books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts do deal with dreams.  But, the majority of the New Testament books are didactic/teaching letters written by Paul.  Therefore dreams are not mentioned as often.

Be that as it may, we shall cover a Scripture that gives us a New Testament context for dreams.

(But first, let’s survey some of the places where dreams are prominent in the Old Testament.)

1.                 God warned Abimelech in a dream about Abraham’s wife.

Now we get no indication in the Bible that Abimelech served Jehovah God, but he knew something about God—or at least the God of Abraham—and God spoke to him about His servant!  That is interesting indeed.

2.      God showed Jacob mating techniques in a dream.

When Jacob was tending the flocks of his uncle Laban, who was cheating him, God showed Jacob—in a dream—how to mate the sheep so that they would be certain colors.  God, in a dream, spoke to Jacob about animal husbandry or the science of farming.

3.      God warned Laban in a dream about how he should speak to Jacob.

When Jacob slipped away from Laban to return to his homeland and Laban pursued them because his household gods had been stolen and he believed that all that Jacob had belonged to him, God warned Laban in a dream not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.

        It is interesting that in two early situations, in the Bible, God spoke to people in a dream about mistreating His servant!

4.      God-given dreams were a very big part of Joseph’s life.

1)      God revealed Joseph’s destiny to him through a dream.

You will remember that sharing that dream with his brothers and his father brought him great suffering.

2)      Joseph’s interpretation of dreams in prison provided a providential audience before Pharaoh.

3)      Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream led him to second in command in Egypt.

Not only did God speak to Joseph through dreams, but also Joseph had a special gift of interpreting dreams.  Although this specific gift is not mentioned in the New Testament, it may fall under the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, or prophecy.  The lists of gifts in the New Testament are ad hoc and not intended to be complete.

5.                 God strengthened Gideon through a dream.

God did not have enough faith to believe that God would deliver Israel from the torment of Midian by his hand, so God let him hear a dream the He had given to a Midianite about Midianites’ destruction and this strengthened Gideon.

        Once again, God even spoke to unbelievers.

6.                 Job said that God speaks to men through dreams.

Job said this in

Job 33:14-18, “Indeed God speaks once, Or twice, yet no one notices it.  In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men, While they slumber in their beds, Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction, That He may turn man aside from his conduct, And keep man from pride; He keeps back his soul from the pit, And his life from passing over into Sheol.”

That’s pretty plain!

7.      God approached Solomon through a dream offered to give him whatever he asked.

This is similar to the dream that God has given me concerning me preaching to many people, in a large building, and the Spirit of God visibly moving through the assembly!

8.      Dealing with dreams was also a big part of Daniel’s life.

1)      The Lord worked with Daniel and Nebuchadnezzer in a dream similar to the way He worked with Joseph and Pharaoh.

2)      Daniel also had a special gift for interpreting dreams.

Daniel 1:17, “And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.

Daniel 5:12, “This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar.  Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation.”

Sister Johnson has always received from God and has some insight into dreams and visions.

(Dreams are also found in the historical/narrative books of the New Testament.  I am not prepared to deal with the prophetic book of Revelation, which has all kinds of unusual happenings.)

9.      God let Joseph know it was okay to marry Mary through a dream.

You may not know this, but God told me to marry Cathy through a dream!

10.    God warned Joseph about Herod through a dream.

(Okay.  Let’s turn from our survey of the Bible to:)

II.     God Speaks To His Prophets Through Dreams.

1.      God said that dreams was one the ways that He would speak to His prophets.

Numbers 12:6, “He said, ‘Hear now My words:  If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.  I shall speak with him in a dream.’”

I believe there are still prophets, none who can add to the Bible, but still prophets.  And since God is still in the business of giving spiritual manifestations, it does not surprise me that God still works with people through dreams.

2.      God gives instructions on what a prophet is to do who has a dream from the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:28, “‘The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?’  declares the Lord.”

Here are important instructions about dreams and an important statement about dreams.  Prophets had two functions in the Bible:  1) to relate unprepared, inspired messages from God; and 2) to speak the Word of God.  If a prophet had a dream, He was to relate his dream, but the dream did not have the same authority as the Word of God!  The comparison of a dream to the Word of God is straw to grain.  Straw was the stalks of grain after the grain had been removed.

        Dreams are neither inspired nor infallible, in the same sense as the Bible!

3.                 In a dream, God showed Daniel the distant future.

The prophecy of Daniel is absolutely fascinating, and some of it is yet to be fulfilled.

(All right, let’s move on and consider the fact that:)

III.    Satan Also Uses Dreams Through False Prophets.

False prophets also rely upon dreams for their prophecy.

1.      Jeremiah reports how false prophets try to use dreams.

Jeremiah 23:25, “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’”

Jeremiah 29:8, “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.’”

2.      Ezekiel talks about the same thing.

Jeremiah 23:27, “Who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal?”

Jeremiah 23:32, “‘Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,’ declares the Lord, ‘and related them, and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,’ declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 29:8, “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.’”

3.      Zechariah also talks about the same thing.

Zechariah 10:2, “For the teraphim speak iniquity, And the diviners see lying visions, And tell false dreams; They comfort in vain.  Therefore the people wander like sheep, They are afflicted, because there is no shepherd.”

Think about the demonic impact upon people who call 1-900 numbers to have their dreams interpreted!

Also beware of the movies and their growing interest in dreams, i.e. from a satanic, demonic, horror perspective.

Satan also works directly through dreams.  Satan can attack you and try to get you off track through a dream.  I have experienced it before.

(While we are on this subject, let’s go on and touch on:)

IV.            Biblical Instructions On How To Deal With False Prophets.

God gave Israel instructions on what to do with false prophets who use dreams to cause them to sin in

Deuteronomy 13:1-5, “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.  But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk.  So you shall purge the evil from among you.

We are not under the Law and we do not go around killing people today, but we ought to kill them in our lives and in our hearts.  We ought to completely put away from us anything, including dreams that cause us to serve other gods!

(Okay.  Let’s move on to some additional information of dreams.)

V.     The Writer Of Ecclesiastes Gives Practical Wisdom Concerning Dreams.

1.      Many dreams bring emptiness.

Ecclesiastes 5:7, “For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness.  Rather, fear God.”

The writer of the Ecclesiastes, who was probably Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said that the most important thing in life is to fear God.  Too many dreams, like too many words, end up in emptiness.  He could be talking about dreams like aspirations to build one’s own business, get rich quick, etc.  Or he could be talking about dreams of the night.  Whichever, the statement is still true!

(The writer of the Ecclesiastes also gives us another piece of wisdom.)

2.      Dreams come from overwork.

Ecclesiastes 5:3, “For the dream comes through much effort, and the voice of a fool through many words.”

As an abundance of words shows a lack of intelligence, so an abundance of dreams shows preoccupation with one’s work.  I was taught, as a youngster, “Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are stupid, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!”  Some would do well to learn that today.

        On the other hand, who hasn’t experienced working very hard on something and then dreaming about it all night long?  When I was attending the University of Akron, I had a job in the Cartography Department.  And part of job was to plot itty-bitty dots and then make maps out of those dots.  Some nights, when I would go to bed, I would plot dots all night long!

(I stated earlier in this attempt to begin to systematize what the Bible has to say about dreams, that dreams are prophesied for our day.  First, let’s consider the fact that:)

VI.    Dreams Are Prophesied For The Last Days.

Joel prophesied in

Joel 2:28, “And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.”

We can see in Joel’s prophesy, that whatever time he was prophesying about, God would pour out His Spirit on all mankind, i.e. God would make no distinction between ethnicity, class, gender, age, etc.  God is saying that both men and women will prophesy, i.e. give unprepared, Spirit-inspired messages from God!  He said that old men would dream dreams and young men would see visions, i.e. visions of the night or revelations.

(But what time is Joel signifying by the statement, “And it will come about after this...”  Well, the Bible answers that question.  So, let’s consider the fact that:)

VII.   The Prophecy Of Dreams Is Being Fulfilled Now.

Joel’s prophecy is being fulfilled right now.  This can be seen by referring to:

Acts 2:16-17, “but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:  ‘and it shall be in the last days,’ God says,  ‘that i will pour forth of my spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.’”

Here Peter is speaking, and he is referring to what they had just seen and heard, in Jerusalem, on the Great Day of Pentecost.  They had seen visible tongues of fire sit on the heads of the 120, they had felt the rushing mighty wind, and they had heard them glorify God in Spirit-inspired, but unlearned languages.  Peter, with direct reference to what had just occurred says, “This is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel, and then he quotes Joel’s prophecy!”  Peter interprets the phrase “and shall come about after this” with the words “And it shall be in the last days.”  Peter is saying, “This the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel and these are the last days!

        Therefore, two thousand years later, we must be in the last of the last days, and that not only suggests that dreams and visions should be characteristic of our times, but increasing and we move towards the coming of Jesus Christ!

        So, prophecy, dreams, and visions, are a significant part of this dispensation of the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit upon all Mankind!

God wants to encounter us through dreams.  Let us ask God to help us discern his dreams from false dreams and natural dreams.

(Now is the day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, Now!)


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