Many people who have experienced a spiritual dream may write
off the event as some type of weird result of eating too much pizza before
retiring for the night. Some believers even have the attitude, “Well, if God
wants to show me something, He can just show me!”
This brings up a good point:
Why can’t the Lord just show you what is going to happen without using all the
strange symbolism often accompanying a spiritual dream? I believe I have found
an answer to that question.
First, most people dream throughout
the night. In dreams we often are with friends or family and others we know—perhaps
on a journey, in a church service or on vacation, and it’s just a normal dream.
Then one night you have a dream that is quite different from the others. In
this dream you see dark clouds slowly crawling in the sky toward your house. As
you approach the door, there is a large snake lying in the entrance, looking
for a way to get in. You see a sword and attack the serpent until he is dead,
and then you enter.
When you wake up, you know this was
not a normal dream. You realize that in the Bible a serpent is Satan (or an
enemy), and the door is the entrance to your home. A sword in Scripture is the
“word of God” (Heb. 4:12), and you took a sword (the Word) to attack an enemy
trying to get into your home! Thus, the symbolism was interpreted by using the Bible,
and the dream is a warning of someone or something trying to get through the
entrance of your home. You will need to fight it by the spoken Word of God!
The point is, without the symbolism
it would be difficult to know if your dreams were just dreams or a dream from
God. One example is Pharaoh’s dream, as recorded in Genesis 41:17-32. He saw
seven good cows and seven lean cows and seven good ears of corn and seven bad
ears of corn near the Nile River.
The interpretation is clear—a lack
of rain was coming that would lead to a famine. Grain was planted on a yearly
cycle, thus seven stalks is a seven-year cycle. Joseph understood this to be a
famine with a seven-year cycle. The symbolism troubled Pharaoh and caused him
to search out a man capable of the interpretation. Had it been just a simple
dream, Pharaoh’s own wise men could have revealed the meaning, and Joseph would
had stayed in prison!
times it may be challenging to the average believer to know if a dream is
natural or spiritual, several important guidelines will determine this
difference. First, many natural, or “carnal,” dreams have no
particular order and jump from scene to scene, person to person or circumstance
to circumstance. On the other hand, a spiritual dream usually has some form of
order or progression to it. A spiritual dream also will have symbolism, which
was also used in both the Old Testament and New Testament.
Biblical Symbols and Patterns
In the principles of biblical interpretation there is what
is termed the “law of first mention.” This hermeneutical principle states that
the first mention of an object, number, color or symbol in Scripture sets the
pattern for it throughout the Bible.
Let’s begin with certain biblical
The number 4 appears in Genesis
when God created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day (see Gen. 1:16-19).
Afterward, it is mentioned when Moses wrote that four rivers encompassed the
Garden of Eden (see Gen. 2:10). We later discover there are four directions on
the earth: north, south, east and west. Thus, from the onset of Scripture, the
number four is an earthly number.
Man was created on the sixth day,
and the number 6 has always been considered in biblical numbers as the number
of man or mankind.
The number 7 is alluded to in Genesis 2. When God
completed His creative work, “He rested on the seventh day” (Gen.
2:2). This imagery of the number 7 alludes to a cycle of rest, completion
Another number commonly found in
the Bible is 40, which has represented a period of testing.
Meanings of Colors and Animals
When Moses was building the tabernacle in the wilderness, God instructed him to
use purple, blue, red and white dyed fabrics. Without entering into a detailed
study of the fabrics of the tabernacle, blue is heavenly, purple is royalty,
red is redemption and white is righteousness.
When it comes to metals, three are
mentioned frequently in the Scriptures: gold, silver and brass. Gold is the
most precious, representing deity. Gold never tarnishes, never needs cleaning,
is eternal (never-aging). Silver is a precious metal that represents
The first created creature that
became prominent in the Bible was the serpent, which was “more cunning than any
beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1).
Notice that the Bible does not use a term such as reptile or slithering
thing but places the serpent with the “beast of the field.” Today when we
think of a beast in a field, we picture a bull, a cow or other large animal
that roams in the field. However, the serpent was more than a skinny snake. He
was subtle or crafty and was also able to communicate in some manner with Adam
and Eve. Because a serpent initiated the first deception, the fallen angel,
Lucifer, called the devil and Satan, became a picture of a deceiving serpent.
One of the most commonly mentioned
animals in Scripture is the lamb. The word lamb or verses using the word
lamb first appear in Genesis 22, where Abraham predicted that God would
“provide for Himself the lamb” (Gen. 22:8).
However, the main story of a lamb
that connects this precious creature with Christ is the Passover narrative
recorded in Exodus 12. A perfect pet lamb was chosen from the flock. Its blood
was sprinkled on the left, right and top posts of the outer door of each Hebrew
home, forming an invisible hedge that restrained the destroying angel from
taking the firstborn Hebrew. The entire lamb was then roasted, and all its
parts were eaten by the family before they departed from bondage for their new
homeland. This was a symbol not just of an exodus but also of a redemption from
bondage and slavery. It was a preview of a coming event—when Christ would
appear as the “Lamb of God” to take away the sins of the world (see John 1:29).
The Bible uses other
symbolism that is often found in a spiritual dream. For example, it speaks of
wheat and tares. The wheat alludes to the good seed that produces children of
the kingdom. The tares are the bad seed that produces the children of the devil
(see Matt. 13).
There are certain animals
that I call the “odd flock.” They are the sheep, goat and pig—each representing
a different type of believer.
The sheep always refers to
believers or individuals who faithfully follow the shepherd. Goats are part of
the flocks in the Middle East, but they are separated from the sheep, as they
can become difficult to get along with at times. A goat can allude to someone
in the flock who has a negative attitude or refuses to obey the instructions of
a shepherd. The pig is considered a very unclean animal in Judaism, and
religious Jews will not eat any form of pork. In 2 Peter 2:20-22, a pig is a
metaphor used to describe a backslider, or someone who returns to their old,
Often the Holy Spirit is
symbolized as a dove—and for good reason when we compare a natural dove to the
characteristics of the Holy Spirit. One variety of doves is pure white, which
represents the purity of the Holy Spirit. A dove is an affectionate bird that
expresses its emotions through cooing. It is also a gentle creature, a perfect
imagery of the gentleness and affection of the Holy Spirit.
When a dove is attacked,
it does not retaliate but simply cries in distress. As believers who are filled
with the Holy Spirit, we are instructed never to retaliate against our enemies.
The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us in prayer with “groanings” (Rom. 8:26).
In Jesus’ parables, the
field where the harvest grain is maturing is symbolic of the world itself.
Water is symbolic of the Holy Spirit when He is manifesting within the life of a
believer, as indicated when Christ compared the infilling of the Spirit to
someone with living water flowing from their innermost being (John 7:38).
God can use dreams to
speak to us. When a believer experiences a spiritual dream in which the meaning
veiled with symbolism, the dream can be understood by using the Scriptures to
interpret the symbolism.
About the Author: Perry Stoneis an evangelist and prophetic teacher. He is also a best-selling author whose books include Secrets From Beyond the Grave, Purging
Your House, Pruning Your Family Tree and the recent How to
Interpret Dreams and Visions, from which this teaching is taken. Visit his ministry online at voe.org.