Are dreams more than they first appear? Could they be a window into the spiritual realm? This article explores the idea from both biblical and personal perspectives.
In a previous article I made the suggestion that some of our dreams could be coming from a source other than ourselves, and being picked up by our spirits while we are asleep.
In this post I am developing this idea further, and considering whether some dreams could actually be a window into the supernatural realm. Could we actually be touching heaven? Could we be meeting real heavenly beings? Could we be connecting with our Creator as we sleep?
Dreams are all around
Have you noticed that dreams seem to feature a lot in novels and movies these days, and that often more significance is given to them than just the subconscious workings of the mind?
For example, in a film I have just watched on Netflix Called ‘The Old Guard’, the main characters (who are meant to be immortal), find and connect with each other through their dreams. I found a YouTube clip of the scene.
This is not a new concept. For example in Rick Riordan’s fantasy novels, dreams are frequently used to give the ‘demi-gods’ guidance. Sometimes we understand that they are witnessing real events or communicating with other people while they sleep. At times the characters seem to enter ‘higher’ dimensions in their dreams, whether for good or bad, and receive visitations from other people and beings.
‘That’s just fiction’, I hear you cry! Well you are right, it is fiction, but it seems feasible to me that God could be using arts and media to help us appreciate spiritual truths.
It’s in the bible…
Those of you who are Christians will know that dream scenarios similar to those I have just described are recorded in the bible – so maybe it’s not as far fetched as we might think!
I recently spent some time reading and reflecting on all the dreams I could find listed in the bible. (See Examples of dreams). I found more than twenty recorded dreams. Many of those were symbolic, but some did contain more literal-sounding aspects. For example, just from going through that list, I found the following supernatural events described as happening in dreams:
- The dreamer talked with God – 4 occurrences
- The dreamer saw what was happening in heaven – 2 occurrences
- The dream saw or talked with angelic beings – 6 occurrences
Let me share with you one of the most famous examples:
Jacob’s dream of a stairway
At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep.
As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”
I find that I have got so familiar with reading bible stories like this that it just seems like just a another fiction novel. I gloss over the enormity of the account: Jacob saw a stairway reaching into heaven. He saw angels, and he saw the Lord God himself, at the top of the ladder. God spoke to him directly! How awesome is that?
His response says it all: it was a reaction of awe and wonder. He certainly awoke with the impression that he had met God, and his life was changed. He called the place ‘Bethel’ which means ‘the house of God’. He rededicated his life to God and promised to give God a tenth of everything from then onwards. The promises that God had given to his grandfather Abraham had now became personal promises to this young man.
His response says it all: It was a reaction of awe and wonder.
We don’t know whether there was a ‘literal’ stairway as we understand it naturally, but I’m pretty sure there really was some sort of a ‘window’ open into heaven. Jacob really did encounter God and witness heavenly activity, and he was able to receive the intended message.
Somehow I find myself thinking, “That was then, but it’s different now!” I forget that Jacob was just a normal man who walked in relationship with God. If it could happen to him, then it could happen to any of us who are reading this today.
Many more examples
In the bible there seems to be a blurred line between what people saw when they were asleep and what they saw while awake. It seems to all be describing the same type of thing. Check out the following examples and compare them to Jacob’s dream:
- Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne. Isaiah 6
- Daniel saw the ‘Ancient of Days’ in the middle of a dream. Daniel 7:9-10
- John encountered a scene in heaven. Revelation 4.
I believe that dreams can contain spiritual experiences which are equally as valid as those we may have while awake.
This is a real bonus, because not many of us can boast of heavenly encounters or visions as a regular occurrence. But if it can happen in our dreams, well, that makes it MUCH more accessible to the average person! Maybe it is already happening. Maybe we just need to write our dreams down so we can actually remember what happened!
Real spiritual experiences?
Although I have never (yet!) experienced having a vision while praying, or been ‘caught up’ to heaven, I have experienced some of these types of things in my dreams. And I believe that they were real – in the sense that I was able to understand and engage with the spiritual realm.
I will write about some of my dream encounters with God and angels in future articles. Today I am going to focus on an example of a dream where I woke up feeling like I ‘touched heaven’. I had this dream around ten years ago.
Dream of the presence of God
In my dream I was in a corridor in a castle. There was a room where I knew the presence of God sometimes came. My children were running in and out of the room, and I tried to stop them because I knew that if the presence of God came while they were in there, they would die. A caretaker was there. He didn’t mind going in to the room.
Suddenly the presence of God came. It was like the roaring sound of a waterfall. I was outside the door and flung myself away in fear. It was so loud I was thrown down the corridor. I tried to slam the door to protect myself. There was a tiny gap left open, and a brilliant light came through the crack, hit my black hairband, and turned it an amber colour.
God was letting me know that He was going to reveal some wrong thinking that needed to be dealt with in my life. The dream revealed that I wasn’t ready to face it at that time, but it would happen in the future, and I would be transformed to be more like Him as a result.
Explaining the symbolism
The castle setting: This told me that the dream was about one or more strongholds in my life – unhelpful ways of thinking that I needed to be set free from.
The caretaker: I believe this was the Holy Spirit, who was helping me with the process.
The children: I understood these to be the same as the stronghold. The thinking that I didn’t want to be challenged – things that wouldn’t be able to stand in God’s presence, but I didn’t want to face.
The colour amber: When I researched this, I discovered that amber is the word used to describe the presence of the Lord in Ezekiel 1 in the bible. This word is often translated as ‘white’, so I had no idea it really meant amber! This was a wonderful confirmation for me that I really had glimpsed the glory of God through that crack in the door.
The roaring sound: Ezekiel 43:2 describes the voice of God like this: “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel… his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory.” This description of the sound is also used by John in the book of Revelation. Again, this was confirmation for me that it was actually the voice of God which I was hearing!
I was so overwhelmed that God would allow me to experience a snapshot of His presence like this, that I determined to cooperate with whatever process needed to happen in my life. Over the past ten years I have walked this out with God, and I have indeed been changed. The vision of the amber hairband reminds me that I am being transformed into God’s likeness and motivates me to keep submitting to the journey.
It’s all about relationship
Although all of this excites me, I do not pursue spiritual experiences for the sake of it. But I DO pursue relationship with my Creator God, and that in itself is a spiritual experience.
All of my adventures in dreams are based on the foundation of my relationship with Jesus Christ. He is always with me, helping me, guiding me and protecting me. This is so important when thinking about a subject like this. I love the excitement of spiritual encounters, but only because I know the One whom I am encountering, and I trust Him implicitly. He is my Father God who loves me.
My advice would be to take a similar attitude. Seek out a relationship with God. Make that your priority. As you get to know Him better, He will speak to you in many ways, dreams included. He will meet with you in marvellous encounters, just like He did with Jacob.
If you don’t know Him yet, you can start right now by asking Him to reveal Himself to you. Who knows, maybe He will come and meet with you in a dream?
I often wake up from a dream feeling as though I have encountered a higher reality, touched heaven even. And I think I probably have.
There is a song we used to sing in church called, ‘Touching heaven, changing earth’. If we are genuinely seeking to know God better, and desiring to walk with Him every day, then I think dreams can help us do just that.