Why do we dream about events in advance?

Prophetic dreams and dreams that mirror real-life situations – and some reasons why we have them.

Have you ever dreamed something which then seemed to happen in real life?

Have you had a dream that mirrored events that happened later – but you’re not sure of its purpose? Maybe you feel like you should have done something about it?

This article explores why these things might happen – from a Christian perspective.

I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.

If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.

The prophetic nature of dreams

One of the many conversation threads on social media sites is about why we have dreams about events – which subsequently happen in real life.

This typically arises in one of two scenarios:

  1. A dream very obviously mirrors events that happen later- whether literally or symbolically.
  2. Something happens in real life that is literally very similar to elements in previous dreams.

I know of people who have had literal dreams of things that subsequently came to pass. This does happen – particularly to prophetic types. More commonly, real-life events happen which are similar to elements in previous dreams.

But most dreams are symbolic; they are like parables or illustrations that reflect situations and speak into them. They need to be connected to the real-life events that they portray. I find it common to be in the middle of a situation – then realise I accurately dreamed about that situation previously in a symbolic dream.

Most dreams are symbolic – and need to matched up with the real-life events they portray.

The prophetic nature of God

This is not surprising if you believe in the God of the bible – and believe that He still speaks today! The bible contains many accurate prophecies that subsequently came to pass – and some of those came in dreams. For example:

  • Jacob had a very literal dream about his future – which was fulfilled in Old Testament history (Genesis 28).
  • Daniel had symbolic dreams about future conquering empires – which then played out with astonishing detail in world history (Daniel 7).
  • Joseph, famously, had symbolic dreams about his own personal future – which were accurately fulfilled in his lifetime (Genesis 37).

So, then, the bible demonstrates that dreams can be prophetic.

The bible contains many prophecies that were subsequently fulfilled – and some of those came in dreams.

More on this theme…

Picture of beach sunrise, with text: I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying "My plan will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure. " Isaiah 46:9-10

Why does God give prophetic dreams?

Normally it is obvious why God gives a prophetic dream. Sometimes it is to give us hope, or to encourage us. Sometimes it contains guidance or wisdom for how to respond. All of them carry a call to pray and draw near to God. This is part of the beauty of dreams.

Oftentimes, in my own dreams, I did not understand the meaning of my dream until the events happened or started to unfold. With hindsight, when faced with a situation, I could see that the dream was accurately depicting the event in a symbolic way.

Usually, at that point, the dream became relevant, and I could understand the insight and guidance it contained.  I could then make use of that wisdom – and act accordingly.

The wisdom in a dream can become useful when the event it portrays starts to unfold.

But sometimes, the dream seemed to hold no special message or advice about the situation I was in. It contained no helpful insight or guidance: It was simply a pictorial representation that mirrored what subsequently happened. Many of my dreams were like that.

This made me question why God gave me the dream. Was I meant to do something about it?

Are we meant to do something?

Once I discovered that my dreams had accurately predicted a situation, I often found it frustrating! I thought that if only I had realised what the dream was about sooner, I might have avoided a difficult situation.

But mostly, despite much prayer, puzzling, and asking God about those dreams, I had no clue what they meant until the events happened. It wasn’t for lack of effort on my part, nor for lack of seeking God. If I was meant to understand them in advance I surely would have done.

So the purpose of those dreams did not seem to be to get me to pray for a different outcome or take avoiding action – although I do believe the time spent seeking God and thinking about the dream was an essential part of the process!

Time spent seeking God about a dream is valuable, and an essential part of the process.

This puzzled me for many years! Why would God show me something that was going to happen, seemingly without any reason except just to accurately predict it? Over the years I have pondered this question a great deal.

Picture of mountain sunrise, with text: The King asked "are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?". Daniel replied, "there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come."  Daniel 2:26-28

Reasons for dreaming things in advance

The first two points deal with dreams that seem to have no purpose except to accurately portray a future event – either symbolically or literally. These are:

  1. Reassurance that God knows.
  2. Building a personal faith record.

Points three and four deal with real-life events that, literally speaking, are very similar to elements in previous dreams. These are:

  1. Drawing attention to important dreams.
  2. Events as dream timing markers.

1. Reassurance that God knows

A number of years ago, a good friend of mine had a traumatic experience where she watched someone die right in front of her. A few nights before, she had a vivid dream which seemed to symbolically predict what happened – although she didn’t realise at the time; it just seemed like a crazy dream.

For a long time afterwards, she felt guilty: Should she have got up and prayed? Could she have prevented the accident if she had prayed more? Was that the point of the dream?

A few years later, during conversation, we were talking about the dream – and someone said, ‘God knew, and it was ok.’ Suddenly my friend knew with certainty that the dream was for that purpose!

God knew about the situation – and it’s OK!

The dream wasn’t pinning guilt on her, nor was it saying she should have prayed more. It was, simply, her Heavenly Father letting her know that even though it was a terrible thing to have happened, it would be alright. He knew about it – and it wasn’t going to foil His plans for their lives.

Nothing can happen that is so bad that God cannot redeem it. By letting us know that He already knew about a situation, even though we didn’t, we can more easily trust in His sovereign power, in the midst of it, to sort it out.

A prophetic dream helps us trust that God is in control.

In the above situation, the result was that my friend could then have peace, and trust in all the things we know to be true about God:

  • God was still in control.
  • He would help the family though the difficult times.
  • His purposes would still be fulfilled in their lives.
  • He would redeem the situation and bring good out of it.

That’s God’s character. So, when He lets us know that He saw a situation before it happened, we can receive that reassurance that things are still under control – even when it appears otherwise!

We already know this to be true from the bible, for example in Isaiah 46 below; but there is nothing like a personal communication from heaven to reassure us and remind us of this truth. God is kind like that.

For I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My plan will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure
.

Isaiah 46:9-10, NASB

So, if you find that you dreamed about a situation – particularly if it is one you are currently finding difficult – be reassured that God knew about it in advance – and it’s OK.

picture of person lying on a beach, with text: Reassurance; God knows and it's OK

2. Building a personal faith record

As we have already mentioned, Daniel had some dreams that predicted historical events very accurately. The dreams were so accurate that many scholars believe they must have been written after the events!

A lesson from archaeology about Daniel’s prophecies
One of the reasons Daniel is such a powerful book, is that the prophecies recorded in it were extremely accurate, down to specific details of rulers. This was so much so, that sceptics in modern times did not believe that it could have been written before the events.

Fortunately for us, archaeologists discovered a clay cylinder – which is now displayed in the British museum. This cylinder confirms that the book was written at the time of Daniel – so his dreams and visions are even more stunning to read!

If you are interested, you can read about it in the following article: A clay cylinder – and Daniel’s History by Jon Gleason at mindrenewers.com

I have no trouble believing that Daniel’s dreams were genuine, as l have seen the same process worked out in my own dream life.

I believe it is important to review old dreams and remember what God has said. As I have done this with thousands of my own dreams, I have been able to track countless examples where God accurately predicted situations that subsequently happened to me. I wrote about this in 7 things I’ve learnt about God through interpreting dreams.

When I see this, it causes faith to rise in me:

  • I Know from personal evidence that God in control.
  • I have come to trust Him implicitly for my life.
  • I have faith that the other things He speaks about will come to pass.
  • I am able to take steps of faith and obedience, as I have a track record to build on.

If you would like to do this with your own dreams, see How to organise your dreams so you can remember their messages, which also contains some good reasons to remember what God has said.

The Israelites often built piles of memorial stones when God did something incredible for them. These were monuments that they could look at and remember, for example when God parted the river Jordan to allow the Israelites to cross over (Joshua 4).

We can do the same with our dreams. Every dream that is accurately fulfilled is like another stone in our relationship with God, and another confirmation that God is speaking through our dreams.

Every fulfilled dream is like a testimony stone in our relationship with God.

If you find you have dreamed about situations that happen, store them up as your personal testimony stones with God; consider them as a personal track record. Remember that God is intimately involved in your life – and let your faith be lifted.

Picture of mountain cairn stones, with text: Building faith, your personal testimony

3. Drawing attention to important dreams

Recently, I was contacted by one of my readers – who was concerned about a dream they’d had:

They dreamed that their daughter had an accident – which led to them praying for protection for the daughter. But then, a friend of their daughter’s had a very similar accident in real life. The dreamer was then worried in case they had somehow made the accident happen through their prayers – or whether they should have done something.

This raised the question of why this might happen. Why did they dream something – and then a literally similar event happen in real life?

It is important to remember that dreams are normally symbolic, and the message contained in their original dream was unlikely to be literal. It was almost certainly reflecting an area of the dreamer’s own life, or something they were involved in.

Dreams are usually symbolic and reflect areas of our own life.

It was almost certainly not meant to produce fear, nor do I think it caused the friend to have an accident. That’s not the heart and character of the God I know who speaks through dreams.

I suggested to the dreamer that the dream didn’t make the event happen, but rather it was the other way round: As we have discussed in this article, God knew in advance what was going to happen. I believe He chose to give the dream close to the event, to draw attention to the message in the dream.

I believe God chose to give the dream close to the event – to draw attention to the dream message.

The accident was probably symbolising an area of the dreamer’s life that needed to change – and this change would be a very important and significant part of their journey.

The real-life accident was a real-life confirmation that this change would happen in the dreamer’s life. It could be soon, or sometime in the future. But the dreamer would never forget that dream – and would remember it when it became relevant.

If you can link a dream to a similar real-life event, it may mean that the message in the dream will be significant to your journey. Keep that dream stored up and seek God about it from time to time.

Picture of hand holding blue highlighter pen, with text: Highlighting: drawing attention to significant dreams

4. Events as dream timing markers

Sometimes, a real-life event that is literally similar to a dream element can be used as a timing marker for fulfilment of the dream message.

This could be some time after having a dream – and alert us that the message in the dream is about to become relevant. I wrote more about this in Keys for understanding the timing of dreams.

When Jesus talked to His disciples about events that would happen in the future, He gave them real-life signs to look out for:

  • Matthew 24:32-34, NASB “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near; so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”

The same can happen with our dreams: Something that happens in real life can bring to mind a dream we had – and can indicate that now is the time that the message in the dream was about.

In other words, the dream is now becoming relevant. There could even be a series of dreams about the same situation, which are now becoming relevant.

Now is the time that the dream was talking about.

Normally, when this happens we feel a ‘nudge’ from the Holy Spirit – which feel like a sudden certainty that this thing relates to our dream. The event could be very similar – or even identical – to an event in our dream.

I haven’t experienced events being used like that in my dreams, but fellow blogger Chris Michals gives some personal examples in his video: Prophetic Timing Indicators in Dreams.

If you can link a past dream to a current event, it may mean that the dream message is now becoming relevant to your life.

Picture of sand dune, with text: Timing marker; now is the time when the dream is relevant

Dreams are all about relationship

With all the above reasons, the most important thing to remember is that dreams are a relationship with a Living God.

Prophetic dreams are never just random – or given so we can appear clever. If God has sent a dream message about an event in advance, then there is a reason for Him doing so, and it should drive us deeper into relationship with Him.

Prophetic dreams should drive us deeper into relationship with God.

It is important to allow ALL our dreams to send us into God’s arms. For example:

  • If you don’t understand a dream, seek God diligently for the meaning, and then store it up until it becomes relevant.
  • If you think a dream might be predicting a future event, seek God about what your response should be.
  • If you are an intercessor, it could be a call to prayer.
  • If a dream unsettles you, seek God for peace, understanding, and reassurance.

But make sure to pray – and then trust it to God.

white background

Real dream example:

While writing this article, I had the following dream:

I dreamed a lady showed me a lot of pictures, but I couldn’t see how they linked to anything. I had the thought that I should put them up on display on the walls around the room, so they were constantly visible.

Recently I have had a lot of dreams which I can’t link to anything in my life. Consequently, I have become lazy about reviewing them regularly. This dream relates metaphorically to that scenario, with the pictures representing my dreams and the lady being the Holy Spirit.

This dream was advising me that it is important that I do review my dreams – and store them somewhere I can keep reminding myself of them (like displaying them on the wall). I feel confident that they are about future events, and they will become relevant at some point.

Picture of some pictures on a wall

Conclusion

We have seen how God knows everything, from the beginning to the end of time; He knows what is going to happen – and regularly communicates these things to His people. And we have seen that dreams are a common way He does so – both in the bible and to us today.

Sometimes, the only purpose of a dream seems to be to accurately portray a future event, either literally or symbolically: We have discussed some reasons why God gives prophetic dreams like this. For example, it could be:

  • To reassure us that He sees our situation and that it’s OK – however bad it might seem to us at the time.
  • To build faith, as we develop a personal track record of seeing our dream messages fulfilled.

Sometimes real-life events are literally very similar to elements in previous dreams. This could be:

  • To highlight important dreams.
  • To act as a timing markers for dreams.

We have seen how it is important to review our dreams regularly and keep them at the front of our mind – so we have them available when the events they foretell are coming to pass.

And finally.. and most important of all… we have seen that our response must always be to seek God; we must ask Him why He gave us the dream and what our response should be.

If we do this, we can allow our dreams to drive us deeper into prayer, and into relationship with Him.

I hope you have found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to my emails below to receive regular dream interpretation tips.

The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey with God. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.

It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here:
Requests for dream interpretations.

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