1. Many dreams convey a message and are from God. Job 36:16 says that God uses dreams to bring us out of distress. “He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food” (see Job 33:15-18 to which this verse refers back to, which talks about how God uses dreams to bring correction).
2. One key element to knowing if a dream is from God or not is to see if it glorifies Jesus and promotes godly ways. You could also look at the character of the person who had the dream, and also see if dreams the person had before were accurate and proved to be true.
3. A dream may not be literal in every part (or even in many parts). However, if you believe that a dream is from God, then a good diagnostic question to ask is, “What is God trying to communicate through it?” If you are not sure if the dream is from God, then a similarly very good diagnostic question to ask is, “If this dream were from God, what would God be trying to communicate through it?”
4. All dreams should be taken to prayer, to seek the Lord on the final meaning (though in some cases, it could be quite obvious). Joseph the patriarch said, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8) Therefore, you are at an advantage if you know God personally, and talk to Him about the dream.
5. Dreams sometimes use “extreme imagery” to get the point across. Do not be afraid of the “extremeness” of some of the imagery. (Try to just get the point.) If you know God personally, you should have a “witness” in your spirit about the interpretation of the dream, in accordance with Colossians 3:15 which says to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. In the newspaper, you find caricature sketches in which one or more features of a person may be stretched out of proportion in order to communicate a point. The Lord does the same thing in dreams, sometimes. So the imagery may not be exact, but is designed to communicate a point. So interpretation of dreams is very important, just like the interpretation of the Bible itself is very important. As a general rule, any literature and form of communication (and this includes dreams) should be interpreted according to context. So if humorous, humorous. If allegorical, allegorical. If literal, literal. Everything according to its context. Seek the Lord on the context of the dream, and He will give you wisdom.
6. Feel free to disregard anything that does not bear witness to your spirit personally. You are not bound to obey the dream because, after all, you may be wrong in the interpretation. You are, however, bound to obey God who gives the dream. If the Lord gave the dream, He will help you to understand it, and will give you a sense that the dream is from Him. In the case of Pharaoh, for example, he had no rest until he found the interpretation. The restlessness itself was from God, and led to the exaltation of Joseph, who was used by God to save many lives.
7. According to the Bible, God still gives dreams today. In Joel’s prophecy, which refers to the latter days, the Bible says that God will speak to us through dreams and visions. “Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.” (see Joel 2:28-29) Some teach that God no longer gives dreams or visions. This is unfortunate, since a dream may very well save your life and dreams have been used by God to save lives in the past. Think for example of how God visited Joseph in a dream to tell him to take the child (Jesus) to Egypt because Herod sought to destroy Him (Matthew 2:13). This is one of many examples that could be cited.
8. Not all dreams are from God. If there is “darkness” in you – that is, some part of the flesh that you are hanging on to, whether that be a simple desire to do something that is not from God or something more overt – then you could expose yourself to receiving a dream that is not from God but is, instead, either born of your flesh or, worse, born of the kingdom of darkness (for example, suicidal thoughts may be born of the kingdom of darkness, because a person is hanging onto the lie that they are of no value in God’s sight. If they were to renounce that lie, and worship God in Spirit and in truth, and believe that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives, then they would be free and cease to have these suicidal thoughts). So dreams can come from three realms: God, the flesh, or the kingdom of darkness. Your safest defense against receiving dreams that are born of the flesh or are from the kingdom of darkness is to lead a holy life, pure in God’s sight and free of sin. None of us is perfect, and we may expose ourselves now and then to some form of ungodliness (for example, coveting, which can expose us to ungodly thoughts and ideas). If you do receive a dream that you believe is not from God, then simply renounce it and seek to worship God.
9. Do not be terrified by a dream, but if you are terrified by it, and cannot seem to shake it, you may want to try praying into it, to see if perhaps the dream is in fact from God, in an attempt to help steer you in prayer, to pray for some urgent needs. You will know that this is the case if, after having prayed into it, and even as you pray into it, you find the terror of the dream quickly slipping away from your mind. Thus, it is possible to receive a seemingly “frightening” dream that is, in fact, a call to prayer.
10. If you suffer from nightmares, there may be deeper issues that need addressing, and you may need a good dose of “Holy Spirit love” to free you (you may have a root of bitterness, or some stronghold in your heart that may need to be addressed – God would love to set you free, so seek out believers that are indeed filled with the Spirit of God who can pray with and for you). The Lord is a God of deliverance and delights to set people free.