One way we can receive prophetically is through dreams and their interpretation. In saying that I am not going to do an apologetic on whether or not God still speaks through dreams. A basic reading of the Gospels and book of Acts will clearly answer that question. I will however briefly touch on a passage that is often used to deny the ongoing exercise of spiritual gifts beyond the completion of the New Testament.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NKJV)
What is often taught by overly conservative believers is that there is no need to hear His voice as we have the scriptures and the idea promoted is that when the canon of scripture was complete (that which is perfect in verse 10) then spiritual gifts ceased. Some key problems with this position are that one; it ignores the ongoing use of spiritual gifts through 2,000 years of church history and the millions of Christians around the world who function in spiritual gifts today. Secondly, if one is going to consistently interpret the passage it also says that when the ‘perfect’ has come knowledge will vanish away. My simple question is this, if the ‘perfect’ is the completion of the scriptures then when the canon of scripture was complete did all believers suddenly become stupid or have nothing further to learn? It may sound a bit crude but is a very legitimate question with a very obvious answer that shows both the foolishness and arrogance of a cessationist position no matter how well intentioned it may be. Holding to this position requires a denial of scripture, experience, and reality.
Having said this, I think it is critically important to note that while we need to hear His voice today, whatever we hear can never contradict the written word. We need to hear His voice to walk closely with Him but because we never hear or apply what we hear with 100% accuracy we must always weigh what we hear in light of scripture. The scriptures establish doctrine and are the one infallible guide for faith and practice. What we hear now helps to guide moment to moment decisions, release gifts and faith, but must always align with what has already been established in the written word.
So, operating on what I believe is a proper use and application of scripture I want to talk a bit further about how prophetic gifts function. There is a need for revelation (this may be a dream, vision, phrase, impression etc.) then the interpretation of the revelation (what does it mean?), and finally the application of the revelation (what does it mean in the moment?). These three components may come through different people and often the person who receives the revelation does not have the interpretation or application. For example, the Holy Spirit has used me numerous times to interpret other people’s dreams. It is a gift that requires exercise and sometimes I have had a dream shared with me and in the moment I have no sense of the prophetic application of the dream and later it comes very clearly and readily. Sometimes the interpretation comes over time in different pieces. Below I am going to share a dream I had where I had all three components and the dream was about me. I am sharing the dream to illustrate the process of revelation, interpretation and application.
In my dream (from about a decade ago) I needed to make a decision about something and when I was talking to someone I knew and trusted they referred me to a psychologist. In the dream I went to a large building that was a tall office tower. When I arrived at the psychologist’s office there was some crisis and the building had to be emptied. In the process I left but forgot my coat in the waiting area in the psychologist’s office along with the keys to my van (they were in my coat pocket). Then the dream shifted and I was in a small pickup truck with one of my staff from work (she was driving) and we were delivering bread to needy people. The dream then shifted and I was able to get back to the waiting area in the psychologist’s office and retrieve my coat and the keys to the van. I never saw the psychologist and this was the end of my dream.
So let’s look at revelation, interpretation and application in relation to my dream.
Revelation – the dream itself is the revelation, there is a message revealed in the dream. In my own experience I have received a few prophetic dreams over the years and they have a different quality than other dreams.
Interpretation – what does and does not mean something in the dream? Some key pieces are that a vehicle often represents ministry. There are two vehicles in this dream my van and the small pickup. Bread represents food, spiritual food or teaching, a ministry. Coats often represent a covering or anointing and keys the ability to use or exercise authority. So now that we have some awareness of the different elements what do they mean in this dream? In the dream I was sent to see a psychologist for advice. The psychologist represents counsel from the non-Christian world. I have a spiritual calling on my life, much of it associated with ministering through teaching (the provision of bread). In the dream I never knew what specifically I was going to talk to the psychologist about as it was not relevant to the message in the dream. That I for a period of time lost my coat and keys represented the danger of losing my covering/anointing and my ministry. I would not be able to use my vehicle (ministry). That I then ended up delivering bread with someone from work and they were in charge meant that instead of providing spiritual food I was in danger of providing natural food. That in the end I recovered my coat and keys meant I was still able to walk in my calling.
Application – dreams can be of various types, encouraging, warning, revealing, etc. This was a warning dream with the warning being that if I sought advice for the direction of my life from the world I would end up losing my spiritual calling and ministry and simply functioning in the natural realm walking out a poor imitation of my calling.
In this particular case I received the dream and knew how to interpret and apply it but as I noted earlier, it is often the case that someone has a revelation and others have the interpretation and application. That process in and of itself is a message, we need one another and are called to be part of a body.
So, sweet dreams in the pursuit of His presence! In my next post I will talk about the role of revelation and prophetic ministry in standing in the gap.