Do Warning Dreams Occur
Question: A friend said they had a dream about something bad happening to them that later came true. Does God warn people in dreams concerning dangers they might face?
Answer: Absolutely! That is the short answer, but let me hasten to say that it would be folly to assume that all dreams showing a possible scenario that could come true are warnings from the Lord. Most of the dreams we have are the brain’s way of sorting through our life experiences and putting things into context. This is one of the reasons people should get a full night’s rest each day, lest their sleep deprived brains cause them to mishandle the world we live in when we are awake. It is also possible for Satan’s henchmen to trouble our sleep so what happens in the dream state, especially when it seems to be some sort of warning should be tried by the Word of God first and approached carefully.
It would be good in considering this subject to take a look at dreams that occurred in the Scripture and see what we might learn from the biblical account. If we were to pursue a biblical view of dreams from the Law of First Mention we must make a decision for dreams are mentioned twice in the Book of Job, which is generally considered to be the oldest written book, Job is considered by most to have lived before Abraham. But we also need to look at the record of dreams in the Book of Genesis. Let us begin first with Job.
In the first reference to dreams in Job, Zophar the Naamathite is not discussing the quality of dreams but the fate of the wicked. In the text he is revealed as a man who thinks he has understanding but is deficient:
¶ Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said, Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste. I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer. Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth, That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds; Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. Job 20:1-8
This reference to dreaming deals with certain dreams ephemeral qualities, that though they may be remembered on wakening, are soon forgot. I think most of these kinds of dreams have to do with the brain sorting out what has happened in life.
In the second reference to dreams in Job, Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, makes the next statement below that speaks of God using dreams to warn people from doing things that might hurt themselves. When we go to the Genesis account you will find a similar situation occurring where dreams are first mentioned in that Book
¶ Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters. For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.
The account of Abimelech taking Abraham’s wife is not one in which Abraham comes off looking very good. But, our interest here is the dream in which God warned Abimelech not to transgress. In this account the Elihu speaking in Job 33 is shown to be correct in his assessment of God acting in dreams.
¶ And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.
4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
5 Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. Genesis 20:1-7
Altogether the word “dream” occurs 74 times in 61 verses of your King James Bible with the plural “dreams” occurring 21 times in 21 verses. Verses containing the expression “warned of God in a dream” is specifically Matthew’s Gospel New Testament, but dream messages occur in the New Testament several times.
I understand your real question is “Would God warn me in a dream?” You are not the first to question if God would do that for you, and I think that during this Church Age it is more possible than at any other time in human history. The prophet Joel said that there would come a day when old men would dream dreams and young men see visions. (Joel 2:28) and my Pentecostal friends make much of the fact his prophecy is repeated in Acts 2:17. I can recount my own experiences through life of dreaming dreams. (Some of my long time friends say I was born old.) While I was considered your question I mentioned dreams that come true to a preacher friend and he told me that this happened to him often but he did not usually mention it to anyone because he did not like listening to skeptics. Then I remember several accounts from other past associates along the way, some of whom are now with the Lord.
I would make two significant points in that matter. The first is that God is no respecter of persons, so He is quite capable of sending you a dream as any other. The second is that because most dream accounts you here about come from people in the public eye only means that the more visible a person is to his fellows, the more likely such an experience told is to be remembered and recorded.
It seems to me you probably have heard many accounts of people dreaming warning dream and having them come true. These stories have come in flurries around things like plane crashes where people were warned in a dream not to take a certain flight. Let me share with you an account of such dreaming that is not very well known:
To my knowledge the United States Navy has commissioned six naval ships that were named Princeton, but possibly seven counting a ship that fought in the American Revolution. My story concerns the Princeton, which was the Navy’s first steam powered screw propelled warship. The concept was so new that it also had a full complement of square rigged sails should anything go wrong. It was launched in 1843, and after sea trials was brought to New York on New Year’s Day 1844 to be fitted with two large guns. The first of these guns was named “the Oregon” and the second, considered an improved version of the Oregon was name “the Peacemaker.” After its arming the ship was sailed to Washington D.C. because the new ship had aroused interest both in official circles and among the general public. Three excursion trips were arranged for dignitaries and each time the huge Peacemaker, weighing more than 27,000lbs was fired several times for the amazement of the onlookers..
One of the cruises took place on 29 February, leap year, 1844, with President Tyler, members of the cabinet and other guests aboard. Aboard was former New York State Senator Colonel David Gardiner and the Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer. Both of these men had women in their lives, (Julia Gardiner, Col. Gardiner’s daughter, and Anne Gilmer, Secretary Gilmer’s wife) who had disturbing dreams before the event. Both pleaded with the men not to go on the cruise. Both did not heed their warnings and pleadings.
When the Peacemaker was fired for the entertainment of those aboard on this cruise it blew up, and the men who had been warned not to go on this trip were among the dead. You might remember Julia Gardiner from history. Though she was on board when the explosion occurred she was unhurt and later she married President Tyler in the Episcopal Church and served as First Lady of the United States from 26 June 1844 to 4 March 1845. She later bore Tyler, who was 30 years her senior 7 children, and died at the age of 69. I know of no other premonition or warning dreams that this lady had. I do not know anything about what happened to Anne Gilmer after the unhappy incident but doubt she lived to see two naval ships named for her father in the twentieth century.
This and many other accounts through the centuries leads me to my conclusion. And my conclusion is that God can and does send warning dreams and He sends them to whom He will for purposes of His own. I hope this response has been of some value to you.
Note: I offer you an epilogue to my account of the warning dreams of Anne Gilmer and Julia Gardiner concerning the USS Princeton they knew and a later ship of the same name. The World War Two version of the Princeton had been originally designed to be cruiser but due to the needs of war it had been converted and launched as a light carrier.
On the day it was sunk due to a series of events started by its being hit by a single 500lb bomb dropped by a lone Japanese pilot, a seaman on board the vessel also had a warning dream of what was to come. It was Thomas H. Williams, second-class machinist mate that received this dream warning. It was after coming off a midnight to 4 a.m. watch the event occurred. He dreamed of “fire and smoke, explosions, and the sides of the hanger deck being blown out, with dense smoke all around the ship.”
When General Quarters was sounded, because his GQ station was in the same compartment as his bunk he dressed and lay back down on the flash cover he had covered his bunk with. When the alert was raised to condition “Baker” he told the men there with him about his dream, but they did not take it seriously. He said that he remembers an old wives tale that said a dream told about before breakfast would come true and never told about a dream after that, because just after he told his companions was when things began to happen.
After they had to abandon the Princeton, he and some shipmates was picked up by the destroyer USS Irwin. Because of space they had to sleep on deck and one night trying to be funny he said he had another dream. He was nearly thrown overboard for that joke.
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