Have you ever sat and listened silently to a prophet or prophetess expound upon what seemed to be the latest of an endless series of dreams or visions? Were you tempted to question the veracity of their encounter(s), only to be silenced by echoes of “touch not God’s anointed” coursing through your mind?
Believe me, I have.
Let me tell you what God’s Word has to say about false prophets and their dreams and visions.
People are Desperate for Something Beyond their Reality
Dreams and visions are a legitimate part of the prophetic experience; however, false prophets also use these same phenomena as tools to keep their audiences mesmerized. They know that nothing captures the attention and allegiance of desperate seekers more than stories about dreams and visions of angels, heavenly encounters and open gates.
We are all hungry for something beyond our perception of reality and, because of this hunger, those who claim to have “been there” will always find an audience among those who have not made the Word their foundation.
How can we know if what they are saying is the “Real Deal” or just a fabrication? Did these prophets really have a legitimate prophetic encounter with God in a dream or vision, or was it a clever delusion?
We all dream and, from time to time, drift off into our imaginations and daydreams. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my experiences can be surprisingly vivid.
How can we tell if the dreams and visions that WE experience are from God, or are just the result of too much pizza from the night before?
I will be providing some scriptural guidelines in this chapter and the next.
Dreams, Visions and the Prophet
Dreams and visions are valid ways in which God communicates with His prophets. In the book of Numbers, the Most High said that He would make Himself known to a prophet in a dream, or speak to him in a vision.
Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.”
Read this verse again and notice where it says “If there is a prophet among you?”
There are conditions that need to be met, in order for God to consider you a prophet. For starters, God says that He needs to contact you through either a dream or a vision.
Now, this verse does not say that EVERYONE God contacts through dreams or visions is a prophet.
Abimelech (Genesis 20:3), Laban the Syrian (Genesis 31:24), Pharaoh (Genesis 41:25), the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) and Joseph (Matthew 2:12) are all examples of people God contacted through dreams and visions who were NOT prophets.
There is something special about the WAY God reveals Himself to a prophet that sets his experience apart from the rest and enables him to prophesy.
When the Most High puts His Words in Your Mouth
Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.”
According to God’s Word, if He has contacted you through a dream or a vision, and He has put His Words in your mouth, then it validates your standing as a prophet.
God encourages true prophets to faithfully speak the Words that He communicates to them (either in a dream, or otherwise) as His representative.
The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.
But there is a “flip side” to this situation.
Just like God encourages His prophets to speak His Words (either by dreams or otherwise), He is against those who tell false dreams and visions. His Word is very clear about this.
“Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the LORD, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the LORD.
I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
Why is God against people telling false dreams? Because they cause His people to fall into error… more on this later.
Discerning Between the True and False
Since we don’t want to walk in error, it is of the utmost importance that we learn to discern between true and false dreams and visions. So how can we discern whether or not the prophet’s dreams and visions are inspired by the Holy Spirit or just their own delusion? “Who” or “what” has the right to determine whether a dream is inspired or carnal?
Hopefully by now, we’ve all arrived at the conclusion that the Word of God is the answer and that we, through renewed minds, can make that determination.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I’m going to be straight with you. The truth is, I haven’t found much detail in the Word of God on what constitutes a true dream or vision. I’m not saying that it isn’t to be found, I’m just saying that, so far, it hasn’t been revealed to me yet. However, there are many details regarding false dreams and visions.
So, if we research and look to see what God has to say about false dreams and visions, I believe that we can learn about the specifics of true dreams and visions by identifying the opposite specifics of the false. Does that make sense?
False Dreams and Visions will not Expose Sin
In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah “laments” the demise of Jerusalem. Because they refused to obey God’s Law and went after the idols of the surrounding nations, the Chosen People were taken captive by the Babylonians. With the exception of a few, they were “vomited” out of the Promised Land.
What was a major contributor to this geographical nausea?
Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions.
From this verse, we can see that a false and deceptive vision lacks the substance that will expose iniquity. So we need to ask ourselves – do the dreams and visions of our modern day prophets expose our sin? If they do not, then we are being deceived – and cheated, I might add.
According to Lamentations, when iniquity is uncovered, the captives return to their land.
The modern day church, spiritually, has been in captivity to our sins for way too long, grossly ignoring God’s commands and pursuing other gods. Over the centuries, we’ve been conditioned to listen to self-appointed leaders who refuse to hate what God hates, and our flesh has gladly played along.
Because our iniquity has not been uncovered, we remain in spiritual captivity. We bring reproach to the Father in the sight of the pagans, demonstrating clearly that we are no different than they are. One day, if we continue to listen to false dreams and visions that ignore our need to repent, our spiritual captivity will result in actual physical captivity.
Mark my words.
False Dreams and Visions Give You False Peace
In a time when the Judgment of God is imminent, false dreams and visions will assure you that nothing bad is going to happen, because (like Israel), “You are God’s chosen – you have no need to fear and there is no consequence for your sin.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD. They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, “You shall have peace;”‘ and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.'” (Also see Jeremiah 8:8-11.)
When false prophets tell of dreams and visions, they may say that they are aiming to heal and unify the people, but in truth, these are only verbal claims geared toward appeasing the fear of man and increasing their fan bases.
The false prophets of the Old Testament were guilty of the same crime.
Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely [sheqer – H8267].
I have provided links to the original Hebrew words in the footnotes of this chapter for your own study. What this scripture is actually saying is that the prophets and priests were putting a superficial salve on the “hurt” of the people. This “hurt” was not an injury to their persons (or their hearts), but it was their sin that caused a broken/shattered [sheber – H7667] covenant with their God. They were treating it as an insignificant issue, [qalal – H7043] so their sin went unexposed, and they did not repent. Therefore both the deceiver and the deceived would pay the consequence.
That is just like the false prophets of today. They treat our sin as a light issue, something easily overcome by the “grace of God” without any action (repentance) or sacrifice (crucifying the flesh) on our part. In fact, today’s false prophets are the personification of the Old Testament false prophets, who shouted “Peace! Peace!” to the disobedient when there would be no peace for them.
Why do they do this? Because just like the Old Testament false prophets, they are people-pleasers and man-fearers. They are far too concerned with their incomes and fan bases to actually deliver a true message from God. And the masses who think they believe in the Messiah do not want to hear a message of rebuke – ever.
False Dreams and Visions are Worthless and Make You Worthless
When discerning whether or not a dream (or vision) is from God, it is important to look at what the dream (or vision) produces.
- Does it motivate us to hunger for and pursue righteousness?
- Does it cause us to rid ourselves of sin so that we will be useful for His purposes?
- Does it further the Kingdom?
…Or does it cause us to pursue the next supernatural experience?
Let’s take another look at Jeremiah 23.
Thus says the LORD of Hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD. They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, “You shall have peace”‘; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.'””
Throughout God’s Word, we see that God measures your love for Him by how much you obey His commands. (For starters, see 1 John 5:2-3, John 14:15, 21.) It is only logical that those who “despise” God and “follow the dictates of their own heart” are those who do NOT obey His commands. Yet these are the same people that the false prophets will assure, “Hey! Don’t worry about a thing! God loves you so much and He approves of you! You are a mighty warrior and will overcome the enemy… and prosper… and signs and wonders will follow you wherever you go!!”
Although they probably believe that they are building people up by speaking positive things over them, they are actually just inflating their egos and comforting them in their sin, which makes them worthless to the Master.
Don’t get me wrong – there is definitely a time and place for encouragement, but in the realm of prophecy, encouragement only occurs when repentance, faithfulness and obedience are present. Otherwise, there should be strong rebuke.
Why the strong rebuke? Because God hates sin, and He won’t use you if your life is not yielded to Him. But false prophets do not consider this. They would much rather “speak a vision of their own heart.”
If false prophets “walk according to the dictates of their own hearts,” they will “speak a vision” that comes from the exact same place. And it is inevitable that a person’s carnal dreams and visions are going to reflect their personal bents and the views of the people that they listen to.
Unfortunately, these views will only make those who listen to them worthless to the Kingdom of God. With no sense of urgency and a misguided image of God as exclusively “a God of Love,” they will remain complacent, comfortable and unrepentant.
False Dreams and Visions Cause You to Forget God
The modern day church has promoted an image of God that does not line up with His Word at all. Along with self-appointed pastors who long to tell their congregations what they want to hear, the false prophets have complimented this image through their false dreams and visions.
Once again, we find that our modern day prophets look awfully similar to the Old Testament false prophets.
How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.
There are a couple of points I want to make here.
In our Western way of thinking, we think of a person’s name as merely a label. My name is Kevin, someone else is named Fred, and then, of course, there is Mary. In our minds, a name says nothing about a person’s personality, reputation or deeds. It’s all relative.
When the Bible refers to a person’s name, it usually refers to the description of the entire person – especially when the Name of God is mentioned. It was not just a label. It was both a label and a reference to His entire character.
When Jeremiah was saying that a person’s dream was causing people to forget God’s Name, he was saying that these dreams were causing people to forget who God really was – His worth, His personality, His image, His mighty deeds, His likes and dislikes. False dreams were causing people to forget everything about Him!
Instead, they were forgetting God’s “Name” and were replacing it with Baal’s “name.”
Who was Baal?
Most of us have been told that Baal was the name of a god (or idol). This is not exactly a complete definition. If you worshipped Baal, it was not the same thing as worshipping Ashtoreth, Molech or the other named “gods” of the Old Testament.
Instead of being an individual “god” with a prescribed method of worship and a specific personality (for lack of a better term), “Baal” was a generalized name for any regional authority (spiritual or physical). Much like we use the term “God” to refer to the Being we serve (capitalizing it out of reverence) but the same term “god” can be used to describe any being of worship.
Here’s what the Wikipedia entry says:
Baal, also rendered Ba’al (Biblical Hebrew בַּעַל, pronounced [ˈbaʕal]), is a North-West Semitic title and honorific meaning “master” or “lord” that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu. A Baalist or Baalite means a worshipper of Baal.”Baal” may refer to any god and even to human officials. In some texts it is used for Hadad, a god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name, Hadad, Ba’al was commonly used. Nevertheless, few if any biblical uses of “Baal” refer to Hadad, the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven; most refer to a variety of local spirit-deities worshiped as cult images, each called baal and regarded in the Hebrew Bible in that context as a “false god”. 
I’m saying all this to point out that false dreams have a way of making you forget who your God really is. Instead, they are heavily influenced by the “group think,” image, or spiritual authority that resides over your area.
I don’t claim to be extremely knowledgeable in the area of spiritual warfare (another used and abused topic of debate), but from what I have observed, the masses (within and outside the Western church) are held under the sway of politically correct thinking, which comes from some kind of deceiving spirit.
Anything that violates the image of tolerance is deemed to be offensive and wrong.
And it’s in the church too. God is painted as someone who wants to go around and hug people all the time and wants us to do the same. This non-offensive, come as you are image of “god” is reinforced through the false dreams and visions of the prophets.
Instead of agreeing with the written Word of the Most High, false dreams and visions cause you to forget who He really is.
His Word says:
“The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.
If you dare to deliver a Word that is like “fire” or “like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces,” be prepared for resistance. The modern day church will not view you as “full of grace and mercy.”