The Bible reveals that in times past servants of God were given visions and dreams for specific reasons and/or to convey special messages. For example, Jesus gave a vision of His future Kingdom on earth to Peter, James, and John, no doubt as a witness and encouragement both to them and to us (Matthew 17:1-9).
While God has used this means of communication in the past and will do so again (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28), we must realize that He uses it only when the circumstances warrant. Even then, such revelations are ordinarily directed to His ministers and specially chosen servants such as Jacob, Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel (see Amos 3:7).
Today, God speaks to us through the Bible. Please notice Hebrews 1:1-2: "God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days [today] spoken to us by His Son." Jesus Christ is the living Word of God (John 1:1, 14), and the Bible is the Word of God in written form. God the Father gave it to Christ. Christ, in turn, inspired both the prophets and the apostles, and they preserved it for us (II Peter 1:21; Luke 1:70; John 16:13). The Father's will, commandments, and specific promises are revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. God, then, is actually speaking to us through His Word, the Bible.
It is not always easy to determine the origin of a vision, dream, or premonition which one might experience. Therefore, we must be very careful about ascribing to God any such communication—even if it is supernatural! We are warned to "test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Jude warns that sometimes false ministers use dreams and visions to deceive God's people and create a following for themselves (Jude 8; see also Deuteronomy 13:1-5). We must be careful to separate such paranormal activity from the revealed truth of God.
God, through the prophet Isaiah, instructs us how to test the spirits: "When they say to you, 'Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,' should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony [the Bible]! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:19-20). Unless a dream or vision agrees completely with the Bible in its message and content, we can know it is not of God.
Some visions and dreams may simply be caused by mental or physical stress or the pressures of daily life. The Bible reveals that dreams may result from an upset or overly stimulated mind (Ecclesiastes 5:3). If one has had a very troubled or busy day, he might be more likely to have vivid dreams that night. Ill health or memories of unpleasant experiences may also cause such dreams.
In situations where an unpleasant dream or vision causes distress, fear, physical sickness, or any such thing, we would advise seeking God's intervention and healing. If Satan bothers us with bad dreams, we should ask God to rebuke him (Jude 9). We should also stay close to God in prayer and Bible study so that Satan cannot bother us (James 4:7-8). God will grant us peace of mind if we walk with Him each day (Philippians 4:4-9; Isaiah 26:3).