Certainly God has used dreams in the past to give a message of prophecy to those who needed it. So, let’s examine some of the most notable.
Starting with Joseph the son of Jacob; Joseph started receiving dreams when he was pretty young. His dreams were prophetic. His first was of the sheaves of wheat bowing his sheave or bundle. The next dream was of the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowing to him. This caused him a lot of persecution from his brothers and even his father got miffed at the last one. We know later when Joseph was in Egypt these prophecies came true.
We are also told that while in prison in Egypt, the king’s baker and butler each had a dream and that Joseph had the gift of interpretation as well. This all led Joseph to interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream which set him in the position of Prime Minister of Egypt.
All of these dreams were very prophetic in nature.
Another notable dream in scriptures was with King Nebuchadnezzar and the dream of the Image. It was the prophet Daniel who was not only able to describe the dream but interpret it. Again this dream was prophetic.
There is a number of other times when individuals were warned directly by God in a dream: Abimelech, Joseph and, Three Wisemen—they would have been prophetic in the sense of what would happen if a certain course was followed or not followed.
Let’s also look at a few scriptures which I think have weight on the subject.
Jer. 23:28, 29 (NIV), “ ‘Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?’ declares the LORD. ‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’ ”
The context of these verses is God’s description of the false prophet’s dreams. They are nothing and are like the chaff or straw. That is there is no substance or “grain” of truth as it were in their message. Their message does not harmonize with God’s Word and so it is shown to be false.
Joel 2:28, 29, “ And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
The Apostle Paul quotes these scriptures in the beginning of the book of Acts and gives them a partial fulfillment at Pentecost. The primary fulfillment of these verses is still yet future, in the Kingdom Age which we pray for, and is not applicable to the day we are living in right now.
Getting back to your question; are your dreams just vivid dreams, or are they actual messages from God?
The “test” comes in three parts: First, do all aspects of your dream harmonize with the Word of God, are they directly relevant to Scripture and edifying for everyone in the Church? Second, all particulars must come to pass. God tells us that any failure of a prophecy given, in whole or in part, is a sure sign of a false prophet. Lastly, all of the dreams given by God in the Bible were given as highly symbolic imagery and not literal “movies” of events, which needed to be interpreted either by the giver or by someone who was able to give an interpretation, like Daniel.
Everyone in the Bible who had a dream from God, knew it with completely certainty. There was no question.