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Dreams, Visions and Sleep Page 3

Old and New Testament Dreams


by Rev. Fredrerick L. Schnarr

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.... I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied ... I have heard what the prophets said, that 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; which think to cause My people to forget My name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten My name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not My word like a fire? saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:11-32)

We have quoted this reference in Jeremiah rather fully because it helps to make clear, even in the literal sense, why the days of prophecy through dreams came to an end. So much had prophets and dreamers perverted the function of their office, and so questionable had become their influence with the people in general, that their words would no longer be heeded in the least - not so as to lead to anything good. Their works were filled with magic and superstition, and had further Divine prophesies been given, these would have been completely mingled with falsities and evils. As Divine messages, they would not enter the mind and be retained, and so would no longer serve even as a means of keeping alive a communication with heaven through representatives. All of this is the reason why nothing of Divine revelation was given in the five hundred years preceding the Lord's First Advent. From Malachi, the last of the prophets, writing around 500 B.C., to the Advent, the voice of the Lord through dream and vision was silent.

If we compare the dreams of the Old Testament with the dreams of the New Testament, we will notice a striking difference. All were Divine dreams in the sense that they were brought about from the Divine foresight, and all were inspired immediately from the Lord through the heavens. But we note that in the Old Testament all the prophetic dreams are couched in the imagery and symbolism of correspondence and representation. Notice that Jacob dreamed of a ladder (actually a stairway) reaching into heaven; Joseph dreamed of sheaves, sun, moon, and stars; Pharaoh's butler dreamed of a vine, grapes, and a cup, while his baker dreamed of baskets and birds; Pharaoh dreamed of cows and ears of grain; Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a great image of gold, silver, brass, iron, and clay, and a great stone, that smashed the statute; he dreamed of a great tree that was hewn down; and so on with all the Old Testament dreams, they all were prophetic, but prophetic in representatives and correspondences. In New Testament dreams, even though there are not many, we see plain warnings and prophesies without the same use of representatives or correspondences. The words used in New Testament dream still have an internal sense, but they are significative of that sense, not representative or correspondential.

When the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream, he said: "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins." (Matt. 1:19-21) Similarly when the wise men are warned not to return to Herod, and when Joseph is warned to take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, the message is prophetic, but not couched at all in representative imagery. Now, remember, we are talking about dreams here, and not about visions.

Why should there be such a change in the use of dreams in the giving of Divine revelation? Is it indeed worthy of attention; for did not the Lord use something of representative dreams in preparing Swedenborg later for giving the revelation of the Second Coming? To answer the last question first, we will note when we come to consider the use of dreams in the Second Coming, that while representatives were employed in certain dreams, the manner and purpose of their use was different from that of Old Testament times. Obviously, since we have drawn a distinction between Old and New Testament dreams, we believe there is an importance in seeing the reasons for that distinction. But we would note, that they are not quickly or easily seen. At this time we would merely draw to your remembrance the fact that when the Lord made His Advent into the world, the whole nature of influx from the spiritual world to the natural world changed. Communication between heaven and man on earth, and hell and man on earth, changed. Many states of man on earth changed dramatically; external obsession, and the power of magic ended. The use of representatives changed. (TCR 670; AC 8972) The nature of Divine revelation itself changed.

All of these changes had an effect upon the nature and life of man. Understanding something of these changes, and those effected in the Second Coming, makes it possible for us to examine and understand our own states, and those of society in general, in the light of Divine revelation. And in this, understanding the history of dreams and visions plays an important part.

And more important than this, is the importance of understanding the nature and quality of the Lord, which we see primarily from doctrine and which we confirm primarily from the story of the Sacred Scriptures, the history and order of its formation, and the beauty and Divine intelligence of its internal senses.

-New Church Life 1980;100:404-410
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