What Do Prophetic Dreams Mean?

9 Min Read

Last Modified 15 February 2024   First Added 20 March 2022

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

What does it mean to dream about the future?

Have you ever had a dream about the future and it later came true? Many people really do believe in the prophetic power of dreams, even if most think the idea is irrational. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, this is certainly an intriguing subject.

Experiencing a vivid dream about a future event can leave you feeling shaken and anxious, especially if it felt like a warning or a message. You may have dreamed that a close friend or family member was in an accident and afterwards begged them to cancel a trip to try to prevent it from coming true.

On the other hand, dreams can prophesise positive events. Perhaps you’ve dreamed about getting a promotion at work, only to be told by your boss the following week they want to offer you a new position with a pay rise? But did the dream really foreshadow the event, or was it simply a very happy coincidence?

Here we examine the issue of prophetic dreams – what they are and why people believe in them.

The dream:

You buy a lottery ticket and get to television just in time for the EuroMillions draw – tempted for the first time ever by the £111 million top prize. Your seven numbers are 43, 21, 11, 17, 55, 4 and 39.

And we’re off. You got the first ball – 43, you jump off the chair! You get the second. Then the third, fourth and fifth. You’ve got all seven to hit the jackpot on your first attempt – you’re a multi-millionaire! Life will never be the same.

Then you wake up with a start and reality hits you. It was only a dream, but it felt oh so real. However, just a few minutes later you turn on the TV to be greeted by an advert for the EuroMillions. It’s happening for real tonight – top prize £111 million. Surely it’s a sign, your dream must have been a prophecy!

You rush to scribble down the winning numbers from your dream on a notepad. You clearly remember 43, 21, 11 and 17, but the other numbers have faded from memory. Was there a 2, maybe a 6? No, it’s gone. Would you have won? You’ll never know.

Variations of the dream:

When it comes to prophetic dreams there are many different variations that may have a meaning for your life. Whether or not you choose to believe them is up to you.

Dreams that provide insight into future events can be grouped into seven types, according to The Pleasant Dream. These are:

  • Decision dreams – where you observe yourself making some sort of choice.
  • Warning dreams – giving you a vision of a problem
  • Directional dreams – offering guidance for your life
  • Clairaudient dreams – which contain a spoken message
  • Telepathic dreams – where you connect your mind to someone’s thoughts
  • Empathetic dreams – showing you empathising with another person
  • Apparition dreams – contain a message from someone who has passed away.

Your dream might include a message for your life or you may see yourself making a choice that relates to a choice you need to make in reality.

Meaning(s) of the dream:

In a nutshell, prophetic dreams involve seeing events, images or symbols, that predict the future. For example, if you had a dream that your car tire was punctured and then in the morning you find the car has a flat, that would be a prophetic dream. These dreams have been mentioned all the way back to ancient times, appearing in a multitude of stories and myths.

Carl Jung, the psychology pioneer, was on a train in his homeland of Switzerland when he experienced a waking vision. Gazing out the window at the countryside, he saw Europe inundated by a devastating flood. The vision shocked and disturbed him. Two weeks later, on the same journey, the vision reoccurred, says Psychology Today. This time an inner voice reportedly told him: “Look at it well; it is wholly real and it will be so. You cannot doubt it.”

Dreams also occur throughout the Bible as messages from God or omens. The bible details more than a hundred prophetic dreams and some of these stories have left their mark in our popular culture. Christians believe that dreams can have prophetic meaning and that God appears in people’s dreams with messages and visions, “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.” ~ Numbers 12:6

See Dream Meanings 101: What Dreams Mean & Why We Have Them? to learn more.

Common meanings behind prophetic dreams

There are all sorts of different kinds of prophetic dreams. The variations of this dream include clear depictions of possible events and those which may be seen to provide you with guidance. Your dream might include a message for your life or you may see yourself making a choice that relates to a choice you need to make in reality. Here we explore more precise meanings of each of these variations.

1. Dreams of a warning

One of the most common kinds of prophetic dreams is warning dreams. These are dreams that could be warnings about possible setbacks, obstacles, problems or even disasters and so are worth paying attention to. For instance, if you’ve just started up a new business venture and you dream of a stop sign, a red flag, or perhaps something blocking your path, these have obvious connotations for the success of your business. However, in these cases, the dream is not a message that you should give up.  Instead, they be maybe hinting at things you must avoid to have a smooth road ahead.

Occasionally warning dreams have such significance they are recorded in history. Calpurnia, the wife of Julius Caesar, dreamed that something terrible was going to befall her husband, and begged him to stay home. He ignored her warnings and later ended up being stabbed to death by members of the Senate.

President Abraham Lincoln also had a prophetic warning dream. Three days before he was assassinated, Lincoln described his dream to his wife and a group of friends. How do we know this is story is true? Fortunately for dream historians, Ward Hill Lamon, an attending companion, recorded the conversation.

2. Dreams about making a decision

You may find yourself faced with a choice in your dream and then watch yourself make a decision. Because your conscious self turns off during your various sleep stages, it’s your subconscious instead of your rational conscious mind that made the decision in your dream. Decision making in a dream is a sign or strength and determination, says Aunty Flo. This is especially so in a dream that refers to an attempt to regain control of some aspects in your life, especially in your career.


3. Dreams about giving or receiving help

One of the messages people often receive in prophetic dreams is to assist a close friend, relative or acquaintance in dire need of help. Dreams of helping someone are said to show your willingness to compromise your beliefs toward a greater achievement. Going deeper, if you’re helping someone you don’t like or even an adversary, this is said to indicate you should try to reach an understanding or compromise to be able to move forward with your life. If the dream is the other way round and it’s you that’s asking for help, this represents feelings of being overwhelmed, lost, or inadequate.

Answering the dream:

So can dreams predict real world events? It all depends on who you ask. According to dream analysts, prophetic dreams provide you with insights into what will possibly happen in the near future. However, it’s very hard to determine if your dream can be called prophetic or not because we humans have no idea about what will happen in the future until the moment it happens.

Psychology Today reports that people described prophetic dreams about the 9/11 attack on New York. Dr. Murray Stein, a renowned author and Jungian analyst, says people also reported that dreams predicted the financial crisis of 2008, which he called, “a black swan event.”

As Investopedia explains:

“A black swan is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterised by their extreme rarity, their severe impact, and the practice of explaining widespread failure to predict them as simple folly in hindsight.”

The coronavirus pandemic may be seen as such a black swan event, and perhaps we’ll come to hear about people who’ve had prophetic dreams that predicted its devastating effects to the world. However, mainstream scientists don’t give these voices credibility.

Part of the reason for this is that science has revealed our subconscious is a lot faster and more powerful than our conscious minds. This means our subconscious has the ability to put together bits and pieces of information regarding what is likely to happen based on the events and incidents that have already taken place in reality.

Notable appearances in popular culture:

The subject of premonitions in dreams is covered prominently in books, films and the theatre. The oldest written dream recorded is in the Sumerian epic poem of Gilgamesh (2100 BCE). One of the best modern examples is the worldwide hit musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The show by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber is based on the Biblical story of Joseph and his escape from slavery in Egypt. In his dreams, God assured Joseph that he would rise to a position of leadership over his parents and brothers.

Prophetic dreams also feature prominently in the book and TV series Game of Thrones. The character Jojen, whilst captured by the group of Night’s Watch traitors, brushes off their threats to kill him due to his previous dream vision of his hand on fire. Similarly, in the book and film fantasy trilogy Lord of the Rings, the young hobbit Frodo frequently dreams of fire coming to the world in the future and dreams are one of the most intriguing features of these classic tales.

Related: What Do Dreams of Fire Mean?

Find out more about dreams and their meanings by reading our articles on being chased in your dream, why your teeth fall out in your dream and what it means to be late in your dream.

More from the Sleep Matters Club