Whenever people find out that God has blessed me to interpret dreams and once I’ve interpreted one or two of their dreams, the question eventually comes up “have you ever tried to use dream interpretation to understand Revelations?” The idea behind this question is that the barrage of fantastic and bizarre imagery found through most of Revelations is not unlike what one might see in a dream… or nightmare I suppose.
However I generally shy away from these kinds of questions not because I don’t think dream interpretation doesn’t apply, but because I can’t actually answer the question people are asking me. that question usually being way more specific like “what will the end times look like?” or “what’s the meaning of the dragon?” ” Who is 666?” and so on.
But here’s the thing – dream interpretation doesn’t work like that. People think dream interpretation works like pointillism where the most minute of details can influence the whole. The truth is that dream interpretation is more like graffitti art – it’s beautiful and detailed, but it’s done in broad strokes. Dream interpretation doesn’t care how many horns the dragon has, it cares about what the dragon does and how it fits into the overall narrative. We call this “context.”
An example of context: the color blue will mean different things in a dream depending on the context. blue oceans are good, blue dragons trying to eat you are bad. it doesn’t matter that the dragon is blue, it’s trying to eat you – it’s bad.
So in the book of Revelations using context and broad stroke interpretation, the interpretation goes like this.
“I have said these things to you so that you might have peace [rev 1-3]. In the world you will have trouble [rev 4-20] but take heart, for I [Jesus] have overcome the world [rev 21-22]” John 16:33