Dreams About Death: Literal Warning or Symbolic?  Consider This


Here’s a type of dream that can cause significant concern. Probably one of the last things you’d want to see in a dream is yourself or someone else you know being killed or dying of various causes. Dreams of death and dying are not necessarily the most common on a daily basis, but they aren’t completely uncommon either. If you haven’t yet had one of these yourself, maybe you at least know someone who has. Either way, if not yet, you will at some point most likely get one of these. Here are some ways to know what these mean and whether or not you should be concerned.  

Terrorism, Mass Shootings, Murders and Accidents

With all the headlines of murders, shootings, terrorist bombings and all the rest, I know beyond any shadow of doubt that there are people who are receiving warnings in dreams of these events before they happen.  Either the people who become victims of these events are receiving the dreams or else there are friends or family who are receiving them.  The problem here is that those who have been getting these warnings are either not understanding what they are seeing or else they are not taking proper action to avoid the situation.

Since I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying dreams, and I get many of them myself almost every night, this is a very huge issue for me.  Every time I see a news headline with any of the above incidents, one of my first thoughts is, “why didn’t anyone act to intervene in advance based on a dream?!”  I’m telling you, this really bothers me and I don’t think anyone can convince me that God is not warning people in advance of an upcoming loss of life.

Everything I’ve learned about God’s character tells me that He is a God of life, not death and He absolutely does give people a chance to avoid personal destruction and death – this includes people who do not believe in Him or that follow some other religion.  

So the main problem is not whether God is warning people in advance of loss of life, but instead that most people do not understand God’s dream language.  For almost all dreams, God speaks in parables which involve a high degree of symbolic imagery.  If you’re new to this blog site, the reason for the metaphoric symbology in dreams is something I’ve written about in many of my previous articles.

When it comes to seeing death in a dream, you need to know whether the dream is a literal warning of actual death or if it is merely symbolic of something else.  If a literal warning, you most likely have very little time to respond properly before the real event actually happens.

Literal or Symbolic?

The first thing to know is that not all death dreams are real warnings of actual physical death. Actually, most are not but some of them are.  There are many things to consider when trying to determine whether these are real or symbolic.

Let me make a distinction here on the topic of literal vs symbolic.  There are some dreams that are literal in the sense that what you see is what you get.  In other words, when you get a literal dream, the scenery and any actions in the dream play out exactly as you saw. These require no interpretation and are very rare.  As I said above, most dreams are highly symbolic; what you see is not what will happen in real life.

What I’m talking about in this article are primarily symbolic dreams but as you’ll see below, there can be a combination of both symbolism and literal scenes in the same dream.  Let me try to break this down separately because there are different elements here that may get confused.

Symbolic death:  you may see someone die in a dream and it may not be about an actual physical loss of life but instead have a very different meaning.  

Actual death:  you may not see an actual death in a dream but, there may be symbology that does reveal a real physical loss of life.  Or, you may see a literal scene of death in a dream and it does point to a warning of actual death, very similar to what you saw.  

These above distinctions may look confusing but, keep reading – I’m going to use several real life examples to illustrate my point below.

Symbolic Death

Here’s where a dream of death is not pointing to a literal loss of life.  These will be more common than a literal warning of death.  As a perfect and relevant example, not all shooting dreams are literal.  In Biblical symbolic terms, guns and shooting are a metaphor for murdering people with your words.  Since we don’t have guns in the Bible, we have to relate this to the types of weapons used at that time:  swords and arrows.

Frequently, death in dreams deal with this type of situation where someone is being attacked by words and their character is being assassinated.  It is usually not a literal warning of an actual loss of life.  This is where you must absolutely understand the Biblical meaning of symbols.  The message here is about either your actions or that of someone else. This could be a warning about how someone will treat you, or it could be how you are treating others.   If it is about you, you will need to have an attitude change because murdering people with our words is considered a serious offense in God’s perspective.

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.
(Proverbs 12:18 NKJV)

Another potential and very common meaning for death in a dream is when a person is going to have a death to their old self or their personal past.  In this case, God is revealing that the future for this person will involve a significant event or circumstance which will cause the direction of their life to change notably.  The end result of this may be good but in the near term, the circumstances that will produce this are possibly going to be a little rough.  The basic message here is about a major change of life coming up.

Biblical Example

There’s a perfect illustration of a death warning given in a dream in the story of Joseph. While in prison, Joseph interpreted two dreams for his fellow inmates.  One of them involved the upcoming execution of a baker who had done something to offend the pharaoh of Egypt.

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, “I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head.”

So Joseph answered and said, “This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”
(Genesis 40:16-19 NKJV)

This is a great example because, while the warning of death was real, it was a highly symbolic dream that made no sense to the person who received it.  If you think about bread, what does it mean?  Bread here has a two-fold meaning – it is the career of the baker and it symbolizes life, since we all need food. Next, think about birds; what do they do?  They scavenge food that has dropped to the ground and also circle overhead and look for dead animals to eat.  Combining these in context is what got Joseph to realize what was coming for the baker.

There was also a very important element here that can be often overlooked by many: timing.  In a previous article, I’ve written a little on how timing can sometimes be discerned and what clues to look for in the dream.  In this case, three loaves of bread meant three days.  In some dreams, if there are any elements that you can count, there may be a hidden timing clue in there.  This is not always the case but it is something to be aware of.

My Own Dreams of Death

I’m actually no stranger to death dreams so I can speak with a good degree of experience here.  Most of my own dreams have only been symbolic but two were literal warnings of a potential upcoming death.  First, the literal warnings, then the symbolic ones.

A year ago, two Fox News reporters in Virginia were killed by a gunman while they were out in a public location doing their reporting job.  About five hours prior to the shooting on the morning of that same day, I had a dream which was very fuzzy and black and white where I saw two people walking on a public sidewalk and suddenly they were gunned down.

This was the first time I had ever had such a dream and I really didn’t know what was going on, not only that but the image was very hard to make out. Since there were no identifying details in the dream, I could not pin this down to anything concrete.  Several hours later, when I saw the news headline, I realized that the dream I had was in fact a literal warning of a murder. In the midst of being confused over what I saw, I also did not do the one thing I should have: pray that God would intervene and stop this from happening, in the event it was a literal warning.

Next, in a previous article on warning dreams, I told of how I saw a person whom I know well, standing in front in a classroom singing an old folk song, “Oh Susanna”.  He had a strange and out-of-place serious look on his face and he repeated the line, “don’t you cry for me” about three times. When I looked up the remaining lyrics of that song, the ending went, “And when I’m dead and buried—Susanna, don’t you cry.” Based on my knowledge of the real-life circumstances of this person, I knew immediately this was a warning of a potential suicide attempt.

In response to the dream, I immediately took several actions and nothing negative ended up happening.  I suggest reading that article because I pointed out how there were certain possible timing clues that I felt indicated when the suicide may have been attempted.

I’ve also had symbolic death dreams which, concerned me because at that time, I did not completely understand what they meant.  In the first, I saw a coffin being loaded onto a train along with other cargo.  Later, I saw a tiny man in an orange suit inside a cage on death row. These both turned out to be reference to my own upcoming personal death to self in a wilderness phase which I wrote about previously.

Another time, I saw a bus full of people being shot at by a large automatic weapon followed by a graphic close up view of many dead bodies sitting straight up on that bus.  If you really want to know, this was because of my own annoyed reaction and interaction with some people (reasons I’ll omit for now).   God was telling me that I was in fact murdering them with my negative approach.  In a future article, I’ll be writing about how (and why) God gives us rebuke and correction dreams when we are off track or not living up to His standards.

Historical Cases of Murder

As it turns out, there are some very good (unfortunate) examples which illustrate perfectly what a literal death warning dream may look like. Two prominent historical cases involve literal dreams of death which were unfortunately not acted upon. I’ll omit the links here but you can look them up if you’d like.  The first involves a professional boxer and the second is that of a former US President.

In 2009, professional boxer, Vernon Forrest had a dream where he saw his house being broken into and then being chased by several men with a gun.  In the dream, he noted that his own gun was empty.  Less than one week later, he was shot to death at a gas station by a group of young men who conspired to rob him. In a Twitter post, Forrest commented about the dream and said something to the effect that ‘this will not happen in real life’. His only response to the dream as stated in the articles was apparently to make sure his gun was loaded.  

In the Biblical sense, this is not the correct action to take when receiving such a dream. This is further supported by the fact that his dream showed him having an empty (unloaded) gun which meant any attempt to defend himself with that gun was going to be useless.

In one of the most well known assassinations in history, Abraham Lincoln was shot to death in Ford’s theater in April 1865.  Several days prior to his murder, Lincoln dreamed of being in the White House and seeing a coffin with an unknown person in it.  In the dream, he asked someone standing near the coffin about the identity of the dead person. The reply came, “the president”.  There is no historical record that Lincoln took any proper action in response to this dream, nor did he seem to understand the purpose of the dream.

In each of these above historical cases, God was giving warnings in dreams.  In the case of Lincoln, it is well understood that he believed in God.  In the case of the boxer, I was not able to find any convincing evidence he had such beliefs.  This underscores the fact again (as I have written previously) that God speaks to all people, regardless of their beliefs and gives them a chance to avoid personal destruction.

Proper Actions to Take

Any time you receive a dream that involves the appearance of a real loss of life, you must act immediately to determine whether or not the dream is a literal warning.  Under no circumstances should you ignore it, thinking that the dream is a figment of your imagination.

If the dream is determined to be a literal warning of death, the proper response is to first understand that timing is critical and in most cases, you may have only a matter of days. At the point where I am now as a dreamer, I can say confidently that almost no negative event ever happens to me without God first giving me a warning in advance.  Some of my warnings are the same day, while others are up to two weeks in advance.  Understand that timing is critical and short-term, even if no specific clues are given concerning when a thing may happen.  

The next thing to do is to pray that God will intervene and prevent this situation from happening.  This is not a prayer you pray by yourself but involve others as well since agreement in prayer is critical especially in the case of a life-threatening situation. Additionally, praying according to the psalms is very effective and we have a several great passages to use such as in Psalm 86.  If you don’t think that God responds to prayer, it’s because you have not tried it yet.

As an interesting note, go back up to that passage in Genesis 40 with Joseph and the other prisoner.  Conspicuously missing from this account is any mention of any action being taken to attempt to avert the death.  Personally, it always bugged me that Joseph just interpreted this dream and basically threw it back at the baker in what seems like a matter of fact style.  I don’t know exactly how that really went down and not to speculate too much but it just seems like there was something missing there.  Regardless, we don’t see Joseph praying that God would intervene and have mercy on the baker.

In the event of a warning of a terrorist act or mass shooting in a dream, there are several other things you could do to either avoid becoming a victim or stopping the event from happening.  First, if you see a connection between a literal place and a dream, avoid going there!  If God is showing you a literal scene of a literal place and a violent act, He is telling you in the clearest terms to stay away from it!  

You could also seriously consider giving the details of the dream to law enforcement. Police and FBI are no strangers to informants and if you were to give something like this to them, you have at least done your part.  Don’t be surprised if they look at you in a strange way, but you might be surprised that they take you seriously.  This has never happened to me, so I have no experience but I do believe it should be considered, especially if the dream is particularly vivid.


As you can see, death in dreams are to be expected at some point. If you have not had one already, you can expect that you will sooner or later.  Discerning whether they are literal warnings or symbolic of a personal issue of life is possible and you must know the difference.

  • Death and violent acts may be symbolic of murdering someone with your words.
  • Death can symbolize dying to yourself or a major change in your life where one phase of life ends and another begins; most of the time that is what these dreams mean.
  • While most of these dreams are symbolic, God does give warnings about a real loss of life in a variety of dream types.
    • You may see a literal scene of death and it may be a real warning of physical loss of life.
    • You may receive a symbolic warning that requires interpretation that does point to a real loss of life.
  • God’s intent to give warning dreams is to warn in advance to preserve life; God is a God of life, not death.
  • If you can’t tell the difference between a symbolic death dream or a real warning, send the dream to me and I will give you my interpretation.

He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up above those who rise against me; You have delivered me from the violent man.
(Psalms 18:48 NKJV)


  1. I rarely have dreams. In fact most of my dreams I don’t remember. I had one last night though and I wouldn’t even consider it a dream or a nightmare.. It was like it felt like a warning. It was honestly a night terror to me, I’ve heard the term and when I woke up from this dream I was sweating and terrified. I was murdered in my dream. First time I’ve ever had a dream where this has happened and I’m scared not gonna lie. Truly scared. What’s going on in my personal life I think has everything to do with this dream. That’s why this is so freakish to me. I won’t personalize it that much but the woman I am with is not happy inside. We have been together a year and half now and I feel like I used to make her happy. She used to have this light about her. Whenever I would tell her my problems she would listen and we would work stuff out and get to the bottom of whatever was going on between us together. Lately that just hasn’t been the case. She never reveals to me what’s really going on inside of her while myself on the other hand can’t seem to keep my mouth shut about what I’m thinking. It feels like I’m pulling on her now to approach life the same way as me by facing your fears and your problems by confronting them instead of locking them behind a door within yourself and at any moment those doors can unlock. It feels like all of my doors are unlocked and I’m approaching each day with the mindset of being as open as I can. She can’t figure out what’s wrong with her but she says she still loves me but ends up telling her therapist (first time she’s gone since we have been together) more things that are troubling her in an hour than she has told me in a year and a half. I know this because she talked to me about what she had talked about with her counselor as soon as she got home and had like homework sheets (it looked like to me) and I just don’t get it. I can open up to almost anyone. I don’t want to hide any of myself, I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of anything I’ve done and she says she deals daily with depression and anxiety and doesn’t know where the feelings are coming from, but then she sees a therapist and all this baggage comes out. How is that in any way fair to me or my thought process? So to the dream.. I was murdered in my bathroom. I wasn’t taking a shower or using the restroom I was just in the bathroom and two figures walk inside. One was a vivid character I can describe everything he was wearing all the way up to the little Michael Jordan type earring he had. He was a polished man with an unpolished blade, the blade looked like a shank or piece of glass sharded and it had blood on it already. The second figure was a silhouette that appeared to be a woman (the long hair) and body type. I feel like the silhouette is my mother. I feel like the man stabbing me (I can’t recall how many times) around 3 or 4 but can’t exactly recall is the woman I can’t make happy. I feel like her telling a counselor more things than she tells me takes away from the protectors inside of me. I feel gutless. Like I can’t do anything else for her. I never have dreams and this one is so vivid. Blood all over the floor and I was dying looking up at the two figures looking down at me and I then I woke up. Please tell me what this means.


    • Hello Donny – dreams that have very little symbolism are to be considered literal as you see them. This could be literal because it seems there are few details that are out of place if the dream was in real life. There are generally 2 responses to dreams like this: 1) someone like myself can pray & declare that a death assignment is cancelled in Jesus name, 2) there may be certain actions you must take in order to remove yourself from a situation or behavior that would open the door for this to happen. I’ve already just done #1 so that leaves you to decide based on life circumstances what would cause something like this to happen and make an immediate change in whatever area that may be giving this situation a chance to happen. Example…if this was a death while driving from sending text messages, the behavior change would require you to immediately stop that. I’m not able to determine yet from this dream if there is any specific behavior change needed at this point. Contact me thru this link for more follow up / discussion and to keep all other personal details off the public view here. https://chrismichals.com/contact/dreams-and-prophetic/


  2. Hi I am not sure what my dream means I have been struggling to go back to work or apply for disability because of my health issues and since this I have had a number of alarming dreams one is a car went into a house and destroyed the house in this same dream it changed saw myself working and also saw I was running from something moved into my sons apartment of which he lives with me in real life he does not have an apartment and I saw my kids and other kids smoking in this same dream mind you in real life I have been trying to quit smoking. Now I have not been to church in a awhile but I frequently speak scriptures to my kids on a daily basis and read the Bible and pray daily multiple times a day I was invited by my physical therapist who helps me with my health conditions to go to this church I had not gone before and I went with my kids and on the same night I had a dream I witnessed a man had a dead man in clear bag by his car I was trying to tell another man where this guy was and the murderer got away and the dead man in a bag was right on the side of the house. These are unlike any dreams I have ever had. I need help in this


  3. Well I read your story and I am interested. I can’t really explain my dream but I knew I was dead I didn’t see myself but when I woke up I felt like I needed to get all my stuff in order. ..


  4. Hi,I dreamt that I have killed one guy eh wasseriously stalking me. This guy ies a person I know in real life and he stalks me too in my real life. I don’t quite understand what this dream means. In the dream I was so scared of what happened because I killed him by accident


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