What does the Bible say about “signs” from God? Does God really speak through signs? Should Christians look for “signs” from God or is this unbiblical?
We need to define what we mean by “signs” before we can answer, “Does God speak through signs?” Generally speaking, I believe most people are referring to one of three possible meanings when they use the word “signs.”
The first category for “signs” is biblical but should not be sought after by Christians. The second category for “signs” is biblical and should be sought after by Christians. And the third category for “signs” is not biblical and thus should not be sought after by Christians.
The first category of “signs” is what I would label as “signs and wonders.”
In the Bible there is clear evidence that at certain times in history God has chosen to create “signs and wonders” to send a message, warnings, or to mark the fulfillment of a promise.
An example of this would be in Luke 2:8-15 when an angel appeared to the shepherds and announced the supernatural birth of Jesus. In Luke 2:12 it states, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
Other examples of “signs and wonders” would be the appearance of the hand writing on the wall in Daniel 5, God making the fleece wet one day and then dry the next as a sign to Gideon in Judges 6:36-40, and how Joel 2:28-32 stated the coming of God’s Spirit will be marked by dreams, visions, and signs in the sky.
While these types of “signs” are clearly biblical, these are not the type of signs a Christian should look for to hear from God on a daily basis. Signs and wonders are rare and will not be performed by God whenever we want him to do them. God chooses to use these types of signs for special purposes and reasons. We should not ask God to speak to us through signs like this whenever we want to know his will for our lives. These types of signs and wonders are something God will choose to do when he wants to, but this is not something we should seek after. For example, in Matthew 16:1-4 it states:
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. [Jesus] answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.”
The second category of “signs” is what I would label as “evidence for what God wants you to do in your life.”
Unlike “signs and wonders,” this second type of “sign” is the kind I believe Christians should always be looking for so that they can fulfill God’s specific will for their life. The process of seeing these types of signs is less about asking God to send them to us and more so about properly interpreting the signs God is already sending to us. God is always telling us what he wants us to do in life, and we need to properly interpret these “signs” so we are doing what God wants.
When certain things are happening in your heart and in your life, we need to interpret these things through a biblical lens. When I use the word “signs” in my videos and articles, I’m referring to this process of interpreting events through applying the Bible. If “________” happens, this is a sign you should apply “_________” biblical principle. Just like a doctor who looks at the patient and examines what symptoms are present before giving medicine, we need to look at the “signs” in life that would lead us to apply the correct biblical wisdom.
We use this type of process all the time in life. For example, I was just watching a football game recently on TV and one of the players fell down holding his leg. When the player then got up and limped to the sidelines, the announcer said, “That’s not a good sign. It looks like he is injured and needs medical assistance.” I believe God wants us to do this type of thing in our lives as well.
For example, if you are a man and you asked God, “Lord, do you want me to ask Ashley out on a date?”, it would not be biblical to then ask God to give you a vision to tell you what to do. But, it would be biblical to then look for evidence in your life and interactions with Ashley to help you rightly apply the word of God. So if you are talking with Ashley and it comes out that she is not actually a Christian like you thought she was, this would be a “sign” that God does not want you to date her because 2 Corinthians 6:14 states that God does not want his people unequally yoked.
A biblical example of this second category of “signs” can be found in Luke 10:5-11 when Jesus is giving instructions to the 72 who he is sending out. He states:
Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’”
Jesus is telling the 72 that they will need to interpret the events properly on their journey and respond accordingly. It was a “sign” they were to stay at someone’s house if the people in that house treated them properly. It was a “sign” they should not stay in someone’s house if that person did not treat them well. It was a “sign” they were to stay and preach in a town if that town received them. But if that town did not receive them, this was a “sign” Jesus wanted them to move on to a different town.
The goal in this process is to rightly apply biblical principles to the right situation. For example, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 commands us to encourage each other and build one another up, but in 1 Timothy 5:20 we are told to rebuke certain people when necessary. So how will you know if you need to encourage someone or rebuke them? We must look for “signs” to help us rightly apply each biblical command. For example, in context 1 Timothy 5:20 states, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” So if someone is consistently sinning that would be a “sign” to rebuke this person.
Because our goal here is to rightly apply biblical wisdom, this is why we can use the language, “God wants you to do this” or “God wants you to do that.” The Bible is God’s word; therefore, when we rightly apply the Bible to our lives, we know we are doing what God wants us to do in our lives.
(Note: My book called 100 Relationship Signs: How to Know What God Is Saying to You in Singleness and Dating is an example of using this second category of signs. In this book I show people common scenarios, situations, and questions that relate to singleness and dating and then I give them biblical principles to apply to those specific topics).
The third category of “signs” is what I refer to as “horoscopes and superstitions.”
When someone is using the word “sign” in this sense, they are attaching unrelated meaning to random events and situations in life.
For example, if a man was asking, “Lord, do you want me to date Ashely?” and then he instantly saw 5 grey cats walk in front of him and he then interpreted this as a sign that God does want him to date Ashley, this would be unbiblical. Why? Because those 5 grey cats have nothing to do with healthy relationship principles found in the Bible.
If this man prayed that prayer and then at church that night he and Ashly have a great conversation together, they get time to serve with one another, and it seems like they both are prepared to start a godly relationship – then that could be interpreted as a sign that God is telling him to move forward with her. But when we try to attach our own meanings to random things in life, we are playing God and just making things up in our own head. This is not what God wants for us.
Or if a woman was asking God if she should breakup with her boyfriend and then on her way to work she literally got stopped at every red traffic light possible, and then she interpreted this as a sign that God was telling her to breakup with him, this would not be biblical because red traffic lights don’t mean anything biblically or relationally. However, if on her way to work she sees her boyfriend kissing another woman, clearly that would be a sign she needs to breakup with him because this man is not showing the character of a faithful man that the Bible requires for husbands.
God speaks clearly through the Bible, through the Holy Spirit’s impressions on our hearts, and through the circumstances in our lives. God will help us rightly interpret the “signs” in our lives by showing us how to rightly apply biblical wisdom to the situations and relationships we experience in life.