Acts 10:13–15, Peter’s vision. In Peter’s vision of the sheet covered with unclean animals, the voice from heaven commanded him three times to kill and eat these unclean animals. Peter was confused by the meaning of this vision since being a Torah-law abiding Jew he knew that eating unclean meat was forbidden and in good conscience he could not do that which was contrary to YHVH’s Torah-law, for to do so was sin (sin is the violation of the law, 1 John 3:4).
Often visions are metaphorical in nature and not literal. There are many examples in the Scriptures of people receiving metaphorical visions. For example, read the books of Daniel and Revelation. Indeed, Peter’s vision was no exception, for no sooner had the vision ended when three Gentile men appeared at his door seeking the gospel message and the Spirit of Elohim bade Peter to go and to meet them. Peter then realized that the interpretation of his vision was that he should not call any man common or unclean; that is, the gospel message is for all people regardless of their ethnicity (verse 28). In Peter’s case, Bible itself interprets his vision. The issue is not about whether it is now permissible to eat non-kosher meat or not, but rather the Spirit of Elohim was directing the apostles to begin taking the gospel to the Gentiles, who by Jewish standards were considered common and unclean (verse 28).
Now consider this. If Yeshua had meant to say in Matthew 15:11 and Mark 7:18–19 that it was now permissible to eat all foods including those meats that the Torah prohibits to be eaten (e.g. pork, shellfish, etc.), presumably Peter would have known this, since he was present when Yeshua made the statement (see Matt 15:15). If Peter knew that Yeshua had given the okay for his disciples now to eat unclean meat, why then did Peter so strongly object when the voice from heaven commanded him to eat the unclean animals in the vision (Acts 10:13–14)? Obviously, Peter had not changed his opinion about not eating unclean meat, since Yeshua had never annulled the Torah command forbidding the eating of unclean meats in the first place.
There is another point to consider with regard to Peter’s vision. In the Tanakh, unclean animals or beasts of the field was a Hebraic metaphor for the people of the nations (goyim), or Gentiles. Peter would have been aware of the meaning of this metaphor once the angel explained to him that the unclean animals he had seen in his vision was a not a reference to the biblical dietary laws, but to the Gentiles. Moreover, to the Jewish religious tradition of the day, interaction with the Gentiles was something that orthodox Jews did not do. To do so made one unclean or unkosher. This is not a biblical concept, since in the Tanakh, the nation of Israel was to be a light to the nations and to bring them to Elohim. Furthermore, the Torah is inclusive with regard to allowing Gentiles to be sojourn with the Israelites as long as they would accept Elohim and his laws and abandoned their heathen ways. There was to be one and the same Torah-law for both the native born Israelite and the Gentile that was grafted into Israel. There are also several examples in the Tanakh of Gentiles converting to the Israelites’ religion and being fully accepted (e.g. Ruth and Rahab). Once the angel explained the meaning of Peter’s dream, it would have been clear to Peter that Elohim was expressing disapproval of the Jewish view of Gentiles and that this vision was a mandate from heaven to evangelize the Gentiles. Moreover, the Gentile who was converted and brought into Israel was made spiritually clean, but the Scriptures never considered unclean animals kosher, and never made any provision for unclean animals to be made kosher—ever!
Acts 10:13–15, Rise…kill and eat…Not so, Lord. On occasion, YHVH will give his servants a dream or vision that on the surface or at face value seems outrageous or even anti-Torah as was the case with Peter’s dream. It seemed that YHVH was asking Peter to violate his own Torah-Word by eating unclean meats. This is how the modern church has largely interpreted this vision, while de-emphasizing its metaphorical meaning.
So why does Elohim use such methods at times to get his attention? Certainly, he’d never ask his people to go against his Written Word. This is impossible. Therefore, if one receives a dream that they believe is from Elohim, yet he seems to be asking them do something contrary to Scripture, as was the case with Peter’s vision, then it behooves one to ask oneself the following questions. Was the dream truly from Elohim, or from my own soulish desires or from Satan? Or is the dream to interpreted metaphorically, and YHVH is simply using hyperbole, strong, albeit symbolic, imagery to grab our attention, again as was the case with Peter’s vision, to strongly convey to us a particular direction in which he wants us to go or something he wants us to do?
Interpreting dreams and visions can be a dicey issue as Nathan the prophet found out when he misinterpreted the vision he received from Elohim pertaining to David. YHVH wanted to build up the house or dynasty of David, but Nathan interpreted the vision as David building a house (a temple) for Elohim. Likely both Nathan’s and David’s passion for wanting to build a temple to replace the aging and derelict Tabernacle of Moses was forefront on their mind causing them to come to an erroneous interpretation of the dream. This is why it’s important to ponder over any dreams or visions we receive from Elohim to ensure that we’re interpreting the correctly.
Examples of righteous saints pondering over dreams, visions and angelic visitations include Joseph who pondered the angel’s announcement about the birth of Yeshua and waited for confirmation from heaven before acting and putting Mary away (Matt 1:19–20). Similarly, Jacob in response to Joseph’s seemingly preposterous and impertinent dream publicly rebuked him before his mockingly sceptical brothers, yet he afterward pondered the matter in his heart (Gen 37:11).