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In The Spirit On The Lord's Day



(Revelation 1:9-10 NKJV) I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. {10} I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet,

John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day". This says a couple of things.(1) That a Christian can be "in the Spirit" and (2) that there is a state called "in the Spirit" which is different from normal living and is which involves a deeper level of communion with the spiritual realm and with God. The phrase "in the Spirit" is used three other times in the book of Revelation. Here they are:

(Revelation 4:2 NKJV) Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

(Revelation 17:3 NKJV) So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

(Revelation 21:10 NKJV) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

"in the Spirit" in Revelation means a state of heightened spiritual perception. It enables the apostle to move among spiritual realities and to behold things that he could not behold under normal physical limitations. It also involves "translation" to heaven, to a wilderness and to a high mountain. In chapter one though no "translation" is implied. Lets see how else the term is used in Scripture. The first reference is in Ezekiel at the beginning of the chapter on the Valley of Dry Bones.

(Ezekiel 37:1 NKJV) The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.

This seems very similar to John's experience. It is the only OT reference to the phrase. In the New Testament we find the phrase used 24 times and in a number of different ways. (numbers taken from occurrences in the NKJV translation, it may be different in other translations) It can mean...

  • In the Spirit in contrast to in the flesh eg Romans 8:9, Gal 3:3
  • In the Spirit in contrast to in the letter eg Rom 2:29
  • In the spirit and power of Elijah - that is "in the nature of.."eg Luke 1:17
  • In the spirit of your mind eg. Eph 4:23
  • From the deepest parts of ones being eg John 11:33, Acts 19:21
  • In the spirit as "inspired", "under the power of the Spirit" often involving an ecstatic/worshipful state we see this in the following references:
  • (Matthew 22:43 NKJV) He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him 'Lord,' saying:

    (Luke 10:21 NKJV) In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

    (Acts 20:22 NKJV) "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there,

    (1 Corinthians 14:2 NKJV) For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.

    We need then to ascertain whether or not this state is exceptional or is normative for mature Christians. John on Patmos writes as if it was normal for him to be "in the Spirit on the Lord's day". Another reference in Philippians suggests this may be the case.

    (Philippians 3:3 NKJV) For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,
    Two more verses suggest that our worship is to be impelled by the presence of the Spirit of God.

    (Ephesians 2:22 NKJV) in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

    (Ephesians 6:18 NKJV) praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;


    These verses indicate that the Christian is a Holy Spirit-indwelt person and that being indwelt by God should have a profound impact on us from time to time. I am not advocating that we should expect the heavens to be opened to us each Sunday. I am suggesting that we should be more conscious of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and there should be times when we are so thoroughly immersed in Him that we can say of ourselves "I was really in the Spirit then."

    I know I try to avoid ecstatic states as much as possible. I am a person who likes to be in control. I like leading, thinking, writing, teaching. I am less than comfortable with feeling, perceiving, experiencing and sensing. My background is in Inorganic Chemistry. I like facts and equations and precise measurements - the stoichiometry of life. I am uncomfortable with the book of Revelation and with the spirituality of John the apostle. Yet I cannot lightly dismiss it. It is there. Along with Daniel, Paul, Zechariah, Moses, Ezekiel and Isaiah. There is an enormous tradition of ecstatic experiences among great men of God.

    Being "in the Spirit" as in under the control of the Holy Spirit with an increased spiritual sensitivity is found in David when he composed the Psalms, Elisha when he prophesied and in many others as they received their words from God. At Pentecost the one hundred and twenty spoke in tongues glorifying God under the inspired influence of the Holy Spirit. This started a tradition of ecstasy that was continued in Caeserea Phillipi (Acts 10:44-47), Ephesus (Acts 19:6) and Corinth (1 Cor 14:1-5) amongst others. The New Covenant contains a promise of increased intimacy with God and a veritable flood of "in the Spirit" type experiences to the point where all Christians from the greatest to the least would participate to some extent in them.

    (Acts 2:17-18 NKJV) 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. {18} And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.

    Being "in the Spirit" does not necessarily mean speaking in tongues for it is clear that not all speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). It may mean that you compose a song to God, or teach with exceptional clarity and power or administer the church with exceptional wisdom. (1 Corinthians 12:28-30 NKJV) And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. {29} Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? {30} Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

    It seems clear to me then that we should ask the Holy Spirit to make our Christian lives such that we can say that we have definitely been "in the Spirit". This may not suit some people but the Holy Spirit is God. To tell God that we don't want His workings in our lives is dangerous stuff indeed. Lets ask God to so move in our lives that we can be found "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day".


    Prayer

    As we worship this Sunday let it be an "in the Spirit" time for us Lord Jesus when You reveal Yourself to us in majesty and glory and love. Amen.


    This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.