IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a great voice, like the sound of a trumpet, saying: ‘Write what you see in a book, and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.’
HISTORICALLY this is an extremely interesting passage, for it is the first reference in literature to the Lord’s Day.
We have often spoken of the day of the Lord, that day of wrath and judgment when this present age with all its evil was to be shatteringly changed into the age to come. Some think that John is saying that he was transported in a vision to that day of the Lord and saw in advance all the astonishing things which were to happen then. Those who hold that view are very few, and it is not a natural meaning for the words.
It is quite certain that when John uses the expression the Lord’s Day he is using it as we use it–its very first mention in literature.
How did the Christian Church cease to observe the Sabbath, Saturday, and come to observe the Lord’s Day, Sunday? The Sabbath commemorated God’s rest after the creation of the world; the Lord’s Day commemorates the rising of Jesus from the dead.
The three earliest references to the Lord’s Day may well be the following. The Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the first manual of Christian worship and instruction, says of the Christian Church: ‘On the Lord’s Day we meet and break bread’ (Didache, 14:1). Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Magnesians, describes the Christians as ‘no longer living for the Sabbath, but for the Lord’s Day’ (To the Magnesians, 9:1). The second-century Christian writer Melito of Sardis wrote a treatise Concerning the Lord’s Day. By early in the second century, the Sabbath had been abandoned and the Lord’s Day was the accepted Christian day.
One thing seems certain. All these early references come from Asia Minor, and it was there that the observance of the Lord’s Day first came in. But what was it that suggested to the Christians a weekly observance of the first day of the week? In the middle east, there was a day of the month and a day of the week called SebastÄ“, which means the Emperor’s Day; it was no doubt this which made the Christians decide that the first day of the week must be dedicated to their Lord.
John was in the Spirit. This phrase means that he was in an ecstasy in which he was lifted beyond the things of space and time into the world of eternity. ‘The spirit lifted me up,’ said Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3:12), ‘and … I heard behind me the sound of loud rumbling.’ For John, the voice was like the sound of a trumpet. The sound of the trumpet is woven into the language of the New Testament (Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). There is no doubt that in the mind of John there is here another Old Testament picture. In the account of the giving of the law, it is said: ‘There was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet’ (Exodus 19:16). The voice of God sounds with the commanding, unmistakable clarity of a trumpet-call.
John is told to write the vision that he sees. It is his duty to share the message which God gives to him. There is an obligation first to hear and then to transmit, even if the price of the transmission is indeed costly. It may be that it is necessary to withdraw to see the vision; but there is also a necessity to go forth to tell it.
Two phrases go together. John was in Patmos; and John was in the Spirit. We have seen what Patmos was like, and we have seen the pain and the hardship that John was undergoing. No matter where we are, no matter how hard our lives are, no matter what we are passing through, it is still possible to be in the Spirit. And, if John was in the Spirit, even on Patmos, the glory and the message of God still came to him.
Barclay, W. (2004). The Revelation of John (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated., Vol. 1, pp. 49—51). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.
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