Previous: Revelation 1:9

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, - Revelation 1: 10

Now we come to a fascinating aspect of the Revelation. How was this prophecy given by God to John? John wrote, I was in the Spirit... It was evidently assumed that Christian readers at the end of the First Century would understand this special state of mind. We should take the time here to consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the basic processes of divine revelation, inspiration, and illumination.


The writer of Hebrews said this:

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, - Hebrews 1:1-2a

Here are some of those "various ways": Direct conversation (Genesis 2:15-17; Exodus 33:11), a burning bush (Exodus 3), thunder (Job 37:5), a "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:5-12), etching on stone tablets (Exodus 31:18), talking animals (Numbers 22:28-30), dreams - their own (Daniel 7) or other people's (Daniel 2), visions (like a dream, but while one is awake - Genesis 15:1; 1 Samuel 3; Isaiah 1; Acts 101-15), announcements by angels (Daniel 10; Luke 1:26-38), voice from heaven (Matthew 3:17), even the proverbial "handwriting on the wall"(Daniel 5). But the most clear and memorable of all God's communication was the life, the work, and the words of Jesus Christ!

In this case God spoke by way of a vision (Revelation 9:17) that included some of these other methods as well. John was prepared for reception of a vision by being "in the Spirit."

The Holy Spirit was active throughout the Old Testament, "filling," or "coming upon" various people for certain purposes (Exodus 35:31; 1 Samuel 16:13; Psalm 51:11). He began a new, permanent intimacy with believers after the death of Christ. Jesus had predicted His arrival and indwelling. He said the Holy Spirit would be "another Helper" (John 14:15-18 - Greek parakletos - "companion, comforter") who would assist them in many ways, including the ability to accurately remember what Jesus had taught them (John 16:5-11).

When a person accepts Christ the Holy Spirit takes up residency in him (Romans 8:9-11). Being "in the Spirit" is referred to elsewhere as being "filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) and "walking in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). This is the privilege of every true Christian: to surrender himself or herself to the direction and empowerment of God's Holy Spirit. There is no thought here of entering a trance by use of drugs, hypnosis or other occult practices. John was simply in the right frame of mind for this relation by being filled with the Spirit. The revelation itself came as a vision rather than a dream.

The Holy Spirit is also instrumental in two other aspects of understanding God's Word. These aspects are called Inspiration and Illumination.


16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The key word in this verse is "inspiration." The Greek word is theopneustros - "God-breathed." The word "Scripture" meant the recognized books of the Bible (Acts 17:11, 1 Corinthians 15:3, etc.), which at that time would normally mean the Old Testament. Notice though that in 1 Peter 3:15-16 the Apostle Peter equated Paul's epistles with "the rest of the Scriptures."

Peter also described the process of inspiration in another way:

For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. - 2 Peter 1:21

The word "moved" is the present participle of the Greek verb phero. Its meaning is "carried along." Peter, being a fisherman, might well have pictured this as the external power he experienced when his boat was carried on the crest of a wave. As a preacher, it would have applied to what happened to him on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was first given to believers (Acts 2), and he was able to deliver such a powerful message that about 3000 people believed in Christ!

This would be a good place to mention the concept of "dual authorship" in the Bible. We believe that all of the books in our Bible, which were generally accepted by the Early Church and confirmed by godly and scholarly church leaders at the councils of Hippo Regius in 393, and Carthage in 397, are literally "God's Word," and that the original manuscripts of each book were inerrant (without error).

At the same time, one may see that the different human authors had their own vocabulary and style, and therefore did not merely write words dictated to them.

By contrast, many "New Age" authors claim to have "channeled" the words of extraterrestrial beings, whom they call "ascended masters." If this is true, the spirits behind their writings are demonic ("fallen angels" - Revelation 12:4; "doctrines of demons" - 1 Timothy 1:4). Such people are not truly authors. They are merely stenographers. Their writing was dictated to them by another being.

Returning our thoughts to the work of the Holy Spirit of, He has revealed divine truth to certain people, has foretold future events, and has enabled them to accurately record these revelations. At the same time, He was able to use the unique methods of the human writers to express their message.

Therefore, the Bible has "dual authorship." God is the primary author, and by His Holy Spirit He communicated the exact content of these writings through various methods as mentioned above.


The Holy Spirit also illuminates the Bible. Since He lives within us, He enables us to understand it and apply it to our lives. The Bible contains mysteries, parables, allegories, and other revelations that may not be understood by those who do not have the Spirit. Here are some passages that teach this truth:

12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. - John 15:12-15

9 But as it is written:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 2:9-16


One important related question is the matter of interpretation. God revealed this information by the Holy Spirit, He inspired his chosen servant John to record it, and He gave us the Spirit to help us understand it. The issue now becomes, how will we choose to look at the book? Peter gave some good advice about this.

19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation. - 2 Peter 1:19-20

Without going into great detail, we need to mention the major ways that people have interpreted Revelation. In our commentary on the first verse we already mentioned the Preterist view. They relate most or all of the book to the events of the First Century, revolving around the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and/or the persecutions of the Roman Empire.

Another school of interpretation is the Historicist view. They try to relate the various parts of Revelation to key events in history. The results vary from teacher to teacher and from age to age, always trying to make it mean something that doesn't fit.

Then there is the Idealist point of view. They don't even try to connect the narrative to historical or future events. To them it is just a pool of mythical events that have some spiritual application.

Our approach, and that of most people who take the Bible literally, is the Futurist view. We accept what the vision says about itself; that it is about future events. (For a good discussion of these views, see the introduction to The MacArthur New Testament Commentary for Revelation 1-11.)

Next: Revelation 1:10b


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