Rev. 4:2: Immediately I was in the Spirit, and there in heaven a throne was set …
Immediately after Jesus’ call to “[c]ome up here,” John records that he is “in the Spirit” (v. 2). These words are identical to Rev. 1:10, where he is “in the Spirit” on the Lord’s Day. Literally, the phrase may be translated “became in the Spirit” and likely means John is brought by the Holy Spirit into the realm of spiritual vision. J.F. Walvoord and R.B. Zuck explain, “[E]xperientially he was taken up to heaven though his body was actually still on the island of Patmos” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Re 4:2–3).
Matthew Henry provides additional insight: For John, “all bodily actions and sensations were for a time suspended, and his spirit was possessed with the spirit of prophecy, and wholly under a divine influence. The more we abstract ourselves from all corporeal things the more fit we are for communion with God; the body is a veil, a cloud, and clog to the mind in its transactions with God. We should as it were forget it when we go in before the Lord in duty, and be willing to drop it, that we may go up to him in heaven” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Re 4:1–8).
While John’s experience is unique – few mortals in scripture are given a glimpse of heaven – the reality of being “in the Spirit” is common to all believers. Roughly 70 times the Bible uses the phrase “in,” “with,” or “by” the Spirit. Sometimes it is positional. Paul writes to Christians in Rom. 8:9, “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” At other times it speaks of divine inspiration. Jesus, referring to Himself as fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, says, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’” (Matt. 22:43). Still other times the phrase speaks of Christian service guided by the Spirit. Paul, for example, is “resolved in the Spirit to … go to Jerusalem” (Acts 19:21). Those exercising the spiritual gift of tongues/languages are speaking “mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:2). All believers are instructed to “pray at all times in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18). And Christians are “the ones who serve by the Spirit of God” (Phil. 3:3).
No doubt the same Holy Spirit who dwells in believers’ human spirits – sealing them, guiding them, and equipping them to serve – is the same Spirit who, at times, carries the Lord’s chosen servants into the heavenly realm.
Next: A throne is set … and One is seated (Rev. 4:2-3)