Commentary on the Book of Revelation
Vol. 1, Ch. 1, Lecture Four, pp. 77-84.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day…”
Before John comes particularly to the vision he saw, he insists in some particular circumstances that make way to the more full faith and credit of the vision and story that follows. And though they are only circumstances in themselves, yet they are profitable and conducing to the main end he has before him. We heard of the first and second circumstance, how and where, John was when he got this vision.
The third and fourth circumstances follow in the tenth verse, that is, the day when he got this vision, and the frame he was in, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day.” The words, in the original, are, “I was in the spirit on that Lord’s Day,” pointing out a day singularly, and a day that in a particular and special manner is called His Day, beside any other day, that Dominic day, or day which is the Lord’s.
That we may have access to the use, we shall speak a little to these two. 1. What particular day this is, seeing there is no mention made what day it is, more than this, that it is called The Lord’s Day. 2. What it is to be in the Spirit on this day.
1. What is the Lord’s Day?
For clearing of the first of these two, you would consider that there is but one other phrase in Scripture like this, and it is spoken of the Lord’s Supper, “This is not to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:20). They that know the original, know also this phrase to be singular, like this of the Lord’s Day, ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ, and κυριακὸν δεῖπνον, which is opposed unto, and contradistinguished from τὸ ἴδιον δεῖπνον (1 Cor. 11:21), which was not set apart from other suppers, and common use, as this was. And these two, being by one particular phrase expressed, we must expound the one by the other. Now, the Lord’s Supper is called so for three reasons; for which also, we conceive this day to be called the Lord’s Day:
1. The Lord’s Supper, because of the Lord’s singular instituting that bread and wine for a special and religious end, distinguishing, differencing and setting it apart from a common use, to a more special use. And so, this day is called the Lord’s Day, because of the Lord’s separating and setting apart this day for His special service and worship; and in that, distinguishing it from other days, as He had done that Supper from common suppers.
2. The Lord’s Supper, for its special signification, Jesus Christ and His benefits being especially set out in it, His death and sufferings pointed at, and the benefits we have thereby. So this day is called the Lord’s Day, because it’s of special signification, pointing out not so much God’s ceasing from the work of creation, as our Lord’s ceasing from the work of redemption. As the Lord’s Supper is for the remembrance of His death till He comes again, so is this day for remembering the work of redemption, and His resurrection, till He comes again.
3. The Lord’s Supper, because of its special end, to set out the honor of the Mediator, and the worship and ordinances brought in by Him under the New Testament, so to distinguish it from the Passover. So this day is called the Lord’s Day, for the same reason, to set out the honor of the Mediator, and that it may be enrolled among the ordinances of the New Testament. Therefore, when in the New Testament, anything is called the Lord’s, it points ordinarily at Christ the Mediator, and at the second Person of the Godhead, as 1 Cor. 8:6, “one God,” distinguished from “one Lord.”
We take it then for granted that it is called the Lord’s Day, for these reasons: because it is a special day set apart for the Lord’s use, of special signification, and for a special end. And secondly, that it is a special day, known to the church, may appear, for else John would not have given it such a denomination, and that it points at some thing of Christ, and so is separated from any Jewish day, and common day, it is a day known singularity to relate to Christ.
To clear it, consider it must either be the first day of the week, or some other. But none other day it is. Ergo, etc. If any other, it can be supposed only one of these two: either, not any particular day of the week, but any special day or time of Christ’s appearing or manifesting Himself; or else the Jewish Sabbath day. Now, neither of these can be meant by the Lord’s Day.
1. Not the former: for, such a day of Christ’s special appearing not being named here, it would leave the church in an uncertainty to know what day was meant. Yet is this day mentioned to point it out from other days. That is the scope why it is so designed. Besides, if it were any such day, it would point at no one day; for there are many times of Christ’s appearing. It is not so to be understood then, though even so our Lord’s appearing may agree to the first day of the week, whereon most frequently He appeared after His resurrection to His disciples, as Matthew 28, John 20:26, Acts 1:2.
2. Neither the latter, to wit, the Jewish Sabbath day.
(1) Because it is ever called the Sabbath, and gets the own name that it formerly had from the creation. And the giving of it this name, will more obscure than clear the day.
(2) Because the Jewish Sabbaths were then annulled, as Colossians 2:16, “Let none judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon or of the Sabbath days.” Therefore then can they not be called the Lord’s Day. And in Galatians 4:10, they are reproved for observing days and months and times and years, where it is clear the Jewish new moons, sabbaths, and festivities were then and before that time abolished in so far as peculiar to them, though all distinction of days was not taken away, more than all distinctions of the elements in the Lord’s Supper from other meat, because distinction of meat was condemned there also. But this follows: all Jewish distinction both of meat and days was taken away, but what is still assigned by Christ, that continues.
(3) The Lord’s Day, in the phrase of the New Testament, looks to Christ as having its name some way from him, which cannot be said of the Jewish Sabbath. But this is called the Lord’s Day, as pointing at an ordinance of the New Testament, whereas the Jewish sabbaths had a respect to the Old Testament ordinances.
3. It remains therefore, it must be the first day of the week, because no other day can lay claim to it. It is that day which we call Sunday, or, the Christian Sabbath, and was in the primitive times called the Lord’s Day.
(1) Because the reasons why a day is called the Lord’s Day, do agree to it especially. The Jewish Sabbath was called the Lord’s Day (Ex. 20:8) because on it He ceased from the works of Creation. This day is called The Lord’s Day because on it He ceased from the work of redemption (Mark 16.1-2; Luke 24.1; 2 John 20.1). It is that day whereon our Lord not only rose, but several times did meet with His disciples. And many mark several privileges and benefits conferred on this day; as the pouring out of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2). And more reasons might be given whereby this day is singularly beyond others to be called His.
(2) Because this first day of the week and no other, was set apart for the Lord’s worship and service, as distinguished from other days. And John’s end here is to fix on a particular day known to them, and so esteemed of among them, as such a day. That it was set apart for the Lord and His worship, is clear, not only from places we have named, but from Acts 20:7—“Upon the first day of the week when the disciples came together, to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight”—which intimates not only a meeting, but a custom of meeting, and that for preaching, prayer, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper. So 1 Cor. 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him,” and in the first verse he tells, concerning the collection of the saints, he had given the same order to the churches of Galatia.
If it be asked, why does Paul point at the first day of the week, and bids give themselves to charity that day? Here it is, because that day was dedicated to God’s service and worship, whereof charity was a subordinate part. And (as we hinted at) this was not peculiar to one church, as Corinth, but was common to all the churches. The like order was in all the churches of Galatia, and it does not point at Paul’s instituting a day, but at his supposing of it to be instituted, and at his enjoining of a positive duty of charity suitable for that day. And it is observable, that though the saints had meetings on other days, yet, it is never said that they did meet the second, third, or fourth days, etc. but on the first—which certainly is done to show a peculiarity in that day, and the meetings on it. Yea, few or none deny this denomination to signify the first day on this account, it being so clear from antiquity, and no other day being here to compete with it, and that can lay such claim to this denomination, as this day does, and was by the most ancient still so named.
2. What is it to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day?
For the second thing to be cleared: What is it to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day? To be in the spirit, is, first, to be spiritual, to have the habits of grace, and a new nature: and thus it takes-in the ordinary walk of believers (Gal. 5:16, 25).
Secondly, more especially, it is for these who are habitually in the Spirit, to be actually and in a more eminent measure in the Spirit, as Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit,” to be in a holy rapture and ecstasy, is warranted and allowed to believers in a more special frame, and at more special times to be in a spiritualness abstracted from carnalness, and lawful things, more than ordinary.
Thirdly, it is to be in the Spirit in an extraordinary manner and measure, or to be in an extraordinary rapture, the Spirit revealing something extraordinarily. And this is to be in the Spirit, in a sense different from the former, albeit consisting with them. We cannot seclude any of these in this place, for John was regenerated and was habitually spiritual and gracious, but we especially include the last two. As if he said, though I was absent from company and Christian fellowship, and had not a congregation to preach in on the Lord’s Day, yet I was in the Spirit, exercising the habits of grace, and I was in an eminent, spiritual, and holy frame. The Spirit elevating my spirit (which is that spoken of in Isaiah 58:13. “If thou call the Sabbath a delight, the Holy of the Lord,” etc.), and the Lord takes him in this spiritual frame and strain, and ravishes him in the Spirit. And from the second step He brings him up to the third, to be in Spirit as an extraordinary prophet, as we take Peter to have been in Acts 10 when he went up to pray, that is, to the second step, and fell in a trance, and saw Heaven opened, which is the third. We think the same has been John’s case here.
The words give occasion to speak of several doctrines, as 1. The good that is to be gotten on the Lord’s Day, when folks are in a spiritual frame. 2. That when folks are separated from the public ordinances, they would be making it up in private, by giving themselves to spiritual exercises. 3. And that God not only can, but does make up the good to be gotten by the public, by private and secret fellowship with Himself, when believers in Him are banished from—or denuded of—the public ordinances. But not to insist on these, they give occasion to speak a little of these three things: 1. The institution of the Lord’s Day. 2. The name that the Lord’s Day gets. 3. Of the sanctification of it, or of a special part, wherein the sanctification of it consists.
I. The Institution of the Lord’s Day.
For the first, to wit, for the institution of this day, several arguments are here, or, we may argue several ways to prove it. 1. If in the Apostle’s time this day was set apart for the Lord’s worship and service, and in a special manner called His, as being kept to Him on a moral ground, then we have warrant, and it is our duty to keep it for the same end and use. For the practice of extraordinary men, grounded on moral and perpetual reasons, and that were not peculiar to them as extraordinary, but are common to them and us (as the grounds and reasons of the setting apart this day are, it being for the remembrance of His resurrection and the bringing in of a new world; and therefore, all did from the beginning keep that day) are binding to us, as is clear. But the first day of the week, was appointed to be the Lord’s Day, in the Apostle’s times, and singled out and set apart for His service on a moral ground, (for, no ground peculiar to them can be given). Therefore certainly it must be our duty to keep it.
2. If the first day of the week was singled out from other days and counted the Lord’s Day, then there behooved to be an institution for it, or a supposed institution. That is, it must be the Lord’s Day, either because He instituted it when He spoke many things to His Apostles after His resurrection, concerning the right ordering of His house and worship, and by His practice observed and sanctified it for His special service; or because these that were infallibly guided and led by His Spirit, instituted and gave warrant to keep it. For without an institution and command, it is not to be kept, or named so, more than another day. But this first day, was in practice, singled out beside all other days, and is accounted the Lord’s in a special manner, as is said; therefore there must be some institution of it.
3. Comparing this text with 1 Corinthians 11:20, if the first day of the week be the Lord’s Day, as the Sacrament of the Supper is the Lord’s Supper, then it must be by His appointment and institution His. But so the phrase in both places is to be understood. Ergo, by comparing these two places, the peculiarness of the phrase is such, that (there being no other phrase like them in Scripture) it seems the Holy Ghost warrants us to gather the reasons of this denomination of the one from the other, though the institution of this day be not so clearly expressed as the institution of the Lord’s Supper. For it is a received rule for expounding Scripture, to expound more dark places by places that are more full and clear. And therefore conclude we, that the Lord’s Day is to be called the Lord’s because of its institution, though we know not where, because for the same reason the Supper is called His, there being no solid ground to conclude upon. And those who give reasons to the contrary, must make it appear that there are other reasons more pregnant, or else the language of the Holy Ghost must have weight with us.
4. This first day is the Lord’s, as the seventh day is called His, or any other thing in the Old Testament; but that is ever because of His setting apart that day or that thing for His own, from others of that kind. Therefore it must be so here.
There are some exceptions made by some worthy men, which we shall speak a word to. As first, if it be so, it will follow that all days are not alike, contrary to Romans 14:14, Galatians 4:10, and Colossians 2:16, where the Scripture seems to say plainly that all days are alike. Therefore the Lord’s Day cannot be so understood.
Answer. 1. This does indeed directly contradict the letter of the text: for either this text points at one day by another, or else it does nothing. 2. The Apostle’s scope in the places that seem to be contrary to this is clear: when he casts the Jewish Sabbath and holy days, he casts them alike in respect of Jewish observation only. Or, in so far as they were Jewish and typical. For Christ had taken them away in that respect, even as He casts meats also, yet without prejudice of the Sacraments. And this confirms our argument. For if Jewish days and Sabbaths, were taken away forty years and more, as is clear by Paul, before John wrote this Revelation, in as far as they were Jewish, and yet John speaks of a Lord’s Day, as differenced from other days, it says it continued when they were abolished. There is a great odds between laying aside of Jewish days, and the Lord’s Day. And when John speaks of the Lord’s Day, he speaks of it in the singular number, in opposition to those many days the Jews had under the ceremonial law. And even that learned doctor grants this place to speak of the first day, and the churches’ practice to meet on it also, and, in several respects, to be privileged beyond other days.
A second exception is, if this day be so counted of, it will bring in the sanctifying of it, in as eminent a measure as the Jews’ Sabbath was. And is not that to Judaize? Answer. Distinguish between things ceremonial or typical, and things moral and perpetual. We bring back nothing that was ceremonial and typical, as their sabbaths of weeks, sacrifices, and many other things were; but for moral duties, they befit us as well as the Jews, and bind Christians to the end of the world. And this brings not back Judaism, neither leads us to sacrifices and the like, which pointed at Christ to come; but contrarily, this day and the duties of it hold out Christ already come—which destroys all these ceremonies and sacrifices, and declares them to be gone.
A third exception, it cannot be compared with the Lord’s Supper. For 1. The Lord’s Supper is clearly instituted; but this is not clear in the institution thereof. 2. The Lord’s Supper is a Sacrament; this is not. And days may be changed, as sacraments cannot. Answer. 1. To the last part: It is a begging of the question. If it be the Lord’s Day, set apart for His service, all the world cannot change it, except He who can change sacraments also. 2. To the first part: That the institution of this day is not so clear, as the institution of the Supper. Answer. We do not parallel them in respect of the clearness of institution, but in respect of the ground, or reason why they get this name—which supposes an institution. If the Sacrament of the Supper be called the Lord’s Supper because instituted by Him for a special use, so must the Lord’s Day get this name on this reason, or some better or clearer reason from Scripture must be given.
II. Other names for the Lord’s Day.
For the second, seeing it gets this name to be called the Lord’s Day, it may be questioned here concerning our manner of speaking of days, calling the Lord’s Day Sunday, the next day after it Monday, etc. which has the first rise from superstition, if not from idolatry—some of them being attributed to planets, as Sunday and Monday, some of them to idols, as Thursday, etc. But to speak to the thing itself, look to the primitive times, we will find Sunday called the Lord’s Day; and the days of the week by the first, second, third, etc. But the names of days, being like the names of places and months, folks must speak of them as they are in use, and Scripture warrants us so to do. Acts 17:22, Paul is said to stand in the midst of Mars Hill. Acts 28:11 speaks of a ship whose sign was Castor and Pollux. So, March, January, July, and August, are from the idols Mars and Janus, or derived from men that appropriate more than ordinary to themselves. And though it was ordinary to Christians in the primitive times to call this day the Lord’s Day among themselves, yet when they had dealing with the Jews, they called it the Sabbath, and when they had dealing with the heathen, they called it the Sunday. And so, though it be best to speak of days as Scripture names them, yet it is agreeable with Scripture to design or denominate them as they are in use among a people, especially where no superstitious use is in naming of them.
III. The Sanctification of the Lord’s Day.
For the third, the sanctification of this day. It is pointed out in John’s saying he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” to point out that this day requires a special sanctification and setting apart to worship God. And there are four steps of it mentioned in the Scripture.
1. The first is negative abstinence, not only from sin, but from our civil and ordinary affairs, which are lawful on other days, but not on this day (Isaiah 58:13).
2. The second is positive, in devoting it to God, and spending the whole day in duties of worship, in reading, hearing, praying, singing, breaking of bread, or celebrating the Communion (Acts 20:7). And that, not only in private duties, but in public, and in private when the public is interrupted, except in cases of necessity.
3. It should be spent in the duties of charity. Though the sanctification of this day cannot consist with working, yet it may stand well with giving of alms, and seeing to the necessities of others (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
4. A fourth step is in the text: to have a holy and sanctified frame, a divine stamp, a heavenly conversation, more than ordinarily taken up with God and Christ, and the things of another life that day. This is the main thing wherein the Sabbath is to be sanctified, and wherein it represents Heaven, to be abstracted from the world, and to be living above in our spirits, eminently ravished in Spirit, as abstracted from things, we are to be taken up with on other days. The frame of a Sabbath should be a kind of ravishment, wherein not only we are not taken up with working our ordinary callings, but we do go about prayer and other spiritual duties in a more heavenly way than on other days, and that with a difference in our frame, being more elevated and spiritual, we should be other men in more divine contemplation. This is the main thing called for in sanctifying the Sabbath. And therefore in Hebrews 4, Heaven is set out by the Sabbath, wherein there ought not only to be a ceasing from our own works, but an entering into our rest (Heb. 4:10), as it is a delighting in God, calling the Sabbath our delight, the holy of the Lord and honorable, the heart being taken up with it (Isa. 58:13).
Remember from all that has been said, this day is the Lord’s Day. And it says that folks should spend it not as they like, but for Him, and about the duties of His service. It is not the sanctifying of the Sabbath to spend an hour or two in public, and the rest of it in our own discourses, pleasing and delightsome to ourselves. All days are God’s, but He has given you six, and reserved the seventh to Himself. You should be with Him in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, which is the main use of all that has been said.