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NLT and “In The Spirit” (Revelation 1:10)

My friend Joe pointed out another inconsistency in the NLT. I previously posted about the usage of “tongues” and “unknown languages” in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and how the NLT used both. Revelation 1:10 contains an interesting decision by the NLT translators.

It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. (Revelation 1:10; NLT)

Why is the word “worshiping” added to this verse? Adding “worshiping” removes other interpretations. All other major translations read, “I was in the Spiriton the Lord’s day….”

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says concerning this verse: “I was in the Spirit” describes John’s experience on Patmos. The words imply being transported into the world of prophetic visions by the Spirit of God (4:2; 17:3; 21:10; cf. Ezek 3:12, 14; 37:1; Acts 22:17).

I think it is very reasonable to understand Revelation 1:10 to be stating that John was in a visionary trance or caught up in the Spirit when the sound of the trumpet blast occurs. I believe most commentators understand Revelation 1:10 to be referring to something to the effect that the Expositor’s Bible Commentary states. The NLT takes away this possible interpretation, leaving us with the idea that John was simply worshiping on Sunday when these events take place.

The decision by the NLT translators is more curious when we examine the rest of Revelation and notice that the phrase “in the Spirit” is sufficient in other places.

Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. (Revelation 4:1-2; NLT)

Notice that the writer of Revelation intends to convey that the same event that took place in Revelation 1:10 occurs again now in 4:1-2. It is “the same voice I had heard before” and the same “trumpet blast.” The NLT rightly maintains the phrase John was “in the Spirit.” So why did the NLT leave this verse alone, but add the word “worshiping” in 1:10? Further, the NLT uses “in the Spirit” in Revelation 17:3 and Revelation 21:10.

I have been reading daily from the NLT in my effort to get to know the translation. The TNIV is still next on my list when I finish reading the New Testament with the NLT. While the NLT has grown on me and I am using it more, there are instances like this that I do find troubling. The NLT leads the student away from a possible (and likely) interpretation that John was caught up in the Spirit in a vision in Revelation 1:10. Perhaps a future NLT revision can make this passage consistent with the rest of Revelation. Leave the phrase vague and allow the student to decide the meaning.

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