“Slain in the Spirit” is a modern term for being overcome by the presence of God in such an intense manner that a person falls to the ground. Although it is generally associated with the Charismatic movement, being
slain in the Spirit is by no means an exclusively Charismatic phenomenon.
For example, Catholic contemplative prayer literature contains references
to “swoon states.” In addition, many great preachers of the past, such as John Wesley, Charles Finney, and George Whitefield all testified to people falling under the Spirit’s power in their meetings, often in large numbers! From what I’ve read,
some of their services make modern Pentecostal meetings look pretty tame!
Many Christians have reservations about this phenomenon, and that is certainly understandable as it has sometimes been used in an exploitive and manipulative manner. However, we must keep in mind that just because something is unusual, doesn’t necessarliy mean that it is not of God.
Throughout the Bible, whenever the Holy Spirit’s presence shows up in a tangible manner, unusual physical
manifestations are not uncommon. These include:
- Shaking (Genesis 42:48; Exodus 16:16 Psalms 2:11; Isaiah 66:5; Matthew 28:4; Acts 7:32; Hebrews 12:21)
- Exuberant joy and drunken-like behavior (1 Samuel 1:12-17; Acts 2:13-15), and
- Spontaneous outbursts of praise to God (Luke 1:46-55, 5:25, 17:15; Acts 3:8-10).
In the Old Testament, it is interesting to note that the Word “Glory” in
the Hebrew, can also be translated “heavy,” or “heaviness.” When God’s
glory manifests, it is often sensed as a heaviness (in a wonderful, holy
sense.) Sometimes people are simply overcome by this heaviness, and fall to the floor as a result.
One of the most graphic Biblical examples of this is found in 2 Chronicles chapter 5, which tells the beautiful story of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. When construction of the Temple was completed, King
Solomon led the Israelites in an incredibly joyful worship service,
climaxing with the bringing in of the Ark of God’s Covenant (verse 7.)
Innumerable offerings were given (verse 6 ), exuberant music filled the air (verses 12-13,) and the Glory (heaviness) of God filled the building so intensely that the priests couldn’t stand to minister (verse 14)!
The Bible contains many other examples of people who were, in one way or another, overcome by the power and glory of God, sometimes resulting in them falling down, or having some other related effect. Each of these cases was unique, and happened for different reasons, and with different results. When Jesus identified Himself to the mob that had come to arrest Him, the impact of that proclamation knocked them all to the ground (John 18:6). When Saul of Tarsus had his dramatic encounter with Jesus on Damascus road, the brilliance of the vision knocked him to the ground (Acts 9:4). Similarly, when Jesus appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos,
John “fell at His feet as one dead (Revelation 1:17).”
Why does this happen? I don’t claim to know all of the ins and outs,
and I’m not sure that there is a “pat” answer that would apply to every case. Our encounters with the Holy Spirit are a very personal thing. Sure, it works on our pride a little, but maybe that’s another thing
God wants to work on! The late Kathryn Kuhlman sums it up well:
“All I can believe is our spiritual beings are not wired for God’s full
power, and when we plug into that power, we just cannot survive it. Weare wired for low voltage; God is high voltage through the Holy Spirit.”