1. THE HOLY PLACE OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY
a. When Stephen looked up into heaven while being stoned, what did he see? Acts 7:54–56.
b. What did the apostle John see when the door to the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary was opened to him in vision? Revelation 4:1, 5.
“The holy places of the sanctuary in heaven are represented by the two apartments in the sanctuary on earth. As in vision the apostle John was granted a view of the temple of God in heaven, he beheld there ‘seven lamps of fire burning before the throne.’ He saw an angel ‘having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne’ (Revealtion 4:5; 8:3). Here the prophet was permitted to behold the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven; and he saw there the ‘seven lamps of fire’ and ‘the golden altar,’ represented by the golden candlestick and the altar of incense in the sanctuary on earth.”—The Great Controversy, pp. 414, 415.
2. THE RAINBOW OF MERCY AND JUSTICE
a. What else did John see in the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary? Revelation 4:2, 3.
“How great the condescension of God and His compassion for His erring creatures in thus placing the beautiful rainbow in the clouds as a token of His covenant with men! The Lord declares that when He looks upon the bow, He will remember His covenant. This does not imply that He would ever forget; but He speaks to us in our own language, that we may better understand Him.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 106.
b. What does the rainbow represent? What lesson can we learn from the original rainbow given in Noah’s time? Ezekiel 1:26–28; Genesis 9:8–17.
“The rainbow spanning the heavens with its arch of light is a token of ‘the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature’ (Genesis 9:16). And the rainbow encircling the throne on high is also a token to God’s children of His covenant of peace.”—Education, p. 115.
c. What evidence proves that, in the plan of salvation, justice and mercy go hand-in-hand? Psalm 85:10; John 8:10, 11; 1 John 1:9.
“As the bow in the cloud is formed by the union of the sunlight and the shower, so the rainbow encircling the throne represents the combined power of mercy and justice. It is not justice alone that is to be maintained; for this would eclipse the glory of the rainbow of promise above the throne; man could see only the penalty of the law. Were there no justice, no penalty, there would be no stability to the government of God. It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation full and complete.”—God’s Amazing Grace, p. 70.
“By faith let us look upon the rainbow round about the throne, the cloud of sins confessed behind it. The rainbow of promise is an assurance to every humble, contrite, believing soul, that his life is one with Christ, and that Christ is one with God. The wrath of God will not fall upon one soul that seeks refuge in Him.”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 157.
3. TWENTY-FOUR ELDERS
a. From where did the 24 elders seated around the throne come? What were they offering to God? Revelation 4:4; 5:8, 9.
b. How did these elders get to heaven before Christ’s second coming? Matthew 27:50–53; Ephesians 4:8.
“Christ arose from the dead as the first fruits of those that slept. He was the antitype of the wave sheaf, and His resurrection took place on the very day when the wave sheaf was to be presented before the Lord. For more than a thousand years this symbolic ceremony had been performed. From the harvest fields the first heads of ripened grain were gathered, and when the people went up to Jerusalem to the Passover, the sheaf of first fruits was waved as a thank offering before the Lord. Not until this was presented could the sickle be put to the grain, and it be gathered into sheaves. The sheaf dedicated to God represented the harvest. So Christ the first fruits represented the great spiritual harvest to be gathered for the kingdom of God. His resurrection is the type and pledge of the resurrection of all the righteous dead. ‘For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him’ (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
“As Christ arose, He brought from the grave a multitude of captives. The earthquake at His death had rent open their graves, and when He arose, they came forth with Him. They were those who had been colaborers with God, and who at the cost of their lives had borne testimony to the truth. Now they were to be witnesses for Him who had raised them from the dead.
“During His ministry, Jesus had raised the dead to life. He had raised the son of the widow of Nain, and the ruler’s daughter and Lazarus. But these were not clothed with immortality. After they were raised, they were still subject to death. But those who came forth from the grave at Christ’s resurrection were raised to everlasting life. They ascended with Him as trophies of His victory over death and the grave. . . .
“These went into the city, and appeared unto many, declaring, Christ has risen from the dead, and we be risen with Him.”—The Desire of Ages, pp 785, 786.
4. THE 144,000 AND THE WORK OF GOD ON EARTH
a. Who else were seen before the throne? Revelation 7:4, 13–15; 15:2, 3 (compare Revelation 4:6). What song were they singing, and what does that song represent? Exodus 15:1, 13.
“The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious star containing Jesus’ new name. . . .
“Here [in the New Jerusalem] we saw the tree of life and the throne of God. Out of the throne came a pure river of water, and on either side of the river was the tree of life. On one side of the river was a trunk of a tree, and a trunk on the other side of the river, both of pure, transparent gold. —Early Writings, pp. 15-17.
“God grant, dear reader, that when Jesus shall come the second time, you may be found ready and waiting; that you may be of that number who shall sing the song of redemption around the great white throne, casting their crowns at the feet of the Redeemer.”—The Signs of the Times, November 10, 1887.
b. How was God’s work on earth represented in vision to Ezekiel and, later, to John the apostle? Ezekiel 1:4, 5, 10, 14–16; Revelation 4:6–8 (compare Isaiah 6:1–3). In the light of the four faces (Ezekiel 1:10), how are we to consider the different abilities and characters of those serving God? What do the wheels represent?
“To the prophet [Ezekiel] the wheel within a wheel, the appearances of living creatures connected with them, all seemed intricate and unexplainable. But the hand of Infinite Wisdom is seen among the wheels, and perfect order is the result of its work. Every wheel works in perfect harmony with every other.”—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 213.
“Those who are called to responsible positions in the work of God often feel that they are carrying heavy burdens, when they may have the satisfaction of knowing that Jesus carries them all. We permit ourselves to feel altogether too much care, trouble, and perplexity in the Lord’s work. We need to trust Him, believe in Him, and go forward. The tireless vigilance of the heavenly messengers, their unceasing employment in their ministry in connection with the beings of earth, show us how God’s hand is guiding the wheel within a wheel.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, p. 1161.
5. A VISION OF THE MOST HOLY PLACE
a. What work was shown in vision to God’s prophets with reference to these last days? Daniel 7:9, 10; Revelation 11:18, 19.
“[Daniel 7:9, 10, RV quoted.] Thus was presented to the prophet’s vision the great and solemn day when the characters and the lives of men should pass in review before the Judge of all the earth, and to every man should be rendered ‘according to his works.’ ”—The Great Controversy, p. 479.
“Effort and labor are required on the part of the receiver of God’s grace; for it is the fruit that makes manifest what is the character of the tree. Although the good works of man are of no more value without faith in Jesus than was the offering of Cain, yet covered with the merit of Christ, they testify to the worthiness of the doer to inherit eternal life.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, pp. 381, 382.
b. Why does God draw our attention to these revelations? Revelation 1:19, 3.
“A revelation is something revealed. The Lord Himself revealed to His servant the mysteries contained in this book [of Revelation], and He designs that they shall be open to the study of all. Its truths are addressed to those living in the last days of this earth’s history, as well as to those living in the days of John. Some of the scenes depicted in this prophecy are in the past, some are now taking place; some bring to view the close of the great conflict between the powers of darkness and the Prince of heaven, and some reveal the triumphs and joys of the redeemed in the earth made new.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 584.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
a. Which of the two apartments of the heavenly sanctuary did the apostle John describe in the fourth chapter of Revelation?
b. How does the rainbow symbolize both justice and mercy?
c. How was it possible for the 24 elders from earth to be in heaven?
d. What does the vision of Ezekiel chapter 1 represent?
e. How is the character of God vindicated by the redeemed saints?