Scripture and Inspiration tell us of great celebrations that take place in heaven, all a part of different phases of the plan of redemption or the new covenant. An understanding of the setting of these celebrations, their purposes and how they relate to us here on earth will enable us to more fully understand God’s wonderful plan for man’s redemption. Some of them have already taken place and some are to take place in the future. To understand these celebrations we need to understand the covenant God made with man.
“The covenant of grace was first made with man in Eden, when after the Fall there was given a divine promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head. To all men this covenant offered pardon and the assisting grace of God for future obedience through faith in Christ. It also promised them eternal life on condition of fidelity to God’s law. Thus the patriarchs received the hope of salvation.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 370.
The covenant was a plan by the Father and the Son to free the fallen race from sin and restore mankind to the kingdom of glory. Obedience and freedom from sin are requirements for us to return to that kingdom.
“This same covenant was renewed to Abraham in the promise, ‘In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed’ (Genesis 22:18). This promise pointed to Christ.” Ibid.
“Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham, it could not be ratified until the death of Christ. It had existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it had been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant. The law of God was the basis of this covenant which was simply an arrangement for bringing men again into harmony with the divine will, placing them where they could obey God’s law.” [Emphasis author’s.] Patriarchs and Prophets, 370, 371.
This new covenant is called by different names—Abrahamic covenant, plan of salvation, plan of redemption, among others. In Revelation 14:6 in the first angel’s message it is called the everlasting or eternal gospel because it was made between the Father and the Son, two eternal beings.
This covenant is wholly a product of divine creation. John 3:14–17 states: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Because of the love of God and His Son for the pinnacle of their creation, they formed this covenant so that whoever believes and follows its terms and conditions can be restored to the kingdom of glory.
We are told that there is a sanctuary connected with this covenant. “ ‘Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man’ (Hebrews 8:1, 2). Here is revealed the sanctuary of the new covenant.” The Great Controversy, 413.
Another statement confirms this: “The term ‘sanctuary,’ as used in the Bible, refers first, to the tabernacle built by Moses, as a pattern of heavenly things; and, secondly, to the ‘true tabernacle’ in heaven, to which the earthly sanctuary pointed. At the death of Christ the typical service ended. The ‘true tabernacle’ in heaven is the sanctuary of the new covenant.” Ibid., 417.
The weight of evidence shows that the foundation of the Christian faith is this covenant, and its terms are carried out by Christ in the sanctuary in heaven. The two are interlocked. Everybody who is saved will have their name pass through that sanctuary and have his or her sins confessed and atoned for by the blood of Christ.
“The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8); yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for the guilty race. But ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Oh, the mystery of redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of that love which ‘passeth knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:19)? Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 63.
There are seven celebrations which take place over a period of time in heaven involving this covenant.
Celebration No. I. The Institution of the Covenant with Adam and Eve in heaven.
The whole universe is intensely interested in the carrying out of this great plan of salvation. All heaven watched with great anxiety as Satan, in the guise of a beautiful serpent, engaged Eve in conversation. With great sorrow they watched Eve and then Adam eat of the forbidden fruit. The angels loved Adam and Eve and they offered to pay the penalty for their transgression. They were so anxious to have the covenant ratified that we could be saved that they were willing to give their lives.
“The angels prostrated themselves at the feet of their Commander and offered to become a sacrifice for man (but they were created beings and could not meet the requirements of that covenant). …
“Christ assured the angels that by His death He would ransom many, and would destroy him [Satan] who had the power of death. He would recover the kingdom which man had lost by transgression, and the redeemed were to inherit it with Him, and dwell therein forever. Sin and sinners would be blotted out, nevermore to disturb the peace of heaven or earth.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 64, 65.
With that good news the first celebration took place. “Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven. The glory and blessedness of a world redeemed outmeasured even the anguish and sacrifice of the Prince of life. Through the celestial courts echoed the first strains of that song which was to ring out above the hills of Bethlehem ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ (Luke 2:14). With a deeper gladness now than in the rapture of the new creation, ‘the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ (Job 38:7).” Ibid.
All heaven is interested in the recovery of mankind to Eden. Thus the first celebration in the universe was connected with the great plan of salvation. This time of rejoicing, this celebration, was based on promises that the covenant would be ratified and on the promise that by confession and separation from sins the blood of Christ would atone for them.
Celebration No. II. The Birth of Jesus
Angels came to earth to announce the birth of Jesus.
“Above the hills of Bethlehem are gathered an innumerable throng of angels. They wait the signal to declare the glad news to the world. Had the leaders in Israel been true to their trust, they might have shared the joy of heralding the birth of Jesus. But now they are passed by.” The Desire of Ages, 47. These leaders of the church were looking for a Saviour to deliver them, not from sin, but from the control of the Pagan Roman Empire. So the angels passed them by.
“In the fields where the boy David had led his flock, shepherds were still keeping watch by night. Through the silent hours they talked together of the promised Saviour, and prayed for the coming of the King to David’s throne. ‘And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10, 11). …
“The heavenly messenger had quieted their fears. He had told them how to find Jesus. With tender regard for their human weakness, he had given them time to become accustomed to the divine radiance. Then the joy and glory could no longer be hidden. The whole plain was lighted up with the bright shining of the hosts of God. Earth was hushed, and heaven stooped to listen to the song – ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ (Luke 2:14).” Ibid., 47, 48.
The same song that the angels sang at the institution of the covenant 4,000 years earlier they sang again to these shepherds.
“Oh that today the human family could recognize that song! The declaration then made, the note then struck, will swell to the close of time, and resound to the ends of the earth. When the Sun of Righteousness shall arise, with healing in His wings, that song will be re-echoed by the voice of a great multitude, as the voice of many waters, saying, ‘Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth’ (Revelation 19:6).” Ibid.
This song will be the theme of the new covenant from the beginning to the end of the execution of the plan of salvation.
“The story of Bethlehem is an exhaustless theme. In it is hidden ‘the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God’ (Romans 11:33).” Ibid.
Celebration No. III. Opening of the Holy Place
After Jesus had provided His blood by His sacrifice on Calvary, He ascended to heaven. The story of this celebration is found in Revelation 4:2–6 and 9–11: “At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. Before the throne, seven lamps were blazing.” Here is described the Father sitting on His throne surrounded by 24 of the highest officials in the government of heaven. The seven lamps in the earthly sanctuary were found in the first apartment of the holy place.
“There are cherubim and seraphim. The commanders of the angel hosts, the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds, are assembled. … all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.” The Desire of Ages, 834.
“Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures. … Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him Who sits on the throne and Who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him Who sits on the throne, and worship Him Who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.’ ” Revelation 4:6–11.
The scene continues into chapter 5. In the first four verses John tells about a little book in the hand of the one sitting on the throne. No one can be found who can open it. John begins to weep because he wants to know what is in that book. Then the scene changes in verse five:
“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah [Jesus], the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne” (verses 5, 6).
Jesus had ascended to the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary after His resurrection. This celebration was all about receiving Jesus and His appearance reminds John of the crucifixion—of the Lamb slain on the cross.
The Desire of Ages picks up this story of Revelation 4 and 5 beginning at page 833. “All heaven was waiting to welcome the Saviour to the celestial courts. As He ascended, He led the way, and the multitude of captives set free at His resurrection followed. The heavenly host, with shouts and acclamations of praise and celestial song, attended the joyous train.
“As they drew near to the city of God, the challenge is given by the escorting angels –
‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in’ (Psalm 24:7).
“Joyfully the waiting sentinels respond,
‘Who is this King of glory?’
“This they say, not because they know not who He is, but because they would hear the answer of exalted praise –
‘The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in’ (verses 8, 9).
“Then the portals of the city of God are opened wide, and the angelic throng sweep through the gates amid a burst of rapturous music.” The Desire of Ages, 833.
All heaven is celebrating that Jesus has come home. This is quite a contrast from when He left the earth and a few disciples gathered to watch Him ascend, not really understanding what was taking place. God desires that His church on earth be celebrating in harmony with His church in heaven.
“There is the throne, and around it the rainbow of promise. There are cherubim and seraphim. The commanders of the angel hosts, the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds, are assembled. … all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.” Ibid., 834.
The scene changes again and the celebration now seen is the inauguration of Jesus as High Priest in the sanctuary of the new covenant in heaven following His ascension in A.D. 31. Notice what happens:
“But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him, as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His second coming. He approaches the Father, with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; who rejoices over one with singing. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant [of grace] to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares: Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, ‘I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am’ (John 19:30; 17:24).
“The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. … The Father’s arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’ (Hebrew 1:6).” Ibid.
The disciple John was enamored with the scene. The appearance of Jesus has changed from that of a Lamb looking as if it had been slain to that of a high priest.
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands (the holy place of the heavenly sanctuary) and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” Revelation 1:12–16.
Jesus no longer appears like a Lamb slain. When He went in before the Father, He was changed and inaugurated as High Priest and now had the authority to take and open the book that no one, according to verses 1–4, could open.
“He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. [The highest officials in the government of heaven now bow down before the newly inaugurated High Priest. In this inauguration ceremony Jesus has been elevated above all the leaders of the universe except God the Father.] … And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ ” Revelation 5:7–10.
Now that the covenant is established, anyone can go to Jesus in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, confess his sins, dedicate himself to Christ and receive eternal life through the atoning blood of Christ.
“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who is slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!’ ” Revelation 5:11–13.
The whole universe now praises God the Father and Jesus the Lamb for establishing the great plan of salvation, the new covenant. This is undoubtedly the greatest celebration thus far in the great controversy between Christ and Satan in carrying out the plan of salvation.
“With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of life. The angel host prostrate themselves before Him, while the glad shout fills all the courts of heaven, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing’ (Revelation 5:12).
“Songs of triumph mingle with the music from angel harps, till heaven seems to overflow with joy and praise. Love has conquered. The lost is found. Heaven rings with voices in lofty strains proclaiming, ‘Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever’ (Revelation 5:13).
“From that scene of heavenly joy, there comes back to us on earth the echo of Christ’s own wonderful words, ‘I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God’ (John 20:17). The family of heaven and the family of earth are one. For us our Lord ascended, and for us He lives. ‘Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them’ (Hebrew 7:25).” The Desire of Ages, 834, 835.
The next celebration is even greater in glory and magnificence than this one.
Celebration No. IV. Opening of the Most Holy Place, the Investigative Phase of the Judgment and the Wedding of the Lamb
In The Great Controversy, 426, we are given information about this fourth celebration.
“In the summer and autumn of 1844 the proclamation, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh’ (Matthew 25:6), was given. … The coming of the bridegroom, here brought to view, takes place before the marriage.”
Daniel 7:9, 10 and 13 talks about this great celebration: “As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was a white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.’ ”
This passage describes the coming of the Bridegroom to the wedding. In The Great Controversy, 427, it states: “Christ, as stated by the prophet Daniel, will receive from the Ancient of Days in heaven, ‘dominion, and glory, and a kingdom’ (Daniel 7:14).”
We know that the Bridegroom came to the Ancient of Days on October 22, 1844, but the wedding does not take place until after the close of probation.
“He ‘shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne.’ Not now ‘upon the throne of His glory;’ the kingdom of glory has not yet been ushered in. Not until His work as a mediator shall be ended will God ‘give unto Him the throne of His father David,’ a kingdom of which ‘there shall be no end’ (Luke 1:32, 33).” Ibid., 416.
We now understand that the period of the investigative judgment is a preparation time for the wedding. At its close Jesus will receive the New Jerusalem, the capital of His kingdom, “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:2.
“The marriage represents the reception by Christ of His kingdom. The Holy City, the New Jerusalem, which is the capital and representative of the kingdom, is called ‘the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ Said the angel to John: ‘Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ ‘He carried me away in the spirit,’ says the prophet, ‘and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God’ (Revelation 21:9, 10.” Ibid., 426.
Daniel 7:14 tells us, “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
“At the appointed time the Bridegroom came, not to the earth, as the people expected, but to the Ancient of Days in heaven, to the marriage, the reception of His kingdom. ‘They that were ready went in with Him to the marriage: and the door was shut’ (Matthew 25:10).
“They were not to be present in person at the marriage; for it takes place in heaven, while they are upon the earth. The followers of Christ are to ‘wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding’ (Luke 12:36).” The Great Controversy. 427.
At the second coming, Jesus will gather His people to attend the wedding banquet. “He will receive the New Jerusalem, the capital of His kingdom, ‘prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’ (Daniel 7:14; Revelation 21:2). Having received the kingdom, He will come in His glory, as King of kings and Lord of lords, for the redemption of His people, who are to ‘sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,’ at His table in His kingdom (Matthew 8:11; Luke 22:30), to partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Ibid., 426.
“ ‘He shall bear the glory’ (Zechariah 6:13). To Christ belongs the glory of redemption for the fallen race. Through the eternal ages, the song of the ransomed ones will be: ‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood … to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever’ (Revelation 1:5, 6).” Ibid., 416.
What a wonderful Saviour we have Who gives us this picture of what is happening and to share with us the joy that is taking place in heaven. Our hearts can be part of these celebrations, as we understand the word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy. There are three more celebrations to come. Are you preparing your heart to be part of them? A future article will provide details of those glorious events.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New International Version.)
Maurice Hoppe is Director of the Steps to Life training programs and a member of the Steps to Life Board. The Training Program for Ministers and Church Leaders is a correspondence course that prepares individuals to serve as pastors or Bible workers. Preparing for the Final Conflict is a correspondence course for the laity. Both of these courses teach present truth that will be an anchor for the soul during the storm of opposition and persecution just ahead. He and his wife also have a correspondence course offered through Revelation Ministry. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.