Forty days after Jesus was raised from the dead, He and His disciples were walking toward Bethany. When they reached the crest of the Mount of Olives, “He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.” “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight” (Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9).
Many years later when John was on the Isle of Patmos, he was shown in vision the arrival of Jesus in heaven after His ascension.
Beginning with Revelation 4:1, John gives a detailed description of the setting in which Jesus appeared. Struggling to find words to adequately describe the glories of the scene before him, he writes,
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ 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 ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne” (Revelation 4:1–3).
Who was sitting on this throne before which the “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6), was standing? It is God the Father, the Ancient of Days, the great ruler of the universe. He is the One who “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 KJV). This is the One before whom the Lamb is standing.
“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. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing” (Revelation 4:4, 5).
“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’ (Revelation 4:5). 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’ (Revelation 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, 414, 415.
In the sanctuary on earth, the lampstand was located in the first apartment. So we see that Revelation 4 is a description of the scene taking place in the holy place of the sanctuary in heaven at the time Jesus ascended from this earth.
“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, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. … 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 4:8–11).
In the midst of this glorious celebration, John describes the appearance of Jesus as He comes before the Father. “Then, midway between the throne and the four living creatures, I saw a Lamb standing among the Elders. He looked as if He had been offered in sacrifice …” (Revelation 5:6 WNT).
In Revelation 4 and 5, John is describing the vastness and glory of the sanctuary in heaven and the inauguration of Jesus as our high priest.
“The matchless splendor of the earthly tabernacle reflected to human vision the glories of that heavenly temple where Christ our forerunner ministers for us before the throne of God. The abiding place of the King of kings, where thousand thousands minister unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him (Daniel 7:10); that temple, filled with the glory of the eternal throne, where seraphim, its shining guardians, veil their faces in adoration, could find, in the most magnificent structure ever reared by human hands, but a faint reflection of its vastness and glory.” The Great Controversy, 414.
Ever since this celebration of the opening of the holy place in the sanctuary in heaven, Christ, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, has been ministering His blood for the remission of our sins in this sacred place. “The point … of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being” (Hebrews 8:1, 2).
The following is another description of this same event as recorded in The Desire of Ages, 833–835:
“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.’
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.’
“Again is heard the challenge, ‘Who is this King of glory?’ for the angels never weary of hearing His name exalted. The escorting angels make reply –
‘The Lord of hosts;
He is the King of glory’
“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.
“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. The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son, the representatives of those sinless realms over which Satan had thought to establish his dominion—all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.
“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 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,’ 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. Christ’s toiling, struggling ones on earth are ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6). Before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds, they are declared justified. Where He is, there His church shall be. ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other’ (Psalm 85:10). The Father’s arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’ (Hebrews 1:6).
“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’ ” (Hebrews 7:25).
Excerpts from High Priest & Coming King, by Maurice Hoppe, pages 42–47.
(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.