Bible Study Guides – The Prophetic Vision

October 21, 2007 – October 27, 2007

Key Text

“I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.” Hosea 12:10.

Study Help: Early Writings, 13-20; Testimonies, vol. 1, 58-61, 21-35.


The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary defines the prophetic vision as follows: “A supernatural means by which God communicates His will to His servants the prophets (Isaiah 1:1; etc.). . . . A vision may come in waking moments (Daniel 10:7; Acts 9:3, 7), by day (Acts 10:3) or night (Genesis 46:2), or it may come as a dream (Numbers 12:6). The Bible makes no sharp distinction between visions and dreams, except possibly that dreams come during hours of slumber. In vision the prophet becomes oblivious of his natural surroundings and the Spirit of God so controls the sensory areas of his brain that the prophet seems literally to see, hear, and feel what is presented to him in vision. A vision may contain instruction for God’s people or reveal facts about the future that will enable God’s people to live more intelligently in the present. In vision the prophet sometimes seems to be transported over considerable distances (see Ezekiel 3:12-15; 8:3; 40:2; cf. 11 Corinthians 12:2-4.)” “Vision,” 1134, 1135.

Throughout Ellen G. White’s ministry of 70 years (1845-1915), revelations came to her in visions of the day and visions of the night. The light thus communicated to her by God she embodied in her oral addresses and in numerous periodical articles, hundreds of personal, written testimonies, and in her many published books.

1 In general, how did God communicate His messages to the prophet? Numbers 12:6. Compare Genesis 15:1; Ezekiel 8:3, 4.

note: “The Lord God speaking to Aaron and Miriam from the pillar of cloud, says, ‘Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.’ [Numbers 12:6.]

“This then is the manner in which the Lord spoke through the prophets. By the power of His Spirit he takes complete possession of the mind, impressing upon its tablets those things which He is pleased to reveal. Then when restored to the natural state, the chosen person could speak or write out those words of instruction for others’ benefit. Events passed before the mind in vision like a moving panorama. These in the normal state brought up again by the aid of the Spirit of God are conveyed to others.” George I. Butler, Review and Herald, May 12, 1874.

2 How did Daniel describe his experience in connection with one of his visions? Daniel 10:7, 8, 15-18.

note: “In Jesus he [Peter] saw One who held all nature under His control. The presence of divinity revealed his own unholiness. Love for his Master, shame for his own unbelief, gratitude for the condescension of Christ, above all, the sense of his uncleanness in the presence of infinite purity, overwhelmed him. While his companions were securing the contents of the net, Peter fell at the Saviour’s feet, exclaiming, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ [Luke 5:8.]

“It was the same presence of divine holiness that had caused the prophet Daniel to fall as one dead before the angel of God. He said, ‘My comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.’ So when Isaiah beheld the glory of the Lord, he exclaimed, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Daniel 10:8; Isaiah 6:5. Humanity, with its weakness and sin, was brought in contrast with the perfection of divinity, and he felt altogether deficient and unholy. Thus it has been with all who have been granted a view of God’s greatness and majesty.” The Desire of Ages, 246. [Emphasis added.]

3 How is the experience of another prophet described? Numbers 24:2-4.

note: “Balaam owed the preservation of his life to the poor animal that he had treated so cruelly. The man who claimed to be a prophet of the Lord, who declared that his eyes were open, and he saw the ‘vision of the Almighty,’ [Numbers 24:4] was so blinded by covetousness and ambition that he could not discern the angel of God visible to his beast.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 442. [Emphasis added.]

4 How does Paul describe his experience while in one of his visions? 11 Corinthians 12:1, 2.

note: “Paul had a very humble opinion of his own advancement in the Christian life. He says: ‘Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect.’ He speaks of himself as the ‘chief’ of sinners. [Philippians 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:15.] Yet Paul had been highly honored of the Lord. He had been taken in holy vision to the third heaven and had there received revelations of divine glory which he could not be permitted to make known.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 223, 224.

5 Describe Ellen G. White’s experience while in open vision during the early years of her prophetic ministry.

note: There were many who witnessed Ellen White in vision. G. I. Butler, president of the General Conference while Mrs. White was in mid-life, in a series of articles for the Review and Herald reported physical phenomena paralleling the experience of Daniel.

“They [the visions] generally, but not always, occur in the midst of earnest seasons of religious interest while the Spirit of God is specially present, as those can tell who are in attendance. The time Mrs. White is in this condition has varied from fifteen minutes to one hundred and eighty. During this time the heart and pulse continue to beat, the eyes are always wide open, and seem to be gazing at some far-distant object, and are never fixed on any person or thing in the room. They are always directed upward. They exhibit a pleasant expression. There is no ghastly look or any resemblance of fainting. . . .

“While she is in vision, her breathing entirely ceases. No breath ever escapes her nostrils or lips when in this condition. This has been proved by many witnesses, among them physicians of skill, and themselves unbelievers in the visions, on some occasions being appointed by a public congregation for the purpose. . . . When she goes into this condition, there is no appearance of swooning or faintness, her face retains its natural color, and the blood circulates as usual. Often she loses her strength temporarily and reclines or sits; but at other times she stands up. She moves her arms gracefully, and often her face is lighted up with radiance as though the glory of heaven rested upon her. She is utterly unconscious of everything going on around her while she is in vision, having no knowledge whatever of what is said and done in her presence.” Review and Herald, June 9, 1874.

6 What purpose was served by the physical phenomena in connection with the visions of Mrs. White?

note: “Some of the instruction found in these pages was given under circumstances so remarkable as to evidence the wonder-working power of God in behalf of His truth. Sometimes while I was in vision, my friends would approach me, and exclaim, ‘Why, she does not breathe!’ Placing a mirror before my lips, they found that no moisture gathered on the glass. It was while there was no sign of any breathing that I kept talking of the things that were being presented before me. These messages were thus given to substantiate the faith of all, that in these last days we might have confidence in the Spirit of Prophecy.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 38, 39. [Emphasis added.]

7 During what hours did Daniel receive the vision described in Daniel 7? Daniel 7:1, 2, 13.

note: “The Spirit of the Lord rested upon Daniel and his fellows, and the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 1, 1903.

“In the hours of that night Ellen White was given a significant and solemn vision and was able to sleep but little.” Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White, vol. 3, The Lonely Years 1876−1891, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington, D. C., 310.

8 Name another prophet who received visions at night. Acts 16:9. Compare Genesis 46:2-4.

note: “There are many dreams arising from the common things of life with which the Spirit of God has nothing to do. ‘There are also false dreams, as well as false visions, which are inspired by the spirit of Satan. But dreams from the Lord are classed in the word of God with visions and are as truly the fruits of the spirit of prophecy as visions. Such dreams, taking into the account the persons who have them, and the circumstances under which they are given, contain their own proofs of their genuineness.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 5, 658.

9 How did the Lord in prophetic vision reveal to Ezekiel truths concerning the restored temple? Ezekiel 40:2-4.

note: “As inquiries are frequently made as to my state in vision, and after I come out, I would say that when the Lord sees fit to give a vision, I am taken into the presence of Jesus and angels, and am entirely lost to earthly things. I can see no farther than the angel directs me. My attention is often directed to scenes transpiring upon earth.

“At times I am carried far ahead into the future and shown what is to take place. Then again I am shown things as they have occurred in the past. After I come out of vision I do not at once remember all that I have seen, and the matter is not so clear before me until I write, then the scene rises before me as was presented in vision, and I can write with freedom. Sometimes the things which I have seen are hid from me after I come out of vision, and I cannot call them to mind until I am brought before a company where that vision applies, then the things which I have seen come to my mind with force. I am just as dependent upon the Spirit of the Lord in relating or writing a vision, as in having the vision. It is impossible for me to call up things which have been shown me unless the Lord brings them before me at the time that he is pleased to have me relate or write them.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 292, 293.

10 In what form were messages imparted to Zechariah? Zechariah 1:8-10; 4:1-7. To John the Revelator? Revelation 1:10-20. Compare Revelation 12.

note: In symbols, many facets of truth could be imparted in a brief representation. The Word of God abounds in symbolic representations. To the mind of Ellen White there were often opened by symbols or figures events of consequence and meaning to the church. For example, the growth of modern spiritualism was shown to her as a fast-moving train plunging ahead with “lightning speed to perdition.” It seemed to her that “the whole world was on board.” See Early Writings, 263. Sometimes the symbolic would blend into the real. See her first vision in Early Writings, 13-20, or Testimonies, vol. 1, 58-61.

11 To what point was Ezekiel on one occasion seemingly conveyed in vision? Ezekiel 8:1-12.

note: Frequently in Mrs. White’s experience she seemed to be taken to some distant place where she saw and heard what was occurring. While in Moss, Norway, in 1887, she seemed to be at the Saint Helena Sanitarium in California and witnessed what took place as the guests settled their accounts.

In Counsels on Health, 412, 413, she describes a seeming visit to the Battle Creek Sanitarium where she saw how the work was done and heard the conversation of the helpers.

On the night of April 16, 1906, she seemed to be on an eminence and viewed the great San Francisco earthquake that occurred two days later. Read her vivid description in Testimonies, vol. 9, 92, 93.

12 Before one challenges the method by which God reveals the light, how important is it to read the prophetic messages and ask, Is this light or darkness? Isaiah 46:9, 10.

note: “The question is asked, How does Sister White know in regard to the matters of which she speaks so decidedly, as if she had authority to say these things? I speak thus because they flash upon my mind when in perplexity like lightning out of a dark cloud in the fury of a storm. Some scenes presented before me years ago have not been retained in my memory, but when the instruction then given is needed, sometimes even when I am standing before the people, the remembrance comes sharp and clear, like a flash of lightning, bringing to mind distinctly that particular instruction. At such times I cannot refrain from saying the things that flash into my mind, not because I have had a new vision, but because that which was presented to me perhaps years in the past has been recalled to my mind forcibly.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 37.