Sometime in the month of December of 1844 [we don’t know the exact day(1)], a young girl named Ellen had her first vision. She had just turned 17 years old on November 26. It would be the first of an estimated 2,000 visions and dreams Ellen, later called Ellen G. White after marriage, would have throughout her whole life (2). She had been chosen by God to reveal how He was still guiding His people after the Great Disappointment as they steadfastly kept their eyes on Jesus and towards the Celestial City.
The Great Disappointment was after a great revival from the teaching that Jesus would return and take His redeemed to Heaven on October 22, 1844. Many had solemnly prepared for this event, however the day had come and passed with no signs of Christ in the clouds. The teaching came from a Biblical prophecy of Daniel 8:14 that pointed to the cleansing of the sanctuary which was mistakenly interpreted as Jesus’ return to Earth rather than an event taking place in the heavenly sanctuary.
This beautiful vision given to a humble, young girl gave the disappointed Christians the assurance that they would indeed inherit the heavenly city if they would faithfully remain on the “narrow path” of the Christian walk. God in the vision did not gave an explanation for the October 22, 1844 Great Disappointment, but the assurance of God’s leading and guidance proved to be a great spiritual encouragement. Ellen received the vision while praying with 4 other sisters in the house of Mrs. Haines in Portland, Maine (3).
This vision was published several times. Enoch Jacobs was the first one to publish her vision in the Cincinnati Day-Star of January 24, 1846. Then James White republished it on April 6, 1846 in the broadside "To the Little Remnant Scattered Abroad,” than later, on May 30, 1847, the vision was published again by James White in the pamphlet called, A Word to the Little Flock (4).
While reading this vision, I could see that the path to heaven is not an easy one. It is a path of self-sacrifice and humility, persecution and suffering, a path of obedience and constant looking unto Jesus, our Redeemer. The vision reminded me of Jesus words: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus told us that the way to heaven is difficult, but His yoke is easy (Mathew 11:30), so even though we may face different difficulties on the path to heaven, Christ’s presence will fill our hearts with joy and peace to cope with them and reach our destination. In contrast, many people in this world choose to walk on the wide and easy path, nevertheless are carrying heavy burdens that press hard on their souls.
May you be blessed and inspired while reading the first vision that God sent it to Ellen G. White.
You can read the whole vision in the paragraphs below:
While we were praying, the power of God came upon me as I had never felt before.
I seemed to be surrounded with light, and to be rising higher and higher above the dark world. I turned to look for the advent people in the world, but could not find them, when a voice said to me, “Look again, and look a little higher.” At this I raised my eyes, and saw a straight and narrow path, cast up high above the world. On this path the advent people were traveling to the city which was at the farther end of the path. Behind them, at the beginning of the path, was a bright light which an angel told me was the midnight cry. This light shone all along the path, and gave light for their feet, that they might not stumble. Jesus Himself went just before His people, leading them to the city; and as long as they kept their eyes fixed on Him, they were safe. But soon some grew weary, and said the city was a great way off, and they expected to have entered it before. Then Jesus would encourage them by raising His glorious right arm, from which came a light that waved over the advent band; and they shouted “Alleluia!” Others rashly denied the light behind them, and said it was not God that had led them out so far. The light behind them went out, leaving their feet in perfect darkness; and they stumbled, and lost sight of the mark and of Jesus, and fell off the path, down into the dark and wicked world below.
Soon we heard the voice of God like many waters, which gave us the day and hour of Jesus’ coming. The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. When God spoke the time, He poured upon us the Holy Spirit, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God, as Moses’ did when he came down from Mount Sinai.
The 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads were the words, “God, New Jerusalem,” and a glorious star containing Jesus’ new name. At our happy, holy state the wicked were enraged, and would rush violently up to lay hands on us to thrust us into prison, when we would stretch forth the hand in the name of the Lord, and they would fall helpless to the ground. Then it was that the synagogue of Satan knew that God had loved us who could wash one another's feet, and salute the brethren with a holy kiss, and they worshiped at our feet.
Soon our eyes were drawn to the east for a small black cloud had appeared, about half as large as a man's hand, which we all knew was the sign of the Son of man. We all in solemn silence gazed on the cloud as it drew nearer, and became lighter glorious, and still more glorious, till it was a great white cloud. The bottom appeared like fire; a rainbow was over the cloud, while around it were ten thousand angels, singing a most lovely song; and upon it sat the Son of man. His hair was white and curly, and lay on His shoulders; and upon His head were many crowns. His feet had the appearance of fire; in His right hand was a sharp sickle, in His left a silver trumpet. His eyes were as a flame of fire, which searched His children through and through.
Then all faces gathered paleness, and those that God had rejected gathered blackness. Then we all cried out, “Who shall be able to stand? Is my robe spotless?” Then the angels ceased to sing, and there was some time of awful silence, when Jesus spoke: “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts shall be able to stand; My grace is sufficient for you.” At this our faces lighted up, and joy filled every heart. And the angels struck a note higher and sung again, while the cloud drew still nearer to the earth.
Then Jesus’ silver trumpet sounded, as He descended on the cloud, wrapped in flames of fire. He gazed on the graves of the sleeping saints, then raised His eyes and hands to heaven, and cried, “Awake! Awake! Awake! Ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!” Then there was a mighty earthquake, the graves opened, and the dead came up clothed with immortality. The 144,000 shouted “Alleluia!” as they recognized their friends who had been torn from them by death, and in the same moment we were changed, and caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.
We all entered the cloud together, and were seven days ascending to the sea of glass, when Jesus brought the crowns, and with His own right hand placed them on our heads. He gave us harps of gold and palms of victory. Here on the sea of glass the 144,000 stood in a perfect square. Some of them had very bright crowns, others not so bright. Some crowns appeared heavy with stars, while others had but few. All were perfectly satisfied with their crowns. And they were all clothed with a glorious white mantle from their shoulders to their feet. Angels were all about us as we marched over the sea of glass to the gate of the city. Jesus raised His mighty, glorious arm, laid hold of the pearly gate, swung it back on its glittering hinges, and said to us, “You have washed your robes in My blood, stood stiffly for My truth, enter in.” We all marched in and felt that we had a perfect right in the city.
Here 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. At first I thought I saw two trees; I looked again, and saw that they were united at the top in one tree. So it was the tree of life on either side of the river of life. Its branches bowed to the place where we stood; and the fruit was glorious; it looked like gold mixed with silver.
We all went under the tree and sat down to look at the glory of the place, when Brethren Fitch and Stockman, who had preached the gospel of the kingdom, and whom God had laid in the grave to save them, came up to us, and asked us what we had passed through while they were sleeping. We tried to call up our greatest trials, but they looked so small compared with the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that surrounded us, that we could not speak them out, and we all cried out,. “Alleluia! Heaven is cheap enough!” and we touched our glorious harps and made heaven's arches ring.
With Jesus at our head we all descended from the city down to this earth, on a great and mighty mountain, which could not bear Jesus up, and it parted asunder, and there was a mighty plain. Then we looked up and saw the great city, with twelve foundations and twelve gates, three on each side, and an angel at each gate. We all cried out, “The city, the great city, it's coming, it's coming down from God out of heaven!” and it came and settled on the place where we stood.
Then we began to look at the glorious things outside of the city. There I saw most glorious houses that had the appearance of silver, supported by four pillars set with pearls most glorious to behold. These were to be inhabited by the saints. In each was a golden shelf. I saw many of the saints go into the houses, take off their glittering crowns, and lay them on the shelf, then go out into the field by the houses to do something with the earth; not as we have to do with the earth here; no, no. A glorious light shone all about their heads, and they were continually shouting and offering praises to God.
I saw another field full of all kinds of flowers, and as I plucked them, I cried out, “They will never fade.” Next I saw a field of tall grass, most glorious to behold; it was living green, and had a reflection of silver and gold, and it waved proudly to the glory of King Jesus. Then we entered a field full of all kinds of beasts,—the lion, the lamb, the leopard, and the wolf all together in perfect union. We passed through the midst of them, and they followed on peaceably after. Then we entered a wood, not like the dark woods we have here; no, no; but light and all over glorious; the branches of the trees waved to and fro, and we all cried out, “We will dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.” We passed through the woods, for we were on our way to Mount Zion. As we were traveling along, we met a company who also were gazing at the glories of the place. I noticed red as a border on their garments; their crowns were brilliant; their robes were pure white. As we greeted them, I asked Jesus who they were. He said they were martyrs that had been slain for Him. With them was an innumerable company of little ones; they also had a hem of red on their garments.
Mount Zion was just before us, and on the mount was a glorious temple, and about it were seven other mountains, on which grew roses and lilies. And I saw the little ones climb, or, if they chose, use their little wings and fly to the top of the mountains, and pluck the never-fading flowers. There were all kinds of trees around the temple to beautify the place; the box, the pine the fir, the oil, the myrtle, the pomegranate, and the fig-tree bowed down with the weight of its timely figs,—these made the place all over glorious. And as we were about to enter the holy temple, Jesus raised His lovely voice and said, “Only the 144,000 enter this place,” and we shouted “Alleluia!”
This temple was supported by seven pillars all of transparent gold, set with pearls most glorious. The wonderful things I there saw, I can not describe. Oh that I could talk in the language of Canaan, then could I tell a little of the glory of the better world. I saw there tables of stone in which the names of the 144,000 were engraved in letters of gold.
After we beheld the glory of the temple, we went out, and Jesus left us, and went to the city. Soon we heard His lovely voice again, saying, “Come, My people, you have come out of great tribulation, and done My will, suffered for Me; come in to supper, for I will gird Myself, and serve you.” We shouted, “Alleluia! Glory!” and entered into the city.
And I saw a table of pure silver; it was many miles in length, yet our eyes could extend over it. I saw the fruit of the tree of life, the manna, almonds, figs, pomegranates, grapes, and many other kinds of fruit.
I asked Jesus to let me eat of the fruit. He said; “Not now. Those who eat of the fruit of this land go back to earth no more. But in a little while, if faithful, you shall both eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and drink of the water of the fountain.” And He said “You must go back to earth again, and relate to others what I have revealed to you.” Then an angel bore me gently down to this dark world.
After I came out of vision, a gloom was spread over all I beheld. Oh, how dark the world looked to me! While under the power of the Lord, I was filled with joy, seeming to be surrounded by holy angels in the glorious courts of heaven, where all is peace and gladness; and it was a sad and bitter change to wake up to the realities of mortal life. I wept when I found myself here, and felt homesick. I had seen a better world, and it had spoiled me for this.
Sometimes I think I can stay here no longer, all things of earth look so dreary. I feel very lonely here, for I have seen a better land. “Oh that I had wings like a dove, then would I fly away, and be at rest!”
I related this vision to the believers in Portland, and they had full confidence that it was from God. They all believed that God had chosen this way, after the great disappointment in October, to comfort and strengthen His people. The Spirit of the Lord attended the testimony, and the solemnity of eternity rested upon us. An unspeakable awe filled me that I, so young and feeble, should be chosen as the instrument by which God would give light to His people.” (5)
(1) Roger W. Coon, The Great Visions of Ellen G. White, (1992), p. 16.
(2) "Ellen G. White Biography". Ellen G. White Estate. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
(3) Ellen G. White, Life Sketches Manuscript, p. 82.
(4) Robert W. Olson, The "Shut Door" Documents, Ellen G. White Estate, Washington D. C., April 11, 1982, p. 3.
(5) Ellen G. White, Life Sketches Manuscript, p. 82-89.