THE REVELATION OF THE SEA OF GLASS MINGLED WITH FIRE
“And I saw as it were a "sea of glass mingled with fire": and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on THE SEA OF GLASS having the harps of God” (Rev. 15:2).
The next scene that opens to the view of this prophet is one of victory. Those who have witnessed the brilliant spectacle of a tropical sunset at sea have caught a faint idea of the glory the prophet here attempts to describe. As the great sun sinks like a ball of blazing fire, the ocean itself seems to break forth into flames of glory; the mirror-like surface, touched with crimson, transforms the whole scene into a mingling of flood and flame. So was the scene that opened in dimensions of spirit to the seer of Patmos!
Early in his visions, when John beheld the unveiling of Christ — Christ the Head and Christ the body — he also saw “a throne set in heaven” with God’s Christ upon the throne. It is then that we read, “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal…” (Rev. 4:6). Ezekiel, in the first chapter of his book, speaks of seeing the color of the “terrible crystal” or in contemporary English the “awesome, shining, dazzling crystal.” Crystal is pure glass. When you hold it up to the light and look at it you see the colors of the rainbow and the reflections of beauty out of the purity of the crystal. This is the purity of the walk of one who has been cleansed by the refining fire of God! How can one describe such purity, such holiness, in words? Ah, the wisdom of God is revealed from heaven in the vision shown to John — a sea of glass mingled with fire! It is a sea, John beholds them, not as many, but as one; as a sea of glass mingled with fire, as thousands upon thousands of grains of sand that have been melted and molded together into a substance of transparency. These are they that have come through the furnace of afflictions, tried as by fire, and they are filled with the divine Love of God and with the Holy Ghost and Fire. How better could one express the spiritual reality of a cleansed, sanctified, transformed life!
We bear in mind the qualifying words, “as it were…” “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire.” If we have considered the matter as we ought, surely we realize that those believers who expect to go to heaven one day and literally stand upon a celestial sea of glass mingled with fire are certain to be disappointed. What John saw was not an actual sea of glass, but as it were, that is, a vision, a symbol standing for reality. The surface of glass cannot ripple or swell or wave as water in a sea here on earth. Water bespeaks the emotions of the multitudes. Here, then, we are shown a vast multitude standing in the glory of God knowing no anxiety, no fear, no envy, no hatred, no distress, no lust or demanding desires. As surely as the raging sea represents multitudes of restless, clamoring, surging, sinning humanity, so does the exquisite sea of glass before the throne of God represent an assembled throng of quickened and transformed saints IN WHOSE HEARTS THE PEACE OF GOD RULES. This great sea of redeemed men is calm and serene, tranquil and quiet, transformed “even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Furthermore, the sea-dwelling beast has been dealt with! The inner nature of man has been transformed, satan is bound, the sea is now calm. In contrast with the hurricane and the tumult of winds and waves, we now perceive the effectual dominion of God — the peace and rest of the divine nature, undisturbed by earth’s changes and storms. The sea of glass illustrates the ineffable calm of the divine nature — a mighty deep within of holy, divine love and purpose, of understanding and confidence, of righteousness, peace, and joy, upon which no wind blows, no tempest strives, no violent currents disturb its unfathomable depths.
Just how did this crystal sea become what it is? John envisions this sea of glass twice. In both of these descriptions, they are symbolical views of both a people and a state of being. They have been as individual grains of sand — for glass is melted sand. Glass and sand exposed to heat — sand and fire! John beheld this sea of glass mingled with fire — having come through the furnace of testings, trials, and afflictions. As the Lord says, “Behold, I have refined thee…I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). These have been perfected through their fiery trials! “Tried with fire…and now they have been…found unto praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:7). In the image and likeness of Christ, they are bonded together in a divine union of life. John sees the whole redeemed company, not as millions of individual grains of sand, but as one body, even as a crystal sea of glass!
Glass is sand that has been heated in the fire and is melted and flows together until each grain of sand loses its individual identity as sand. These myriads of grains of sand are melted together into one piece of glass. This makes them smooth, level, calm, serene. This shimmering sea that John beholds is composed of a vast throng of the Lord’s people who have passed through the fires of tribulation, trials, testings, and provings, and have overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, by the power of His indwelling life. They can never again be affected, moved, tossed, disturbed, agitated, distracted, disquieted, bothered, or tempted by anything in those realms, for they have fully and forever overcome! They are standing in their eternal victory over the fleshly, beastly nature of the carnal, human identity, and the spirit of this world, as well as the false religious image of the man-made church systems.
When the hour comes for a son of God to be tried as by fire, first your faith must be tried, your ability to trust God all the time and in every thing. “…who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold testings: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:5-7). Your faith must be tried, and it must possess three qualities, praise, honor, and glory. God won’t put honor on any unless they have become a praise unto Him, and God won’t put glory on any thing He cannot honor. I wish you would get the tremendous importance of these words! Your faith must be tried; then when you come forth unto the praise of His glory He will put some honor on you, and people will say, “Look how God can trust that man or woman.” He puts honor on that faith, He will glorify it. When? Now, and at the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ within you! This is the first step in the path of sonship to God!
Second, you are to be tried. “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing had happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (I Pet. 4:12-13). This is not the fiery trial of your faith now; this second trial is upon your character, your virtue, your life, your state of being. Your very nature must be tried, of what kind of fiber you are, what kind of spiritual quality, whether you are a piece of second-growth hickory or just a piece of pine. What is the matter with pine? It works nice, the lathes can be run nearly three times as long turning out pine, as when working on hickory, but God cannot make sons out of pine people! I have heard people say, “I became a son of God ten years ago.” No, you did not! It takes a long time to grow good hickory. You have to grow in grace. The temple of God continually groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord. The body of Christ must be edified, built up until we all come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. You have to grow up into Him in all things! You are a child of God, yes, but that doesn’t make a son out of you; that will start you out in the family of God, but you have to grow, and grow, and keep on growing to become a mature, manifest son of the Father!
Third, your work must be tried. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built…he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Cor. 3:11-15). When your faith has been tried you think you are all through, but some more trials come on and you haven’t spiritual illumination to know the difference, and think your faith is being tried again. Once you understand God’s ways you can see whether He is trying your faith, or your character, or your works, and this sacred knowledge will help you to stand! Mere inspiration and revelation will not take you through these things. You need your soul, your mind, illuminated.
Paul tells us in the passage above that various kinds of works may be built up upon the foundation of Christ. It is of great importance that we understand this potential and its outcome! There are works of great spiritual content and value which are characterized as gold, silver, and precious stones. These are enduring works, raised up by the nature and power of the Holy Spirit. Then there are works with little spiritual content and of questionable value which are characterized as hay, wood, and stubble. These are perishable works, raised up by the zeal of man, carnal, fleshly works which are pawned off as something spiritual and valuable for they are built up upon the foundation of Christ, that is, they are done in His name and professedly for His glory.
Nowhere are these combustible works, made to be burned in the day when men’s works are tried by fire, more evident than in the religious world of the carnal church systems of man. The so-called “gospel” in this hour is fashioned to appeal to the carnal mind, offering men blessings, prosperity, instant solutions to problems, a miracle a day, ease and comfort, and all the good things of life, rapture out of tribulation, and in that glory-world above golden streets, harps, and wings to flit about a celestial Disney World with nothing to do and all eternity to do it in. There are no enduring qualities in these works, for the benefits are all natural, physical, earthly, tangible, for creature comfort — not spiritual or heavenly! I do not err when I say that if all the prayers and faith that are exercised daily for earthly things, blessings of money, cars, homes, clothes, physical healing, comforts, and luxuries that pamper the flesh were stripped away from most believer’s prayers, their prayer lives would hardly exist at all!
All carnal, man-made church systems, programs, rituals, ceremonies, promotions, outreaches, and efforts are but hay, wood, and stubble before the consuming fire of God. Through the years we have received a steady stream of letters in the mail telling of this great program and that great endeavor for God, with their pleas for financial help. With glib tongues and plausible programs by which the world is going to be won for Christ, well-meaning people are urged to give to further grandiose programs hatched by kingdom-building (their own kingdom) preachers who live in wanton luxury upon earth, which programs are not the plan of God at all, but merely the product of an imaginative, scheming, and avaricious mind. Through long centuries billions of dollars have been squeezed from God’s precious people, often fleeced from the poor and the widows, to build huge temples, cathedrals, church buildings, and institutions of various kinds; to promote innumerable programs and schemes to do this and that for God which, not only did God not ordain, but were in all truth a stench in His nostrils and an abomination before His face.
Whether it be carnal and deceptive operations such as those described above, or merely our own good works to be seen of men, our self-efforts to appear righteous and holy, or our human zeal to do something for God and be pleasing to Him, when all these good religious fleshly works are brought into the blazing presence of God who is a consuming fire they will one and all go up in smoke! “For the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” What a bonfire that will be! Oh, yes, my brother, my sister, every man’s work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it will be revealed by fire. Even all our good “kingdom” and “sonship” works, ministries, outreaches, books, preaching, conferences, and all the rest, shall be tried by fire! EVERY MAN’S work shall be tried by fire! That is the final test. If the work abides the fire and comes out unscathed on the other side, that man shall receive a reward. Those who truly stand the test in all things shall receive the prize — the HIGH CALLING OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS! These stand upon the sea of glass mingled with fire, having the harps of God, and sing the song of Moses and the Lamb! These are they who shall reign with Christ. Those whose works are all burned shall suffer great loss with embarrassment, shame, dishonor, reproach, humiliation and mortification. Yet God in His rich mercy says, “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” This one will have nothing, no reward, no honor, no place, no position of responsibility in God’s great kingdom — how art the mighty fallen! He will escape with only his eternal life!
A sea of glass like unto crystal! The figure is a striking one, and now in chapter fifteen of the book of Revelation he tells us that this glassy sea which spread before the throne of God was shot with flame, and upon it stood a host of those who had come victorious out of the conflicts of earth, and these have harps and sing the song of Moses and the Lamb — the song of deliverance, the song of the overcomer! Here we see a picture of a people who are neither going through the sea, nor being tossed by it, because they have passed to the other shore, triumphantly victorious. The message is clear — the crystal sea speaks of the nature in which they stand, and their walk has become stable and transparent!
The sea of glass mingled with fire represents the purification that is necessary for every son of God who enters the throne zone. It is not possible to partake of the realm of God’s sovereign, unlimited, omnipotent power and authority until we have passed through the crystal sea mingled with fire and been purged from all carnality and self-hood by the quickening radiance of Christ’s own pure and divine life. By the regenerating power of the living water which Christ is we lose the scent of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Every son of God is today passing through the sea of divine purification, into the state of transparency, which gives us access to the throne-room of God!
It is here that all the fickle emotions of the soul and the relentless passions of the body have been put under our feet until they toss us no more. There is a great calm! There is substance — a solid foundation — under our life and our walk, for we cannot fail to observe that God Himself possesses the same attributes as the glassy sea which surrounds His throne. The sea before the throne is the very nature of God established within a people until they stand and walk in the power of it. The sea is the emblem of mystery in many of the apocalyptic writings. But here we are told that the mystery which surrounds the nature of God is no longer mystery to those who are able to see Him as He is. The sea of glass is crystal clear with the light of truth! The glassy sea is thus a beautiful figure for the perfect revelation of the grace, righteousness, and glory of God.
Those who stand upon the sea of glass have escaped from the imprisonment of self into the mind of Christ. They have lost themselves so completely in the life of God that there is no longer any distinction between “I” and “Christ.” They have reached the good beyond the good; the right within the right; the truth of which the truth we have known is but the shadow. They have been lifted out of the tossing sea of human passion and carnal understanding into the eternal calm of Christ-consciousness. These love without fear of losing, and worship without ceasing that which is the living God reflected in our own being — our very reality and state of being, being the homage we render unto Him who is the source and substance of all.
All who attain to the heights in God are moved to climb the steep and winding path that leads from the valley of the shadow of death to the everlasting heights of divine life and nature. As we scale the heights of mount Zion we become what we seek! We shall never enter upon the realization of any reality which is external to ourselves. Knowing is being, and apart from being there is no knowing of the things of God! Only those who can stand upon the glassy sea, are those who walk in the spirit and come off victorious in the conflict with the beast of the flesh and the carnal mind. That means waging war with the foul and degrading desires of the flesh and the deceptive illusions of the old Adamic mind — even the “good” religious mind! When the sea waves toss your little ship to and fro in the storms of life, lift up your eyes to the throne in the midst of which is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Understand that that throne is here now — the power and dominion of the Christ within ourselves is strong and mighty enough to cause us to enter into our full heritage in God! To follow Jesus to the heights of victory; to be privileged to gaze upon that infinite crystal sea, the manifested life, light, love, righteousness, and power of Christ in our very own spirits, is the vision John saw and has shared with us. The reality is far greater than the symbol!
The following words from the pen of brother Carl Schwing resonate profoundly within my spirit today: “A glorious visitation of the Holy Spirit draws near. He is going to annihilate us. This will be the true ‘Slain by the Spirit’ experience. He is the consuming fire of God! He will consume all that is left of ‘self.’ His holy flames will consume all the marks and traces of our religiousness and self-righteousness. All of our fears and worries, doubts and failures, and all of our pious opinions and judgments of others will become dust upon the holy ground of the Lord. This, the Spirit must do…for our Beloved would then take us unto Himself. He is the most holy temple of God. He will clothe us with the incorruptible garments of immortality. He will give us to have life in ourself. He will make us the lights of the world, lights that will dispel the darkness of the age. All that sit in their pews of darkness will see our great light and shall know and serve the Lord of all. And, they shall partake of the liberty of the sons of God. He will appoint us to be the ‘freedom givers’ to all mankind, to all creation. He will have us break asunder the gates of hell and set the captives free! He will have us shout the everlasting gospel from Zion’s holy hill. And all that are in the graves of earth and of the sea will hear the word of the Lord and come forth, unto judgment. The Father’s judgment is with love and wrath, thus, His mercy will prevail and all, in their time and order, shall find reconciliation through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The world has never known or experienced such love, mercy, grace, and power! In the place where hell once dwelt, a garden will appear. Eden will flourish again! Flowers that are everlasting, with blossoms of mercy and scents of compassion, shall bloom profusely. The sounds of sorrow and moans of despair shall be no more. For, in the joy of redemption, the former inhabitants have gone to kiss the feet of God. Hallelujah!”
I’m sure it would be thrilling to stand upon a literal, physical sea of glass and play a harp while waving a palm branch. But that would change nothing within us! How much more glorious to stand in that eternal calm where all warfare, strife, struggle, fear, temptation, and failure have forever ceased — far, far above our own soulish efforts, yet deep within our spirits even now! When shall we behold that glorious expanse of righteousness, peace, and joy? When? Only when we ourselves become the perfectly manifest life, light, and love of God, eternally at one with Him, and with all that is His image and likeness. This alone is real; all else is but seeming. There is nothing beyond the crystal sea but the throne of God!
J Preston Eby.... Tim Wray.