Bible Study with Jairus – Revelation 15

The Sea of ​​Glass is a Picture of the Church being Sanctified through Trial, Approaching the Throne of God, and Advancing God’s Work of Judgment.

The Sea of Glass in Revelation 15 is a fascinating image that has captivated Christians and hymn-writers. But what does this image mean? Why do the conquering saints stand beside the sea, praising God, right before the seven plagues begin? That is what we will explore in this devotional.

The sea of glass is in front of the throne of God, and it is surrounded by saints praising God. This is a powerful representation of the mature body of Christ approaching God’s throne in prayer and praise. Our praise can advance the royal work of God, including judgment on the world and evil spirits.

The sea of glass reminds us that Jesus Christ is with his people as they sing the song of Moses and the Lamb, just as he was with Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace. The three friends chose to be burned in the furnace rather than worship Nebuchadnezzar’s great image, but Jesus was with them in the midst of the consuming fire.

The sea of ​​glass signifies the sanctifying fire. Only pure gold that has passed through the fire can approach God’s throne. Suffering and martyrdom is like a fire, but God’s presence is with us in our suffering. Only those who have endured the refining fire can be sanctified and stand on the sea of ​​glass before the throne of God, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. They are singing a song of victory. Their victory and praise are the important driving forces behind God’s judgment on the world and evil spirits.

What is the Sea of Glass and Who is Standing Beside it?

Who are the people standing beside the sea of glass praising God? Verse 2 says, “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.” These people have conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name. I don’t believe all people who enter heaven will stand before the sea of glass, but only the overcomers, including the martyred saints who refused to worship the beast as mentioned in Chapter 14.

As mentioned previously, when the beast appears and begins to demand that people worship him and accept the mark of the beast, people face a critical choice. The first option is to surrender and worship the beast and receive his mark. The Bible states that all those who receive the mark of the beast will suffer eternal punishment (14:11). After that, the Bible does not mention people repenting and accepting Jesus Christ anymore. Consequently, it is plausible to assume that the beast’s appearance marks the last opportunity for people to choose salvation. Making the wrong choice will lead to eternal destruction. This moment may be the last harvest. Those who prefer martyrdom over worshiping the beast will enter eternal life. They may be God’s final harvest. Their entry into heaven begins a series of God’s final judgments.

It is crucial to remember that God desires all whom He has chosen to have eternal life and enter His heavenly home. He intends the church, as His bride, to mature and grow into Christ, the Head.

The symbolism of the sea of glass is very meaningful. It stands near the throne of God. Spiritually speaking, these victorious martyrs were standing on the sea of glass, signifying their presence before the throne of God and their role of advancing the work and judgment of God’s reign.

In chapter 6, we saw the martyrs calling out to God from under the altar, pleading for vengeance and justice. God told them to wait for a little while longer until the number of their fellow servants, who were to be killed as they themselves had been, was complete (6:9-11). Now, in chapter 15, those who were martyred for not worshiping the beast have completed that number. Therefore, God’s final judgment can now take place.

We know that the tabernacle was divided into three parts: the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. The altar was set up in the outer court, and the ark, symbolizing the throne of God, was set up in the Holy of Holies. We can see the progression of God’s people, closer and closer to his throne:

  • In chapter 6, the saints were praying from under the altar, which is in the outer court.
  • In chapter 11, “Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail” (11:19)
  • In chapter 15, the sanctuary is opened. “After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened” (15:5).

This illustrates the movement from the outer court to the Holy Place then the Holy of Holies. These three steps represent the three different stages of Christian growth and maturity: individual faith, joining the church body (the bride of Christ), and finally reaching spiritual maturity.

Hebrews 4:16 instructs us, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” “The throne of grace” is God’s throne, which we have access to because of the blood of Jesus Christ and His role as our heavenly High Priest and Advocate. In Old Testament times, the throne was symbolized by the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy Seat where God met and spoke with Moses in glory (Numbers 7:89). In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross, and the veil dividing the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. His crucifixion typifies the redemption completed by Jesus Christ, allowing us to pass through the veil that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and approach the throne of God with confidence. We know that the Old Testament tabernacle mirrors the heavenly one, so we conclude that the heavenly tabernacle also includes an outer court, a Holy Place, and a Holy of Holies. Therefore, when this chapter records that John sees “the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened,” he is painting the same picture of approaching God’s throne with confidence through Jesus’ completed work of redemption.

Though Christ’s work is complete, the Holy Spirit continues to bring his work to completion in our individual lives. The destiny of the church is to mature and grow into Christ, the Head, and to join him on the throne of God (Ephesians 4:15, Revelation 3:21). We are the body of Christ, who sits on the throne, and we will sit with Him on the throne and appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4).

The image of the crowd standing on the sea of glass not only indicates that they were the last to be saved, but also represents the maturity that has allowed these people to approach the throne of God. In only a few chapters, God’s work will be completed and the Bride of Christ will be mature enough to approach God’s throne. Otherwise, how could the bride be “prepared for her husband” as described in chapter 19?

Between chapters 15 and 19, God executes judgment on various evil spirits, beasts, and Babylon. The mature bride, portrayed in chapter 19, will fight alongside the bridegroom. They will be victorious in battle against the beast (that is, the Antichrist), the false prophet, and their armies. The beast and the false prophet will be cast into the lake of fire. In chapter 20, after binding Satan for a thousand years, Christ defeats Satan once and for all. Satan, death, and Hades are thrown into the Lake of Frie. Chapters 21-22 describe the new heaven and new earth, as well as the New Jerusalem. At this point, God’s divine work will be complete.

If we understand these spiritual illustrations, we will realize that the events in Revelation represent the spiritual growth of the church. Although we should certainly pay attention to the activities in heaven, including the work of evil spirits, the situation of the church, and the judgment of God, we should not forget the main theme: God is orchestrating all things to bring the church to maturity as his bride. When the bride is mature and ready, the groom will come to marry her. The new heaven, new earth, and New Jerusalem will be created.

In 2004, shortly after becoming a believer, I attended a conference. At the time, I was uncertain about the truth of Jesus’ second coming. Yet, the Lord spoke to me during this conference. He appeared to me and assured me that his return would happen after he had built his body, the bride, and the New Jerusalem. This spiritual experience left a deep impression on me and helped me understand how important the church’s maturity is to God!

Jesus’ Presence in the Fiery Furnace

Romans 8 reminds us that God works all things together for good for those who love him (8:28). The phrase “all things” includes the good and the bad, including Satan, evil spirits, beasts, false prophets, and evil people. All these things will work together to accomplish God’s will—including evil king Nebuchadnezzar. Let’s see how God accomplished good things through a difficult situation in the Old Testament.

God revealed to Jeremiah that He had put all countries into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27:6). As a result, King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, taking the Israelites captive to Babylon. He erected a towering image, decreeing that failure to worship it would result in death. Daniel’s three friends refused to worship the image or serve the false god of King Nebuchadnezzar. Full of faith in God’s redemption, they stated that even if God allowed them to die, they still would not choose idolatry (Daniel 3:27-18). This story reminds us of the New Testament believers who would rather die than worship the beast. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar cast the three friends into a fiery furnace, which was so hot that it killed the men who threw them into the furnace. However, the Son of Man stood with the three men and protected them from the fire. They were saved, and the fire did not touch them. The presence of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, enabled them to overcome the burning fire and the persecution of Satan and the enemy.

In the same way, those who refused the image of the beast can stand beside the sea of glass—not through their strength alone but through the presence of Jesus. The sea of glass is also a sea of fire, representing God’s judgment and holiness. Hebrews 12:29 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.” If a believer has passed through the fire of God’s holiness and been refined as pure gold, he can stand on the sea of glass, like Daniel’s three friends. Those who overcame the image of the beast are the churches, or “congregation,” as mentioned in Hebrews 2:12: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” The believers who overcame the image of the beast praised God beside the sea of glass, singing the song of Moses and the Lamb. When the church praises God, Jesus Christ leads them in praise to God the Father. This profound verse highlights Jesus’ presence, as the Head of the church, whenever the church praises God the Father.

God allows trials—including the fiery furnace of King Nebuchadnezzar, the persecution of the beast, and our current-day trials—to accomplish his wonderful will. We must learn from Daniel’s three friends, as well as the martyrs in Revelation who preferred death over idolatry. Like them, we can learn to pay any price rather than deny the testimony of God and Jesus Christ. I believe Revelation 19:10 expresses the essence of the book of Revelation: “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

The furnace of affliction can help accomplish God’s will for us. It is part of the “all things” that work together for good. When God achieves his goal to bring his bride to maturity, all evil will be destroyed in the lake of fire. Just like scaffolding is only here for a time and later removed, God allows suffering to refine us for a time while he is building his church. But later, it will be destroyed. Satan, the beast, the false prophet, Hades, and death, will be torn down like scaffolding and burned up. Only the new heaven, new earth, New Jerusalem will remain.

The symbolism of the sea of glass portrays this truth. Just as the Lord Jesus walked on the sea, and Daniel’s three friends stood in the furnace unharmed, the believers who triumph over the beast will stand on the sea of glass, full of holy fire, because they have been refined into pure gold.

God’s Temple is Almost Finished and Will Be Filled with His Glory

Throughout the Bible, we read accounts of God’s glory filling the temple. In Exodus 40, after Moses finished the construction of the tabernacle, he was unable to enter the tabernacle because of the glory of God. “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35). Similarly, after Solomon finished the construction of the temple, the priests could not stand to minister, because the glory of the Lord filled the temple (2 Chronicles 5:14). Revelation 15:8 says, “The sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary…” Is it just a coincidence that God’s glory filled the temple three times in God’s word? No. All of these temples—the tabernacle, the temple in the Old Testament, the heavenly temple, and the church as God’s dwelling place (and our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 6:19), all serve as vessels of God’s glory.

The vision in Revelation 15 shows God’s glory coming down and filling the temple, which demonstrates that God’s vessel is prepared. I do not deny the existence of the heavenly temple, but I also recognize that we believers are God’s temple. Peter reinforces the same truth: “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood…” (1 Peter 2:5). Revelation 21:2 emphasizes that the holy city, New Jerusalem, is the Bride of Christ. The voice from the throne says, “The dwelling place of God is with man” (21:3). John also mentions, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb”(21:22). This is so fascinating. We are the city (New Jerusalem), and God and the Lamb are the temple. The glory of God fills the temple, which means the glory of God fills us and is demonstrated through us. This is a future reality, but it is also a present-day reality. May we all be filled with the glory of God.

We Must Open God’s Temple through Prayers and Praise

 

As mentioned previously, the saints’ prayers and praise influence God’s work. The saints’ prayers can advance the work of judgment that God executes from his throne. The believers’ praises from the sea of ​​glass are powerful weapons to promote God’s work and open the temple. Hebrews 13:15 urges, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Our praises, especially the praises we offer amidst difficult circumstances, have transformative power.

Our suffering may not seem to make sense, like the moveable type on early printing presses, which appears in reverse. Only in eternity will we see how our sufferings created a beautiful poem. Trials and suffering give birth to sincere praise. As the overcomers finally see God’s good intentions and how he used their suffering for good, they cannot help but praise God on the sea of glass.