The Glass Sea

“I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them.”‭‭
Revelation‬ ‭15:2‬ ‭NLT

The Apostle John must have been approaching exhaustion with all these visions. Daniel too received visions and we read in Daniel 10:8, “So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak”. But John, like Daniel, faithfully recorded what he saw, casting aside the human weaknesses that threatened to close down God’s revelations. John could now see “a glass sea mixed with fire”. That fact that he used the word “seemed” described something he had never seen before, so he wrote down what it appeared to be. But what was this sea of glass? Glass is a reflective substance, as well as being something that is transparent. So perhaps the “glass sea” was a reflection of God, and the transparency allowed all to see His character. The fact that the glass was mixed with fire could indicate the judgement to come. 

The glass sea was a special place for all those dear saints who had endured to the end, in spite of all the attempts of the beast to ensure otherwise. They resisted worshipping the beast’s statue. They resisted having the mark of the best applied to their persons. And they were therefore victorious over the beast. It is interesting to note that victory took place in spite of their possible demise at the beast’s hands. Victory was recorded when they triumphantly stood before God. Winners indeed.

They were each holding a harp, John’s vision records. Now before this, the only harp-holders were the twenty four elders, who appeared in Revelation 5:8, “And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people“. So those standing on the glass sea, were worthy of making music in Heaven. And it was God Himself who handed them out. Can you imagine that? So all those people who hold the populist view of people wearing a white gown, wings protruding from their shoulders, sitting on a cloud and playing a harp is probably just fiction.

The problem with human beings is that we often look at short term goals and gains, instead of looking to the long term. We want to receive any rewards in the now, rather than bank them for some time in the future. But we pilgrims have to consider our lives as extending into eternity. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal“. (Matthew 6:20). Jesus’ teaching was clear – looking for rewards during our natural lives will be of no benefit to us once we reach Heaven. We cannot take anything with us out of this world. The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes said, “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. And this, too, is a very serious problem. People leave this world no better off than when they came. All their hard work is for nothing—like working for the wind“. (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16).

So those pilgrims who could see the truth were intent on ensuring that one day they will be with God. Their faith was unshakeable. Their resolve faultless. I’m sure there were times when the going was so tough that they considered giving up. But once they stood on that sea of glass, all become OK. What was behind them was just that – in the past. May we too take inspiration from their example, and pray too that we will endure to the end.

Dear Father God. The feeling of standing in Your presence, worshipping the only One worthy of such a focus, must be amazing. Please help us when we throw a wobbly, and the thought of giving up flits across our minds. Our strength is in You. Amen.

The Love of Money

Give me an eagerness for your laws 
rather than a love for money! 
Turn my eyes from worthless things, 
and give me life through your word.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:36-37‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Aah! The love of money. It is only a matter of time before it emerges from the dark recesses within a person’s heart. I suppose there is a spectrum, from the money-dominated Scrooge, gloating over his piles of cash, through to a money-denying monk living a life of austerity in a bare cell. But we are all on that spectrum somewhere. Money has its uses of course – it lubricates the wheels of life in our secular and materialistic societies, and we need it to survive – but it can dominate our thinking. If we let it.

The Psalmist sees the danger of a life with a pecuniary focus. He sees the importance of dwelling in a place of eternal currency rather than in a world populated by “worthless things“. It is interesting that the Revelation picture of the new Jerusalem includes so many precious jewels, pearls and gold. What is considered of value in today’s world will be considered building materials in the world to come. Ubiquitous items of little value when compared to our Almighty God. 

But for the pilgrim working his way through this life, what is the correct balance between money and God? Jesus could see the dangers of getting this wrong, and taught that the service of both at the same time was impossible. He said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” The key is in the use of the word He used to describe how we see and use money – “enslaved”. The Psalmist was trying to get to a place of the correct balance, where money would be used but not worshipped. A place where the value of money would be eclipsed by our great and glorious God and His Word. 

The pilgrim of course needs money to make his way through this life. But he must not succumb to the temptation to acquire more and more glittering temporal objects, call it “stuff” if you like, at the expense of the eternal jewels in God’s Word. The one will be left behind when we pass the Great Divide. The other will be waiting for us on the other side. Let us join the Psalmist in declaring our eagerness to mine those precious jewels and nuggets from His Word so that we can accumulate them in our hearts and lives. A last word today from Jesus. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.