I am, presently, involved in a study of the Apocalypse, and at this point I’m considering what John saw in chapter four. In previous studies in this chapter, we’ve looked at John’s call to come up and enter the open door. John was taken in vision to behold the Lord sitting on his throne, and he witnessed sights that were difficult to describe, such as a rainbow that resembled an emerald in its brilliance. Around the throne were twenty-four other thrones upon which elders sat, whom I’ve concluded were the captains of the twenty-four courses of priests inaugurated by David, when he brought the Ark of the Testimony to Jerusalem for a permanent residence.
Before the throne was a glassy sea, clear like crystal (Revelation 4:6). In Revelation 15:2 this same glassy sea is seen mingled with fire. There, those who “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,” and, having the harps of God, they sing the song of redemption, the Song of Moses (Revelation 15:2-3; cf. Exodus 15:1-18). It seems that the glassy sea is a place where the people of God are purified. Under the Mosaic Covenant, between the Altar of Sacrifice and the Tabernacle was a laver of brass that contained water, and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and feet with its waters (Exodus 30:18-19).
Solomon made the laver ten cubits in diameter and thirty cubits in circumference (1Kings 7:23), or about fifteen feet in diameter and 45 feet in circumference, and it stood 5 cubits high (cir. 7 ½ feet), so the laver was quite large. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that nearly all things are purified through the shedding of blood. The two exceptions were water (Leviticus 15:5) and fire (Numbers 31:23). The water symbolizes repentance (Matthew 3:11), while the fire symbolizes trouble and persecution or the proving of one’s repentance (1Peter 1:7; cf. 1Corinthians 3:10-15).
The glassy sea of Revelation 4:6, which, we are told later, is also mingled with fire (Revelation 15:2) is for the purpose of purification. Aaron and his sons, the priests, used its waters to wash their hands and feet (Exodus 30:18-19). I believe this is a picture of the foot washing Jesus initiated in John 13:3-5. Later, Paul reminds us that washing the feet of our brethren is one of the necessary good works (1Timothy 5:10). It is impossible to wash someone’s feet without washing our own hands, and I believe this is what is pictured in Jesus’ foot washing example (John 13:3-5), which was probably something done by Aaron’s and his sons (Exodus 30:18-19), because it is much easier for a second person to wash one’s feet than to do that for oneself.
The ancient laver was made of brilliant brass, so that one could see oneself in the brass, as one washed his hands and as his feet were washed (cf. Exodus 38:8), which seems to indicate one needed to consider oneself, as he washed his hands in the waters he used to wash his brother’s feet. However, in Revelation 4:3, it seems that this glassy sea is a kind of paved work under the throne of God (cf. Ezekiel 1:22; Job 37:18). I believe the idea expressed in this glassy sea is one needs to wash in its clear waters, and come through its fires of purification in order to approach the One sitting on the throne. Those who do so are the redeemed of the Lord (Revelation 15:2-3). Washing one’s hands involves meekness and recognition of our own need to help satisfy the needs of others, for it is in washing their feet that our hands become clean. Moreover, it is in submitting to the discipline of the Lord, by walking through the difficult seasons of our lives, whether those difficult seasons entail life’s natural troubles or persecution, that we purify the work we do in Jesus’ name (1Corinthians 3:10-15).