GLASS MINGLED WITH FIRE
(A short discourse on Revelation 15:2).
Saint John saw in a vision this incredible scene: “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” (Rev. 15:2 KJV).
What are we to make of this fantastic vision? I was meditating on this one verse and its incredible scene, wondering what it meant and symbolized, and called on the Holy Spirit to reveal to me its meaning.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3 NIV).
As best as I can relate, this is then what I was shown.
We know both from Scripture and real life experience that our life here in this world is not without difficulties. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33 NIV).
These words of Jesus are key to understanding this verse from Revelation on which we are focusing our attention. Look at what is mentioned there in that verse from Revelation that have to do with tribulation and testing, difficulties: beast, image, mark, name. Other passages in Revelation go into more detail about these difficulties, but all we need to know for now is that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12 NIV).
Yet here John sees in his vision these same believers standing on a sea of glass mingled with fire. The fire we understand. It represents the difficulties we go through in this world in our daily lives, especially difficulties that come because we belong to Jesus. That is fire.
But notice that it is not fire alone. That fire, in fact is said to be mingled with glass. How is glass made? It starts out, as raw material, as sand, which is mainly silicon. Then this sand is melted in the fire to burn away impurities and enable the silicon to be shaped into whatever glass form the skilled molder wishes.
” The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Prov 21:1 NIV).
These words of Solomon are true, of course, only if that which is being molded willingly submits to the fire which enables that molding. In order for sand to become glass, it must be refined by the fire. We are that sand. We come from the earth just as sand does. But it is not God’s will that we remain just ordinary earthen vessels. He made us for something more.
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Tim. 2:20,21 NIV).
If we would not remain just earthen vessels, we must submit to the Molder’s fire.
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isa 48:10 NIV).
“This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God'” (Zech 13:9 NIV).
“For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Ps 66:10 NIV).
Whatever trials and testings we go through here in our lives on earth are those things that God uses to refine us, to remove from us the impurities that tarnish his image in us. They are the fire. But it is a fire that he does not allow to harm us, only to burn out that which is not of him. We suffer the fire without real harm to our souls.
“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isa 43:2 NIV).
“We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance” (Ps. 66:12 NIV).
A place of abundance. Is there a better description of heaven? John saw in his vision those who had gone through fire and water in their lives on earth, but now they stand on on a sea of glass mingled with fire–conquerors standing over that which would have conquered them except for the Spirit of God and his Christ in them. No wonder Revelation elsewhere describes these conquerors as those “who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14 NIV). And elsewhere God tells us in his Word that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:38 NIV).
However . . . even though all who live on this earth experience difficulties and testings–fire–in their lives, not all will experience this great victory over this fire. For many, the fire does them great harm, even to the eternal fire of hell. For the only way that those who became victors over the fire did so was through the one way God has provided for this, through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. For one group, fire means their doom of eternal fire; for the other, it is a momentary fire that refines them to eternal glory. The difference is that one group refused to let the light of Jesus Christ search their hearts for those impurities that needed to be removed, while the other allowed this.
“The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being” (Prov. 20:27 NIV).
Those who allowed the Spirit of the Lord to search their spirit became like glass, transparent to God’s searching Spirit, trying to hide nothing from him (which is impossible anyway). This, then, is why they are described as glass mingled with fire. They were formed from earth (sand), melted in the fire of God to remove their impurities, and thus became transparent glass, free and clear to God’s Spirit, with nothing between them to hinder or mar their relationship. Their lives on earth, which were as a brief mist in length compared to the eternity they now experience in heaven, seem like a dream that has vanished. Now they are fully awake in heaven, standing before the Father unafraid, for the fires they experienced through his Son while they lived on earth have refined them–and they are satisfied.
“And I–in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Ps. 17:15 NIV).
These are they who have risen above their difficulties in their earthly lives, through the power of God living in them, and now stand on a sea of glass mingled with fire. All the fires and tribulations they experienced while on earth are now below them. They stand on that sea of glass (transparency before God) mingled with fire (testings and tribulations of earthly life).