The scene in heaven appears once again; this time before the sanctuary in heaven, another great multitude worshiping God. So far, we have seen three great multitudes.
The first multitude appears in chapter 7, a multitude which no one could count, this multitude was “raptured” before the great tribulation, these are the ones who came out from the great tribulation (7:14), from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues. They stood before the throne of God, holding palm branches celebrating the coming feast of the tabernacles, which is when God will live among His people for ever and ever.
The second multitude appears in chapter 14; they are standing on Mount Zion in heaven, which is the heavenly sanctuary. “Mount Zion” is especially mentioned so that we know that this multitude were the witnesses who spread the Gospel during the great tribulation. Because they were killed by the empire enemy of God and its collaborators, they resurrected in the midst of the great tribulation and were taken up to heaven (11:12); Christ welcomed this multitude on the heavenly Mount Zion. Their number was 144,000, which were the elite of the church.
Lastly, there is a multitude standing on the “sea of glass” or beside it (NIV). This multitude from the latest stage of the great tribulation appears in the heavenly sanctuary. Because at the beginning of verse 1 it says, “seven plagues , which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.” This means the end. This multitude was not greater than the first multitude, or the second multitude of elite people. They are just one ethnic group among the nations of the world.
Who are the people in this multitude? We can find out who these people are by comparing them to the multitude on Mount Zion.
THE SEA OF GLASS
2 And I saw something like a sea of glass…
If we do not fully understand what the sea of glass is, we will not be able to know what this verse is talking about.
Some people believe this sea of glass is another bitter sea because it is mixed with fire. They say that all seas are bitter seas. In chapter 21, in the new heaven and the new earth “there was no longer any sea.” Therefore the sea does not represent anything good; it is the origin of all chaos and sufferings. But the sea in this verse is not an ordinary sea.
The tabernacle which God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai had a sanctuary, and outside the sanctuary was an altar and a wash basin, both made out of bronze.
洗濯盆是一個小的銅盆，因為古人以銅為鏡，打磨光亮的銅可以照到自己哪一部位不夠乾淨。洗濯盆是給祭司進聖所供職之前，先｢審察｣洗淨自己。所以銅，也稱為｢審判的金屬｣。保羅說：｢吃主餐之前，要先審判自己｣。中文翻作｢自己省察｣( 林前11:28) 。
The wash basin was a small made out of bronze. In ancient times polished bronze was used as a mirror to examine oneself for any dirtiness; the priest would wash “examine” himself in the wash basin. That is why bronze is also called “a metal of judgment”. Paul said: “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:28)
所羅門王建造聖殿的時候，把聖所的物件全部加大，除了約櫃是原來樣子沒有動過之外，其他的東西都加多了或加大了。他把洗濯盆加大很多倍，鑄造了十二隻銅牛，每隻牛像實際的牛一樣大，十二頭牛托住一個巨大的洗濯盆，直徑十五呎，圓周四十五呎，高七呎半，大到不能再叫盆子了，所以改名叫｢銅海｣( 王上7:23) 。
When King Solomon built the temple, he made all the objects of the sanctuary many times bigger, except the Ark of the Covenant. The wash basin was so big that it stood on 12 cast metal oxen, each oxen was the size of a real ox . The 12 oxen supported the enormously big wash basin; its diameter was fifteen feet, its circumference forty five feet, and its height was seven feet. The wash basin was so gigantic that it could not be called a basin anymore; therefore it was called the “sea of bronze”. (1 Kings 7:23).
In John’s times, glass already existed; that is why he said: “I saw something like a sea of glass.” Even though it wasn’t a sea of bronze, it had the purpose of a mirror. Therefore, the sea of glass was the original wash basin. Only Jewish people have a deep understanding of a wash basin, they know it is used for cleansing themselves before meeting with God.
為甚麽在這裡提到洗濯盆呢？因為撒迦利亞先知早就預言( 撒迦利亞13:1) ，｢要為大衛家，和耶路撒冷的居民，開一個洗罪的泉源。｣這是一次猶太人最末後的大復興，引致他們｢全家得救｣( 羅馬書11:25-26) 。約翰所看見的玻璃海，也就像徵他們最後的洗罪泉源。
Why is the wash basin mentioned here? Because the prophet Zechariah already prophesied about it in Zechariah 13:1, “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. ” This is the last revival of the Jewish people and “all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26). The sea of glass that John saw also symbolizes the last fountain which will clean them from sin and impurity.
A SEA OF GLASS MIXED WITH FIRE
2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire.
The difference between this sea of glass and the wash basin mentioned in the Old Testament is that this sea of glass is mixed with fire. In other words, the cleansing is done not only with water but also with fire. Cleansing the Church not only with water, the Word of God, but also refined with fire to purify the Church.
In the Old Testament, there were three ways of cleansing the utensils in the sanctuary:
第一，是用｢血灑｣，｢凡物差不多都是用血來潔淨的。｣( 來9:22) ｢若不流血，罪就不得赦免。｣預表主用祂的寶血潔淨我們的天良。
(1) Using “sprinkling of blood”: “One may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood.” (Hebrews 9:22) “And without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” This symbolizes the Lord cleansing our souls with His precious blood.
(2) Using “fire”. Any metal can be purified with fire. When a person is refined with fire, he suffers in the body and “whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” (1 Peter 4:1)
第叁，凡不能過火的，就過｢水｣。象徵｢主用水藉著主的道，把教會洗淨。｣( 民31:23) 這以色列的群眾，都要經過這叁種的洗。
(3) Whatever cannot withstand fire must be put through water (Numbers 31:23). This symbolizes how “the Lord cleanses the church using water which is the Word of God.” The Israelite multitude will have to go through these three kinds of cleansing.
以色列人一直以來，拒絕承認耶穌就是彌賽亞，他們不接受耶穌是神所差來的，不相信祂是神的兒子。他們對聖經真理的了解是糢糊不清的，只是一知半解。他們只懂得跟從字面，不明白精意。聖經的真道長期以來無法成為他們潔淨心靈的聖水。神讓他們經歷許多苦難，好磨煉他們，二千年來，漂流到世界各地，吃盡苦頭。使徒保羅說：｢他們有幾分硬心。｣( 羅馬書11:25-26) 到最後，他們還要經曆七年大災難，迎接最猛烈的火之試驗。
The Israelites have never accepted the fact that Jesus Christ is the Messiah or that He was sent by God. They do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. They are unclear about the truth of the Bible; they do not fully understand it. They only know the Bible literally, but not the real meaning of it. The truth of the Bible has never been the holy water that cleanses their souls. God let them experience hardships for about 2,000 years, drifting from place to place all over the world so they suffer to the utmost. The apostle Paul said: “Israel has experienced a hardening in part.” (Romans 11:25-26). At the end, they will go through seven years of great tribulation, and undergo extreme testing through fire .
At the end, they will understand the words of the Bible, they will be awakened by the blazing fire and they will repent. Their revival and this sea of glass are closely related. Therefore, this multitude that is standing before the sea of glass is the whole nation of Israel that has repented.
The difference between the multitude by the sea of glass and the multitude on Mount Zion is the following: The multitude by the sea of glass is somewhat at a lower level in that they were struggling between believing and not believing, they were suffering for the faith . On the other hand, the multitude on Mount Zion was at a higher level, they were those co-workers who were out to save souls; they suffered to serve God and His kingdom, their number was 144,000, the elite of the church.
PEOPLE WHO OVER CAME THE BEAST AND THE IMAGE OF THE BEAST
2 and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass…
The beast is the great empire that will persecute God’s people during the end times. Though it influenced the whole world, it will have the most impact on Israel. They are the ones that will be pressured the most. Their greatest struggle will be against the beast, its image and the number of his name. By been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, the Israelites will proof that they stand firm in their faith.
Even if the empire of the beast looks very enticing and offers lots of benefits, do not become citizens of that empire, do not follow their beliefs, do not be part of their system, do not accept their training and do not become one of their members. Even at the expense of your life, do not change your loyalty towards the Lord; that is the only way to be victorious.
Regarding the matter of being victorious, there is also a difference between the multitude by the sea of glass and the multitude on Mount Zion. Here it only says that they did not have the image of the beast or the number of the beast, which shows that they had never compromised their faith; but the multitude on Mount Zion had the name of God and the name of the Lamb written on their foreheads. They had experienced God’s life, they used their own lives to witness the life of God, they followed the footsteps of the Lamb, and they learned to sacrifice themselves, bringing into completion the great cause of the Kingdom of Heaven.
THE SONG THEY SANG
2 拿著神的琴。3 唱神僕人摩西的歌，和羔羊的歌。
2 Holding harps of God. 3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.
The song they sang conveys their experience. They sang two kinds of songs: The song of Moses, the bond-servant of God and the song of the Lamb. This shows the two phases their faith had gone through. They had to be circumcised; they had to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy and follow all the teachings of their laws and regulations, then they would have a good life, God would be their God and they would be God’s people.
The second part of their journey was to follow the way of the Lamb, which was when Christ died for them in atonement for their sins. This was a very long and endless road for them because it took them so much time to realize that Jesus Christ was the only way to be saved. Only at the end were they able to figure out that the Lamb that they offered on the altar was indeed a representation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. Without the Lamb of God they wouldn’t be able to be saved .
They were very naive to think that it was enough to follow the way of Moses, to follow the laws and to remember the Sabbath day. In the end they found out that the sinful nature passed on from Adam continued to persist. People act not according to their rationality or their emotions but rather according to their desires and evil passions. Everything that people do is controlled by their desires. The only way for people to be saved is by trusting in Jesus alone.
The song they sang was a “song of salvation”. The “song of Moses”, the “song of the Lamb”, tells people how they were saved. They got eternal life only because of God’s grace, not through their own effort. Even if it was the song of Moses, it was also because God gave them a covenant and a promise. Everything was given by God; even the harps they were holding were the “harps of God”.
But the multitude on Mount Zion from the chapter before was different, they sang a new song that no one could learn, it is a road that not too many people could follow. The song they sang was about self-sacrifice serving the sovereign King, they road they traveled was of laying down their own life and taking up the cross. It was a multitude whom God was most pleased with; they were perfect in God’s eyes.
THEIR RANGE OF VIEW OPENED UP
3 And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!
They praised God’s works saying, “Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty.” For several thousands of years they had been arrogant believing that they were God’s chosen ones and the only people whom God loved. They rejected all other ethnic groups thinking that God would not save the gentiles.
Even during these end times, the Christians of the world are partial towards them and respect them as God’s chosen ones, but they still do not accept Christians. They would not let Christians conduct any kind of evangelistic meetings in their country.
During the great tribulation, their eyes will be opened, and then they will realize that their God is the “King of the nations”. His grace is upon the whole earth. He is the God of all mankind; His kingdom is prepared for the people of the whole earth, His great plan includes every person in this world. That is why they say on verse 4: “All nations will come and worship before you.”
This is the last group of people that will stand before the sanctuary in heaven, fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus when he said: “the last will be first and the first will be last.” They were originally the first ones, they had the teachings of all the prophets, they had God’s covenant and His promises before the gentiles had it. They were called the God’s people, but they were the last multitude to get saved.
Many of the parables that the Lord Jesus told hinted that that they were going to fall behind and the gentiles would get ahead of them. In the parable workers in the vineyard, the pay was the same for those who started working early in the morning and those who were hired to work in the afternoon for only one hour. They were indignant and envious that the gentiles also obtained abundant grace.
The older brother of the prodigal son who was always in the home of his father was dissatisfied when the prodigal son returned home and the father showed him special favor. The Lord Jesus said that in the future many will come from east and west and recline at the table with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
They were originally first, but they became the last. We were originally last, but we were given the opportunity to be first. If their eyes would have been opened earlier, their outcome would have been different. God’s heart is concerned about the whole world . God does not want us to be selfish and just to focus on ourselves, to just be preoccupied in earning a living to provide for our family or to try to earn all the money in the whole world, like the Jews. Even though they control the economy of the whole world, spiritually they are the poorest of all. They think that what they have is secure and safe but their lives are drifting aimlessly without any guarantee. Before the great tribulation falls upon the earth, those who have God as the center of their lives will be taken up before God’s throne to enjoy His eternal blessings.