Tonight, at our study in Revelation we discussed thoroughly the thrust of chapter 4, which we concluded was the centrality of God in His universe and the promise that in heaven and soon (we hope) on earth, all creation will fulfill it’s purpose in glorifying God and bringing Him praise.
Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal. Revelation 4:6
Some of us were captivated by the imagery of the sea of glass and Paul took us to Ezekiel chapter 1, the most likely background for John’s image. Jen began musing on this and wondered if there was a connection between the sea of glass in chapter 4, the crystal expanse in Ezekiel 1 and the sea spoken of in Revelation 15, where the victors stand on the shore of the sea of “glass mixed with fire.” Then, she went to the “river of the water of life” in chapter 22. She wondered if she was coming up with a novel concept or if someone else had followed these lines. I quote Greg Beale, who is so thorough:
The “sea” is also associated with the idea of evil. Caird has argued that here it connotes cosmic evil, since it often has such a nuance in the OT and sometimes elsewhere in Revelation (see Rev. 13:1; 21:; and especially 15:2, as well as “abyss” in 11:7). This speculation receives support from the modeling of these chapters on Daniel 7, and the scenes of Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1 have integral literary links, the former usually seen as dependent on the latter… In view of the Daniel and Exodus [24:9-1] imagery, there is then a hint that John sees the chaotic powers of the sea as calmed by divine sovereignty. Rev. 5:5ff reveals that Christ’s overcoming through his death and resurrection is what defeated the power of evil and so calmed Satan’s watery, tumultuous abode. 4:6 gives a picture of the stilling of the hellish waters from the heavenly perspective, though the devil displays his wrath even more furiously on earth because he has been decisively defeated in heaven… The lamb’s “overcoming” has also paved the way for the saint’s “overcoming” of the beast at the same sea, as pictured in 15:2-4. When John later says that “there is no longer any sea” (21:1), he means that all evil on the earth will be not only defeated but also eradicated when Christ’s kingdom is established consummately on earth. In fact, the “sea of glass like a crystal before the throne” in 4:6 may be an intentional contrast with “a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne” in 22:1. The sea as the source of satanic evil opposing God’s throne has been eliminated and replaced by the river of redemption, which has its source in the throne. The Book of Revelation, pp 327 & 328
That sounds almost exactly the way Jen articulated it to me. So, if you are tuning in, you are not alone Jen. In fact, you are running with one of the foremost authorities on Revelation, on John’s use of Daniel in Revelation and on apocalyptic literature. Not bad.
What do most seem to agree on with great certainty? That we are seeing a simile here… the sea is like glass. It certainly conveys the glory and majesty of the presence of God and is related somehow to His sovereignty over creation (4:6 – 11). It also has something to say about His ability to see all and manage His creation.
Let me take a moment to say that this is just the sort of thing I wanted to open this discussion up for. A worthwhile topic was brought up, which was beyond the scope and time constraints of our study. It involves a number of opinions from various sources and Beale even refers to this line of thought as “speculation,” even though he cites some pretty compelling (if circumstantial) reasons. But, these kinds of topics can be rich, rewarding and build up the Body of Christ, if done with thoughtfulness and love. So, feel free to comment here.
Next, I think I’ll track down those references to the faces of the four beasts and their relation to the tribes of Israel traveling through the wilderness.