In Hebrews, we learn that the tabernacle was a shadow of heavenly things. The writer tells us that on earth,
"...there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." [Heb 8:4-5]
He points us back to Exodus, where God told Moses,
"And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount." [Ex 25:40] "And thou shalt rear up the tabernacle according to the fashion thereof which was shewed thee in the mount." [Ex 26:30]
And even the temple was a pattern of heaven. David tells Solomon,
"Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch..." [1 Chron 28:11] "All this, said David, The LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern." [1 Chron 28:19]
Now that we have established the tabernacle/temple to be patterns of heavenly truths/realities, let us look at one piece in particular: the bronze laver.
The bronze laver was basically a bronze bowl filled with water. It was for the priests to wash in before entering the tabernacle to do service. They would wash their hands and their feet. Moses tells us,
"Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations." [Ex 30:18-21]
When it comes time to build it, Moses gathers material. In Exodus 38, we find that it was made from bronze mirrors (lookingglasses) of women.
"And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation." [Ex 38:8]
In summary, the bronze laver is a bronze structure which sits in between the bronze altar and the tabernacle. The high priest and priests would wash their hands and feet in it before entering the tabernacle so that they wouldn’t die.
Now we come to the fulfillment of the bronze laver: the sea of glass. On the sea sit twenty-four elders on thrones, wearing crowns of gold. These crowns of gold are thrown at the feet of Jesus in glorious worship in verse 9-11. The sea of glass is described in Revelation 4,
"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal..." [Rev 4:4-6]
In heaven, one day we will sit around our Lord upon that glassy sea. We will bow and cast our crowns before His feet in adoration and praise, forever with our Lord Jesus. This sea represents our cleansing, our purity. Paul reveals to us that Jesus cleanses us “…with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” [Eph 5:26-27] And this glassy sea, which is like crystal, pure and reflective, represents that.
The glassy sea represents our reflection of Christ’s glory. And here on earth, the purer we allow ourselves to become through the washing of the word by Jesus, the closer we can be to Jesus, and the more reflective we will be of Jesus’ glory. David alludes to this, saying, “I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD.” [Psa 26:6] and again he says, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” [Psa 24:3-4]
Notice the cleansing of hands. Remember the laver’s purpose: “So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not.” And isn’t it interesting that Jesus completes the imagery for us in John. Look at what happens in John 13,
"After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all." [Jn 13:5-10]
Do you see what Jesus has done? Before Jesus offered Himself without Spot through the Eternal Spirit, before offering Himself on the bronze altar as it were and entering through the veil, He washes our feet. The disciples had already washed their hands before the meal which they were eating of, and so Jesus only needed to wash their feet.
In preparation for the glassy sea, let us remain pure and seek to be ever more so, so that we might reflect, day by day, more and more light of Jesus Christ’s awesome glory. Perhaps James says it best,
"But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." [Jam 4:6-10]