Christianity 201

January 13, 2014

There Will Be No Sea in Heaven

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. ~ Rev.21:1

This article is from popular Biblical writer R. C. Sproul. I have heard teaching previously about the aquaphobia (fear of water) that characterized people in the times and places where scripture originates. It is actually helpful to understanding a number of Bible passages and narratives. To read this at source, click this link.

Scripture often speaks of the entire creation awaiting the final act of redemption. To destroy something completely and to replace it with something utterly new is not an act of redemption. To redeem something is to save that which is in imminent danger of being lost. The renovation may be radical. It may involve a violent conflagration of purging, but the purifying act ultimately redeems rather than annihilates. The new heaven and the new earth will be purified. There will be no room for evil in the new order.

A hint of the quality of the new heaven and new earth is found in the somewhat cryptic words, “Also there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). For people who have a love for the seashore and all that it represents in terms of beauty and recreation, it may seem strange to contemplate a new earth without any sea. But to the ancient Jew, it was a different matter. In Jewish literature, the sea was often used as a symbol for that which was ominous, sinister, and threatening. Earlier in the Revelation of John, we see the Beast emerging from the sea (Rev. 13). Likewise, in ancient Semitic mythology, there is frequent reference to the primordial sea monster that represents the shadowy chaos. The Babylonian goddess Tiamat is a case in point.

In Jewish thought, the river, the stream, or the spring functioned as the positive symbol of goodness. This was natural in a desert habitat where a stream was life itself. If we look at a relief map of Palestine, we see how crucial to the life of the land is the Jordan River. It cuts like a ribbon through the heart of an arid and parched land, connecting the Sea of Galilee in the north with the Dead Sea in the south.

The Mediterranean coast of western Palestine is marked by rocky shoals and jutting mountains. The ancient Hebrews did not develop a sea trade because the terrain was not suitable for much shipping. The sea represented trouble to them. It was from the Mediterranean that violent storms arose.

We see this contrasting imagery in Psalm 46. The psalmist writes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (vv. 1–3). Then he adds, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4).

I live in central Florida. Our area is sometimes described as “the lightning capital of America.” The summer months bring severe electrical storms. My grandchildren are frequently frightened by what they call the “booming.” The loud thunderclaps are not a part of what they would envision heaven to include.

But the Jews feared other problems from the sea besides turbulent storms. Their traditional archrivals, marauders who beset them countless times, were a seacoast nation. The Philistines came from the direction of the sea.

The Jew looked to a new world where all the evils symbolized by the sea would be absent. The new earth will have water. It will have a river. It will have life-giving streams. But there will be no sea there.

This excerpt is taken from Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul.

Bonus reading: At the end of the article there is also a link to this related piece.  Click to read Creation Freed From Decay.

“Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (vv. 20–21).Romans 8:18–25

In our study of the biblical theme of creation, we saw yesterday that what seems to be chaotic is actually under the control of our sovereign Lord (Job 38). The presence of such “chaos,” however, is not God’s ultimate design for His universe. He subdued the raging waters when He took what was unproductive and made it into an environment suitable for plant, animal, and human life (Gen. 1:1–2:3). The fact that nature can be a danger to us today is due to the curse this environment suffered when our first parents fell (3:17–19). Our creator is sovereign over the chaos, but this chaos is not the ideal, biblically speaking. Instead, Scripture looks forward to a new heavens and earth that will no longer pose any threat to His people.

The prophet Isaiah is the first one to speak directly of a new heavens and earth (Isa. 65:17–25), but it is the New Testament that explains how the renewal of creation will come about. Today’s passage tells us that all will finally be set right in the day that “the revealing of the sons of God” occurs (Rom. 8:19–21). Paul is talking about that final day when Jesus will return to finish what He started and vindicate His people, separating the sheep from the goats to show to the world those whom He has purchased with His own blood (Matt. 25:31–46). This is the day for which the entire creation is longing, for it will be on that day that the effects of the curse will be totally removed from the creation (Rom. 8:22–25). Christ has already done all the work necessary to cancel the curse (Gal. 3:13–14), but the Holy Spirit has not yet applied the benefits He won for His creation to the fullest. Sin’s power is broken but its presence remains to war with us until the day of the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).

Jesus came not only to save us spiritually but also to redeem our physical bodies and, indeed, to redeem creation itself. He loves the world that He created (Gen. 1:31; John 3:16), and He is unwilling to let it fall by the wayside. Proof of this is seen in His promise to resurrect all those who are in Christ to live forever in God’s presence in the manner in which we were designed — spiritual and physical creatures. Likewise, the earth will be transformed and made new so that we will be able to look on the world and understand clearly the Lord’s goodness and glory in all things, which is why He created everything in the first place (Col. 1:16).

Coram Deo

Non-Christian environmentalism can be really a form of nature worship that elevates the creature over the Creator. Christians are to be good stewards of creation and look not to misuse it because they know the damage that pollution and other such things create makes it harder for others to see the glory of our Lord. We care for our own little corner of God’s world so that His glory can be seen readily in it.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 30:1–10

Both articles reproduced with blanket permission from the source.  From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org

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