Christianity 201

February 8, 2013

The Sea Was No More

The Sea

Appropriately enough, today’s study is from the blog Cindy By The Sea. That sounds so relaxing right now, doesn’t it?  This is her third selection at C201 — see below for other links — and appeared recently at her blog under the title And There Was No More Sea.

And, I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and, there was no more sea.”  Revelation 21:1

No more sea! Can you imagine that! For those of us who live on or near the ocean, it’s a hard concept to imagine. No more sea. But, that’s what the Bible says.

With three-quarters of the earth made up of water, it’s hard to imagine life without these beautiful and petulant bodies of water; a particularly disappointing thought to those of us who enjoy swimming, surfing, fishing, sailing on or just sitting beach side along one of their beautiful shores.

So, why, no more sea?

I was talking to my daughter Seven Stars the other day, when she brought the subject to my attention. For some reason, she had been giving it some serious thought and had a number of insights with which to share with me.  After our discussion, I suddenly understood, why, there will be no more sea. Something I had never really understood or thought much about before.

The Bible has a lot to say about water – both rivers and seas. And, there seems to be a clearly defined differentiation between the two.  For you will notice, while there is no more sea in the new heaven and earth, there is a river. A crystal clear river that flows from the throne of God.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb.” Revelation 22:1

Now, why might this be, rivers, but, no seas?

Let’s look at a few examples.

Moses was drawn out of the water in a basket which was floated on top of the waters of the Red Sea.

Jesus walked on the water at the sea of Galilee.

Noah’s ark was lifted up and floated on the waters, which covered the earth.

Where does Leviathan reside?  In the sea.

Where does the beast of Revelation rise up from?  The sea.

Do you see a pattern developing? There appears to be a clearly defined difference in the Bible between that which is in the sea  from that which is on the sea?  A difference, which, I believe is key to understanding, why, in heaven, there will be no sea.

The Abyss

There was a movie by this name a few years ago, The Abyss.  The abyss referring to the deepest, darkest part of the sea. But, in the Bible it is a word which refers to the bottomless pit, the underworld, the deepest part of the ocean or hell. This is the place where in Jude 1:6,7 the angels who left their first estate are held in chains. And, it is the sea that is the burial place of the wicked, who died in Noah’s flood, as well as the Egyptians who pursued Moses and the Israelites as they fled Egypt.

It is against this backdrop that we see and understand the importance of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. For in walking on the water, Jesus demonstrated his power not only over nature but, more importantly over the sea itself.  For to place feet on is to claim dominion. And, in this instance, Jesus clearly demonstrates his power over the sea and over everything in and under it, including the abyss.

But, rivers are something else. Rivers begin high in the mountains (mountain heights are always synonymous with the dwelling place of God).  And, streams like God’s grace flow downward until they reach the hills and valleys below providing life to all living things as they rush along their course.  Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river and it was this same river that Joshua and the Israelites passed over in order to come into the promised land.

Yes, the sea teems with life and, we glorify God for his stunning creation. But, for all their beauty, they will not be found in heaven – for nothing sin stained will  – and while, the sea in and of itself is not evil, from what we are told in scripture, those found within the confines of her deepest regions are …..

“In that day, the Lord will punish with his sword — his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, Leviathan the coiling serpent; he will slay the monster of the sea.”   Isaiah 27:1

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper who love thee” Psalm 122:6

Watching and waiting with YOU for the soon return of Jesus!   ~ Cindy

Previous articles here at C201  from Cindy By The Sea:

October 2010 — Two Headlines, Two Choices (The Dividing  Line)
June 2011 — After That He Took The Cup
April 2012 — Zombies In The Bible

Also, click through to the original link for this story to see a reader comment with a different interpretation of what is meant by sea in this verse.  There is a lot more depth you can get into on this particular word study; as you begin to explore more references it keeps getting more interesting!

November 7, 2012

Israel and Aquaphobia

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Rev. 21:1 emphasis added)

Other than the Beach Boys, probably the Vineyard churches have had more musical output on the subject of water. But quenched thirst, rains, showers, oceans and rivers have figured into the lyrics of both classic hymns and modern choruses, and the reference is usually positive.

Not so for the nation of Israel in scripture. They were not a water skiing bunch, and so we often see water cast in a negative sense.

I’m currently reading With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, by Skye Jethani (Thomas Nelson, 2011) and he makes the following observations:

…The sea is a source of endless recreation, whether on the beach playing in the sand; on the water’s surface boating, fishing and surfing; or beneath the waves exploring the alien underwater worlds.

But for all the sea’s joys and beauty, it is also an unrivaled source of destruction…

…The massive power and unpredictability of the sea is why ancient peoples saw it as a symbol of evil. The inhabitants of Israel, who were not a seafaring people, viewed the ocean as a realm of chaos, destruction and darkness… [T]o them the sea was a dark abyss to be feared…

…The opening scene of the Bible captures this contrast. In the beginning the earth is described as “without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” It is an ominous and disorganized world. But then we read, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The God of creation brought order out of the primordial chaos… …God declared the newly organized world “good.”

…Sadly, the onward progress of order and beauty was severely interrupted when the man and woman broke unity with God. Choosing to rule without him, they plunged the world back into chaos…

…But God has not abandoned his world to chaos. The Biblical narrative has more to say about the sea and God’s power over it. The story of the flood found in Genesis 6 … tells of the world being destroyed by water. But the Lord preserved for himself a remnant through the deluge…

…Moses was put into a basket and survived the waters — a retelling of the Noah story on a micro scale. Years later God rescued his people from the oppression of Pharaoh through Moses. With the sea on one side and Egypt’s army amassed on the other, the Lord separated the waters and led his people to freedom on dry land. Then, as in the story of Noah, the waters washed away those committed to evil…

Taking these stories and others, we see that the Old Testament acknowledges the unpredictable and chaotic nature of our world as captured in the imagery of the sea and flood, but it also speaks of God’s power to preserve us through it. These stories affirm that although the cosmos appears to be random, in fact it remains subject to God’s purposes.

Psalm 77: 16 When the waters saw you, O God,
    when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
    indeed, the deep trembled.

Psalm 93:3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
    mightier than the waves of the sea,
    the Lord on high is mighty!

…When King David’s enemies overwhelmed him, he compared the situation to drowning… He cried for the Lord to rescue him.

Psalm 69: 1Save me, O God!
    For the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire,
    where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
    and the flood sweeps over me.

14 Deliver me
    from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
    and from the deep waters.
15 Let not the flood sweep over me,
    or the deep swallow me up,
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

…The imagery of God’s presence with his people in the raging sea may be metaphorical in the poetry of the Psalms and Isaiah, but it becomes vividly literal in the New Testament.  Traveling across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ disciples awakened him when a fierce storm came on their tiny fishing boat. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” they shouted.

Jesus spoke to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” and immediately everything became calm…

They did not fully understand who was with them in the boat. In time they would come to see that he was the one who separated the sea from the land, who preserved Noah through the flood, Moses in the Nile, and led the Hebrews through the sea on dry land. He is the one before whom the waters tremble. And if he is in our boat, we need not be afraid. We will surely arrive at our destination because the forces of evil cannot overwhelm him. With God there is hope even in a world that appears to be drowning in chaos.

The Biblical narrative ends with John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth. We are told in Revelation 21 that in the renewed creation, “the sea was no more.” This observation must be read within the larger biblical context. From the opening scene in the Bible onward, the sea has been synonymous with evil and chaos. The total absence of the sea in John’s vision simply means evil will have no place in the new creation. Beauty and order and abundance will fill the world, just as God intended from the beginning.

~Skye Jethani