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Monday, November 26, 2007

"No more sea" -- is John the Revelator telling the whole story?

John begins his description of the new heavens and new earth with this statement: "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, KJV) This verse has intrigued me for a long time. Is God really going to create a new habitation for humans without the watery environment that covers three-quarters of the earth? If so, why?

I cannot read God's mind, of course. I am also aware that interpreting Revelation is a tricky business. But it sounds as if John meant exactly what he said, and perhaps he did. Possibly there will be no sea, no waves, no tides, no whales, no plankton, no kelp, no sea horses, no sponges in (or around?) the new habitation of mankind with the heavenly beings.

This has always (dare I say it?) disappointed me. I like the ocean, and ocean life. Some have suggested that John wrote this because he was imprisoned on an island, with no escape, surrounded by the sea. But would God allow his Word to be so influenced by the dislike of one man? I doubt it. I just don't know why that verse is in Revelation.

The Old Testament has a couple of passages that seem to modify the picture of a new, sea-less cosmos. One of these is Genesis 1. In verse 10, Genesis says: God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (ESV)

In verses 20-23, it says: 20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (ESV) The description of the fifth day (whatever a day is, in this context) concludes, also, with the phrase about God seeing what he had created as good. So the sea, and the creatures in it, were originally declared to be good.

I recently found another passage that seems to relate, namely Ezekiel 47:6-12:
6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?”
Then he led me back to the bank of the river. 7 As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 And he said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea;* when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh. 9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. 10 Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. 11 But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. 12 And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.” (ESV) *a text note says that the sea in question is the Dead Sea.
So, in this passage, apparently also describing the way things will be after Christ's second coming -- and, also, as prophecy, tricky to interpret -- there will be a sea, with water-dwelling creatures in it.

The Blueletter Bible has commentaries. Two of them bear on this verse. David Guzik says that, to the Hebrews, the sea represented evil, or God's enemies, and cites Psalm 89:9 and Isaiah 57:20 as proof of this. He also says that the sea has already appeared in Revelation, in 13:1, where the beast comes from the sea, and 20:13, as a place holding the dead. A. R. Fausset says this: The sea is the type of perpetual unrest. Hence our Lord rebukes it as an unruly hostile troubler of His people. . . . As the physical corresponds to the spiritual and moral world, so the absence of sea, after the metamorphosis of the earth by fire, answers to the unruffled state of solid peace which shall then prevail.

If I understand them correctly (and they understand Revelation correctly) John was not speaking literally.
Based on the probable symbolic use of the sea by John, on its original goodness, and Ezekiel's statements about the Dead Sea, perhaps there will be some sort of sea in the new heavens and new earth. We'll see, I hope.

Thanks for reading.

* * * *

See this post for more on this topic.

35 comments:

Keetha said...

Interesting. I never noticed this before. (Maybe because I avoid Revelation like the plague)

Now you do have me thinking and wondering. (Nothing new there - - - you always DID have that effect on me)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, keetha. I'm still thinking and wondering about this, too.

Keetha said...

I'm still amazed at all the verses I come across again (but you know how that is - - - "again" can sometimes seem so fresh and new it's like the first time) about God's creating and sustaining. I don't remember now the reference, but the other day I came across one and it hit me for the first time, "This verse is talking about God ordaining CYCLES!!!"

Too cool, really!!

Keetha said...

Have you read "More Than Meets The Eye" by Richard A. Swenson? (Former professor at the UW Madison Med. School)

Martin LaBar said...

Me, too (on "new" verses).

I wonder where that verse about cycles is?

I haven't seen Swenson's book.

Thanks for commenting!

Keith J said...

Just a point for consideration. I think the sea in question is the one mentioned in Rev 4:6. I think this could be the 'crystal firmament' described by Ezekial in a number of places Eze 1:22. I think its also described in Gen 1:6-8. Whenever the vision shows God on His thrown in glory it seems to be mentioned. It stretches over the head of the Cherubim - it separates Heaven and earth. Thus Rev 21:1 'and there was no more sea' becomes something rather wonderful.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, keith j.

You may be right. I'll try to check that out.

Anonymous said...

You could check out Octavius Winslow's Pisgah Views and the section on 'No more sea" Rev 21:1 at: http://grace-ebooks.com/library/index.php?dir=Winslow%2C%20Octavius/&file=OW_Pisgah%20Views.pdf

I quote the third paragraph and the last three paragraphs:

What an evidence of the existence and creative power of God is the SEA! To Him its creation is ascribed. "And the gathering together of the waters called He SEAS." (Gen. 1:10) "The SEA is His! and He made it." (Ps. 95:5) Making it, He bounded it by a perpetual decree which it cannot pass. "He has compassed the waters with bounds;" (Job 26:10) "And said, Hitherto shall you come, but no further; and here shall your proud waves be stayed." (Job. 38:11) Thus let the atheist consider and learn that there is a GOD, who created the heavens, the earth, and the sea; and humbly and devoutly acknowledge "His eternal power and Godhead," blushing that he should for a moment have gazed upon this sublime phenomenon of nature, and then have lifted his atheistical brow to heaven, exclaiming in his heart, "There is no God!"

;;;;;;;;;;;;

The sea will be closely associated with the solemn transactions of the last great day of the world's history. "And the SEA gave up the dead which were in it."
The sea has its dead; its swelling bosom and its crested billows, are mounds and monuments of the myriads who have gone down into its liquid tomb. What a vast proportion of the race has the sea engulfed! As the scene of battle and the highway of commerce—as the road of the discoverer and the path of
the tourist—what a sad and instructive volume is the history of the sea! When God lets loose His winds, it is here man feels his impotence. He has scaled the
mountains and chained the lightning; curbing the sternest elements, he has compelled all nature to obey his behest; but the sea he cannot curb, the winds
he cannot bind. Here he is passive and powerless.

How varied and how touching the victims over whom the dark blue sea rolls its waters! The gallant commander going down in the faithful discharge of his responsible and perilous trust—the last to die; the brave sailor dropping from the mast in the midnight gale; the merchant, bent on enterprise and wealth,
sinking beneath the deep waters, all his busy thoughts at that very moment perishing; the invalid returning to his home, committed to the deep in sight of
his native hills; the emigrant to a land of strangers in search of a new home, perishing amid the rocks and breakers of its very shores; the missionary of the
cross bearing the tidings of salvation to the distant heathen, all his fond and holy thoughts of service, and plans of usefulness engulfed in the trackless
deep. All these—and countless myriads more—will rise from the liquid tomb at the trumpet of the archangel for, "the SEA shall give up the dead who are in it."

And will there be no more sea in the New Jerusalem? Oh yes! one sea yet remains!—the sea of heavenly bliss—the ocean of God's love—into the fathomless depths of which the glorified saints will plunge—upon whose sparkling surface the happy spirit will sport and the joyous harpers will stand, their anthems of adoration and praise to God and the Lamb, rolling in swelling thunderings, and in circling symphonies, mightier than the voice of many waters, round earth's new creation. My soul! breast hopefully the waves, and plough manfully the billows of the stormy seas, across which you are voyaging to the heaven-land—for surely and safely Jesus will bring you to your desired haven.

Peter Ong
peterong8news@yahoo.com.sg

Martin LaBar said...

April 27, 2008.

Thanks, Peter Ong. That's a fabulous meditation. Maybe he's right. I don't know.

caroline said...

hello my name is caroline and i have studied this passage and i believe that the new earth may not (unfortunatly) have an ocean.The ocean in this age separates us from other countries and race, i believe God may not want us divided no longer.

Martin LaBar said...

June 30, 2008: Thanks, caroline. Perhaps you are right. We'll "see," if you will excuse the expression.

Myxite said...

There has to be water for the living beings but there does not have to be a sea, there could a vast number of lakes and one could presume a sufficient rainfall to allow herbiverous growth.

Martin LaBar said...

July 16, 2008: Thanks, Myxite. I'm sure that God is fully capable of working out all the details for sustaining whatever living beings there will be in the New Earth.

Randy Vild said...

"No more sea" has always boggled my mind and I really enjoyed this entire page. After about a week of study it is hard to be 100% certain for we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12)however, there are some verses of interest.

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.

The sea represents something spiritually and I believe it could be the sea of glass. In Ezekiel 1:22 it appears the sea of glass under God's throne is like CRYSTAL. Could it be that the sea in the new earth is actually crystal?

Another consideration is no ocean/sea in a literal sense, no chaotic forces opposed to God's will (what the sea represented for the Canaanites, for example). Remember in Isaiah 40 the thousand year period Mountains are lowered. This could also mean that governments of men are brought low. It could be that the sea represents an area of ungodliness being Satan's world (2 Cor 4:4).

Martin LaBar said...

Aug 22, 2008. Thanks, Randy Vild. Perhaps you are right. I'm in the process of reading a book by Snoke, who has quite a bit to say about the Hebrew attitude about the sea. I haven't finished it yet.

Anonymous said...

I trust the Bible about as much as I trust the crazy lady who used to live across the hall from me.

The Bible is written by men. It is an accounting of many, filtered by a few for future consumption - under the idea that it is the word of "God".

I'm sorry, but I am pretty sure that God would have, can, and will speak when God chooses to do so. God doesn't need any man to relay messages.

Note that I keep mentioning "Man".
There are no revelant women to "God" other than Mary for all practical purposes. They are just vessels according to the "men" that the Bible chose to tell the "stories" of in their book.

If I were to have a divine intervention tonight - what would be the odds of it making it into the Bible? Zero. It wouldn't. So either God no longer has anything to say that is so valuable that it should be shared with everyone, or it's all/mostly crap. (The Bible that is)

I believe a lot of things. Revelations? Not so much.

Will there come an end to the world as we know it? Sure. History shows that to be true.

Will the "All loving, all forgiving God" send us to the pit of Hell - to burn in eternal damnation where love cannot exist? What effing sense would that make?

There isn't anything you, I, or anyone can do about Revelations anyways - so what's the point of the discussion - other than to use it to one's own advantage (generally speaking).

A very good post that many millions would agree with, but irritates the heck out of me.

You said yourself the man was imprisoned. This guy could have been the equivalent of Charles Manson for all you (or anyone else) knows.

Get a grip, be decent to others, be good to yourself, don't take more than you give and live. I have to believe that is what God would want. If not, then I am "evil"?

Why even let me be born if my destiny was predetermined?

Seriously, go out and feed the homeless. Teach. Mow an elderly person's lawn - or shovel their snow. Donate something. Give.

You can't take it with you anyways.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your comment, anonymous. I agree with your last two paragraphs. I'm not sure about the others.

To respond to one of your points, there were other women of consequence in the Bible. Granted, not so many as the men. Lydia was apparently involved in the establishment of the Philippian church. Priscilla is mentioned as if she and her husband were equal, or if she were the more prominent, in their teaching ministry. There were other women, beside Mary, Christ's mother, who ministered to Jesus. In the Old Testament, there was at least one female judge, and there was at least one female prophet. Two non-Jewish women, Ruth and Rahab. have their stories told, both being the ancestors of David, hence of Jesus. Ruth and Esther each have an Old Testament book named after them.

For another. I believe that the Bible is true, because of the effect that it has had on me.

Thanks again for commenting.

green leaf said...

According to G.H.Pember, author of "Earth's earliest ages", there is an interval between Genesis verse 1 and verse 2. During that interval of time, Satan and his Angel rebelled against God. The ocean was the pre-Adamic judgment for the demons. You can also find the explanation from the Life-study of Genesis message 2 "Satan's Rebellion and Corruption". Here is a link from google books http://books.google.com/books?id=a-RJNJfb3YIC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=Life+study+of+Genesis+Satan%27s+Rebellion+and+Corruption&source=bl&ots=SOlrza1g8o&sig=66yLM7vslZaiGuczgZKXz7WwxPM&hl=en&ei=3rk7TLuZEYe6sQOs-r3aCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Life%20study%20of%20Genesis%20Satan%27s%20Rebellion%20and%20Corruption&f=false
So basically, ocean is something really negative. At Christ's 2nd return, all negative things will go away.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, green leaf.

You bring up the gap theory, which may be true, but a Google search for "gap theory" will turn up a lot of Bible scholars who don't believe it. (And some who do.)

This is the first time I've heard about the ocean as a judgment, or dwelling place, for demons. Maybe. There's no evidence for that in Psalm 104, though. Thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

really an eye opener for me.

- Robson

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Robson.

Mike said...

Could this "sea" be the same "sea" mentioned in Rev 4:6?

Mike said...

Could this "sea" be the same "sea" mentioned in Rev 4:6?

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Mike (twice!).

I don't know. This is Revelation we are talking about, after all.

It's possible.

Anonymous said...

As Uriah Smith points out in his book, "Daniel and the Revelation" (p. 756), the passage could be translated this way:

"For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, and the sea also passed away."

Equally promising is Zechariah 9:10, which says:

"His dominion shall be from sea even to sea..."

Also, on page 759 of the same book, Smith points out that in Rev 21:5 it says:

"I make all things new, not, I make all new things"

So the earth will probably look very much the way it did when God first created it!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for bringing these verses to my attention, Anonymous.

Bruce H said...

This statement is odd, because it seems so inconsistent with what has gone on up to this point. Unless you look at from John's present situation. If it's true that John was in exile, he had to have looked at the sea every day wanting it to no longer separate him from his calling to be a minister or the love of the people he pastored in the churches in Asia. If this is true, seeing a new earth that had no barrier keeping him from his churches had to be something that struck him like, "wow, God not only you gave us all a new earth, but just for me you removed the one thing separating me from my ministry".

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Bruce H. That's an aspect of John's thinking which was likely to have been true, but that I had not thought of -- I should have.

Anonymous said...

its not sea; as in ocean. The 'sea' which John speaks, was a large bronze bowl that the priest's used to wash before entering into the temple. It was symbolic washing, now we are washed by Jesus; He makes us clean. In the New Jerusalem (city) there is no temple; the 3rd and final temple is God and the lamb (Jesus) ...

Anonymous said...

3. "THE SEA" (Bronze Basin)

THEN Priests washed themselves at the basin, purifying themselves
before entering the Temple. It was about 15 ft. (4.6 m) across
and held more than 10,000 gallons (38,000 liters) of water. It
stood on 12 bronze oxen.

NOW Believers in Christ are saved and cleansed by the blood of
Jesus.

Even though we have accepted Jesus' sacrificial death on our
behalf, we too need to be cleansed, spiritually. If we confess
our sins, God will forgive and cleanse us. (Exodus 30:18; 38:8;
1 Kings 7:23-26: 1 John 1:7-10)

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

That's possible, I guess, but from the context (John is speaking about the heavens and the earth) it doesn't seem that he was talking about the sea in the temple, or tabernacle.

Anonymous said...

Martin, that is the answer you seek; to the question you asked. When we lean not on our own understanding; the truth is given Us. If you would like for me to open up the scriptures (revelation to genesis) to you or your readers; then email me: stephen.barlow@hotmail.com

I'm not a blog fan; but I am on facebook. Don't think I stumbled on your site by accident :-) shalom

Martin LaBar said...

I agree that the temple worship rituals will no longer be needed after Christ's heavenly kingdom is established.

I'm sorry, but I'm not prepared to agree that John was referring to the bronze sea, because, as I said, there are no clues in the surrounding text that that is what he means, and there are clues that he means something else.

2 Peter 1:20-21 says that private interpretations are dangerous. I'm not sure that this is one, but if it isn't, it comes close.

Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

It means "the sea".Paul has been on an island. The sea surrounded him; it separated him from what he loved.

When the old is done and the new is here, we will no longer be 'separated', particularly from God. And, two verses later (Rev 21:3) we know God is with men.

And there will be no sea.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for pointing out that verse from the context. I hadn't thought of that.

I think you meant "John."