At one time Revelation 21:1 disturbed me. I couldn’t reconcile that the new earth will not have an ocean to gaze at or beaches to stroll upon at sunset and sunrise. (Seems there won’t be a sunrise or sunset either in the new earth…) As you can probably tell by the photo on my blog header, I’m a big fan of the sea. Some commentaries assure me that biblical mentions of ‘the sea’ are referring to multitudes and nations and wicked/evil things in general; not the literal ocean which may actually be part of the new earth after all.
But I wasn’t convinced.
Then I came across this excellent video by critical issues commentary in which he explains how the Jews viewed the sea (beginning at six minutes in). Paraphrasing: “They saw the sea as the abyss, where the devil and demons were. They weren’t like us, building condos right next to it, they tried to stay away from it. They were afraid to die at sea as if the body couldn’t have a proper burial they felt they had no hope.” All of which also adds a much deeper layer as to why the disciples were so very scared and upset, as Jesus slept, when the storm came upon their boat at sea.
Understanding how those living in Bible times viewed the ocean (something to be avoided), compared to how we tend to view it today (something to attain to, beaches and locales to put on our bucket lists), also gave deeper meaning to one of my favorite Bible verses, James 1: 6
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the windJames 1:6 NIV
Knowing that the sea represented the abyss and the place where demons and the devil dwell, to the original writers of the Bible, gives this verse a much deeper meaning as well.
At one time I saw the ocean, and it’s waves, as a very powerful thing that deeply symbolized our need to ask/pray to God in faith not doubting. Since anyone who has waded into the waves in the ocean, knows how easily you can get blown and tossed about by the current.
But if I approach this verse with the understanding of the sea as a very real representation of evil…it adds another layer to an already powerful understanding. When we pray and ask God, in faith, without doubting (in Him and His dominion over evil), then even the very forces of evil, the devil himself, cannot shake us. It will be as if we were anchored so tight to the Rock of God that no strong wave or current will ever be able to move us.
But, if we do not ask in faith, if we doubt God’s power and dominion over evil, that is when evil will easily be able to toss us about, as a wave of the sea tosses the sand beneath it.
Understanding that the sea represents evil, makes this verse entirely about God and His power in the face of the very representation of ‘the abyss’, and the subsequent trust we choose to put in that power because we know how absolute it is; not about me and my ability to stand strong or swim my way out of a riptide…
An added irony in all of this: is that many people I know are getting vaccinated, and some are even willing to overcome their vaccine hesitancy: specifically to be able to travel again.
One of the top travel destinations remains: ‘the beach’ and ‘the ocean’.
As I pondered that, I also grieved that I myself may not be returning to the ocean again, especially if it requires getting a vaccination.
But I am choosing to trust God as I make my peace with it all–that whatever plan He has for the future, when the new heaven and new earth appear, that the beauty and wonder of that new creation will be such that I will not even think to miss the beautiful oceans of this present age. That hope in what is to come steels me to remain in the faith, clinging to Him, and withholding on those earthly temptations, the checking off of ‘bucket lists’ and such, things which once so readily sucked me off balance- like waves of the sea.