Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Sea Was No More

I want to do a little biblical detective work today.  Let's look at Revelation 21:1.  "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." This is the beginning of a beautiful piece of Scripture, where we hear described the new heavens and the new earth, and it gives us hope.  This passage is read at funerals.  There is so much going on here that is uplifting, and we miss this tiny fragment here: "and the sea was no more."

What does that mean? Does it mean that in heaven there's no water? That we going to live in the desert?  It makes no sense.  Let's do a little detective work.  What I think of when I think of the sea: I go to Genesis 1.  So we have God creating the heavens and the earth, and we get to verse six: then God said, "let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." So God made the expanse and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse, and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there's an evening and there's a morning, the second day.

We have separated waters from waters, and the expanse is called heaven.  The space in between the waters is called heaven.  Now, there are two ways we refer to heaven.  We refer to heaven as God's throne room, as the place where God is.  We also refer to "the heavens" as the space about us: the sky, space, outer space: that's all the heavens, where the stars are, where the planets are, with the suns and moons and all of the heavenly bodies.  They are heavens.

So what is the water below the expanse?  We get a verse 9: God says, "let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear." It was so. God called the dry land "earth" and the gathering of the waters he called "seas." God saw it was good. So, the waters below the heavens, the expanse, he calls sea and earth.  He turns that into our planet, that is us, that is planet earth, where we live. So we have our planet earth below the heavens, the expanse, and then above the expanse is another bit of waters.

Now are we to forget about the waters above?  Is it mentioned again?  It IS mentioned again, in Psalm 148.  We have, "praise him highest heavens and the waters that are above the heavens."  The Bible still acknowledges that there are waters above the heavens.  The waters below the heavens were formed into dry land and seas, which is what planet earth is.  The waters above the heavens are the place where God is, the throne room.  What is it?  We don't really know, but I think Revelation 21 does give us a clue.  The first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there's no longer any sea.

What we have here, in the expanse, is a separation of the place where God lives from the place where we live, and there is a sea of expanse, a vast area of expanse in between, and I think this first verse of Revelation 21 is saying the new heaven and the new earth are going to be different from the old heaven and the old earth, in the fact that there will be no more expanse between the two sets of waters. God's throne room is going to be ON earth.  There is no longer going to be a separation, and we will have a relationship with the Lord from now on.

Sure enough, the rest of the verses confirm this: I saw a holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride for her husband.  A loud voice from the throne says, "behold the tabernacle of God is AMONG MEN."  He will dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be among them.  There is no more sea, no room or separation from us, from God.  He will be with us to wipe any tears from our eyes.  There will be no more death, pain.  The first things are passed away, the new things are here, and they will be closer together.  Heaven and earth will be one place now.

We think, "thank goodness that God has restored things, finally, that were damaged from the fall."  Mankind fell, and so there is a separation between us and God, and God has now restored that.  But wait!  This separation came in Genesis 1:6, which is before the fall.  This is something that God wholly set up from the beginning, before Adam fell.  The separation between God and man was there from the beginning. God came to visit Adam in the garden, but God's home was somewhere else.  God was living in the waters above the expanse, and man was living in the waters below the expanse, and this is before the fall. God comes to visit, but this separation was there from the beginning. Why?

What I think is, this separation was planned before the fall.  The coming of Christ was planned before the fall.  God says to Eve, as part of the curse,  your seed will come and defeat Satan's seed. Eve's seed is Jesus.  This was planned. The fall was planned. The separation was already there, before the fall. This was planned because a redeemed humanity is more interesting to God, is more desirable to God, than a humanity that never fell.  Let me repeat that: a redeemed humanity is preferable to God then a humanity that never fell.  This was planned from the beginning, before anything else, before anything was created.  The Trinity decided that this was how things were going to go. God is sovereign. God had this planned from the beginning.