Saturday, January 13, 2024

No Surfing in Heaven?

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, I was shook. To my core. My mouth fell open. My head jerked his direction.
"There won't be any oceans in heaven." 
Those were the words that shook me to my core.
"What?!" I asked. My eyes wide with disbelief.
He continued. "In Revelation 21 it says, 'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea.'"
While I was still processing this literal revelation, he added: "Yeah, the surfers won't be happy when they find that out."
I'm a native Californian. I LOVE the ocean. I live 45 minutes away from the ocean but I go to it monthly, like a pilgrim returning to the holy water. I feel like it re-centers me, calms my soul and reminds me to put life in perspective. I am small. Ocean is big. God is in charge. My mom tells me that when my parents would try to get me to come out of the ocean as a child, I would act like I couldn't hear them so I could stay in longer. I am not a surfer, unless you count the time I tried to surf in Hawaii and fell off my board and scratched myself up on the coral. But I was a boogie-boarder. For my thirteenth birthday I got a new boogie board and insisted my Dad take me to the beach that very same day so I could try it out. My birthday is in February.
The thought of no ocean in heaven was shocking. I stammered my disagreement.
"But wait, God created the oceans; why wouldn't they be in heaven?"

"Well, it doesn't appear there will be oceans in heaven according to Revelation, maybe rivers or lakes but not oceans...oceans were very destructive in ancient times. We're kind of romantic about them now but they meant floods and storms and shipwrecks to the people of the Bible."

"True, but water in general can be destructive and even the earth with earthquakes and what about fire? All that is destructive too. Isn't that just because the world is not the way it is supposed to be after the fall? I mean wouldn't heaven have a perfect ocean - one that doesn't destroy? No storms, no tsunamis? My goodness, no ocean. What about all of God's creatures in the ocean? The dolphins and fish and..." I was trying real hard to save the whales.

He continued: "Hard to say. There is a river in heaven based on Scripture...that has to run somewhere."
The dogs barked at a package delivery person at the door and the conversation ended. At least out loud. The voice inside my head was still talking. What? No ocean? NO OCEAN? Do I even want to go to heaven if there is no ocean? How can this be? God created the ocean and he said it was good. Now he's just going to get rid of the entire ocean and all the creatures in it? What a waste! 

When I got home, I cried. Sobbed actually. No ocean! I felt like a kid who waited his whole life to go to Disneyland. Mom and Dad pack him in the car, they drive in, park and run to the front gate only to find out Disneyland is closed. FOREVER. 

As soon as I could pull myself together, I had two thoughts. One, GET TO THE OCEAN AS SOON AS POSSIBLE GIRL. The darn thing won't be around forever. Even to type it now it makes my eyes water.
My second thought? I am going to have to look into this theory about no sea in heaven. Does every Christian believe this? Read Revelation this way? Could this be true?

Then I prayed a short prayer to God. "God please help me know if this is true and Lord, honestly I pray it isn't."

The first Christian I ran across online who believed there WAS an ocean in heaven was a giant of the faith--Charles Spurgeon. The "Prince of Preachers" says something so beautiful and comforting I am going to share it verbatim here:

Scarcely could we rejoice at the thought of losing the glorious old ocean: the new heavens and the new earth are none the fairer to our imagination, if, indeed, literally there is to be no great and wide sea, with its gleaming waves and shelly shores. Is not the text to be read as a metaphor, tinged with the prejudice with which the Oriental mind universally regarded the sea in the olden times? A real physical world without a sea it is mournful to imagine, it would be an iron ring without the sapphire which made it precious. There must be a spiritual meaning here. In the new dispensation, there will be no division–the sea separates nations and sunders peoples from each other. 

To John in Patmos the deep waters were like prison walls, shutting him out from his brethren and his work: there shall be no such barriers in the world to come. Leagues of rolling billows lie between us and many a kinsman whom tonight we prayerfully remember, but in the bright world to which we go there shall be unbroken fellowship for all the redeemed family. In this sense, there shall be no more sea. The sea is the emblem of change; with its ebbs and flows, its glassy smoothness and its mountainous billows, its gentle murmurs and its tumultuous roarings, it is never long the same. Slave of the fickle winds and the changeful moon, its instability is proverbial. In this mortal state, we have too much of this; earth is constant only in her inconstancy, but in the heavenly state all mournful change shall be unknown and with it all fear of storm to wreck our hopes and drown our joys. The sea of glass glows with a glory unbroken by a wave. No tempest howls along the peaceful shores of paradise. Soon shall we reach that happy land where partings, and changes, and storms shall be ended! Jesus will waft us there. Are we in him or not? This is the grand question.

Then I found this article: Will There Be Oceans in Heaven? (Highly recommend you read this article - it's a short, profound read.)

I started to feel better. Sounds like there ARE Christians who believe the verse about "no more sea" simply means no more chaos, destruction and separation of mankind - what the sea in ancient times represented. I also found it interesting to read about no more saltwater seas in heaven (because we don't need its purifying benefits in heaven) - wouldn't it be great to explore a fresh water ocean? You could open your eyes underwater like you're swimming in a pool! 

And let's remember--God said his creation was good. This included oceans and all the life teeming within it. When the rainbow appeared over Noah's ark after the flood, God didn't just make a covenant with the people of the earth to never destroy them again but with the earth and its creatures. I believe that covenant includes the ones swimming and floating around in God's big beautiful oceans. And my final thought is this: If I love the ocean so much, doesn't God also love it at least as much as I do? I believe he does. Why wouldn't he include the oceans he he created in his new heaven and earth? Because it would divide us from each other? Because they are tumultuous and dangerous? Do you know how small that makes God sound? You don't think the God who created them can calm them or make it possible for us to fly over them or walk on them? I do.

But still, just in case, I will pray for an ocean in heaven. After all, God wants to give us the desires of our hearts.

God, don't forget the seas when you create the new heavens and the new earth. Make them new too. The ones we have now are amazing but I can't wait to see what your perfect sea is like...the one without storms, the one without pollution, the one without shark attacks and oil spills, shipwrecks and destructive waves. Instead one that is a swirl of emerald and turquoise, glassy and pure, teeming with life. One with gentle waves to cradle surfers, propel dolphins and lap heaven's shores while shimmering in your light. Amen!

-Hope A. Horner, copyright 2023. Contact author on X for use at Hope Note.

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