I am suddenly a fan of Office Depot. The following endorsement is given in return for a favor, but no money changed hands. Either way. Which is the point.
I took my sick laptop (the one I write on) in to Off. Dep. today. An associate and a technician spent about 45 minutes with me, found the problem, fixed it, and sent me home at no charge whatever.
You could have knocked me over with a USB connector.
I really, really needed some stuff I’ve got on there, too.
I reviewed Jared Wilson’s Your Jesus Is Too Safe the other day, and spoke portentously of an insight I’d had while reading it. Chances are many of our smart, attractive readers know this already, but I’ll share it anyhow.
Like all Christians (I suspect), I have Bible passages that I like less than, say, John 3:16, or Romans 8. One of them comes from 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 there was no longer any sea.”
The new heaven and new earth are fine. I’m great with that. But what’s with getting rid of the sea? I like the sea. I’m descended from island and coastal people, and it was with a sense of homecoming that I finally got the chance to dip my toe in the ocean for the very first time, when I was in my 30s. The roar of the sea. The thunder of the waves. The romance of the sea. Sea stories. Sea shanties. Surf and turf. Love it all.
But Jared Wilson helped me figure out what the passage means. I don’t think he said this exactly, but I made the conceptual leap—Revelation is a symbolic book, and the sea here is used in a symbolic sense.
I first encountered this idea in Ray Van Der Laan’s Faith Lessons video series, but I never made the connection. In traditional Hebrew thinking, the word for “sea” had a literal and a metaphorical meaning, and the two tended to get conflated. The sea, with its ever-shifting surface, where there’s no place to stand and where people drown, symbolizes both the evils of life in a fallen world, and the home of evil, Hell.
The exchange in Luke 8, where Jesus exorcises a demoniac and sends the demons into a herd of swine, is a good instance of this thinking. When the demons beg Jesus “not to order them to go into the Abyss,” (v. 31), the abyss has the double meaning of both sea and Hell. So when the newly possessed pigs rush down the bank into the sea, the sense is that the demons ended up precisely where they’d been terrified to go, even though Jesus had granted their request.
So the Revelation passage, I take it, means that moral chaos will disappear from the earth. No longer will the rules be unfair. No longer will bad things happen to good people.
Perhaps the greatest instance of this symbolism in the Gospels (I think) is the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. It’s in Matthew 14:22-33. The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee, and a storm comes up (Galilee is famous for sudden, violent storms). After a long fight to stay afloat, the crew spots Jesus, walking on the water. They think they’re seeing a ghost (out of the Abyss, no doubt), but Jesus tells them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
So Peter, impulsive guy that he is, asks Jesus to let him come out and walk with Him. Jesus calls him to join him, and Peter jumps out and starts walking on the waves, toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
Understand that the sea (especially in a storm) symbolizes the evils and dangers of life, and this story becomes a perfect parable of the Christian life. The sea is chaotic. It is dangerous. It’s frightening for a good reason—because it can kill you as easily as you’d crunch an ant underfoot, and with less concern.
The life of faith means getting out of the (relative) safety of the boat, and stepping out over the Abyss. Nothing—nothing at all—except for the power of Christ prevents you from going down into the depths. And yet you do it, when He calls, because you believe in His power to hold you up. He is your sole means of support, and if you’re mistaken about Him, you’re a goner.
Thus endeth the lesson.
Now the only question for me is, will I put it into practice?