1. Revelation 21:1 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What does “the sea” refer to?

Revelation 21:1 (ESV)

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.

There are a number of possible meanings of the sea, all of which appeared already in the book of Revelation:

  1. The literal bodies of water on this earth in distinction from dry land (Revelation 5:13; Revelation 7:1–3)

  2. The place where goods are most easily transported, and so a metaphor for wealth (Revelation 18:19)

  3. A representation of the floor beneath God’s throne (Revelation 4:6; Revelation 15:2)

  4. The origin of evil forces (Revelation 13:1), and so representative of teeming, unstable, and threatening nations (Revelation 17:1; Revelation 20:13)

Perhaps we need not select between these possibilities. The point of Revelation 21:1 (as will become more evident from Revelation 21:3) is the (re)unification of heaven and earth, God’s dwelling and man’s. None of these various understandings of the sea will threaten or hinder the harmony of God’s dwelling with people.