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There are seas, and there are seas...

Reader comment on item: Musing on History
in response to reader comment: words fail

Submitted by Michael S (United States), Jul 9, 2015 at 18:05

Moh,

I responded to your post, but thought I was writing to Mohammed Waza.... Sorry for the mixup. Waz and I have been going back and forth, about what we actually can deduce about God from physics, philosophy and revelation, and my response was along these lines.

Understanding now, that I am talking to a second Australian, let me first convey my regards for your fine country -- a country I lived in nearly 50 years ago. I might take up the thread at this time, on what you said about the Buddhist idea of the "other side". I have never studied Buddhism in depth, but have picked up the main points. "The Buddha" was a Hindu noble, who set off on a quest, it seems, to escape what he rightly saw as the futile cycle of Karma and reincarnation. Having received what he saw as an enlightenment, he deduced that beyond this cycle was the possibility of a true resting place for the soul, a blissfull state of "nothingness", called Nirvanna. I presume that this place, condition or state, is the "sea of tranquility" that Waz referred to.

The Bible does not promise a "sea of tranquility", nor is the cycle of Karma and reincarnation to be found in the Bible. Instead, it speaks of one life here in this world, and then a final, eternal judgment. In a culture that includes a judicial system full of appeals, paroles and legal challenges, this probably sounds overly severe to many people. God is not an earthly judge, though, and there is no need of such safeguards against His making a "mistake". According to the Bible, God will judge all men according to their works, and He will pronounce a quintessentially fair judgment.

There has long been some discussion among Jews about these matters. In Jesus' time, two powerful Jewish factions were the Sadducees and Pharisees, who differed on many matters. The Sadducees didn't even believe in life after death; but the Pharisees (from whom modern Jewry derives) believed in the resurrection of the dead. Just what the Jews think those dead are to rise to is something of a mystery to me, and I'm not sure all Jews today agree on this matter. Certainly, there are many Jews who believe there will be a general resurrection on earth, but most Jews don't believe in eternal judgment.

A major part of Jesus' teaching, and of his contention with the Pharisees and Sadducees alike, concerned the resurrection and final judgment. The book of Revelation is probably the most detailed description of what the judged can expect, be they judged worthy (in which case they live forever in the New Jerusalem) or unworthy (in which case they live forever in the Lake of Fire).

No "sea of tranquility" is described in either place. For instance,

Rev. 21:
[1] And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
[2] And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
[3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

My wife is rather fond of the sea, and we make several trips a year to the coast to see it; so she is not altogether pleased with verse 1. If we understand the places and creatures in Revelation to all be allegories, however, she needn't be overly dismayed. A perusal of the Bible will show that the sea is never given good press: It is a place of tempest, a place that swallows up lives and ships; a capricious, unpredictable place subject to sudden storms. These things are allegorically absent from the "New Jerusalem"; and certainly nothing as cool and potenetially refreshing as an ocean has any part in the Lake of Fire. A river, on the other hand, is mentioned in the former place, a place of living waters that flows down Main Street. Where does it flow to? The book doesn't say.

Neither is the eternal abode of the righteous called a place of "tranquility", especially in the Buddhist sense of "nothingness". Nor is it a place where Muslim men enjoy the eternal company of magically charmed houris who always obey them, apparently, and never sass back. Rather, it is a place of reward. Jesus said,

Matthew 5:
[3
] Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[4] Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

also,

[5] Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

That would be the "new" earth, I imagine, though Revelation also talks of a 1000 year reign on the present earth.

[6] Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Righteousness is not "blissful tranquility". It is action that gives the satisfaction that comes when good is accomplished.

[7] Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
[8] Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
[9] Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
[10] Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
[11] Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
[12] Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:

Turning to the book of Revelation, we have,

Rev. 11
[18] And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
[19] And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
Rev.12
[1] And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
[2] And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered...

Note that the pregnant woman is in heaven, not on earth. She is in pain, and will be delivered from her pain; but the scene isn't one of "blissful tranquility".

The Christian eternal abode, the New Jerusalem, is a place of continual action. On God's part, He's generating earthquakes, lightenings, etc. On the part of the others, the paramount actions are awe and worship:

Rev 4:
[9] And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
[10] The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
[11] Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

You said that the "blissful sea" was both tranquil and energetic. God is certainly portrayed in this way, being both unmoved and almighty; but the saints all appear to be actively engaged.

There is a "sea" in the King James translation, but it appears to be something people stand on:

Rev. 15:
[1] And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvellous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.
[2] And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God.

Is it a sea of tranquility? It's made of glass, mixed with fire, so the saints must have some sort of fireproof feet. My impression is of red-hot melted glass, not tranquil; though those standing on it are tranquil enough: They're playing haps.

I guess there are seas, and there are seas.

Submitting....

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