No More Sea

Title: No More Sea

Bible Book: Revelation 21

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Heaven; Home with God



I had planned an entirely different introduction to this message. Hurricane Katrina has devastated south Louisiana, Mississippi, and parts of Alabama. Bodies floating in the streets are being pushed aside to allow rescue workers to save the living. The carnage, coupled with the suffering, and the anarchy on the streets has brought back to my mind a passage we recently read from Revelation:

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out in a loud voice, saying to all the birds flying in mid-heaven, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of commanders, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of their riders, and the flesh of everyone, both free and slave, small and great” (Rev 19:17-18).

I do not want to dwell on this - only to remind you that what we are seeing in New Orleans is only a very small token of that which to come. It is going to be much worse in that day. But there is good news. Experts tell us that New Orleans will rebuild and it should be better than ever. Well, when we come to Revelation 21 we see a time when it will be better - much, much better.

A number of years ago, I was asked to deliver the message for the funeral of an uncle in Meridian, Mississippi. Afterwards, one of my brothers encouraged me to publish a book of funeral sermons. He is an attorney and he explained, “I go to a lot of funerals for lawyers, judges, and other officials and the preacher spends all his time eulogizing the individual. Any reference to Scripture is very brief. I know a lot of lost people attend those services and they are not going to hear the Gospel any other time. They can attend those funeral services and leave without any idea how to be saved, or that they need to be saved.” When I am asked to preach a funeral sermon I like to assure the family that the message will be brief - and it will be scriptural. I will make every effort to accommodate the family when it comes to personal references, favorite passages of Scripture, or poems that express their feelings. If, however, they want me to leave out the Scripture they can ask someone else to deliver the message. I got fired for a wedding one time because I refused to leave off the Scripture in the introduction - I said, “Not only will I not be offended if you ask someone else, I will help you find someone else!” If you have a funeral you know someone is dead; if you have a wedding these days you don’t know what to expect (in some cases, anyway).

The message today is number 41 in our series from Revelation. Some of those sermons can easily be expanded into two sermons. This message is an expanded version of the sermon my brothers, James and Mike, commented on after our uncle’s service. My sister Linda probably had something to say, but then Linda always has something to say - but I had better not go there!

I have preached one version or another of this sermon a number of times in funeral services. It can easily be adapted to different individuals, families, and circumstances. I developed this message more completely about ten years ago, January 4, 1995, when I had the funeral service for Mrs. Oliece Antley. Her son Don is not only one of our deacons, he is a very good friend. When asked to preach a funeral sermon, I seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in selecting the text and trust Him to lead me in preparing the message based on that message. When I was asked to preach the sermon for the funeral service for Mrs. Antley, I felt that the Lord was leading me to this text, in particular, to the words, “no more sea..” This is an expanded version of that message (the funeral service is a brief version of this). Our text is, “No more sea.”


1) In the beginning, God created the world, gave it order, and filled it with plant and animal life. Then He said, “Let us make man in Our own image.” So he created Adam and Eve and placed them in a paradise we know as the Garden of Eden. There He walked with them and talked with them in the cool of the day. Let me emphasize the words “with” them. While I cannot possibly comprehend the full significance of their relationship, it should be obvious to every Bible Student that there was a special relationship between God and man in paradise before the Fall, when sin created a relationship problem. God was “with” Adam and Eve as He has never been with any other human being since that time. As Francis Shaeffer used to stress, nothing has been normal since the Fall. We don’t send our children out into “the real world”, we send them out into a fallen world.

2) The Fall changed everything. You know the story from Genesis - and I don’t apologize for believing Genesis. When Adam and Eve sinned a great gulf was formed between God and Man, and no person can span that gulf in order to reach God. Man could never restore a relationship with God. God, however, provided for man’s redemption. We have the first promise in Genesis 3, and while we are not given a lot of information in Genesis 3:15, we are given the first ray of hope. There is a progressive revelation of God’s redemptive purpose in the Old Testament, but rather than follow Messianic prophecy through the Old Testament, I would like to focus on something else. Keep in mind the broken fellowship with God caused by man’s sin, and God’s desire to redeem man.

3) World conditions in the days of Noah underscore the gravity of man’s sin. We refer to the sin of Adam and Eve as the Fall, and nothing can illustrate the effects of the fall more that world conditions in the day of Noah. The world, with the exception of Noah and his family, was so totally given to sin that God decided to destroy the human race, with the exception of those who were on the ark. A friend, anxious to make a point, got my attention and in front of others, asked, “Do you know how long it would have taken Noah to put all those animals on the ark? Two years! Two years!” I said, “Noah did not round up and load all those animals onto the ark. God did.” While no specific claim is made in Genesis that stresses that God was with the eight people in the ark, Peter (1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5) assures us that God was with Noah and his family.

4) Abraham enjoyed a special relationship with the Lord. Abraham was blessed by God as few people ever have been, yet he did not enjoy the relationship Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall.
Abraham, the father of the faithful. Abraham, the father of many nations. Abraham, the father of the Hebrew race. Abraham, the friend of God. Abraham believed God and it was attributed unto him for righteousness. While God did not walk with man in Abraham’s day as He did with Adam and Eve, He did communicate with Abraham and He manifested His presence with him in a number of ways.

5) Then, there is Moses. Israel had been in Egypt 400 years, during which time they had multiplied - from 70 in number to 2 million people. The Book of Exodus begins with a generation of Israelites who had forgotten God’s covenant with Abraham - forgotten that God had promised them a “land flowing with milk and honey.” They were living under a new Pharaoh who did not recognize the promise an earlier Pharaoh had made to Joseph. They were no longer residents who occupied the Land of Goshen, but slaves who were oppressed, beaten down and defeated. New born sons were being killed by the soldiers of Pharaoh - the fallen world’s most vile form of birth control. Believe me, they did not feel that they were living “with” God at that time. They had forgotten God and He had turned a deaf ear to them until they began to cry for deliverance. Moses, God’s choice to deliver His Chosen People, had spent 40 years tending sheep for his father-in-law in Midian. His mind was apparently not on God. He did not sense that God was with him.

Then Moses saw the burning bush! The bush was burning, but it was not being consumed. You know the story. By His mighty hand, God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, across the Red Sea on dry land, to Sinai, where He entered a covenant relationship with the Chosen People.

6) Now we come to the Tabernacle. Do you know a tabernacle was? It was a tent. Two million Israelites were living in tents in the wilderness, so God told Moses to have them build Him a tent so that He might dwell among His Chosen People. So, they pitched God a tent in the midst of His people. Now, we know that God could not be confined to a tent, so there must have been some special significance associated with His Tabernacle. There was! The Tabernacle was a symbol of God’s presence with His people.

His presence was never restricted to the Tabernacle - He is omnipresent, every where present at the same time. The Tabernacle reminded the people that He was with them - as He had been with no other nation in history. But there is more - the area above the Ark of the Covenant, between the outreached arms of the Cherubim symbolized the concentrated presence of God, the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. This is great! God is “with” His people. His presence is symbolized by a tent. Israel enjoyed a relationship with God that no other nation enjoyed. That is glorious! It can’t get any better than that, can it? We shall see.

7) God was with Israel in the wilderness. In fact, God was with Israel throughout their history. No other nation had ever enjoyed the same relationship with God as the Chosen People. He was with them in the wilderness. He was with them in the crossing of the Jordan. He was with them in the Conquest of the Holy Land. He was with them during the entire Period of the Judges. They went through a cycle of rebellion and deliverance some fifteen times during that period. They would rebel against God and embrace idols. God would send a nation to conquer them and force them to pay tribute. They would repent. God would send a deliverer, or judge to deliver them. They would live in peace as long as the judge lived, and then they would start that cycle over again. All during that time God was with them, not because they deserved it but because of His grace.

God was with Israel during the Period of the Kings - the United Kingdom and the Divided Kingdom. We remember when God spoke to Samuel and commanded him to anoint David as king over Israel. If you ever doubt that God was with David, just open your Bible to the Book of Psalms. David was keenly aware of God’s presence and God continually revealed Himself as the Shepherd Who supplied all of his needs. He was a shield to David in battle, a companion in life, an inspiration in writing songs and performing his music. He was his Lord in worship, the God of the covenant in revealed prophecy. He was Lord to the shepherd king of Israel. The Scripture tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart.

8) The Temple became the symbol of God’s presence with His people as soon as Solomon completed it and consecrated it. The Temple consisted of three parts, the court, the holy place, and the most holy place. The most holy place housed the Ark of the Covenant. You do remember the Ark of the Covenant, don’t you? It particularly and peculiarly symbolized God’s presence among His people, as well as the covenant that existed between God and Israel.

Now, fast forward. Israel, the northern kingdom fell to Assyria in 722 B.C - and that is Before Christ (not BCE, before the common era). Judah had been warned by Isaiah to repent or face God in judgment. For another hundred years, they continually disobeyed God. He commanded them to obey Him, but they said, “we will not obey.” He called Jeremiah and told him to charge Judah with two sins. First, they had forsaken God, the fountain of living water. Second, they had hewn for themselves broken cisterns that could hold no water - and that is exactly what idolatry is. He commanded them to repent and obey Him or face Him in judgment. They not only refused to repent, they insisted that God could not judge them because they had the temple of the Lord. He warned them to stop saying, “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Yes, the temple of the Lord symbolized the presence of the Lord with His people, but He had withdrawn His protection. In 586 B.C., the walls of Jerusalem were breached by Babylon and the temple was looted and then destroyed.

9) God was with His people in exile. The Lord sent his prophets to announce that they would be going into captivity in Babylon and that the Captivity would last seventy years - one year for every Sabbath Year they had refused to observe. The land would lie fallow for seventy years while the people were in captivity. The captives were discouraged, frightened, and heart broken. Listen to these words from Psalm 137 and you will get a picture of their spiritual state:

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst of it
We hung our harps.
For there our captors demanded of us songs,
And our tormentors mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
How can we sing the LORD’S song
In a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
If I do not remember you,
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.
Psalm 137:1-6 (HCSB)

Irish tenor, Daniel O’Donnell, sings a very happy rendition of this psalm in His popular, BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON. This cry, however, is the cry of a broken hearted, defeated people. They had stopped singing the Lord’s song. They had hung their harps on willow limbs beside the Euphrates River. Their Babylonian captors taunted them by commanding them to sing them a song of Zion. How, they wondered, can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Well, Jeremiah would write to these people and tell them to build houses, arrange marriages for their sons and daughters, to become good citizens of the land, and help build the city where they lived.

Where is God at a time like this? I have an idea I would like to share. For hundreds of years, the besetting sin of Israel had been idolatry. They had never gone very long without turning to false gods. The northern kingdom was destroyed because they turned from God and embraced Baal worship. Do you remember the contest between Elijah, the prophet of the living God and the prophets of Baal? Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah, the four great Eighth Century BC prophets who prophesied in what has been called the Golden Age of Prophecy, denounced idolatry and false worship of all kinds. The people would not listen to them. Israel was destroyed and Judah was now in captivity in Babylon.

Where is God? He was there. Judah had a long history of idolatry, but when they returned from captivity they returned without idols! Were you aware of that? Over the next few centuries, the descendants of those who returned from Babylon would be tortured and killed but they would never bow their knee to an idol again. They returned to the Promised Land without false gods. Where was God? They didn’t give up those idols by accident, did they?

10) The City of Jerusalem became a symbol of God’s presence with His people. As a matter of fact, God told Jeremiah to tell the people that they would go into captivity for seventy years, after which He would return a remnant to the land of Judah. He also instructed Jeremiah to tell them that when they returned they should not rebuild the Ark of the Covenant. From that day forth, the city of Jerusalem would be the symbol of God’s presence with His people.


1) The genealogy of Christ in the first chapter of Matthew establishes Jesus as the son of Abraham according to the Promise, and the son of David according to the royal line. The construction of the genealogical record is amazing withing itself - three divisions with 14 in each division. The number 3 is the divine number and the number 14 is the perfect number 7 multiplied by 2 for emphasis and amplification. Every detail given in Matthew 1 is with purpose - and no part of it is without purpose. Now listen to this: “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us” (Matt 1:22-23). Do you see it? Do you see it?!!
The Tabernacle represented the presence of God with His people. The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God with His people. Jerusalem symbolized the presence of God with His people. But Jesus is Immanuel! He does not symbolize the presence of God with His people - He is literally, GOD WITH US! The Holy Spirit inspired the beloved disciple John to write:

“He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man,but of God” (John 1:12-13).

“The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

You may be more familiar with the KJV, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” The word here is a New Testament parallel to the Old Testament word that has claimed our attention - tabernacle. A tabernacle was a dwelling place, a place of residence. During His earthly ministry, Jesus literally took up residence among His people. It cannot get any better than that, can it? Well....Jesus said there was something better. Does that surprise you? Let’s go on to see why He said that.

2) The Holy Spirit came to indwell believers. Jesus meant that while He was on this earth (in human form), He was limited - voluntarily limited - by the flesh. For example, while He was in a human body He could not be omnipresent, or everywhere present at the same time. He said that it was better for Him to return to heaven and send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to indwell all believers.

Now, I hope you did not miss this - to indwell all believers. To indwell means to take up residence. Jesus, in human form, took up residence among His disciples. The Holy Spirit takes up residence within the heart of each believer. It just gets better and better, doesn’t it?!!

I would like to add a footnote here. Saints have discussed when the church became the church, and some seem to believe it became the church at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to indwell and empower believers to carry out the Great Commission. Excuse me, you mean the Holy Spirit didn’t come to give people ecstatic experiences? Read Acts 1:8 and tell me what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do! When did the church become the church? Let me ask you this, Who does the Bible identify as the Head of the church? That’s right - Christ, not the Holy Spirit. Followers of Christ were members of His body, which would in time be identified as the church. Those early followers were indwelt by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. That is very important, but we should never assign the Holy Spirit a role or office not given Him by the Father.

That brings me to another question. When did Christians become Christians? Someone made the statement that there were no Christians until Pentecost. Well, to be perfectly honest, the first followers of Christ were called a number of things, and none of them flattering. Perhaps the least offensive term was “the way.” Believers were first called Christians at Antioch of Syria, and believe me, the Syrians and non-believing Jews did not give them that name to encourage them, or to honor Christ. It was a term of derision.

So, when did Christians become Christians. Christians are people who profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The true believers among the early disciples were children of God, followers of Christ, members of the body of Christ - saved through faith in Jesus Christ. What, then, happened at Pentecost? I am glad you asked. Believers in Jesus Christ were indwelt by the Holy Spirit for all the purposes given by our Lord in John 14-16, in the Great Commission, and Acts 1:8. The Holy Spirit indwelt believers to empower them, to guide then, to convict them, and to keep their eyes focused on the Father through the Son. The Third Person of the Trinity has never focused anyone’s attention on Himself. He convicts lost people that they must go to the Father through the Son to have everlasting life. He convicts believers of the importance of looking to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the heart of each and every believer at the point of salvation, not through some second blessing at a later date. The indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit is not something that “happens” to some anointed few who “pray through.” He takes up residence in the heart of each born-again believer. He tabernacles within us. Now, I cannot stress too strongly that we must have a daily filling with the Holy Spirit. There are a lot of people who have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit who are not yielding to him. They have opened the door to Him, but they have not permitted Him to take control of their lives.


1) I would like to read a passage from Revelation 4. The scene is the throne room of heaven. In this scene we see the Father seated on the eternal throne. He is Sovereign. He is Lord. Look at the scene. John records that which was revealed unto him:

“After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Immediately I was in the Spirit, and there in heaven a throne was set. One was seated on the throne..... before the throne was something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal” (Rev 4:1-6a).

At the beginning of the Revelation, there is something like a sea before the throne. In apocalyptic literature, I am told that sea symbolizes separation. In ancient times a sea offered protection, but it might also become an obstacle. What does it mean here. God is holy. His throne is a holy throne. He cannot be approached by that which is unholy. Today, the redeemed of the Lord are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ lives within us - but we cannot enter totally into the presence of God in His throne room. You may know Him so well that He is more real to you than anything else in this world - but you can only get so close. Even Moses could not look on the face of God and live. The people could not touch the mountain when God came down to give Moses the Law and live to tell about it. The servant of David could not touch the Ark of the Covenant - even with the best of intentions - and live to tell about it.

You can know God personally. You can be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Jesus can live within your heart. But there is still a sea before the throne! This is not given to discourage us. What this means is that there is something to look forward to that is beyond our ability to comprehend. But I know this much - it just gets better and better.

2) Now, let’s take the final step. Listen carefully to what John says in Revelation 21:1-3:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea existed no longer. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:1-3).

Is it any wonder the saints in heaven are crying, “AMEN! HALLELUJAH!”? Wow! That is amazing. There is no more sea! When we are glorified we may enter into His presence fully and completely. Just think what that will mean. No more sickness, no more sorrow, no more heart ache, no more disappointments, no more death, no more loneliness, no more.......well, you get the picture. There will be no more bad things in our life. But that is just the negative side of it.

There will be perfect fellowship. There will be eternal joy. There will be eternal health. There will be enlightenment. Do you realize that an illiterate person who dies and goes to be with the Lord knows more theology in the first few minutes in heaven that a professor of theology in a modern seminary?

This really is amazing. God is going to dwell with us. He will not just visit with us, He will live with us - forever. We will not have to live with a symbol of His presence ever again. We have just read from the next to the last chapter in the Bible, the Book of Revelation, but this was no after thought with God. Let’s go back to the sixth century B.C. Israel is in Babylon and God calls Ezekiel to deliver His word to the people of Israel. Listen to these words of hope God told Ezekiel to deliver to Israel:

“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will establish and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be My people. When My sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel” (Ezek 37:26-28).


I thank God for sending His Son to die on the cross for my sins. I thank God that Jesus came in the flesh and dwelt on this earth. I thank God for sending the Holy Spirit to indwell my heart and my life. And today, I thank God that I am promised a dwelling place with my heavenly Father. Jesus is preparing that place for me, just as He promised in His Farewell Discourse:

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way where I am going.” “Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:1-6).
Jesus offers eternal life, including the privilege of living forever in the presence of our heavenly Father. Only Jesus can make that offer. It is only through Jesus that we can ever hope to dwell with our Father in heaven. Like I said, it just gets better and better. Let me appeal you to place your trust in Jesus and let Him prepare a place for you in heaven. He has a great desire to live with you. He has done His part. Now, what will you do with Jesus?

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