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Life's a Beach

Human nature is fascinated by the ocean. For some the ocean is an important part of their culture and is reflected in various myths and legends from around the world. Others make their living from the foods, medicines, and minerals that can be extracted from it or the goods that can be transported over it. In the first centuries of exploration and trade the ocean possessed an aura of mystery, adventure, and intrigue; it was a great barrier separating the familiar from exotic lands. Today nearly half of the world’s population lives near the ocean and it is a major recreational attraction.

The restless ocean stirs the imagination. The lapping of its waves against the shore is relaxing. Its beauty and power continue to be a source of awe. These are things that fascinate the curious stares of saved and lost men alike. Is it merely a coincidence that the antitype of the ocean in scripture elicits a similar response?

(For those not familiar with typology in scripture, “types” are spiritual “pictures” shown in the Bible that represent concepts or persons. The fulfillment of a type is referred to as its “antitype.” For example, the Passover lamb in scripture is the type of which Christ is the antitype.)

The ocean is a spiritual picture of death in scripture.

“When the waves of death compassed me” 2 Samuel 22:5a
“Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up” Psalm 69:15a
“I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” Jonah 2:2-3

Passing through water is featured prominently in many accounts of the transition between this world and the next. In Bunyan’s allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress a man named Christian seeks the celestial city of heaven. After many trials he arrives at the outskirts of the Celestial City but finds an unexpected barrier – the River of Death. Two Shining Men inform Christian and his companion Hopeful that they must pass through this river if they are to enter the City. The river, however, is not the same for every pilgrim. As the angel tells them, “you shall find it deeper or shallower, as you believe in the King of the place.” Hopeful’s crossing is easy, but Christian sinks into the waves until he bolsters himself with Hopeful’s counsel of taking comfort in his faith. Christian and Hopeful then emerge on the other bank of the River of Death and are admitted into the Celestial City.

Many view the journey across the “waters” like the lad in Bunyan’s allegory named Ignorance, who believes that he will be allowed into the Celestial City through his own good deeds rather than as a gift of God’s grace. After getting over the River of Death on the ferry boat of Vain Hope, Ignorance appears before the gates of the Celestial City without a “passport.” Without detailing more of the allegory, the passport obviously is faith in Christ alone and His work on the cross. Ignorance persisted in his own way that leads to his being cast into hell.

If I could add to the allegory there is another class of people who could be named Indifference. This great and wide “sea” remains a mystery to most of the human race. The realization that Jesus Christ is the only safe passage to the other side is lost upon them. Any contemplation of what lies beyond the “horizon” is quickly muted by the sights, sounds, and activities of life on the “beach.”

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” Isaiah 43:2

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