Revelation 21:1 says, “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.” There is no reason not to take this literally, that God’s new earth will not contain vast areas of salt water spanning the globe. Of course, bodies of fresh water, such as the river in Revelation 22:1, could still exist in abundance in the new earth.
Prophetic passages about Jesus’ first coming were fulfilled literally. Non-prophetic passages in the Bible are also largely literal. If a certain passage is not meant to be interpreted literally, there will be obvious contextual clues: e.g., an inanimate object will be used to describe a living thing (Jesus is the bread), life will be attributed to an inanimate object (the trees clap their hands), or an expression will be out of character with the thing described (Herod is a fox). Revelation 21:1 has no such clues; therefore, there is no good reason to interpret as figurative the revelation that the new earth will be absent a sea.
Since Revelation 21 reads like a factual description of the new heaven and new earth, and since Scripture provides no other explanation, verse 1 most likely means simply what it says: in the new earth there will no longer be any sea.
While this may be disturbing to some who love the sea, we cannot create an alternative meaning just to suit our preferences or biases. We may also find Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:30 about there being no marriage in heaven to be a little disconcerting; however, we cannot twist any verse’s meaning just to make ourselves feel more comfortable. We have to accept by faith that whatever God, in His perfect wisdom, has planned is the best possible reality.
Having taken the side of literalism, we acknowledge that there are other interpretations of the statement there was no longer any sea. Some believe that the “sea” in Revelation 21:1 refers only to the Mediterranean Sea. When John peers into the future, he sees that the Mediterranean is gone. Elsewhere in Scripture, the Mediterranean Sea is simply referred to as “the sea” (e.g., Joshua 17:10).
Others believe that the statement there was no longer any sea is a figurative reference to there being no more divisions among humanity. In our current world, the oceans provide natural barriers between nations and people groups. According to this interpretation, John’s vision predicts that, in the new earth, humanity will be not be separated by any means.
Another view is that the statement there was no longer any sea refers to the absence of anything that is perilous, unpredictable, or tumultuous. The sea in John’s time was often viewed as place of danger and changeableness. Jesus spoke of “the roaring and tossing of the sea” as part of the tribulation of the end times (Luke 21:25). Psalm 46 speaks of the need to trust God, although the sea’s “waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (verse 3). According to this interpretation, God’s promise is that the new earth will not be a place of turmoil or fear.
Earlier in Revelation, the “sea” was the source of the satanically empowered beast (Revelation 13:1). This has led some to interpret the statement there was no longer any sea in Revelation 21:1 to mean that the source of evil in the world is gone. No longer will there be opportunity for rebellion in God’s creation.
John’s statement that there will be no more sea in the new earth is the first of seven things that are “no more.” The other six promises are that the new order of things will have no more death, mourning, weeping, pain (Revelation 21:4), curse (Revelation 22:3), and night (Revelation 21:25; 22:5).
Revelation 21:1 and the statement there was no longer any sea is part of a description of the re-creation of the whole universe, after the tribulation, after the millennium, after the final rebellion. Things will obviously be very different on the new earth from what they are now. The current earth is mostly covered by water, but the new earth will have a different geography and therefore a different climate.
In the end, the key is that God will make everything beautiful in His time. Whatever He has planned for us, it will be for the best. Eye has not seen nor ear heard the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).