Saturday, August 20, 2016

THE RIVER OF LIVING WATERS

(I am currently writing a series on the last two chapters of the Bible. These chapters are the only two in the entire Bible that are dedicated exclusively to telling us what eternity will be like for the believers in Christ)
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We come now to some of the most beautiful words written in the Scriptures. At least this is my opinion. Up until this point in the last chapters of the Revelation, John’s description of the city of God was from an external view. He was standing on the mountain and watching the city as it descended from heaven. Now however, just as the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel was shown the temple first from the outside, and after that entered into the very sanctuary, John also now enters the New Jerusalem. He now begins to describe what he saw on the inside of the city of God. It is probably my favorite passage in the entire Bible: 

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and flowing down the middle of the great street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it. His bond-servants will serve Him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
And there will no longer be any night. They will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them, and they will reign forever and ever.
And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.”
The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show to his bond-servants the things which must soon take place. (Revelation 22:1-6 my own paraphrase). 

The Water of Life

The subject of the water of life is a common one in Scripture. Jesus used it often in his teaching. My mind immediately goes to the account told to us of one hot day when Jesus sat in the shade of a tree near a well of Samaria. The well was outside of the city of Sychar. The disciples had gone into town to get some food, but Jesus chose to remain at the well to rest and to wait for them to return.(to continue reading, please press the READ MORE link below)


While he was sitting in the shade, a woman of the city came out to draw water. This woman was not one with the best reputation in the city. She had been married five times, and at that moment was living with a man with whom she was not married. It was apparent that her life had been one of unfulfilled hopes. If one considers her history of past relationships, it would not be surprising to believe that she had lost the ability to trust in anything and anyone at all.

As she was drawing water out of the well, Jesus asked her if she would also give him a drink. With this question, a long conversation began, centering on the subject of water. As it had happened also at other times and with other people, Jesus was also trying to open up this woman’s eyes to her need for life in her spirit. As he spoke with her, he used the metaphor of the water in the well to speak of life-giving spiritual water.

Jesus told her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 NAS). 

Jesus again spoke of the same theme of living water when he later spoke to a great crowd who had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate a feast commemorating God’s goodness to his people during the years in the wilderness. One of the provisions during those years in the wilderness was the times when God gave them something to drink in that hot and dry land by causing water to flow in great quantities out of a rock. This provision of water was what the people Jerusalem especially celebrated on the last and most important day of the seven day feast.

It was on this day that Jesus stood up before the large crowd and said in a loud voice for all to hear “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38 NAS).

In the book of Revelation, when John spoke of the river of the water of life in the New Jerusalem, I think especially of these two instances when Jesus spoke of the living water that he offered to people. Concerning the river in the New Jerusalem, you will notice that it originates and flows from the very throne of God, much like the water flowed from the rock in the wilderness during the wanderings of the Israelites. Notice also that as the river flowed down the middle of the great street of the city, it provided the water for the tree of life, which grew along both sides of the street. 

The River that Ezekiel Saw

In an earlier post I made reference to the vision of a temple given to the Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel. At that time, Ezekiel was given a guide to give him a tour of the temple, a man whom Ezekiel described as one who had “the appearance of bronze.” As the two walked around the temple area, they saw and made many measurements of many things, some of which seemed to correspond with what John saw in the New Jerusalem, although many also did not.

However, there is one more thing that Ezekiel saw that comes to mind at this point. Near the end of the tour, the guide and Ezekiel returned to the door of the temple. There at the door, Ezekiel saw water flowing out from below the threshold. This would probably not be something that you and I would like to see at our front doors when we arrived home, thinking immediately of burst pipes and ruined flooring. But this was not the case with Ezekiel.

Instead, the prophet begins to describe the flow of water coming from the temple. The water was coming, Ezekiel said, from below the south side of the threshold. Apparently it was not a great amount of water at that point. Ezekiel describes it as a trickle, but it was a trickle that would turn into a mighty river.

As Ezekiel’s guide did with all of the other aspects of the temple, he begins to measure the flow of water. The two walked downstream one thousand cubits and then both men walked through the water. At that point it was ankle-deep. One thousand cubits further downstream, it was knee-deep. They then walked downstream again and crossed what should now be considered a river. At this point it was waist-deep. One thousand cubits later it was so deep that they could not walk through it. Should they want to cross it, they would have had to swim.

To put this into perspective, from what began as a trickle of water coming from underneath the door of the temple, in a distance of about two thousand yards, this trickle has already grown into a river of substantial size. Ezekiel does not mention any other sources for the water, so apparently there was no other tributaries of water that would account for this increase in volume.

After Ezekiel saw the beginnings of this river which had its source out of the very midst of the temple, the guide explained to him that the river continued to flow well past what they could see and also apparently grow in volume. The river continued down to the south of the Jordan Valley, which is the beginnings of the Great Rift Valley. So great was the flow, that when it entered the Dead Sea, it made those salty waters become fresh. Today the Dead Sea is so named because it contains the greatest concentration of salt that any other body of water on earth, so great that nothing can live in its waters. It is almost ten times as salty that the oceans.

This river that Ezekiel saw will bring life wherever it flows, making barren waters again alive with many fish and other creatures. The man told him that only the salt marshes will be preserved as they are, so that there is a provision for salt once the other waters become sweet.

The guide then tells Ezekiel, “On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither, nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12 NAS).

The man seems to put everything into the future sense, seeing that this vision of Ezekiel’s concerns a temple that at that time had not yet been constructed. It still has not been constructed even yet today, and as I said earlier in the book, it is difficult for us to see exactly at what point this vision fits into the entire plan of God. 

Rivers of Living Water

Certainly we can see the obvious similarities of the river flowing out of Ezekiel’s temple with that of the River of Life shown to John in the Revelation. The prophet Zechariah also speaks of a vision that he had of a future river flowing out of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:8), but does not does not go into much detail. Again, some details coincide with the rivers of Ezekiel and the New Jerusalem, and some do not. Zechariah does however, refer to the waters of the river that he saw as being “living waters.”

In the New Jerusalem is the River of Life. It begins its flow from the very throne of God, the same God who caused water to flow from a solid rock in a barren wilderness. Ezekiel saw a river with life giving waters that also had its source from within the very heart of the temple. Zechariah also saw a river living waters.

As the people of Jerusalem remembered the supply of water that flowed from the rock that gave relief for their thirsty ancestors in the wilderness, Jesus stood up and addressed a great crowd. He called out, “If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’” ((John 7:38-39 NAS).

He told the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14 NAS). 

One could say that the river that Ezekiel saw, the river that Zechariah saw, and the river of the New Jerusalem that John saw, are all metaphors of the living waters that Jesus spoke about. Even what Jesus spoke about was metaphorical, for when he spoke of the living waters, he was speaking of the Holy Spirit, who gives life to those in whom he dwells. The life of the Spirit wells up from within, giving us eternal life.

The rivers that these men saw were actual rivers. They were not merely metaphors. But they are metaphorical in the sense that they bring life wherever they flow. It is a life that cannot be contained.
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Next post - The Tree of Life 

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