Ezekiel 47:1-12 [Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. 2 Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. 3 And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ancles. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. 5 Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. 6And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river. 7 Now when I had returned, behold, at the bank of the river were very many trees on the one side and on the other. 8 Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. 9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh. 10 And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto En-eglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many. 11 But the miry place thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt. 12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.]
Ezekiel living on the banks of the River Chebar with the Jewish exiles during their captivity in Babylon is granted the vision of an ever increasing river which flowed from the house of the Lord and carried life and plenty wherever it went.
Ezekiels’ picture shows Jerusalem and the Temple of God as the starting point of the river of the water of life. He is brought to the door of the House, where he beholds a stream issuing from the foundation and flowing toward the east.
Ezekiel shows the stream deepening and broadening from a rivulet to a mighty river: at first the waters were only to the ankles, further on to the knees of Ezekiel as he passed through them; again he measured and the waters were up to his loins and then a final measurement when he found the river too deep to ford. “A river to swim in.”
As he followed the course of the river he marked very many trees with their greenness and shade on either side of the river. Wherever the river flowed there was vegetation and life.
He saw just what you would see today if you would stand on an elevation and follow the course of a river as it flows across an arid plain or desert. You know where the river flows by the trail of green it leaves behind it. “Everything shall live whither the river cometh.”
Even the Dead Sea is pictured as being revived, recovered from its deadness and full of fish, its waters healed by the temple born river which emptied a pure life giving stream into its dark bosom.
From the very beginning until the present the rivers of the earth have given not only life but beauty. Rivers are associated with the most beautiful landscapes, and in the Bible some of the best known and best loved scenes are those with a river in the foreground. Edens chief glory is described in the sweet music of that ancient sentence, “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden.”
I have many wonderfully good memories of our trips to Israel, my favorite is about a river. One of the sources of the River Jordan flows out of a cave at the foot of Mount Herman in northern Israel. The river and the river are called Banias. It’s a beautiful quiet area 1000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean sea. The river is about 30 feet wide and 3 or 4 feet deep. It has trees growing on both sides and there is a picnic ground and a small restaurant along the banks. Many families were enjoying themselves, some wading in the shallow water. It was a Kingdom scene if I ever saw one. When the psalmist wished to sing of the safety and peace of the holy city he said, “There is a river, the streams thereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the most high.”
The last brilliant flash of divine revelation in the Bible is one which discloses to us a “pure river of life, clear as crystal proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb,” “on whose banks grew the trees of life which yielded her fruit every month.”
So, the Bible begins and ends with a river. In Eden the river nourished every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. They were the trees of life, good for food and beautiful to look upon.
They were trees the eating of which would have maintained the life which God had given to Adam. They were not some kind of magic that would keep them from ever dying. That is not the thought! They were trees of life in the sense that the fruit when eaten would have made it possible for our first parents, if they continued to eat, to live and would have supplied all the needs of their systems so they would have never needed to die.
Adam and Eve and all their children and their childrens children would have lived forever right here on a finished perfect earth. It was after the death sentence was delivered that they were driven out of the garden away from the trees of life and into the unprepared earth where they must till the ground and battle with the thorns and the thistles until they were to return to the earth from whence they were taken.
The penalty for their act of disobedience was death, and the thought is, if the Lord had allowed them to remain in Eden, they would not have to come into a dying condition but would have remained in the full vigor and strength of their human nature, even though they were sinners.
Adam and Eve had suffered a great loss because their willful act of disobedience. Beside their right to life they lost their fellowship with God, their perfect home and those wonderful trees of life: how often they must have reflected on their transgression and hoped in some way they could be forgiven and reinstated to the lofty position they had previously held.
Ezekiels vision as heard by the Jews in exile undoubtedly was pictured as referring to earthly Jerusalem, and the blessings and those promised to the Jews as a nation. The restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple are clearly and explicitly foretold, and no doubt the hearts of the captives were filled with joy as they thought of the future blessings, and no doubt, their faith and hope were encouraged.
Many of the particulars connected with this vision are so descriptive of the land of Israel that it would seem quite likely there will be a future fulfillment to the vision. This conception rests on the fact that there once was a fountain connected with the Temple hill, the waters of which fell into the valley east of the city, and made their way toward the Dead sea. So far as is known, this fountain was never of any considerable size, and never would be without a miracle, for at the present time the entire country is arid, except in the rainy season. From this fountain the valley of Kedron leads directly to the Dead sea, which has no connection with the ocean waters, either on the surface or underground, and is 1308 feet below sea level.
However, there are evidences that at one time the Dead Sea was on a level with the ocean, and if by earthquake or otherwise the connection between it and the ocean waters were re-established it would rise to its old level and make a Huge inland sea. Such a filling up of its basin would have a marked effect upon the humidity in the whole area and also upon the water springs in the vicinity of Jerusalem which would be greatly enlarged. Water in the springs and rivers in this now parched desert country would cause its vegetation to prosper.
It is worthy to note that this valley now occupied by the Dead Sea was once very fertile, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We read in Genesis 13:10 [And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.] And the restitution of this country to a Paradise like condition is what the Prophet Ezekiel describes, if his language is to be given a literal interpretation at all, and this it seems to demand, as well as the symbolic interpretation.
There are so many who seek to apply this prophetic vision as a symbol to the present time and claim this river of salvation has been flowing through the world from the days of Ezekiel until now. They believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is represented in this river which now for a considerable time has been flowing forward and bringing blessings and life to everyone who professes to be a believer.
We agree, the blessings of Christianity are not merely facts of history but the facts of today. Wherever the Gospel has been received it has changed the manner and the customs of the people and led them to a better way of life.
When the greatest missionary of all time received his commission to preach the Gospel he was told that he was to be a witness of Christ to the nations, “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to life, and from the power of Satan unto God.” The whole history of Christianity was written beforehand in those words which sent Saint Paul out to witness to Christ.
In countries where even the basic surface truths of the Bible have been practiced the people have a better way of life than in the areas of this world that are a stranger to the Gospel. Without the influence of Christ, leaders become tyrants, cruelty is unrestrained by law, low standards of living, unrestrained poverty, obscene and disgusting rites in the name of religion.
The laws of the civilized world are based on the light given by Almighty God in the commandments written by His servant Moses. Like the source of a river bringing life as it flows across a desert, so you can trace the course of Christianity in the world by the reformations which it has been effected.
It has been in the Christian lands where freedom has been found, here also the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, the safeguarding of childhood, and at least a curb on those things of which the Apostle says “it is even a shame to speak.”
Christianity has been a wonderful blessing to the world of believers but is what has taken place a reasonable interpretation of this scripture?
We must answer No: It is not a scriptural view. The scriptures declare that Gods’ grace at the present time is not comparable to a river, but in our Lords’ words, “It shall be in him, (each believer) a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14 [But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.]
And those Christians in whom Gods grace is a fountain of life and refreshment are comparatively few. They are those who have been “enlightened by the spirit of truth through the Word of truth.” They are the “sanctified in Christ Jesus;” they are the household of faith.
No scripture anywhere suggests that the water of eternal life is now free; nor that all are now called to drink of it. Our Lord Jesus himself declared the contrary of this, saying “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” John 6:44 [No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.]
The drawing or calling of God through a knowledge of his grace is only to those who have ears to hear, amongst those to whom the called is addressed; and the call has been specially sent and has specially reached only a comparatively few of earths millions, chiefly the inhabitants of Europe and America. And of this comparatively small number to whom the Word of the Lord has been sent, and of the still smaller number who have “ears to hear” that call, only a smaller number are chosen as we read “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 20:16 [So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.] The great majority of mankind have never heard of or seen “the river of life,” few indeed have received the promised blessings.
Returning to the Prophets vision, we are told that the waters flowed out from the house of the Lord, from the Temple, and wherever they went they brought vitality and refreshment, healing, restitution, life – even to the Dead Sea.
The mystic river of Ezekiels vision gradually expanded in width and depth from a stream that was up to the ankles to a river to swim in, a huge broad body of water on which the ships of commerce could sail.
There is nothing unusual about this; all rivers are small streamlets near their source. But that increase is not due to the source, and its supply. If that was all the river had to depend on, it could never become larger than it was at the beginning. Rivers increase in volume by reason of the tributary streams which empty their waters into it as a it flows toward the sea.
Years ago Mary and I joined the Evans family for a picnic in a place they knew high in the mountains of Colorado. Even in July there were high banks of snow pack on the shady side of the high hills. This snow had been slowly melting from the time the weather had began to warm.
We ate our lunch at the bank of a fast moving stream in this beautiful high mountain meadow. After we had eaten I followed this little waterway upward and as I climbed, it dwindled until I found its single source, which was a tiny rivulet from the melting snow.
We were on the west side of the Continental divide so I believe that stream and others like it became the Colorado River which provides water and electricity to Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Cali. and Mexico.
The Mississippi River, the Father of Waters begins as a small stream in Minnesota and is an immense tawny flood at New Orleans. But that enormous increase in volume is not to be accounted for by the fountain lake in the far north, but it is do the tributary rivers which have lost themselves in the Mississippi and have died that it might live, the Missouri, the Fox, the Wisconsin, the Miami, the Beaver, the Allegheny, the Mononghela, and the Ohio.
These rivers made the Mississippi great. But this stream of the prophets parable was fed by no waters save those which issued from beneath the temple. This illustrates the fact that all truth originates from Almighty God and from Jesus our Lord. The Word of God has given light to the world but it has borrowed none. Not an age, not a race, not a single person, even were he as gifted as Saint Paul, has added anything, through his own nature and effort, to the power of Christian Truth. Races and generations and personalities can illustrate the effects of the Truth, but they can neither initiate nor augment those effects.
So from age to age the river of Gods truth has flowed through the world, sometimes through quiet valleys, sometimes over rocks and rapids and sometimes seemingly disappearing altogether, so far as man can judge, but emerging again with undiminished sweep and power. It is this exploration of the river of the Gospel which fills us with invincible confidence that its course and history are directed of God and that one day the river shall become a flood of righteousness which shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
“And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live.”
This vision to our understanding is a picture of the grace of God during the Millennial age, when the completed church, the Temple is, “the habitation of God through the Spirit” Ephesians 2:22 [In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.]
Then the stream of water of life, healing restoring rejuvenating, shall flow to all the families of the earth, whose condition is represented by the wilderness eastward of Jerusalem. The blessings of life will go first to the living come to those who are willing to accept them, and it means more: for the Dead Sea fitly represents the vast multitude of mankind which has gone into the tomb, and the waters of life shall reach even these, awakening them from death and bringing them to opportunities of restitution.
That the fulfillment of this vision could not be a thing of the Gospel Age is evident when we remember the house of God, the temple, the church was not yet completed during that age, it was during that time that the Lord was fitting the “living stones” for the temple, chiseling, fitting and polishing each for the place which they were called.
The Gospel age was typified in the building of Solomon Temple, by the period of the preparation of the materials, after which were are informed that the whole house came together quickly, each stone fitting into its place. 1 Kings 6:7 [And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.]
The Apostle Peter tells us these “living stones” are the footstep followers of Christ. 1 Peter 2:5 [Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. These are “built together for a habitation of God through the Spirit” and the building could not be completed until the last of these fitted and polished stones was laid in its position. Then the glory of the Lord fills the house and there the church is glorified. The temple was completed in October 1950 with the death of the last member of the Little Flock.
Afterward, Ezekiel 47:1 (after the temple is completed) will come the time represented in this vision, when the stream of the water of life, truth and grace shall flow from the glorified temple. It is from this united and glorified company of Gods’ elect that the symbolic water of life, clear as crystal, shall flow.
In each member of this temple class, in each of these “living stones,” already is a well-spring of truth and grace, and when these many well springs were thus united to the great Head and Fountain, the result naturally would be a stream of good proportion, a river.
To this coming time of blessing of the world our Lord refers John 7:38 [He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.]
This class are those who have come unto Jesus and rink of him, the great Fountain of life: and it will be as a result of this partaking of the great Fountain that all the elect church shall become mirror well-springs and fountains in due time.
A description of this same symbolic river is furnished us in the book of Revelation, Revelation 22:1 [And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.] Here we find abundant evidences that it does not refer to the present time, but to the Millennial age.
There is no pure river offering life at the present time! Pure water represents truth, its being crystal clear in our Lords Kingdom represents a welcome change from the polluted mixture of truth and error that is available at the present time.
The second verse of Revelation 22 pictures the trees of life on either side of the river whose leaves are for the healing of the church, which at the time is the glorified temple from which this river proceeds.
And this healing of the nations signifies as plainly as a symbolic picture could indicate, restitution, the healing of the woes of the groaning creation, its sin, sickness and imperfection.
In Revelation 22:17 [And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.]
Notice further that this expression, “the bride,” unquestionably places this call in the Millennium because although the elect church of the Gospel age is called out of the world to become the bride of Christ, she does not enter that exalted station, until the end of the age she is perfected in glory and in the likeness of her Lord. Then the announcement of Revelation 19:7 [Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.] This announcement was made in the Present Truth Jan. 1931. Not until the wedding is their a bride: and not until after the marriage can the Spirit and the Bride say, Come! To the nations.
Ezekiel and the Apostle John agree, that in the visions they received from God there were trees growing on both sides of the river. John tells us the tree of life is there, recalling the tree of life which was in the midst of Eden from which Adam was debarred and from the lack of whose fruit Adam and his race died.
In Ezekiel 47:12 and Revelation 22:2 the same promise is given “the trees will bare new fruit every month which shall be for meat and the leaves were for the healing of nations.”
This is a picture of the restitution of all things, the healing of the curse, the blotting of sin, and with it, misery, pain and death, because a ransom has been paid and He who ransomed is the one who gloriously restores. The water of life is knowledge, truth, for which mankind now famishes.
The life giving waters are also brought to our attention in Psalm 46:4-5 [There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.]
It is already morning but the pure river of truth is not yet more than a rivulet. Deep enough only to come the ankles. All the harvest truth, the object, manner and time of our Lords 2nd advent, the permission of evil, the ransom, restitution, and the very fact that the Lords people are now waiting with great anticipation for the King to be revealed is proof the symbolic river is already beginning to flow.
When the dark clouds of this terrible time of trouble are finally dispersed the sun which is already shining will be revealed Ezekiel 47:9 [And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live whither the river cometh.] Amen.