The River of Life

The River in the Bible - Seventh and final in a series

Ezekiel and Daniel received visions from God while they were by rivers. Ezekiel saw the cherubims of the Lord by the River of Chebar in Babylon, and above them, the throne of God and "the likeness of his glory" (Eze1:28). Daniel received prophecies and saw angels, the Lord and himself by the Ulai River in Elam and the Tigris River in Persia.

There are angels nearby, or soon to arrive for our help, no matter where we are.

By the Chebar the Lord charged Ezekiel to speak God's words to the Jews in exile. He would be a watchman to warn a rebellious people and then to encourage them. Many visions were given to him to share, yet his prophecy is perhaps best remembered for the Lord's promise to give his people a heart of flesh and remove the stony heart that prevented their faithfulness and obedience. (Eze 11:19; 36:26) We need warnings and preaching, but we're hopeless without the gifts and mercy of God.

Ezekiel's final vision was of a temple that was perfectly and specially prepared for the coming of the Lord to his people. Its dimensions were larger than real life; the idealized temple Ezekiel perceived was too large to fit in the area where the Solomon's temple lay in ruins. But to impress his audience, the dimensions were "exact, to show that the promise is certain; equal, to denote harmony; and vast, to mark majesty and grandeur." (Albert Barnes commentary)

It was a temple where animals were sacrificed and priests ministered just as when Jesus came, yet it stood beyond that era too. From under its threshold waters flowed forth, at first ankle deep, then to the knees, then impassable. (Ez 47:1-5) They gushed into the Dead Sea healing its waters, except for some miry places, reserved for salt. (Eze 47:11) Everything shall live! The river was the gospel going forth from Jerusalem to quench all thirst, over the wide world, for “whosoever believes.” (Luk 24:46, 47)

When Daniel was a young man he interpreted the dreams and visions of rulers, but as an older man he was given visions, and angels interpreted them for him. In his visions where he was by a river, angels stood on the banks of the river, and the Lord stood above the river instructing the angels. (Dan 8:16; 12:5-7)

Daniel had prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy that 70 years would elapse before Israel returned to her land after the exile in Babylon, and the the temple would be rebuilt. In response he was given a fuller picture not only of that certainty but also of many events that would trouble the world and the people of the Lord.

He was a man greatly loved by God (Dan 9:23; 10:11) and the Lord knew he could entrust him with the prophecies that have shown believers over the ages that God is in complete control of every detail of history.

By the rivers, Daniel learned that in latter days a fierce king would destroy the mighty and holy people, (Dan 8:24) and the power of the holy people will be scattered. (Dan 12:7) And though the people that know their God will be strong in ministry, nevertheless they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, for many days, and the king who honors the God of forces will be in control. (Dan 11:32, 33, 38)

These bitter prophecies in part refer to Christians today, and they are good reason to keep our focus on the man above the waters. Yet, a day will arrive when sorrows are past.

Zechariah saw a river flowing out of Jerusalem, in a day of victory when the Lord shall be king over the earth.

And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. (Zech 14:8-9)

John the revelator saw the coming of the Lord and the new heaven and earth. There will be no more sea, no sun nor moon, no night, BUT THERE WILL BE A RIVER — the river of the water of life, clear as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, watering the tree of life whose leaves will heal the nations. (Rev 21:1, 23, 25; Rev 22:1, 2)

And see! That river is here now! Let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17)

The River of Life is the gospel truth shared across the centuries. We will quote it as spoken by the Ethiopian at his baptism: I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:37)