Posts Tagged ‘river of life’

in the house

June 4, 2008

there are some things in the bible that i know i don’t understand yet. every time i get to zechariah 3 for example, i say “god, would you please explain to me what’s going on here?” so far he hasn’t.

the last 8 chapters of ezekiel have been like that for me too. starting in chapter 40, god gives ezekiel a vision of the temple in jerusalem. it’s quite a bit different than either of the temples that have existed before, and many commentators suggest he’s describing a temple to be built in the “last-days”.

actually, it’s pretty interesting to read what the commentaries say, since a lot of them were written before god brought his people back in to the promised land. i wonder what matthew henry would say now?

then, following right in the narrative of this very physical-sounding temple, chapter 47 describes a very spiritual-sounding river that flows from the temple – a river corresponding exactly to the one described in revelation 22 – flowing from the throne in the holy of holies. “…everything will live…” wherever the river flows, ezekiel says. it has trees along both sides which bear fruit year-round. “their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing”, he writes.

this is what i’ve always wondered; is the temple being described “just” a symbol, not a real building that will be built? after all, it describes a restored priesthood, resumption of daily sacrifices, and a prince who will reign from jerusalem.

or, if it’s an actual physical temple that will be built, is the river “just” a metaphor to describe what happens spiritually when god is “on the throne”, ruling the earth?

i read these chapters last week and had them on my mind sunday, so i asked my friend ty davenport about them. ty is a godly man who often has spiritual insight into things. and he did have a great answer for my question – one thatis really spinning my head around as i consider it.

as the angel is showing ezekiel around, in ezekiel 40 to 46, he starts at the outside of the temple and works his way in, then back out and he describes how god’s glory will come to reside there permanently.

he said to me: “son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet, where i will live among the people of israel forever…” ezekiel 43:7

what ty said, and i think is true, is this. god is spirit. he doesn’t live in buildings that people make. but the temple being described is a real building that will be built. as the prophet approached the holy of holies he was making a transition from the physical world to the spiritual.

this seems more right than anything i’ve heard or read. the spiritual realm coexists with the physical and shapes it, but as one approaches god the physical simply disappears – it cannot come near him. spiritual existence is not bound by time or space – it simply is.

that’s why prophetic dreams and visions can seem jumbled and out of sequence. in the spirit, what happened a thousand years ago may be connected directly with something in the “now”. the connections are non-obvious in the physical world, but god sees them instantly. that’s why, for example, the writer of hebrews said that levi paid a tithe to melchizedek “while he was in the loins” of abraham.

so, getting back to the river; i think it is, at least, a spiritual river – possibly coexisting with a physical river.  and personally, i can’t wait to go for a swim!