Jehovah’s Blessing on Our “Land”
“Everything will be alive where the torrent comes.”—EZEKIEL 47:9.
1, 2. (a) How important is water? (b) What does the water of Ezekiel’s visionary river picture?
WATER is a remarkable fluid. All physical life depends on it. Not one of us can survive long without it. We also depend on it for cleansing, since water can dissolve and wash away impurities. So we wash our bodies, our clothes, even our food in it. Doing so may save our lives.
2 The Bible uses water to picture Jehovah’s spiritual provisions for life. (Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:7-15) These provisions include the cleansing of his people through Christ’s ransom sacrifice and the knowledge of God found in his Word. (Ephesians 5:25-27) In Ezekiel’s temple vision, the miraculous river that flows from the temple symbolizes such life-giving blessings. But when does that river flow, and what does it mean for us today?
A River Flows in a Restored Land
3. What did Ezekiel experience, as reported at Ezekiel 47:2-12?
3 As captives in Babylon, Ezekiel’s people sorely needed Jehovah’s provisions. How encouraging, then, for Ezekiel to see a trickle of water emerge from the sanctuary and flow out of the visionary temple! An angel measures the stream at 1,000-cubit intervals. Its depth increases from ankle-deep to knee-deep to hip-deep to a torrent that calls for swimming. The river brings life and fertility. (Ezekiel 47:2-11) Ezekiel is told: “Alongside the torrent there will come up, along its bank on this side and on that side, all sorts of trees for food.” (Ezekiel 47:12a) As the torrent enters the Dead Sea—a lifeless body of water—life springs up! Fish swarm. A fishing industry thrives.
4, 5. How is Joel’s prophecy regarding a river similar to that of Ezekiel, and why is this significant?
4 This beautiful prophecy may have reminded the Jewish exiles of another prophecy recorded more than two centuries earlier: “Out of the house of Jehovah there will go forth a spring, and it must irrigate the torrent valley of the Acacia Trees.”* (Joel 3:18) Joel’s prophecy, like Ezekiel’s, foretells that a river would flow from God’s house, the temple, and bring life to an arid region.
5 The Watchtower has long held that Joel’s prophecy is being fulfilled in our time.* Surely, then, the same holds true for Ezekiel’s similar vision. In the restored land of God’s people today, just as in ancient Israel, Jehovah’s blessings have indeed flowed forth.
A Mighty Flow of Blessings
6. The sprinkling of blood on the visionary altar should have reminded the Jews of what?
6 What is the source of the blessings upon God’s restored people? Well, notice that the water flows from God’s temple. Likewise today, the blessings come from Jehovah through his great spiritual temple—the arrangement for pure worship. Ezekiel’s vision adds an important detail. In the inner courtyard, the stream flows past the altar, just south of it. (Ezekiel 47:1) The altar is in the very center of the visionary temple. Jehovah meticulously describes it to Ezekiel and orders that the blood of a sacrifice be sprinkled upon it. (Ezekiel 43:13-18, 20) That altar had great meaning for all Israelites. Their covenant with Jehovah had been validated long before when Moses sprinkled blood upon an altar at the foot of Mount Sinai. (Exodus 24:4-8) The sprinkling of blood upon the visionary altar should have reminded them that once they returned to their restored land, Jehovah’s blessings would flow forth as long as they honored their covenant with him.—Deuteronomy 28:1-14.
7. What meaning do Christians today find in the symbolic altar?
7 Similarly, God’s people today are blessed through a covenant—a better one, the new covenant. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) It too was long ago validated by blood, that of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 9:15-20) Today, whether we are among the anointed, who are parties to that covenant, or are among the “other sheep,” who are beneficiaries of it, we find great meaning in the symbolic altar. It symbolizes God’s will in connection with Christ’s sacrifice. (John 10:16; Hebrews 10:10) Just as the symbolic altar is in the very center of the spiritual temple, Christ’s ransom sacrifice is central to pure worship. It is the basis for the forgiveness of our sins and hence for all our hopes for the future. (1 John 2:2) We thus strive to live by the law associated with the new covenant, “the law of the Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) As long as we do that, we will benefit from Jehovah’s provisions for life.
8. (a) What was missing from the inner courtyard of the visionary temple? (b) By what means could priests in the visionary temple cleanse themselves?
8 One such benefit is a clean standing before Jehovah. In the visionary temple, the inner courtyard is missing something that was quite prominent in the courtyard of the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple—a great basin, later called a sea, for the priests to wash in. (Exodus 30:18-21; 2 Chronicles 4:2-6) What could the priests in Ezekiel’s visionary temple use for cleansing? Why, that miraculous stream flowing through the inner courtyard! Yes, Jehovah would bless them with the means to enjoy a clean, or holy, standing.
9. How can those of the anointed and those of the great crowd have a clean standing today?
9 Likewise today, the anointed have been blessed with a clean standing before Jehovah. Jehovah views them as holy, declaring them righteous. (Romans 5:1, 2) What about the “great crowd,” pictured by the nonpriestly tribes? They worship in the outer courtyard, and the same stream runs through that part of the visionary temple. How appropriate, then, that the apostle John saw the great crowd wearing clean white robes as they worship in the courtyard of the spiritual temple! (Revelation 7:9-14) No matter how they have been treated in this degraded world, they may be assured that as long as they exercise faith in Christ’s ransom sacrifice, Jehovah views them as clean and pure. How do they exercise faith? By following in the footsteps of Jesus, having full confidence in the ransom sacrifice.—1 Peter 2:21.
10, 11. What is one important feature of the symbolic water, and how does this relate to the tremendous expansion of the river?
10 As already mentioned, there is another vital feature of this symbolic water—knowledge. In the restored Israel, Jehovah blessed his people with Scriptural instruction by means of the priesthood. (Ezekiel 44:23) In a comparable way, Jehovah has blessed his people today with ample instruction about his Word of truth, through the “royal priesthood.” (1 Peter 2:9) Knowledge about Jehovah God, about his purposes for mankind, and especially about Jesus Christ and the Messianic Kingdom has flowed in an ever-increasing torrent during these last days. How grand is the deepening flood of spiritual refreshment that we are receiving!—Daniel 12:4.
11 Just as the river that the angel measured grew progressively deeper, so the flow of life-giving blessings from Jehovah has increased dramatically in order to accommodate the influx of people into our blessed spiritual land. Another restoration prophecy foretold: “The little one himself will become a thousand, and the small one a mighty nation. I myself, Jehovah, shall speed it up in its own time.” (Isaiah 60:22) These words have come true—millions have thronged to join us in pure worship! Jehovah has made abundant “water” available to all who turn to him. (Revelation 22:17) He sees to it that his earthly organization distributes Bibles and Bible literature all over the world, in hundreds of languages. Similarly, Christian meetings and conventions have been arranged worldwide so that all can be supplied with the crystal-clear waters of truth. How do such provisions affect people?
The Water Brings Life!
12. (a) Why are the trees in Ezekiel’s vision able to produce as they do? (b) What is represented by these fruitful trees during the last days?
12 The river in Ezekiel’s vision brings life and health. When Ezekiel learns of the trees that would grow alongside the river, he is told: “Their leafage will not wither, nor will their fruitage be consumed. . . . And their fruitage must prove to be for food and their leafage for healing.” Why do these trees produce in this amazing manner? “Because the water for them—it is coming forth from the very sanctuary.” (Ezekiel 47:12b) These symbolic trees foreshadow all of God’s provisions for restoring mankind to perfection on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. On earth at this time, the anointed remnant takes the lead in providing spiritual nourishment and healing. After the 144,000 have all received their heavenly reward, the benefits stemming from their priestly service as corulers with Christ will extend into the future, ultimately leading to the complete conquest of Adamic death.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 21:2-4.
13. What healing has been accomplished during our time?
13 The visionary river runs into the lifeless Dead Sea and heals all that it reaches. This sea pictures a spiritually dead environment. But life swarms “in every place to which the double-size torrent comes.” (Ezekiel 47:9) Similarly, in the last days, people have been coming to life spiritually wherever the water of life has penetrated. The first ones so revitalized were the anointed remnant in 1919. They sprang back to life spiritually from a deathlike, inactive state. (Ezekiel 37:1-14; Revelation 11:3, 7-12) Those vital waters have since reached other spiritually dead ones, and these have come to life and formed an ever-increasing great crowd of other sheep, who love and serve Jehovah. Soon, this provision will extend to the multitudes of resurrected ones.
14. The fishing industry flourishing along a stretch of the shore of the Dead Sea well illustrates what today?
14 Spiritual vitality results in productivity. This is illustrated by the fishing industry that flourishes on the shores of the sea that was formerly dead. Jesus told his followers: “I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) In the last days, the fishing work began with the gathering of the remaining ones of the anointed, but it has not stopped there. The life-giving water from Jehovah’s spiritual temple, including the blessing of accurate knowledge, affects people of all nations. Wherever that torrent has reached, spiritual life has resulted.
15. What shows that not everyone will accept God’s provisions for life, and what is the end result for such ones?
15 Of course, not all respond favorably now to the message of life; nor will all those who are resurrected during the Millennial Reign of Christ do so. (Isaiah 65:20; Revelation 21:8) The angel declares that parts of the sea are not healed. These marshy, lifeless places are ‘given to salt.’ (Ezekiel 47:11) As to the people of our day, not all who are offered Jehovah’s life-giving water accept it. (Isaiah 6:10) At Armageddon, all of those who have chosen to remain in a spiritually lifeless and sick condition will be given to salt, that is, destroyed forever. (Revelation 19:11-21) However, those who have been faithfully drinking these waters can hope to survive and see the final fulfillment of this prophecy.
The River Flows in Paradise
16. When and how will Ezekiel’s temple vision have its final fulfillment?
16 Like other restoration prophecies, Ezekiel’s temple vision sees its final fulfillment during the Millennium. Then the priestly class will no longer be here on the earth. “They will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him [in heaven] for the thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6) These heavenly priests will be associated with Christ in administering the full benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice. Thus righteous mankind will be saved, restored to perfection!—John 3:17.
17, 18. (a) How is a life-giving river described at Revelation 22:1, 2, and when is the primary time of application for that vision? (b) In Paradise, why will the river of water of life see a time of great expansion?
17 In effect, the river seen by Ezekiel will then flow with the most potent water of life. This is the primary time of application for the prophecy recorded at Revelation 22:1, 2: “He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.”
18 During the Millennium, all illnesses—physical, mental, and emotional—will be healed. This is well pictured by “the curing of the nations” by means of the symbolic trees. Thanks to the provisions administered by Christ and the 144,000, “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) And the river will enter into its time of greatest expansion. It will have to broaden and deepen in order to accommodate the millions, perhaps billions, of resurrected humans who will drink of these pure waters of life. The visionary river healed the Dead Sea, bringing life to wherever its waters flowed. In Paradise, men and women will come to life in the fullest sense, being healed of inherited Adamic death if they exercise faith in the ransom benefits extended to them. Revelation 20:12 foretells that “scrolls” will be opened in those days, providing additional light of understanding from which the resurrected ones will benefit. Sadly, some will refuse to be healed, even in Paradise. These rebels are the ones ‘given to the salt’ of everlasting destruction.—Revelation 20:15.
19. (a) How will the allotting of the land be fulfilled in Paradise? (b) What feature in Paradise does the city picture? (c) What is the significance of the city’s location at some distance from the temple?
19 Also at that time, the apportioning of the land in Ezekiel’s vision will find its final fulfillment. Ezekiel saw the land properly allotted; likewise, each faithful Christian can be sure that he will have a place, an inheritance, in Paradise. Likely, the desire to have one’s own house to live in and care for will be fulfilled in an orderly way. (Isaiah 65:21; 1 Corinthians 14:33) The city that Ezekiel saw fittingly pictures the administrative arrangement that Jehovah purposes for the new earth. The anointed priestly class will no longer be physically present among mankind. The vision suggests as much by portraying the city in “profane” land at some distance from the temple. (Ezekiel 48:15) While the 144,000 rule with Christ in heaven, the King is not without representatives on earth. His human subjects will benefit greatly from the loving guidance and direction of the chieftain class. However, the real seat of government will be, not on earth, but in heaven. Everyone on earth, including the chieftain class, will be in subjection to the Messianic Kingdom.—Daniel 2:44; 7:14, 18, 22.
20, 21. (a) Why is the name of the city appropriate? (b) What questions should our understanding of Ezekiel’s vision cause us to ask ourselves?
20 Note the final words of Ezekiel’s prophecy: “The name of the city from that day on will be Jehovah Himself Is There.” (Ezekiel 48:35) This city will not exist to give men power or influence; nor will it be there to enforce any human’s will. It is Jehovah’s city, ever reflecting his mind and his loving, reasonable ways. (James 3:17) This gives us heartwarming assurance that Jehovah will bless his structured “new earth” society of mankind on into an indefinitely lasting future.—2 Peter 3:13.
21 Do we not thrill at the prospect ahead of us? Fittingly, then, each of us would do well to ask: ‘How do I respond to the wonderful blessings unveiled in Ezekiel’s vision? Do I faithfully support the work being done by loving overseers, including those of the anointed remnant and the prospective members of the chieftain class? Have I made pure worship the very center of my life? Do I take full advantage of the waters of life flowing so abundantly today?’ May each of us continue to do so and delight in Jehovah’s provisions throughout eternity!
This torrent valley may refer to the Valley of Kidron, which extends southeast from Jerusalem and ends at the Dead Sea. Its lower course in particular is waterless and dry year-round.
See the Watchtower issues of May 1, 1881, and June 1, 1981.
How Would You Answer?
◻ What do the waters flowing from the temple picture?
◻ What healing has Jehovah accomplished by means of the symbolic river, and why has the river increased in volume?
◻ What do the trees along the banks of the river picture?
◻ What will the city picture during the Millennial Reign, and why is the name of the city appropriate?
[Pictures on page 23]
The river of life represents God’s provision for salvation