River of Life | World Challenge

River of Life

David WilkersonJanuary 13, 2003

The prophet Ezekiel was given an incredible vision. Scripture says the hand of God carried Ezekiel to a very high mountain, where a man appeared to him "whose appearance was like the appearance of brass" (Ezekiel 40:2-3). John describes a similar vision of a man who appeared to him on the Isle of Patmos: "his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace" (Revelation 1:15).

Of course, the man in both passages is none other than Christ himself. And he ushered Ezekiel to the door of God's house, where he gave the prophet the amazing vision. It was a vision of the future of God's people, revealing what the body of Christ would become as the end times draw to a close. Ezekiel writes:

"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.

"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 ankles. 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.

"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. And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this?

"And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow 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 47:1-12).

Now, images of water in the Bible almost always represent the Spirit of God. And this vision clearly reveals a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. The vision was so powerful, so overwhelming in scope, Ezekiel couldn't comprehend it. He couldn't even comment on its meaning; all he could do was report it. In fact, before the vision was finished, the Lord stopped and asked Ezekiel, "Hast thou seen this?" (47:6).

God was asking Ezekiel, in essence, "Do you grasp the magnitude of what you're seeing? Are you able to comprehend the prophetic power of this vision? Do you see what these rising waters speak of, how they indicate the way all things will end? Tell me, Ezekiel, do you see in this vision the glory of the Lord's coming? I know this revelation is awesome and mind-boggling to you. But I don't want you to miss its true meaning."

As I re-read this passage, the Holy Spirit stopped me at this very same verse where he stopped Ezekiel. And he asked me the same question he put to the Old Testament prophet: "David, do you understand that this is a great prophecy, direct from the Father's throne? Do you comprehend how it describes the church in these last days? Are you grasping the meaning of the rising river?"

The vision must have astonished Ezekiel. Although Scripture doesn't mention this specifically, I'm convinced the prophet didn't understand what he was seeing. All the Old Testament prophets had a limited vision of Christ. Jesus himself tells us, "Verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them...hear ye therefore" (Matthew 13:17).

Note those final three words: "Here ye therefore." Christ is saying to us, "Don't miss this. Make sure you see what is being revealed to you."

Just what is it that the Lord reveals in this prophetic vision?

There is coming an ever- increasing outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Here is what Ezekiel was being shown: In the very last days, the church of Jesus Christ will be more glorious, more victorious, than in its entire history. The Lord's true body isn't going to weaken and sputter. It's not going to dwindle in numbers, or decrease in power or spiritual authority. No, his church will go out in a blaze of power and glory. And it will enjoy the fullest revelation of Jesus that anyone has ever known.

Ezekiel writes, "The fish of the great sea (shall be) exceeding many" (Ezekiel 47:10). Do you understand what's being said here? There is coming forth a body of believers who will swim in the rising waters of the Lord's presence. And his presence among his people is going to increase until the very end.

Sadly, I've noticed a terrible tendency among certain churches and Christian groups in these times. These groups limit their vision of God to their own group, or even to their own geographical area. Often their attitude is:

"We're the new move of God. What he's doing in these last days is going to begin right here, in our midst. And it's going to flow out of this body. So, you'd better come and join us, because we've got the vision. We're the very center of the new thing God is doing on earth at this time. And he's networking outward from us."

This attitude is not only self-serving and misguided, but it limits God. Indeed, it hinders his moving in much the same way many mainline denominations did for centuries. Those groups gave the impression that they alone represented the movement of God on earth. And now, tragically, history is repeating itself.

In fact, I see an old false doctrine being resurrected today. Simply put, it says, "God has only one church in any particular city or area. And there can be only one spiritual authority who rules in that area." Those who promote this awful doctrine appoint apostles or leaders to "rule" over these areas. I know of such self-appointed apostles and prophets in New York City. They believe they alone have authority over the spiritual realm here.

There is yet another way the church tends to limit itself today. It tends to look back to the first-century church and the original apostles, as if those ancient believers had a better revelation of what Christ's body should be. Such groups pour their studies, energies and devotion into trying to imitate or recapture the methods of the early church.

But the Lord doesn't necessarily want us going back to the ways of the early church. The truth is, he has planned something much better for his people in these last days. Why should we go back to the trickle of water that took place in the early church, when he has given us today "waters to swim in"?

This is exactly what God is showing us in Ezekiel's vision of the rising waters:

"He measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. 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" (Ezekiel 47:3-4).

Ezekiel is speaking here of an increase of the Holy Spirit. In the latter days, there would be an increase of God's presence among his people.

The very spring and foundation of this river is the Cross. We see a literal image of this in the following verse: "One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 19:34).

This small amount of water is the amount that Ezekiel saw as the vision opened up to him. As he gazed at God's house, he saw that a trickle issued "out from under the threshold of the house eastward...the waters came down from under from the right side of the house...at the south side of the altar...there ran out waters" (Ezekiel 47:1-2).

This growing flow of water is the image of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was given to the disciples. Along with this gift of the Spirit, Christ's followers were given a promise that he would be a river of life springing up within them. And that river would flow out into all the world.

"He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive" (John 7:38-39).

Let me ask you: are you grasping this yet? If this river of living water is the Holy Spirit, then Pentecost, with all its glory and manifestation of God's presence, was just the beginning of the trickle. The flow of water from God's house would grow bigger and bigger. It would expand in width, depth, volume, power and restoration glory. The history of the church proves this.

At Pentecost – the very beginning of the last days — Peter announced that this water was flowing, just as the Lord had promised. At that time, Peter and the other 120 disciples had this water only to their ankles. But it grew from that amount in the years that followed.

For the first few centuries of the church's existence, God's people were persecuted. Then, when the emperor Constantine came to power, he opened the prisons and salt mines, and released all the ministers and believers who had been enslaved. He also declared Christianity to be the official religion of the empire.

Yet, the fact is, during those years of persecution the church grew the most. That's when the water began to increase in its flow. Those saints grew greatly in their knowledge and revelation of Christ. They enjoyed water to their knees.

Martin Luther was yet another vessel who brought the body of Christ into a new flow of faith. The water that flowed during the Reformation rose to the loins of God's people, as they grew in a greater revelation of the Cross and gained a deeper knowledge of Christ's power and glory.

I rejoice as I imagine those days. How wonderful it must have been, finally, to behold masses of people being baptized, and coming into a revelation of salvation by faith. It must have been quite a sight to witness multitudes of believers, filled with a zeal for God's house, rushing into cathedrals to tear down the idols and graven images they once prayed to. Now they knew the joy and life of God's flow for themselves.

The river of life will crest just prior to the Lord's coming.

This is foretold in the vision given to Ezekiel. God took the prophet on an amazing trip. Carrying a measuring rod, the Lord paced off 1,000 cubits, about one-third of a mile. At that distance, the Lord and Ezekiel began walking in the water. The flow at this point was ankle-high.

Ezekiel testifies, "He brought me through the waters" (Ezekiel 47:3). And the Lord just kept urging the prophet onward, deeper and farther into the water. After another 1,000 cubits, the water came up to their knees. And it was still rising.

Do you see what was happening here? Ezekiel was walking into the future, right into our time. Christians today live in the final 1,000 cubits of the river in this vision. We're in the very last measurement of water. And Ezekiel says that when he stepped to the edge of this measure, the water was too deep for him, too overwhelming. "I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in" (47:5). He's telling us, in essence, "The water was over my head."

I can only imagine this man's wonder as the Lord asked him, "Ezekiel, what is this sea that has risen? If this river is all about life and resurrection power, who are the ones who'll be so blessed to swim in such glory?"

Maybe you've experienced the presence of Jesus abundantly. You may be thrilled by your present revelation of him. Yet, I tell you, you haven't seen anything in comparison to the increase that's coming to the righteous. Christ is going to open our eyes and wonderfully appear in our midst. He'll reveal himself to us, pouring out on us as much of his life as we can possibly stand without already being in glorified bodies.

The prophet Isaiah had a glimpse of this same river that appeared in Ezekiel's vision. Yet Isaiah saw even more. According to the prophet, in the last days God's people would enjoy great protection against all satanic attacks:

"No galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby" (Isaiah 33:21). Isaiah is speaking here of slave-driven warships. He's giving us a picture of the enemy, the devil, as he tries to launch an attack on all who swim in the great waters. And it's a picture of total confusion.

Satan is barking orders to his crew, "Batten down the hatches. Set sail. Strengthen the mast." But nothing works. He and his demonic sailors can't even spread the sail to launch their warship. Meanwhile, all the slave-driven oarsmen sit in utter confusion.

God is making it crystal clear to us in these passages: his living waters are off-limits to Satan. As the Psalmist testifies, "Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt...let the angel of the Lord chase them...let the angel of the Lord persecute them" (Psalm 35:4-6).

A time is coming when unprecedented numbers will be revived from spiritual death.

"Every thing shall live whither the river cometh" (Ezekiel 47:9).

When Ezekiel returned to the riverbank, he stood astonished. As he looked back, he saw "very many trees" on both sides of the river. These trees had been given life from the flowing waters. They bore leaves that never faded, and their fruit brought wonderful healing. Life had sprung up everywhere in these towering, fruit-bearing trees.

Yes, this river of God will bring life wherever it goes. Yet, in these last days, we're also going to see a corresponding flood of death:

  • AIDS has become an ocean of destruction in our time, a modern-day Dead Sea. Multitudes are dying of this horrible disease.
  • The love of many will also die. According to Jesus, "The love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12).
  • Paul adds that scoffers will come, mocking the message of Christ's soon return. They'll put to death other saints' hopeful expectancy of his appearing. Their mockery will cause morals to die and sin to abound.
  • False prophets will spread doctrines of death." Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13). Even now, spiritual death has spread throughout the apostate church.

Yet, in the midst of all the death and destruction we see happening, I hear the Lord's prophecy thundering in my soul: "My river is going to rise. And everything will live where my river flows."

Until just a few years ago, the church in China looked as if it might be dying. They enemy had driven believers underground, and for years no word came out of that country mentioning God's moving. Western Christians had no idea whether the church in China had survived at all.

But, thank God, the river could not be stopped. It was rising the whole time we westerners wondered about the fate of our Chinese brothers and sisters. Today, we know that millions of believers there are swimming in God's river of life. As the Lord has declared, "Everything will live where my river goes."

That river flows at flood-tide levels throughout Eastern Europe. Just fifteen years ago, who could have imagined it would ever flow freely and openly through Romania, Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, even the stronghold of Russia. Life in Christ is springing up in all these nations, and all in others over the world.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many New Yorkers considered moving out of this city. But the Holy Ghost has dug a deep well of flowing water here, and the river is rising higher and higher. Jesus is revealing his holiness from one end of this massive city to the other.

The theater district can't keep God's river out of its territory. Wall Street can't hold back its rising tide. Radical homosexuals can't keep it out of Greenwich Village. Pro-abortionists can't stop it from flowing in distraught pregnant women's hearts. City Hall can't slow its rise. Rabbis and mullahs can't keep the river out of their synagogues and temples. The river is rising, rising, and everything comes to life where it flows.

Let me ask you: what about your household? Does confusion reside in your family? Are you watching death rampage among your loved ones? Does everything seem hopeless to you? Cling to this promise from our blessed Lord: "They shall be healed, and every thing shall live whither the river cometh."

I don't know how the Lord will accomplish all this. But if he says the river will rise and bring life to all it touches, I believe him. After all, if overnight God can wipe out Communism — the most overwhelming global movement of the past century — as he did in Russia, Eastern Europe and East Germany, can he not do this as well?

In the midst of all the healing and reviving, some will be left out.

Those who are left out of this wondrous river revival will be "given to salt." "But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt" (Ezekiel 47:11).

Ezekiel is describing mud puddles, full of dirt and mire. As the river flows over these marshes, they're not healed. Eventually, the river will pass them by completely, leaving them so dry they'll turn to salt.

In the Old Testament, salt is a symbol of rebellion and barrenness. The salt marshes Ezekiel describes here represent those of God's people who feel deeply but don't change. These people may weep over sin and death, but they don't obey God's Word to seek his life. They may make promises and resolutions to change, but they don't follow through on them. Isaiah echoes this when he writes, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt" (Isaiah 57:20).

Make no mistake: such people openly profess to be Christians. And they've been inundated with godly reproof. The Holy Spirit has plumbed the depths of their souls and wooed them. But they remain unchanged. They've stood in his river of life, but they haven't allowed it to water and touch their innermost being.

As a result, the life of Jesus doesn't spring forth from them. Instead, out of their bellies flows a steady stream of filthy gossip, insincere flatteries, lies and distortions. Such people aren't life-givers. On the contrary, everything around them is touched with strife and bitterness. They wallow in self-pity. They continually complain and question God's work in others. They profess life, but they're mired in dirt. They're spiritual phonies, spreading death to all around them.

In Peter's words, they have become "wells without water" (2 Peter 2:17). And, according to Ezekiel, a sentence of death has been passed on them: "They shall be given to salt." This is a curse of barrenness, relegating them to a life of no fruit, of being totally useless. Yet still they stand resolute in their rebellion, full of destructive pride.

Tragically, God will bend his river of life to flow completely around them. Eventually, they'll go blind, becoming insensitive to the danger they've put themselves in. And, as the Holy Ghost withdraws from them, they'll be left deceived, crying, "Peace, peace," as destruction falls all around them.

Ezekiel must have been incredulous at such pockets of death. He saw life springing up on all sides wherever the river flowed, but those pockets of death remained barren and white with dryness.

I ask you, how could any follower of Christ come to such a condition? How could any servant get so empty, dry and cut off from his life-giving river? Peter explains:

"They walk after the flesh. They're presumptuous and self-willed. They resist all God-ordained authority, and they speak evil of things they know nothing about. They've become entangled in worldly things and are overcome by them. And they've turned away from the holy commandments that were once delivered to them" (see 2 Peter 2:10-21).

To me, the saddest part of this tragedy is that most of these dry wells were once fountains of living water. Their lives once issued forth healing and blessing. But now they spew out bitterness, hatred and death.

Dear saint, I urge you: if you're caught up in stubborn bitterness while the river flows all around you, don't allow yourself to continue. Let God fill your belly instead with his living water. You don't realize it, but a flood of revelation of our Lord is on its way. And it won't stop to cater to any flesh.

So, do you comprehend the magnitude of the vision given to Ezekiel? The Old Testament prophets couldn't see it. But through his Holy Spirit, God has given us eyes to behold his exceeding greatness. Here ye therefore: a river of life is coming!

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