Water is essential for life and there is something fundamental about the sound of water running which appeals to our senses – it has a relaxing effect on us. People gather by, and on, riverbanks, to walk or to sit, to socialise and relax, it is a good place to be. The river of life is a phrase, and imagery, frequently used in the Bible, in the Old and the New Testament. But what is the spiritual meaning of the river of life, what is its significance?
What is the River of Life?
The Bible starts with an account of a river watering the Garden of Eden. It flowed from the garden separating out into four headwaters. The rivers are named, flowing into different areas of the world, but not all the names and locations are now known.
The river as the source of life flowed from the Garden of Eden. This was the place of God’s perfect provision, where Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life. God’s intention for mankind was for life and life in abundance.
The Bible finishes in the book of Revelation with a description of a river in the New Jerusalem. This is flowing from the Throne of God and of the Lamb. The imagery has a symmetry about it, that what was lost in Creation due to sin, God will fully redeem and restore in the New Creation.
The River of Life Bible Verse
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.Revelation 22:1-2
The river represents the never-ending flow of God’s grace, bringing life as the source of continuous nourishment and healing. This is personalised by the Holy Spirit, flowing from God as the source, and gifted through Jesus’ work of salvation. The Holy Spirit could not come until Jesus’ work of salvation was complete. The disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. It was from Jerusalem that the gospel would flow, spreading out into all the nations of the world, bringing the gift of life.
River of Living Water
The river represents the lifesaving, life sustaining, and life-empowering grace that flows to those who accept and believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
- Lifesaving – By grace we receive God’s love which restores our broken relationship with Him.
- Life Sustaining – The Word of God, by grace, provides spiritual food, the comfort and the strength that we need for each day.
- Life Empowering – We are enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit by the grace of God. When we are willing to co-work with God’s grace, the Holy Spirit nurtures spiritual growth so that we bear fruit in a life that flourishes.
River of Life Quotes
The Old Testament prophets and writers looked ahead to the day when Messiah would come to save and deliver Israel. God’s saving act, which they only saw a glimpse of from a distance, would be a well of live-giving water. They were trusting and waiting on God to bring about the salvation of His people.
The Lord, the Lord himself is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.Isaiah 12:2-3
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.Isaiah 44:3
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.Isaiah 55:1
Spiritual refreshment is offered to all, as a free gift, with no charge. In times of hardship and drought, even water had to be purchased. But here wine, as the symbol of blessing and abundance, and milk, symbolising life sustaining nourishment, are offered without cost to those who are thirsty.
Streams of Living Water
Jesus is the Living Water, He is the gift of eternal life and Jesus invites us to come and receive from Him. Whereas sin, and the fall, had broken mankind’s relationship with God, Jesus by His sacrifice, death, and resurrection has reconciled and restored completely. He is able to make us whole, to receive spiritual life to the full now, and with the promise of eternal life to come!
If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.John 4:10
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.John 4:13-14
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.John 7:37-39
The last book of the Bible ends with a warning but also an invitation, and a message of hope, from those who choose to accept and follow Jesus now:
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come and let the one who wishes take the gift of the water of life.Revelation 22:17