Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar…
And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. …
Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. …
Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes (Ezekiel 47:1,3,5,8,9).
The 47th chapter of Ezekiel is opened up to us in the Gospel of John. The key to understanding the prophecy of Ezekiel is in a yearly event called the Feast of Tabernacles, which all Jews in Jesus’ day would have witnessed and participated in. On the Feast of Tabernacles the priest took a golden flask holding about a gallon of water from the pool of Siloam near Jerusalem. He carried it through the water gate, and poured it on out on the ramp that went up to the altar in the Temple.
This was an unmistakable dramatic reference to Ezekiel’s prophecy of the flood of waters flowing forth from the Temple. In the New Covenant, the great river is understood as a type of the Holy Spirit issuing forth from Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus Christ is physical embodiment of the Holy of Holies, God’s eternal Spirit incarnate in physical human form. And this is exactly what Jesus meant to communicate as he stood before the Temple, on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles in John chapter 7.
On the last day, that great day of the feast, [that is, the feast of Tabernacles] Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).
Jesus is self-identifying as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel 47. The man carrying the measuring rod is a type of Christ who, when He spoke the words of this prophecy, hadn’t yet gone to the cross. At the moment Jesus spoke these words, prophetically speaking, the waters were ankle deep. But just eight months after the Feast of Tabernacles came the Day of Pentecost.
Jesus is here predicting that He is about to release the power of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem as a trumpet blast that would carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Now many have interpreted the same passages to predict a time when Jesus would return physically to Jerusalem and rule with the resurrected saints after the Second Coming. However, John gives us the exact time when the prophecy was to be fulfilled, “for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Again, we see that the kingdom of God came in fullness of power when Jesus was crucified, dead, resurrected and glorified.
When did this occur?
As we study the scriptures further we will find that the literal fulfillment of the kingdom of God coming on earth occurred in the first century, just as the prophet Daniel predicted, “in the days of these kings” (Daniel 2:44).