Today, the Dead Sea is the exact opposite of living waters. The sea that God created on the fifth day was full of life, a place hospitable to newness and reproduction. However, the Dead Sea is full of death. It is an environment where almost all living creatures (except microscopic ones) and fish die. Any fish that happens to swim into its quarters is soon no more.
Ezekiel prophesied about a day when the Dead Sea will be transformed. Why? Because it was never God’s intention from the beginning for water to be dead. Ezekiel testifies:
“The man brought me back to the entrance to the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar. He then brought me out through the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate facing east, and the water was trickling from the south side” (Eze. 47:1-2).
In this passage Ezekiel is describing a prophetic experience where he sees water flowing from the temple. This water is no ordinary water; it has power to bring life, especially to that which is dead. This is the epitome of living water, a river that has resurrection power. It has a minuscule beginning near the temple altar. The further it goes from the house of God, the deeper it gets, until it turns into a mighty rushing river. A river of this force might be thought to bring death, but the exact opposite occurs:
“Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river. He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live” (Eze. 47:6b-9).
This river has never been seen yet—or has it? Scholars debate whether this will be an actual event taking place in history or if it is just a prophetic picture. I believe that it is speaking of both a historical and spiritual event. Every natural thing in the Scripture has spiritual application and every spiritual event will be manifested outwardly. Paul talking about the body said, “the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.” (1 Cor. 15:46, NASB95). But we may also rightly say, “first the spiritual, then the natural.” Whatever happens spiritually will be manifested openly in the physical realm.
For example, Jesus’ reconciliation of the world through the cross first occurs spiritually but soon it will embrace all things, and the world will become a “home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).
This rushing river of living water has already broken out and is flowing from the temple. During the Festival of Tabernacles Jesus 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” (John 7:37-38, TNIV, italics mine).