In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) John 7:37-39
Just a few days from the date of this publication the Reformed churches that are governed by the Church Order of Dordt will observe Pentecost.
Pentecost is a day of great significance for the church. It was on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the church. Notice the timeline. Jesus was crucified on the Jewish Passover, which was a Friday. Three days later, on Sunday, He arose from the grave. Forty days after His resurrection, on a Thursday, He ascended into heaven. And ten days later (fifty days after His resurrection and once again on a Sunday), on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, Jesus poured out the Spirit on the church. This was the culmination of all the works of Christ prior to that point. Jesus died, arose, and ascended exactly so that He could pour out the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke of this great event earlier in His ministry while in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. During the course of this week-long feast the question of Jesus’ identity was much discussed, specifically whether He was the Messiah. The leaders sought to discredit Him. The people were divided in their opinion. On the last day of the feast, Jesus announced that He had living water for those who were thirsty. Those who would come to Him would overflow with this living water. John, the holy writer, adds by way of explanation that Jesus spoke this concerning the Spirit, which those who believe on Him would receive. This Spirit is the Holy Spirit poured out at Pentecost.
Let’s return to the Feast of Tabernacles. This was the last of the three great feasts of the Jewish calendar. It was held in the seventh month of the year, and lasted for seven days. This feast served a twofold purpose. First, it was a harvest feast, celebrating the ingathering of olive yards and vineyards. But it also was designed
to commemorate Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. To commemorate Israel’s wilderness wanderings, the people lived in booths made of branches during the week of this feast, symbolizing Israel’s living in tents or tabernacles. This is how this feast received its name—Feast of Tabernacles. Twice on each day of the feast a golden vessel was filled with water from the pool of Siloam and poured into the base of the great altar of burnt offering in the temple. This was a reminder of God’s provision of providing water from the rock for Israel in the wilderness.
Now let’s go to the last day of this feast. It was on this day that Jesus stood in the temple and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Jesus most likely spoke this in connection with the pouring out of water on the base of the great altar in the temple. As we have already seen, this ceremony was a reminder of God’s provision of water from the rock for Israel in the wilderness. And for that reason it also pointed forward to the spiritual bounties that would come to Israel with the promised Messiah. From earliest times true Israel understood that the water from the wilderness rock was a type or picture of the greater spiritual blessings that would come with the appearance of the Messiah and that would sustain them to eternal life. In the minds of Israel were passages of Scripture like Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” This was a prophecy of what would happen when the promised Messiah would come. Some even think that this passage served as a basis for the ceremony of pouring water at the base of the altar on this particular feast.
It is in the light of all this that we are to understand the remarkable statement of Jesus.
He meant, first, that He is the Messiah, the Christ, who had living waters of salvation for Israel that would sustain them to eternal life.
Secondly, Jesus indicated that He would impart these waters of salvation to those who would come to Him and drink. From Jesus’ own words it becomes evident that to come and drink is to believe on Him. (“If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
He that believeth on me….”) This believing consists in acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the only source of salvation. It also consists in seeking salvation in His work alone, relying upon Him for all things.
Finally, Jesus indicated that rivers of living water shall flow out of the belly of those that come to Him in faith. This reminds us of what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well in John 4:14: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The idea expressed there is of a well of water bubbling up constantly to give eternal life. This certainly is implied in Jesus’ words spoken in the temple. But Jesus goes beyond this idea to speak of an overflowing water source that even sends rivers of water flowing out of one to bring life to others around him. This is what would be given to those who come to Jesus in faith.
To add credibility to what He said, Jesus indicated that this was nothing more than what the Old Testament Scriptures taught. You will not find these words of Jesus in the Old Testament; nor does Jesus indicate that He was quoting the Scriptures. Yet the idea of finding abundant waters in the Savior is found throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. One such passage is Isaiah 44:3: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”
From what John, the holy writer, adds by way of explanation it becomes clear that what Jesus promised became a reality through the Spirit, whom Jesus poured out at Pentecost.
Notice that in his commentary on Jesus’ outcry, John speaks of the Holy Spirit. “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”
John indicates that the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified. In the original you simply read, the Holy Spirit was not yet. The word “given” in our KJV is added by way of commentary. Others would substitute the word “present.” The Holy Spirit was not yet present. Perhaps it is better to add no explanation and let the original stand: The Holy Spirit was not yet.
The meaning, of course, is not that the Holy Spirit was not, in any sense of the word, until Jesus’ glorification. The Holy Spirit is eternally God, the third person of the Godhead, proceeding from the Father and the Son. The meaning is rather that the Holy Spirit was not yet in His capacity as the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures speak several times of the Spirit of Christ. This is the Holy Spirit given to Christ at His ascension and glorification for the purpose of applying the blessings of salvation to the church. This capacity the Holy Spirit did not yet have at the time of this incident. In that sense the Holy Spirit was not. And the reason is that Jesus was not yet glorified.
Since the time that Jesus spoke these things in the temple, He has been glorified. He was glorified at His ascension. His glorification consisted of His being crowned Lord of lords and given power over all things. He was blessed with all the blessings of salvation that He earned at the cross for the church. It is Jesus’ work, as the Lord of all glory, to bestow the riches of salvation upon the church. To this end the Holy Spirit was given to Him.
On Pentecost Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ into the church. Certainly the Holy Spirit was operative in the lives of the believers of the Old Testament, bestowing the blessings of salvation. But now that Jesus has been glorified with the blessings of the cross, the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ brings the full measure of salvation, so that the believer overflows with heavenly blessings.
This is the significance of Pentecost.
The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost fulfills Jesus’ promise to him who in faith comes to Him and drinks. Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
Notice that Jesus spoke of living water. Living water
is life-giving and life-sustaining water. This life-giving water is the Holy Spirit. The life that the Spirit imparts is eternal life with God, a joyous life of friendship and fellowship with the ever-blessed God. The believer who comes to Jesus to partake of His blessings will receive this life-giving Spirit. By the work of the Holy Spirit the believer will be justified and sanctified in Christ and brought into a wonderful life of fellowship with God.
Jesus also spoke of giving living waters in such abundance to the believer that rivers of living water would even flow from his belly to bring life to others. This is realized when the believer is so filled with the Spirit and His fruits that others around him are brought to faith in Jesus Christ and receive the Spirit of God and His blessings. The church that is filled with such believers is led by the Spirit to preach the gospel and bear witness to others of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The church of Spirit-filled believers is also filled with good works that show forth the power of God’s gracious salvation. These are what the Spirit uses to bring others to faith and life with God.
If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.
Those who thirst have an intense desire for the living waters of salvation. Not all men are spiritually thirsty. The natural man has no such thirst. Spiritual thirst is created in the hearts of God’s elect by the Spirit Himself. And He uses the preaching and the witness of the church whose members are filled with the rivers of living water to create such a thirst.
Jesus calls all thirsty souls to come to Him and drink of the waters of life.
Jesus also gives assurance. He who comes by faith shall be satisfied with the waters of eternal life. None will leave thirsty. Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.
Let us come to Jesus in faith to drink deeply of the water of life!
Let us come not just once, but daily!
Out of your belly will flow rivers of living water.