The second chapter of Genesis presents a mystery that has puzzled many through the ages—the mystery of a lost river. Scholars have endeavored to trace the river that flowed out of Paradise but so far only several of its branches have been identified. Seemingly the River of Eden has completely disappeared. The account as given in Genesis 2:10–14:
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bedellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.
Scholars have conjectured that the four branches of the lost river are: the Indus, the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates. These four great rivers give us some idea of the extent of the lost River of Paradise. The magnificent trees, the fragrant plants, the beautiful flowers of the Garden of Eden were watered by this river. The division into four branches indicated that the world surrounding Eden was to be watered as the numeral four is often used as a symbol for the earth. Thus we know that God intended the blessings of Paradise to prevail throughout the world. The entire earth, under the providence and blessing of God, was to be like the garden of Eden.
If the Indus, the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates were branches of the River of Paradise, then they pose a difficult problem of relating them to a common source, as a glance at a map will show that they are somewhat disjointed. This very disjointure, however, points graphically to the sad fact that Paradise itself is lost.
Paradise and its river were lost through the fall of man. The Indus, the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates are like four huge signposts that have been turned and confused by the sin of man. Reading these signposts, one can only become convinced that the former source, the River of Paradise, has been lost.
Turning away from these confused signposts, we turn for direction to a guidebook which so often discloses that which has been lost. The Bible is that guidebook; within its pages we hear the rippling sound of a quiet, soft-flowing river. Its sound comes to our ears in Psalm 46:
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
Within the boundary of the Psalm the river appears so small. Yet the river is set in contrast to the roar and restlessness of the mighty sea. The sea symbolizes the unbelieving world. The Bible informs us that “the wicked are like the troubled sea.” The wicked multitude is kept in constant motion by pride, ambition, greed and lust. Like the restless sea they are never at rest with themselves or with others. The sea ever rages and seeks to destroy. In opposition to this roaring, restless, raging sea is set the quiet, soft-flowing river with its peaceful streams. Strange as it may seem this river conquers the mighty, restless sea. Surely this river with its streams must be the lost River of Paradise.
A Healing Stream
The nature of this river and its healing streams is revealed in chapter 47 of the prophecy of Ezekiel:
And, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward … Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and go into the sea … And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed: and everything shall live whither the river cometh.
The prophet Ezekiel has just seen a vision of a glorious temple. Now he beholds a river whose waters issued from under the threshold of the temple. The river flowed into the east country, into the desert, and finally into the sea. Significantly, the river entered into the Dead Sea. No fish or any form of animal life can exist within the salty water of the Dead Sea. But behold! When the river from the temple enters into the Dead Sea, “it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish.”
The river that flows from the temple has such restorative energy that even the Dead Sea—symbol of God’s curse against sin—is filled with a multitude of fish. May we hint of the fulfillment of this vision by recalling the voice of one who cried to a group of fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”? He also directed his disciples, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.” They cast the net and were not able to draw it for the multitude of fish. Through the restorative powers of the River of Paradise children of God would appear in nations that previously had been under the curse of God.
Ezekiel also relates how the river affected the desert places, “And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed” (Ezek. 47:12). The ripple of the same river is heard in Jeremiah 17 and Psalm 1 where we read that those who are planted by that river bring forth their fruit in their season and their leaf shall not wither. May we hint at the fulfillment of this part of the vision by recalling the statement of him who said, “I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” The disciples of Christ are indeed planted by the River of Paradise and bring forth fruit unto everlasting life.
A River Of Life
We would love to dwell wherever we hear the sound of the rippling of this river in Scripture; but we pass on to the very last chapter of the Bible where the river reappears. (Oh those blind leaders of the blind who deny the unity and inspiration of the Scriptures! Could mere man keep this river flowing through the books of the prophets and apostles during the course of centuries? What fools men be who deny the divine authorship of the Book of books!) In words reminiscent of Ezekiel’s vision, the river appears in verses 1 and 2 of Revelation 22:
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The water of this river is pure, living, clear, fresh and wholesome. Unlike the salt water of the restless sea or the stale stagnant water of broken cisterns, this water possesses life-giving power. As the river flows desert places are changed into gardens of Eden.
The river finds its source in the throne of God and of the Lamb. All life comes from God the Father, in God the Son, through God the Holy Spirit. The Lamb is specifically mentioned because all life is bestowed by virtue of his atoning sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. Those who search for living water outside of Christ, search in vain.
But let us draw even closer to this life-giving river. In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks these thrilling words:
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.
The River of Paradise is Jesus Christ. It consists of the life of Christ conveyed by the Holy Spirit to believing and thirsting souls. They who drink of the water of this river are quickened and made alive forever more. Their souls resemble a watered garden. Where desert plants of uncleanness, idolatry, hatred, wrath, strife, drunkenness and deceit once thrived, there now appear fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. The barren soul becomes a garden of Eden watered by the River of Paradise, Christ Jesus.
Each One A Branch
Each individual soul becomes a branch of living water, reaching out to barren souls. The four branches of Eden become a multitude of streams flowing to the four corners of the earth. The River of Paradise entered into the Church of the New Testament on the day of Pentecost. The preaching of Christ by Peter was the first bursting forth of these waters from the temple. Three thousand souls were quickened and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. From Jerusalem the river and its streams flowed into Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Holland, England, America, China, Africa, India and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
Each believer by the indwelling Spirit becomes a branch of the River of Paradise and conveys refreshing and healing waters to thirsty souls in desert places.
The River of Paradise which first appeared in the second chapter of Genesis has been found. In the midst of the roaring and raging of the restless sea, the ripple of this gentle, quiet, soft-flowing river is scarcely heard. Yet its healing waters continue to flow, causing the fragrant flowers of love, peace and joy to appear—love that abides, peace that remains throughout eternity, joy that never departs. The river regains Paradise for the soul.
He who is the River of Paradise has promised, “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: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.”
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