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Is is said during the last day of the feast of Tabernacles Christ called upon all who believe to come and drink the living waters which seem to point to the giving of the Holy Spirit.

John 7:38

If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within. "39 (When he said "living water," he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

Later in the book of Revelation again we are told that those who believe will be led by the lamb to the springs of living waters

Revealation 7:17

For the Lamb who stands in front of the throne will be their Shepherd. He will lead them to the springs of life-giving water. And God will wipe away all their tears."

The living waters mentioned in the book ofJohn seem to point to the giving of the Holy Spirit which was fulfilled in the book of Acts whilst that in the book of Revelation seem to point to something else

Are these living waters one and the same?

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In both texts, one thing is perfectly clear - it is not literal water that is being spoken of. Jesus was using 'water' as a metaphor for something else, but because literal water does, indeed, sustain life, it was a perfect illustration of what people had to do to get spiritual life. Without literal water drunk by people, death will result in a few days. Continued life depends on a supply of water. And it has to be water that is not poisoned, or thick with salt (as in the Dead Sea). Living water stands in opposition to contaminated, death-dealing water.

In John 7:38 the word for water is 'hudor' and it means a colourless, transparent, odourless compound of oxygen and hydrogen in liquid form. John used that word 23 times in his Gospel - not that he would have known anything about it being comprised of oxygen and hydrogen!

John used exactly the same word, 'hudor', when he wrote Revelation 7:17. However, in both texts it is the prefixing of the descriptive, qualifying word 'living' that makes all the difference, and which connects both texts together.

The word 'zao' means 'to live', and is used in both texts. It speaks of that which is alive, as in Rev.7:2, '...having the seal of the living God'. Jesus described himself with that same word when he said 'I am the living bread... (John 6:35).' Just as Jesus was not speaking of literal bread, he was not speaking of literal water, nor was John writing about literal water in heaven.

Further, in the Revelation text, we learn that there is a fountain of this living water. The translation you quote says "springs". The fountain is the spring from which the river flows. In Rev.7:17 the word 'pege' is used, and it means 'fount, source'.

Perhaps the one difference between the two texts is that in John the Holy Spirit has to give this living water to people still on earth if they are to start living spiritually, whereas in Revelation Christ leads those who are already in heavenly glory to the very source of that living water. That source is the author of living water, the originator of it, and we know that God is the source of all life. As the Psalmist said, with God "is the fountain of life" (Ps. 36:9).

This makes for an interesting link between the Holy Spirit being the giver (bestower) of that living water to all on earth who would be brought to spiritual life; Jesus who is, in himself living water, and how he leads those in heaven to the very source of that eternal life which they freely partake of; and God being that source. Jesus said that, "As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself" (John 5:26 cf. Deuteronomy 30:20, 'for the Lord is your life'). This is living water, indeed!

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The two phrases are subtlety different in these two places; but first some background:

"Living Water"

The phrase "living water" only occurs a few times in the NT as follows:

  • John 4:10, 11 - Jesus answered and said to her, "If you had known the gift of God and who it is saying to you, 'Give Me to drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given to you living water." The woman says to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from where then do You have the living water?
  • John 7:38, 39 - The one believing in Me, as the Scripture has said: 'Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.'" He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

In all these cases, the word "living" is a verb. Note that "living water" is explicitly explained as a metaphor or symbol of the Holy Spirit.

However, we have some closely related phrases as follows:

  • Rev 7:17 - because the Lamb in the center of the throne will shepherd them, and He will lead them to living fountains of waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'" ["living" is a noun]
  • Rev 22:1 - And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. ["life" is a noun]
  • Rev 22:17 - And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And the one hearing, let him say, "Come!" And the one thirsting let him come; the one desiring, let him take freely the water of life. ["life" is noun]

Note that in all these instances, "life" is a noun that is cognate with verb above.

Now - it is a very small hermeneutical step link these together and suggest that that they all represent, in some sense, the work of the Holy Spirit as explicitly stated in John 7:38, 39.

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