Jerry C. Brewer
The outward flow of the living water of which Jesus spoke in John 7 is inseparably joined with the descent of the Comforter on Pentecost, and relates to the miraculous age of inspiration. It has no bearing on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians today, and to use it as a proof text in that vein is to misuse and misapply it.
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 Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39).
Verse 39 is the inspired commentary on Jesus’ words in verses 37-38. “This spake he of the Spirit” indicated that the living water was connected to the Holy Spirit and “the Holy Ghost was not yet given” indicated that the living water would begin its flow commensurate with the descent of the Holy Spirit. That points to the coming of the Comforter on the day of Pentecost and to inspiration in the apostles. They were the recipients of the Comforter, as indicated by Jesus’ words in his final discourse to them.
I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16-17).
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27).
The “Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” of John 7:39 is a reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles on Pentecost, and the “rivers of living water” was the truth which the Spirit revealed through them by direct inspiration, and through others on whom the apostles laid hands (cf. John 16:13-15; Acts 8:14-17).
That John 7:37-39 refers to the miraculous inception of the gospel dispensation is further seen in that to which Jesus referred when he said, “as the Scripture hath said.” He referred to Ezekiel’s vision of the healing waters which issued from “under the threshold of the house eastward.” (Ezekiel 47:1). What Ezekiel saw was a prophetic vision of the issuance of the living water of the gospel from Jerusalem on Pentecost. That’s when and where the law went forth from Zion “and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3). The waters which issued from the house in Ezekiel’s vision symbolized the going forth of the gospel from Jerusalem in the preaching of repentance and remission of sins in the name of Christ. (Luke 24:47). The 47th chapter of Ezekiel is prophetic of the living water of the gospel overspreading the earth for the healing of the nations and connects with the river of life of the New Jerusalem of Revelation 22:1.
The connection between the rivers of living water in Old Testament prophecy and Jesus’ statement in John is further seen in Zechariah’s prophetic utterance.
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. (Zech. 12:8-9).
The living waters issuing into a great river from the threshold of Ezekiel’s vision are the same living waters which Zechariah said would go forth from Jerusalem and both connect with the miraculous beginning of the gospel dispensation when the apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. That’s the import of Jesus’ statement in John 7 and his final words to the apostles in Luke 24: 45-47 and all were fulfilled on Pentecost in Acts 2. John 7:39 does not teach the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Christians today, direct or otherwise. The waters of Ezekiel’s vision began their flow, Zechariah’s living waters went “out from Jerusalem” and the living water of the gospel flowed from inspired men as Jesus had promised.