Crossing the River

Harold Copping - Lazarus come forth - (MeisterDrucke-95623)

There is mention of various rivers or seas in the Bible, each with its own significance: The Red Sea, the Jordan River, the river in the book of Ezekiel, as well as other rivers.

There is one river that is spoken of symbolically in song. Death is spoken of as a river that must be crossed.

Statistically, many people cross that river at Christmas time; perhaps it is because as they hear the retelling of the Christmas story, and understand it, that they make their peace with God, and are in the best state spiritually to move to the next realm.


Pilgrim's Progress first edition 1678

John Bunyan, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, alludes to this river.

{386} So I saw that when they awoke, they addressed themselves to
go up to the city; but, as I said, the reflection of the sun upon
the city (for the city was pure gold) was so extremely glorious
that they could not, as yet, with open face behold it, but through
an instrument made for that purpose. So I saw, that as I went
on, there met them two men, in raiment that shone like gold; also
their faces shone as the light. [Rev. 21:18, 2 Cor. 3:18]

{387} These men asked the Pilgrims whence they came; and they told
them. They also asked them where they had lodged, what difficulties
and dangers, what comforts and pleasures they had met in the way;
and they told them. Then said the men that met them, You have but
two difficulties more to meet with, and then you are in the city.

{388} Christian then, and his companion, asked the men to go along
with them; so they told them they would. But, said they, you must
obtain it by your own faith. So I saw in my dream that they went
on together, until they came in sight of the gate.

{389} Now, I further saw, that betwixt them and the gate was a river,
but there was no bridge to go over: the river was very deep. At
the sight, therefore, of this river, the Pilgrims were much stunned;
but the men that went in with them said, You must go through, or
you cannot come at the gate.

{390} The Pilgrims then began to inquire if there was no other
way to the gate; to which they answered, Yes; but there hath not
any, save two, to wit, Enoch and Elijah, been permitted to tread
that path since the foundation of the world, nor shall, until the
last trumpet shall sound. [1 Cor. 15:51,52] The Pilgrims then,
especially Christian, began to despond in their minds, and looked
this way and that, but no way could be found by them by which they
might escape the river. Then they asked the men if the waters were
all of a depth. They said: No; yet they could not help them in
that case; for, said they, you shall find it deeper or shallower
as you believe in the King of the place.

*In the Resurrection of the Righteous. [Rev. 20:4-6]

{391} They then addressed themselves to the water and, entering,
Christian began to sink, and crying out to his good friend Hopeful,
he said, I sink in deep waters; the billows go over my head, all
his waves go over me! Selah.

{392} Christian’s conflict at the hour of death

Then said the other, Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the
bottom, and it is good. Then said Christian, Ah! my friend, the
sorrows of death hath compassed me about; I shall not see the land
that flows with milk and honey; and with that a great darkness and
horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see before him.
Also here he in great measure lost his senses, so that he could
neither remember nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments
that he had met with in the way of his pilgrimage. But all the
words that he spake still tended to discover that he had horror of
mind, and heart fears that he should die in that river, and never
obtain entrance in at the gate. Here also, as they that stood by
perceived, he was much in the troublesome thoughts of the sins that
he had committed, both since and before he began to be a pilgrim.
It was also observed that he was troubled with apparitions of
hobgoblins and evil spirits, for ever and anon he would intimate
so much by words. Hopeful, therefore, here had much ado to keep
his brother’s head above water; yea, sometimes he would be quite
gone down, and then, ere a while, he would rise up again half dead.
Hopeful also would endeavour to comfort him, saying, Brother, I see
the gate, and men standing by to receive us: but Christian would
answer, It is you, it is you they wait for; you have been Hopeful
ever since I knew you. And so have you, said he to Christian.
Ah! brother! said he, surely if I was right he would now arise
to help me; but for my sins he hath brought me into the snare, and
hath left me. Then said Hopeful, My brother, you have quite forgot
the text, where it is said of the wicked, “There are no bands in
their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble
as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. [Ps. 73:4,5]
These troubles and distresses that you go through in these waters
are no sign that God hath forsaken you; but are sent to try you,
whether you will call to mind that which heretofore you have received
of his goodness, and live upon him in your distresses.

{393} Then I saw in my dream, that Christian was as in a muse
a while. To whom also Hopeful added this word, Be of good cheer,
Jesus Christ maketh thee whole; and with that Christian brake out
with a loud voice, Oh, I see him again! and he tells me, “When
thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through
the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” [Isa. 43:2] Then
they both took courage, and the enemy was after that as still as
a stone, until they were gone over. Christian therefore presently
found ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the
river was but shallow. Thus they got over. Now, upon the bank of
the river, on the other side, they saw the two shining men again,
who there waited for them; wherefore, being come out of the river,
they saluted them, saying, We are ministering spirits, sent forth
to minister for those that shall be heirs of salvation. Thus they
went along towards the gate.  Link

The Pilgrims Progress, or, Christians Journey from the City of Destruction in This Evil World to the Celestial City in the World That Is to Come


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