Are Fish in the Dead Sea an End-Time Prophetic Sign?
A 2016 story from Breaking Israel News reported to the world the discovery of freshwater ponds teeming with fish and wildlife on the shores of the Dead Sea, precisely as written in the Prophets….” The prophecy is from Ezekiel 47:9-10:
It will come about that every living creature which swarms in every place where the river goes, will live. And there will be very many fish, for these waters go there and the others become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. And it will come about that fishermen will stand beside it; from Engedi to Eneglaim there will be a place for the spreading of nets. Their fish will be according to their kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea, very many.
The fish are found in fresh water. This shouldn’t be surprising since one of the main sources of the Dead Sea is fresh water from the Jordan River. But there’s a problem if the presence of the fish in the Dead Sea is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. According to Ezekiel 47:1, the source of the fresh water is not the Jordan River:
Then he [Ezekiel’s angelic guide] brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar.
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According to prophecy writers, the “house” is said to be a future rebuilt temple. Note, however, that there is no command for this visionary temple to be built like the original temple (1 Kings 6). The visionary temple in Ezekiel seems to be a symbolic depiction of events after the return of Israel from captivity and extending into the New Testament era, as I point out below.
Fish in freshwater pools around the Dead Sea have nothing to do with what we read in Ezekiel 47.
Similar symbolism is found in the book of Revelation:
Then he [the angel] showed me [John] a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads (22:1-4).1
We should remember that Ezekiel 40-48 is a symbolic vision. Unlike John’s vision where John measures the temple that still stood in Jerusalem before its destruction by the Romans in AD 70 (Rev. 11:1-2), in the Ezekiel vision “there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze, with a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand; and he was standing in the gateway” (40:3) who was doing the measuring.
The edifice that is shown to Ezekiel is not something that is going to be built. There is no command to build this symbolic temple. “The Temple, City, and Land are entirely visionary and symbolic. The Kingdom of God in the Restoration [post-exile] was going to be so powerful and glorious that it simply could not be pictured in any architectural model that could be built. Only a vision would do.”2
Notice that the vision mentions a sacrificial system for “atonement” (45:15, 17), something the book of Hebrews negates (Heb. 10:1-18). This cannot be a New Covenant rebuilt millennial temple. Jesus is the New Covenant temple and by extension, the church is the temple of God (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-12). And yet, we are told by dispensationalists that this supposed future animal-sacrificing temple “is the temple that Jesus Christ will rule from during the millennial kingdom.”
The Bible does not teach this contra-Christ absurdity. It’s contrary to the entire New Testament record. Jesus made it clear that a specific geographical location was no longer required for worship (John 4:21–24; cp. Acts 7:48–50). Moreover, there’s been a radical change in the priesthood as Steve Gregg points out:
In Ezekiel’s vision, the Levites and Aaronic priesthood are seen in their former places of service [Ezek. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11]. According to the New Testament, there has been a change of the priesthood (Heb. 7:12). The Jewish priesthood has been replaced by a different priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) and a non-Aaronic high priest (Jesus). This modification will not be reversed, for Christ is said to be “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:17, 21).
Any human priest would be a competitor to Jesus as the priest under the New Covenant.
Remember what Jesus said about the law, the prophets, and the Psalms: They spoke of Him (Luke 24:27, 44). That includes the book of Ezekiel. The New Testament doesn’t say anything about a rebuilt temple. There is no mention of Ezekiel’s temple in Revelation 20. In fact, in the New Jerusalem, John writes, “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (21:22).
Stephen told his fellow-Jews, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). Paul told the men of Athens the same thing (17:24).
If the vision given to Ezekiel is symbolic, what is its meaning related to the fish in the Dead Sea (Salt Sea)? James Jordan offers some helpful insight:
In Ezekiel 47, we see baptismal waters ﬂowing from the overturned Bronze Sea of the Temple, ﬂowing out to the boundaries of the Land. Remember that Jesus claims to be the source of such living waters [John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; Rev. 7:17; 21:6; 22:1, 17]. In Ezekiel 47:9, we are told that “very many ﬁsh” will live in the (formerly) Dead Sea as a result of these living waters. In verse 10 we read, “And it will come about that ﬁshermen will stand beside it; from En-Gedi to En-Eglaim there will be a place for spreading of nets. Their ﬁsh will be according to their kinds, like the ﬁsh of the Great [Mediterranean] Sea, very many.”
The Dead Sea is the boundary of the new land after the exile, and a place of contact with gentiles. The ﬁshes are clearly gentile nations. The fact that the sea is formerly dead and now is brought to life surely indicates the inﬂuence of Restoration Israel over the nations before Christ, and points to the greater inﬂuence of the Kingdom after Pentecost.
Consider the following:
To begin with, we have to remember that in Biblical symbolism the land represents Israel and the sea represents the Gentiles. … Throughout the Old Testament, the Gentiles are often spoken of in terms of the sea or are reached by crossing waters of one sort or another. This land-sea symbolism is applied consistently in the book of Revelation to distinguish the Jews and Judaizers from the gentiles.
Corresponding to this, the priestly people are symbolized as sheep, goats, and oxen, while the Gentiles are symbolized by ﬁsh. Jonah, for instance, is swallowed by a big ﬁsh and then spat out again. This symbolized Israel’s going into Assyrian exile and then being returned to the land. Thus, the ﬁsh was Assyria, a place where Israel would be protected while dwelling in the Gentile sea.
None of the priests, prophets, and kings of the Old Testament were ﬁshermen. They were all farmers or animal husbandmen. By way of contrast, none of Jesus’ disciples was either a farmer or a husbandman. The most prominent of the disciples were ﬁshermen. Nobody is shown eating fish in the Old Testament, but Jesus feeds the 5000 with ﬁsh, not with beef jerky. After His resurrection He eats a ﬁsh, not a piece of lamb. The disciples are almost never spoken of as shepherds; they are ﬁshers of men. This shift in imagery indicates that Jesus’ new kingdom is going to go to the whole world, to the gentiles. (Signiﬁcantly, Jesus combines shepherding and ﬁshing right here in John 21, as Peter is told to “feed My sheep.”)
And now, in John 21, Peter catches 153 large ﬁsh. Clearly, these large ﬁsh speak of the nations of the world who are going to be caught in the net. The net is the kingdom of God, focused in the Church. The net does not break, despite the large number of big ﬁsh. The Church will not be destroyed by the nations she converts, but will hold them and bring them to Jesus, as Peter does. As the net draws the ﬁsh, so Jesus draws all men to Himself.
Jesus’ public ministry begins by choosing fishermen to be some of His disciples. After a fruitless day fishing, Jesus tells Simon to cast his nets into the water one more time with the result of a massive catch of fish that nearly broke their nets and sank their boats. Was this a miracle for a miracle’s sake or did it symbolize something more? “Do not fear,” Jesus said to Simon Peter, “from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10; also Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; John 1:40-42).
Just before Peter receives a vision of animals coming down out of heaven, he is in Joppa (Acts 9:32-43), the city where Jonah sought to escape from the Lord when he was commanded to take the gospel to the Assyrians (Jonah 1:3). What did the animals that Peter was told to “kill and eat” (10:13) represent? The Gentile nations.
Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away” (Matt. 13:47-48). The New Testament is not about building another temple; it’s about proclaiming the gospel to the nations and bringing them into the kingdom of God.
For a study of Bible prophecy, see the following books that can be ordered from AmericanVision.org:
- Last Days Madness.
- Is Jesus Coming Soon?
- Wars and Rumors of Wars.
- The Gog and Magog End-Time Alliance.
- Identifying the Real Last Days Scoffers.
- 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed and Answered
- Prophecy Wars
- A Beginner’s Guide to Interpreting Bible Prophecy.
- Left Behind: Separating Fact From Fiction.
- Something Greater Is Here.
- Jesus v. Jerusalem
- The Day and the Hour
- Revelation and the First Century
- The Early Church and the End of the World.
- It’s obvious from the statement that “His name will be on their foreheads” that the mark of the beast “on their right hand, or on their forehead” (13:16) is not a microchip, bar code, or any type of physical mark. If it’s a physical mark in Revelation 13, then it’s a physical mark in Revelation 14:1 and 22:4. Revelation is dealing in symbols as “signs” (1:1). [↩]
- James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes: Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1988), 246. [↩]