Excavated mikvehs occupy the area at the base of the southern steps of the Temple mount in Jerusalem. The message is clear, “You must be washed clean before you enter the house of God.” Mikvehs are Jewish baths, either public, or sometimes found in wealthy homes. The idea of ritual baths was also at the Qumran community of the Essenes, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. It is reasonable that when John the Baptist appeared in Israel, he was drawing from a long tradition of ritual bathing.
The Greek word for bathing is loutron. This is the word used by the apostle Paul when he was teaching on salvation. In the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration there is a washing (Titus 3:5c). This is the same word he uses when he describes the purifying of the church. The washing of water by the Word of God cleanses God’s people (Eph 5:26).
Blending the temple bath imagery with the New Testament picture of baptism, as the point of entry into the church, helps us to see God’s intent for a holy (clean) people.
The imagery is simple and universal. People get dirty in this world, and they need to be cleansed. Spiritually, the filthy nature of sin, polluting our souls, requires a daily bath in the Word of God. It is the Spirit and Word of truth that washes us for access into the holiest place of God’s presence.
Water and blood are cleansing agents in the Bible, and as we have our initial baptism, we also need a continual cleansing, having been soiled by yet another day’s trudging through the cesspool of this world. The Israelites had their initial cleansing in the Exodus Red Sea crossing. The River Jordan also served them, as it did John the Baptist, as a type of this spiritual bath. The fulfillment of these types is Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Once the cleansing blood of Christ was shed for the remission of sins, a one time, once for all of God’s people sacrifice, then came the washing and renewing by the Holy Spirit. The purification for sins flows from an eternal cleansing fount. Rivers of living water wash over God’s people continually.
The purity content of the water of life is one hundred percent. It is perfect when God cleanses His people in the spiritual bath of Word and Spirit. With their daily washings, they shall be clean, indeed.
It was bath time when the Israelites departed Egypt. It was bath time when the Israelites left behind their forty years in the wilderness. It was bath time when the Law exposed Israel’s grunge of sin at God’s house. It was bath time for Israel when their special Guest was coming for His first visit. It was bath time when the expansion to God’s house was being built. It remains bath time for Christ’s church, as we anticipate King Jesus’ second visit.
On that day of visitation, a baptism of fire will purify God’s soiled creation (2 Pet 3:10–12). The washing with fervent fire will be all-consuming. This final bath will be the end of washings, for the new heavens and the new earth will be perfectly clean, forever (Rev 21–22).
In expectation of Christ’s arrival let us bathe ourselves continually in His Word, the Bible. As the cleansing instrument of the Holy Spirit, let us remember that the will of God for His children is sanctification (1 Thess 4:3; 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13).
The reprobate cries out perpetually, “Unclean! Unclean!” The child of God prays, “Lord cleanse me and make me clean.” May God delight you with His washings and may your pure white robes of righteousness be pressed and ready for the wedding feast (Mt 22).
He saved us…by the washing of His Spirit, and He will continue to wash us until we are the ready bride, without spot or blemish in His presence, at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:9).
Spokane Valley, Washington
October 1, 2021