What does the phrase “Cross the Jordan River” mean to a Christian?

To understand what “crossing the Jordan River” metaphorically means to a Christian you have to first understand what it literally meant to the Jewish people.

God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that their descendants would inherit a land given to them by God himself. But before Jacob died, the children of Israel found themselves living far away from that land in Egypt.

Generation after generation passed until the time was right; the time had come for the children of Israel to inherit the distant, but promised, land of Canaan. Add slavery, a handful of plagues, a law given by Moses, and forty years in the wilderness to the equation and you’ll arrive at the book of Joshua and the promised land.

But before Joshua could lead the people into the land flowing with milk and honey, an intimidating river had to be crossed – the flood stage Jordan River to be exact. But by the grace of God the people safely crossed the river; and by faith they received a land that they had only heard of through a promise that had been made so long ago.

As Christians we look back at the moment the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River into Canaan’s land as a rite of passage. Once they crossed that river the promise became reality – and reality surpassed expectations.

In the same manner as God’s people of the past, we as Christians, who make up the people of God today, are looking for a distant land of promise we have only heard of. As we travel through the wilderness of life we cling to this land by faith because this “promised land” is an expectation that comes from believing in God. Heaven is its name, and it’s waiting for God’s people (Hebrews 11:16).

But before we enter this “promised land” a rite of passage must be experienced – a “river” has to be crossed; this river is a cold river; this river is a wide river; and this river is an intimidating river to say the least. This “river” is called death.

But by the grace of God, this raging river can be crossed (Hebrews 2:14-15). Because in Jesus, the waters have no choice but to subside since he himself faced the waters, and crossed them, bearing God’s covenant for us upon his own shoulders so we may follow him across on dry ground to inherit the land we have only heard of through a promise made so long ago.

So if you have wondered what “crossing the Jordan River” means to a Christian, now you know. EA

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)


  1. Eugene-
    Thank you for creating & providing this very helpful insight. I’m preparing a sermon for my older brothers funeral and your explanation here is beneficial. I am grateful to you, Sir.
    Grace & Peace to you,
    Marcus A Whitworth, Sr.
    Henryetta, Ok Nazarene

    1. Marcus,

      I am sorry to hear about your family’s loss especially at this time of year, and I personally understand the feelings that can come along with speaking at a family member’s funeral.

      For those reasons I am glad that what you read has helped. To God be the glory for that. But I hope what you have found helps others to understand and desire to know more about the truth and hope that God offers through Jesus.

  2. My dear friend of 35 years passed away yesterday unexpectedly. She was a believer. As I was reading Ezekiel 47: today I realized God was referring to the Jordan river. I googled it and found your very inspiring words. Thank you. It was a beautiful expression of what this journey is all about and the hope we hold on to through our Lord and Savior.

    1. Mariela,

      I am sorry to hear about the unexpected passing of your friend, but I’m glad that you found some solace in what you read. The situation does point out the importance of living in a right relationship with God and understanding and obeying the promises of hope and salvation through Jesus (Hebrews 5:9; Luke 9:23-24; Romans 6:5-8). The night is coming for us all but through God’s grace and our willingness to follow Jesus, we can make it to a place where the night comes no more.

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