Tuesday, December 27

Physical and Spiritual Light

During the month of December, particularly in the United States, a joyous spirit seems to fill the air, and in times of great joy, including in Biblical times, times of great joy were also times when gifts were given (Nehemiah 8:10; Esther 9:22). It is the celebratory season of the birth of our Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The magi (wise men) who came to visit Jesus after He had been born (some believe around two years later, when Joseph and Mary had returned to Nazareth) also brought gifts to present to the young Messiah (Matthew 2:10). Jesus was every bit the same Savior who he would be years later when He gave Himself as a sort of gift to us, payment for our past, present and future sins with His infinite and perfect being, sins which we, being finite and imperfect, could not atone for. Gift giving can be a time of joy, and God the Son was the greatest gift God could give us, because through Him we can have eternal life. Also during the Christmas season, however, people tend to decorate their property with lights. Light itself actually had its origins in the beginning of our universe, and in fact, James (who was the brother of Jesus) declared God the Father as the "Father of lights" (James 1:17, KJV). Light appears in numerous ways throughout Scripture, and are important not only pertaining to the birth of Jesus, but to reality as we understand it. (Photo Credit to: Hubble)

Plato (c. 427-348 BC), whose real name is actually Aristocles, is a well-known influential Greek philosopher. Platonic forms, the Divided Line, the Simile of the Sun and other philosophical ideas and concepts come from Plato. Among the better known philosophical concepts is what we call the Allegory of the Cave. In Book VII of the Republic, Plato addressed the idea of discounting what the vast majority of people say simply because of what one "wise" person may say. His response was the Allegory of the Cave. In it, Plato "compares the level of becoming to living in a save and describes the ordeal necessary for the soul's ascent from shadow illusion to enlightenment - from mere opinion to informed opinion to rationally based knowledge to wisdom."[1] Plato, in the character of Socrates, begins with the allegory, "I want you to go on to picture the enlightenment or ignorance of our human conditions somewhat as follows. Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to daylight and running a long way underground. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. Behind them and above them a fire is burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen at puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show their puppets."[2]

Plato continues, "Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain-wall, including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and other materials, and that some of these men, as is natural, are talking and some are not... do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them? [And]... if they were able to talk to each other, would they not assume that the shows they saw were real things... And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected sound, don't you think that they would suppose, whenever one of the passers-by on the road spoke, that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them... And so they would believe that the shadows of the objects we mentioned were in all aspects real."[3] Plato further continues that, if one of the men were to be released from their bond and cured of their delusions, and able to turn his head and look at the fire, and if he was told that what he used to see was a mere illusion and that what he now perceived was reality, he would still likely think that what he used to see was more real than what he is now seeing. 

However, "if... he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rocky ascent and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight... he would need to grow accustomed to the light before he could see things in the world outside the cave... The thing he would be able to do last would be to look directly at the sun, and observe its nature without using reflection in water or any other medium, but just as it is... Later on he would come to the conclusion that it is the sun that produces the changing seasons and years and controls everything in the visible world, and is in a sense responsible for everything that he and his fellow prisoners used to see."[4] Essentially, Plato's allegory is intended to demonstrate that with experience, with learning, when we come out into the light, we become "enlightened," if you will. While likely not the intention of Plato, the allegory is useful in such a way that what we learn can affect our beliefs about truth. Truth itself does not change, but our beliefs about it may. For example, the truth is that the earth is round (or an oblate spheroid, to be precise), yet even today some do not believe that. The belief does not change the truth, but truth can be found and understood. 

This is important to understand as God Himself is described as the "light of the world" (John 8:12), in which God the Son was claiming to be the exclusive source of spiritual light and truth. From a biblical perspective, only in the light of God's Word can understanding about the universe around us become illuminated. At birth, we receive physical light and through it can see the craftsmen ship of God's hand in His creation. In full, John 8:12 declares, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" Following this light is important. If a light, perhaps a candle, is used in a dark room, as you carry it through the room, darkness will flee, or dispel. However, the light continues to move and continue into another dark room, illuminating the darkness. If we do not follow the light and move with it, the darkness can and will engulf us. It is as St. Paul noted when he spoke at Mars Hill in Athens, quoting the Cretan philosopher Epimenides, "'For in him we live and move and have our being'" (Acts 17:28). In Jesus, we live and move and have our being, and in Him we have eternal life (John 3:16-18).

"Physical light is necessary for physical life. The Earth would certainly change very rapidly if there was no longer any sunlight. A forest full of trees with very thick canopies of foliage high above has very little plant life on the ground except for moss or lichen, which needs little sunlight. Plants will never move away from the light – they are said to be positively phototropic, drawn to the light. In the same way, spiritual light is necessary for spiritual life, and this can be a good test of our standing in Christ. The believer will always tend towards spiritual things; he will always tend towards fellowship, prayer, the Word of God, and so on. The unbeliever always does the opposite (John 1:5, 3:19-20) because light exposes his evil and he hates the light. Indeed, no man can come into the true spiritual light of Jesus Christ, unless He is enabled (John 6:37)."[5] Earth's moon reflects the light of the sun, and in like manner, we reflect the light of Christ, and should carry out the commission to spread the truth to the people of the world, as "Christ's ambassadors" (2nd Corinthians 5:20). We should not attempt to hide the light or be ashamed of Jesus, be spread this light and be prepared to give an answer, or defend our faith (1st Peter 3:15).

According to 1st John 1:5, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." This is a profound concept. God Himself, the infinite, perfect, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent being is light itself. God created physical light on Day 1 of creation week when He said, "Let there be light" ("hayah 'owr," Genesis 1:3). Genesis 1:3-5 states, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light 'day,' and the darkness he called 'night.'" Now, some have noted that in the Genesis narrativethe sun was not created until Day 4 (Genesis 1:14-19). However, light can exist independently from the sun. The day and night cycle was present in each of the three days prior (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11), and with the knowledge that God is light (1st John 1:5), it can be reasoned that light emanated from God.

Light certainly requires a source, "but this source does not have to be the sun, moon or stars. Other sources are fire, lightning, electric light globes, fluorescent tubes, luminous insects such as glow-worms and fireflies, etc. In the Bible, we also find many examples of light without the sun, but originating from a supernatural source. Most of these are associated with the glory of God, which in the Bible is usually manifested as light, although sometimes as fire. This is not surprising, as the Bible tells us that God is light (1 John 1:5; cf. John 8:12), and also that God is a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29)."[6] Light can travel at approximately 186,282.397 miles per second. With this fact in mind, consider what occurs when we turn on a light switch. When the light is turned on, it permeates the area, and darkness must flee. Darkness does not have a choice in the matter. In like manner, writing about God in the flesh, John noted that "In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world" (John 1:4-5, 9).

As noted earlier, God is called the 'Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17), and is light itself (1st John 1:5). "Light came also naturally to typify true religion and the felicity it imparts (Ps. 119:105; Isa. 8:20; Matt. 4:16, etc.), and the glorious inheritance of the redeemed (Col. 1:12; Rev. 21:23-25). God is said to dwell in light inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:16). It frequently signifies instruction (Matt. 5:16; John 5:35). In its highest sense it is applied to Christ as the 'Sun of righteousness' (Mal. 4:2; Luke 2:32; John 1:7-9)... It is used of angels (2 Cor. 11:14), and of John the Baptist, who was a 'burning and a shining light' (John 5:35), and of all true disciples, who are styled 'the light of the world' (Matt. 5:14)."[7]

Subsequently, Jesus taught, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). As such, we are to "follow God's example" (Ephesians 5:1). Light is present all throughout Scripture, in both the Old and New Testament. For example, Exodus 34:29-30 describes the radiant face of Moses, "When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him." Yet another example is Matthew 17:2, which says, "There [Jesus] was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light" (see also Revelation 1:16). Stars are also mentioned throughout Scripture, one of which is of course our sun.

The book of Job makes a few statements concerning light. When God is speaking out of the storm (Job 38:1), He asks, "What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside?" (38:19). Up until the 17th century, it was generally believed that light is transmitted instantly, whereas now we now that light travels at over 186,000 miles per second. The Hebrew word for "way" is derek, meaning a traveled path or road. In other words, God was questioning Job about light's transmission. Shortly thereafter, in Job 38:24, God asks, "What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed?" By asking this question, it presupposes that light can be "dispersed." Scientifically, we now know that light can be divided. Sir Isaac Newton (c.1642-1727) studied light itself, and made the discovery that white light can actually be divided into seven colors, which can be "dispersed" and then combined again. Physical light and spiritual light are both found in Scripture, and the future significance of the notion that God is light (John 8:12; 1st John 1:5) should not be avoided.

The Pleiades (Job 38:31) Credit: Hubble
When describing the New Jerusalem, which will come down to earth after the Millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 19-20), St. John conveys that on the new earth, "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there" (Revelation 21:23-25). Revelation 22:5 continues, "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." From God, light emanates, and this light will be our light in the ages to come. In fact, the fact that God is light is the very reason why, without an infinite being supplying the infinite payment for our sins, we cannot enter God's presence. This is echoed in 1st Timothy 6:16, which notes that God lives "in an unapproachable light." This is also why it was considered death to see God the Father in the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 33:18-23; Judges 13:22).

As a result, only God the Son could appear to man. The appearances of Christ pre-incarnate are known as Christophanies, and was known as the "angel" (messenger) of the Lord in the Hebrew Bible. In fact, it is Jesus who speaks to Moses through the burning bush in Exodus 3. Exodus 3:2 states that the "angel of the LORD" appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and declared Himself to be God (3:5-12), and declared that "I AM WHO I AM" (3:14), a statement echoed by Jesus in the gospels as recorded seven times, most notably in John 8:58, where Jesus claimed to be the great "I AM." The Jewish listeners evidently understood it to be blasphemy to claim to be "I AM," a sin which the prophet Isaiah records that Babylon committed (Isaiah 47:8, 10). In Judges 2:1, the angel (messenger) of the Lord again declares that it was He who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Jesus, claiming to be God in many direct and indirect ways, was evidently indirectly claiming to be the person of the Trinity who spoke through the burning bush to Moses, as the messenger of the Lord appears in the flesh throughout the Hebrew Bible, and it seems as if God the Father and God the Spirit do not physically appear, unless an individual is taken to heaven (cf. Isaiah 6; Daniel 7). Further, some early manuscripts of Jude (written c.AD 70-80) say, "Though you already know this, I want to remind you that Jesus at one time delivered his people out of Egypt" (Jude 5).

Clearly, light is highly important both physically and spiritually. God is called light, God created physical light, Christians are to be the light of the world reflecting Christ, and the Father dwells in an unapproachable light - unapproachable for us due to our sin, which is why the payment of Jesus, the infinite God, is required. Physical light itself is very fascinating, offering us a glimpse into the wonders of God and the enduring mysteries surrounding His glory. Concerning the birth of Jesus, when an angel appeared to the shepherds living out in the fields near Bethlehem tending to their sheep, "the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Luke 2:9) and a special star (or light) led wise men to where Jesus was living (Matthew 2). Jesus Himself was probably born at night, as the first to hear of the Messiah's birth were shepherds watching their flocks "at night" (2:8). As such, the light of the world was, appropriately, born into darkness, for the purpose of bringing the world out of darkness and into the light. John 3:19-21 conveys, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. All those who do evil hate the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But those who live by the truth come into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God."

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at vexx801@yahoo.com or thetruth.ministryweb@gmail.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, and that some will disagree on our position regarding this particular topic. However, understand that we stand firm upon the Bible as God's Word, which we believe to be historically accurate and reliable, and hold to our conviction that this conclusion was arrived at based on what His Word tells us, and through a Biblical worldview, and hope that if you have not already, will come to faith in Jesus. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman 

[1] Soccio, Douglas J. Archetypes of Wisdom. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. 137-139. Print.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] "What did Jesus mean when He said 'I am the Light of the World' (John 8:12)?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 26 Dec 2011.
[6] Grigg, Russell. "Light, life and the glory of God." Creation Ministries International. Creation Ministries International, n.d. Web. 26 Dec 2011.

[7] "Light." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 26 Dec 2011.