What is light and what is darkness?

by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5 NASB)

When we look at the Moon in its phases what we are actually seeing is part of that created body orbiting the Earth facing the Sun and so reflecting its light back to us while the part not facing it being in shadow, appears dark. The dividing line between the two is called the Terminator. On one side is day and on the other is night. One side is light, one side is dark. However, we must remember that the Moon simply reflects light back to us, it has no light of its own, no brightness or luminosity generated that makes up its nature unlike the Sun. In our Lord’s Transfiguration the glory in which Moses and Elijah were seeing was actually the glory being manifested from our Lord. It was His glory or δόξα which awakened Peter, James, and John to their astonishment. As the passage above, from John 1, states, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” What is this light and what is this darkness? What is this life? What has this to do with the dividing line between God Centeredness and Man Centeredness? Let’s see.

Here is John 1:4,5 from the NA28 Greek text and a word-for-word translation into English:

ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

in him life was, and the life was the light of the men; and the light in the dark shines, and the dark it not overtook.

I like the way The Apostolic Bible renders the word order for vv4-5 a bit better: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light in the darkness appears, and the darkness overtook it not.

The word translated as “life” here is ζωη or zōē, which speaks of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to and flows from God alone. John was saying that Christ alone is the source of this ζωη. Also, those who came to possess this ζωη also realized that it became something within them. It was their light. What is this? This is the word φῶς or phōs, which speaks of a light source that is unkindled by man, therefore, cannot be quenched. Is the picture becoming clearer my brethren? What is this darkness in which this φῶς appears and is obliterated forever by it? The word John used here that is translated as “darkness” is σκοτίᾳ or skotia is used to refer to ignorance of divine things, and its associated wickedness, and the resultant misery in hell. It is not a figurative term for sin, but refers to the consequences of sin. Let’s look at a closely associated word.

18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:18-21 NASB)

18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται· ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ. 19 αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ κρίσις ὅτι τὸ φῶς ἐλήλυθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον καὶ ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι μᾶλλον τὸ σκότος ἢ τὸ φῶς· ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν πονηρὰ τὰ ἔργα. 20 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ φαῦλα πράσσων μισεῖ τὸ φῶς καὶ οὐκ ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ· 21 ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα φανερωθῇ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ἐν θεῷ ἐστιν εἰργασμένα. (John 3:18-21 NA28)

In this passage, the word John used that is translated as light is φῶς just as it was in John 1, but the word we see translated as “darkness” in the sense that “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil,” is the Greek word σκότος or skotos, which speaks chiefly of the effect of darkness upon man, which is his limited ability to see and his subsequent groping in uncertainty. This is speaking of ignorance of God and His truth and His ways.

Now, let us consider the post-modern philosophical nonsense that has infected the church in the various forms that elevate uncertainty and doctrinal ignorance as if these are somehow virtuous. No, whoever says something like that is a deceived deceiver. My brethren, God gave us His Word and then gifted us with the Holy Spirit so that we could know Him through having the Mind of Christ. We grow in spiritual maturity as we come to know God not by becoming more ignorant of Him. Darkness is the emblem and region of ignorance and depravity. Ignorance is not innocence but sin. It is sin because whatever keeps us from God is sin, and ignorance does just that.

Man Centered Christianity, the counterfeit church, is mired in σκότος because those in it refuse to see God and His Word correctly which is with Him at the center. They are self-centered and so have doctrines and religiosity based in σκότος. On the other hand, the real Church, the God Centered Church is full of the regenerate who, therefore, possess the ζωη of God and so also contain His φῶς which, as God’s sanctification works in and through them to transform them, grow more and more Christlike and in their knowledge of Him and are no longer ignorant of the Truth.

As long as God gives me the ability to do so, I will continue to open His Word to all who are wanting to be fed from it. God’s will be done.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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