I have spent the last few days thinking and thinking on the theme of God breaking through darkness with light. We see this thought woven throughout Scripture and finding ultimate expression in the gospel. Here is a poem that attempts to capture the gospel angle on light conquering darkness.
“Post Tenebras Lux.” This is the Latin phrase that became the motto of the Protestant Reformation. It literally reads, “After darkness, light.” It referred to the breaking forth of gospel light that had been largely veiled throughout the middle ages. The motto is rich because it captures a profound truth about God’s mode of operation. Darkness is often, if not always, the prelude to God’s blinding grace.
From the first page of Scripture to the last, God is conquering darkness with light. In the beginning, he speaks piercing light into the blackness. In the end, God’s presence eclipses the sun and gives light to the new earth. In the between, we find God’s light consistently following darkness. In the kingdom of God, darkness will never have the final word.
Note a few texts that capture this hopeful theme.
“But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (Micah 7:7-8).
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).
“Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous” (Psalm 112:4).
Darkness is certain in this life…painfully inevitable. For the people of God light is just as sure. The night will always bow to the day. Death will ultimately be swallowed by resurrection. Every experience of light conquering darkness in the present is a foretaste of the time when darkness will be no more. That day is coming…may it come soon. If you are walking in the darkness, hold tight, light is coming.
Light is a significant theme throughout Scripture. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation it communicates significant things about God, salvation, and his people. The following is a summary of some of the ways that light is talked about in the Bible.
The Themes of Light
1. God and Light
- He is light (Ps 27:1, Is 60:19-20, Mic 7:8, 1 Jn 1:5, Rev 21:23, 22:5).
- He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16, Job 38:19).
- He cloaks himself in light (Ps 104:2).
- His presence is light (Ps 36:9, Ps 90:8).
- His face shines light (Ps 4:6, 44:3, 89:15, 118:27).
- He is the Creator of light (Gen 1:3, Is 45:7, 2 Cor 4:6).
- He is the Provider of light (Ps 18:28, 36:9, 43:3).
2. Jesus and Light
- He is the promised light (Is 9:2, Matt 4:16, Lk 2:32).
- He is the Light of the World (Jn 1:5, 9, 3:19 8:12, 9:5, 1 Jn 2:8, Rev 21:23).
- His presence radiates light (Matt 17:1-9, Acts 9:3, 22:6).
- He gives light and life to men (Lk 1:79, Jn 1:4).
3. The People of God and Light
- Israel was called to be a light to the nations (Is 42:6, 49:6, 60:3).
- The church is the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16, Eph 5:8, Phil 2:15).
- We are sons of light (Matt 16:8, Eph 5:8, 1 Thess 5:5).
- We are the saints in light (Col 1:12).
- We are called into his marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9).
- We bear the fruit of light (Eph 5:9).
- We wear the armor of light (Rom 13:12).
- We carry the message of light (Acts 26:23, 2 Cor 4:4-6).
4. The Ways of God and Light
- Light is equated with salvation (Ps 27:1, Is 60:1, Acts 26:18, 23).
- Light is a synonym of truth (Ps. 43:3, 119:105, 130, 1 Jn 1:7).
- Light is likened to righteousness (Ps 112:4, Ecc 2:13, Is 58:8, 10).
- Light is equated with holiness (Is 5:20).
- Light is used in reference to judgment (Is 10:17, Hos 6:5).
The Biblical Function of Light
- Light provides guidance (Ps 119:105, Prov 4:18).
- Light exposes evil and sin (Ps 90:8, Eph 5:13-14).
- Light dispels darkness (Gen 1:3, Ps 18:28).
- Light communicates safety (Ps 56:13, 1 Jn 1:7).
- Light brings comfort (Ps 78:14, 139:12).
- Light invites enjoyment (Eccl 11:7).
- Light communicates things about God (James 1:17).
- Light is used to describe salvation (2 Cor 4:4-6, Eph 5:13-14, 1 Jn 1:7).
- Light is used as a garment (Rom 13:12, 2 Cor 11:14).
The Biblical Storyline of Light
The Dawn and the Dusk
In the first two verses of Scripture we are introduced to the theme of darkness. In the third verse we are introduced to the theme of light. God conquers the darkness by commanding light into existence. This sets the stage for the entire storyline of Scripture. God is in the business of dispelling the darkness through his light. The light of creation, however, is much like the dusk for it is not long before the night wins the day.
The Dark Night
Though light wins the day at the beginning of creation it is not long before darkness starts making inroads on God’s new creation. Adam and Eve are invited to join with the dark one and walk in the ways of darkness. With their sin they plunge the world into a spiritual darkness. This battle of light and darkness carries through the entire redemptive story.
The God of light inserts himself again and again into this dark world to provide salvation to those will come into his light. He is the God of the burning bush (Ex 3:1-6), the provider of light when all has gone dark (Ex 10:23), the pillar of fire that lights the way (Ex 13:21, Neh 9:12, 19, Ps 78:14, 105:39). He is the God that shines his face upon his people in their wilderness wanderings, in their worship, and in their pain (Num 6:25, Ps 4:6, 44:3, 89:15, 118:27). He promised that one day he would eclipse the sun with his own brilliant light and bring an end to night forever (Is 9:2, 60:19-20).
The New Morning
The Old Testament told of the day when the “sun of righteousness” would “rise with healing in his wings” (Mal 4:2). The bright star that the Magi followed signaled a new day. With the incarnation of Christ the light had come in ways never before imagined (Jn 3:19). The light of the world was living among men. His every word and deed was like a sun beam on this dark soil. Good Friday was the darkest and yet brightest of days. Here the light of the world blinded humanity with his sacrificial love and generosity. The brilliance of this light was only magnified on the third day when he ravaged death and walked out of the tomb.
After his exaltation he welcomed all men to know fellowship in his light (1 Jn 1:1-9). He transformed people of darkness into people of light (Eph 5:13-14). This new community was called to be mediators of his light to the rest of the world (Matt 5:14-16). The true light promised he would return once again and that his coming would be the final demise of darkness. When he comes there will be no more night. He will reside with his people, retire the sun, and be our light for eternity (Rev 21:23, 22:5).