A Biblical Theology of Light: Introduction

lightGod said, “Let there be light…” Nearly since its creation light has been a symbol of illumination, goodness, and truth. Many cultures throughout history have used the contrast of light and darkness as a symbol of conflicting philosophies and theologies. It has also often been tied to God or to the gods. So Zoroastrianism and Manicheanism spoke of two gods: the good god of light, and the evil god of darkness (Ahurimazda and Ahriman respectively). The Bible too connects light to God, not in the same sort of metaphysical dualism as other ancient religions, but Yahweh is connected to light nonetheless. The Psalmist calls God his “light and salvation (Ps. 27:1). In the New Testament this is further developed as those who are in alignment with God are said to “walk in the light” and those who are not are said to walk in darkness. Throughout Scripture, then, light becomes a theme used to point readers to God Himself.

We all know that scenario of walking in the dark. Your hands are out groping the air, feeling for something tangible and firm that you can touch to get your barrings. We need some solid point of reference to guide us through the dark hallways. You stub your toe, you trip over something unseen, you smack into a wall. Light is the essential difference-maker in that moment. This is a perfect analogy isn’t it, to our spiritual lives. Apart from God we walk in darkness (Prov. 4:19), but to come to God is to come into the light. So the prophet Isaiah writes:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (9:2)

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. (50:10)

To come to God is to walk out of darkness and into light. That’s even how the Apostle Paul thinks of salvation. He writes to the Colossians, saying:

He has delivered us from the domain of darknessand transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (1:13)

Coming to God is coming into the light, leaving darkness, and embracing Him who is Himself called “light” (Rev. 21:23).

Throughout the Bible we see this theme developed and unpacked so that light and darkness communicate with all the power of a good illustration the beautiful truths of salvation. God is light and those who follow Him walk in light. Man walks in darkness apart from God, and conducts his evil deeds in the dark in order that he might not be exposed. There is a kingdom of darkness that we serve, a prince of darkness who rules over us, and a kingdom of light into which we need to be brought. And light pierces this darkness in the form of God himself to rescue us. There is no dualism here, light and darkness do not wage war in some cosmic battle. No, light shatters darkness. God kicks the darkness until it bleeds daylight and there is no contest.

Light is a beautiful theme worthy of our attention. To study its development across the Scriptures is not merely to study a symbol, or to bind ourselves to discussions of creation of light. Rather it is to watch the unfolding narrative of redemption through yet different lenses. It is to see the beauty of our salvation as told from a different angle. It is the story of Jesus. In the words of John:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

A Biblical Theology of light gives us fresh insight into our salvation, and because of that we will spend some time over the next few weeks looking at its development.

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