Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: spiritual darkness

The Logos

Greek philosophers believed the world had always existed and realized that there must be some active principle that made the world function in an orderly fashion. Heraclitus, Zeno and Plato described this principle that ordered and maintained the universe and permeated all reality as the Logos. Logos means word, reason, plan and all that might be included in their meaning.

Then Jesus was born and walked this earth with a few followers. One of those who walked with Jesus, described him this way:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (The gospel of John chapter 1, verses 1 to 5 and verse 14).

Do you see what John is doing? He is telling us that the Logos is much more than philosophers have been able to grasp by their reasoning. He is a person, He is God, yet in some way separate from God the Father. He has created all things, He is the source of life and of light. John is saying I have met Him and I want to introduce Him to you so that you may also know Him and walk with Him.

John also tells us that the darkness did not comprehend the Logos when He came into the world. The English language has a million words, yet lacks a word to describe the kind of darkness that John is speaking of. This darkness is not the mere absence of light but the home of Satan and all that is opposed to the light. In French it is called ténèbres; many other languages have a similar word, but not English. Most of the time when the New Testament uses the word darkness it means that kind of darkness:

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness (ténèbres) of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness (ténèbres), and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness (ténèbres) to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness (ténèbres) rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

The English Bible (AV) says that the darkness (ténèbres) did not comprehend the light. Comprehend comes from the French word comprendre which sometimes means understand, but the root meaning is to take in. The French Bible simply says the ténèbres did not receive the light.

Let us rejoice that the Logos, the light, has come into the world. May we truly know Him and walk with Him. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Merry Christmas!

Darkness and light

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3)

The Scriptures speak of two kinds of darkness: the one a natural darkness which is simply the absence of natural light: the other a spiritual darkness that is opposed to God and which is the dwelling place of spiritual beings opposed to God. The original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible use different words to differentiate between the two forms of darkness. Many languages have two words for darkness, English has only one and that can lead to misunderstandings of the text.

In French Bibles the underlined word in the above text is rendered ténèbres. The dictionary defines this word as profound darkness, most often considered to be a material environment; in a religious sense, that which is opposed to the light of God.This captures well the meaning of the word used in the original Hebrew.

Understood this way, the verse is telling us that the forces of spiritual darkness were present on the earth from the beginning of creation. It also explains why God created light on the first day of creation, but the sun was not created until the fourth day. The light of the sun cannot drive away spiritual darkness, only the light of God’s presence can do that.

The next verse tells us that God divided the light from the darkness. The conflict between light and darkness has continued from that day and will continue until the end of the world. Natural night and day are realities that should remind us of the deeper reality of spiritual darkness and light.

Many cultures confused the light of the sun with the light of God and worshipped the sun. God showed His judgment of Egyptian sun worship by bringing darkness on the land of Egypt. The word used in Hebrew (and in the French translation) denotes spiritual darkness, but it also manifested itself as natural darkness. The land of Goshen, where the children of Israel dwelt, had light, both natural and spiritual.

Later on, when God called Moses to go up Mount Sinai, we are told that the mountain was covered by a cloud of thick darkness. The word used here simply means natural darkness. In French it is rendered obscurité. When Moses climbed up the mountain he was obscured from the view of the people below. When he reached the top of the mountain, the natural light of the sun was completely obscured and he was illuminated by the light of God’s presence.

Moving on to the New Testament, the gospel of John, speaking of Jesus, tells us: In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:4-5) Here again, the underlined words are rendered ténèbres in French, an accurate translation of the Greek word in the original.

Here are a few more New Testament passages:

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness (ténèbres)rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness (ténèbres) of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness (ténèbres) even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness (ténèbres), and walketh in darkness (ténèbres), and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness (ténèbres) hath blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11

(This is a good verse for discerning those who profess enlightenment in social, environmental or spiritual matters, but react angrily to anyone who dares to disagree with their enlightenment. It should be first and foremost a standard to prove our own spirit in these and all other matters.)

Finally, there shall be an eternal separation between darkness and light:

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness (obscurité) of darkness (ténèbres) for ever. Jude verse 13

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Revelation 21:23

No room for boasting

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For we brought nothing into this world” (1 Timothy 6:7). The Apostle was talking about material things, but I don’t think it does his words any violence to say that no one of us came into this world with any pre-qualifications for salvation. In that respect, we are all equally impoverished.

Perhaps we had parents who were genuine Christians in word and in life, and grandparents and great-grandparents. And they all belonged to a church that was firmly grounded on the unadulterated gospel of Jesus-Christ. That’s wonderful. It’s something for which to be thankful.

But it’s not something to boast about. Their faith is not transferable. I get no credit for the faith of someone else; my salvation is solely based on my relationship with Jesus Christ.

I was not saved because I was “raised in the church.” That gave me an opportunity to hear the gospel. But many others have had the same advantage and spurned it. There are many who grew up with the light of the gospel shining all around them who are now walking in darkness.

Others who grew up in the darkness of this world are now walking in the light. And are probably much more thankful for it than those for whom the light has been an everyday reality as far back as they can remember.

It is well and good for those who have been raised in Christian homes to be thankful. But there is only a fine line between thankfulness and boastfulness. When we talk much about our Christian heritage and think that it sets us apart from the common run of humanity, we are no longer poor in spirit. And to those around us who may be seeking for spiritual light, we are apt to be more of a hindrance than a help.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

The spiritual riches that we enjoy are not our own. We did not inherit them. We did not acquire them by wisdom, by doing the right things, or by any other means at our disposal. These riches came from admitting that we were impoverished, blind and unable to help ourselves. Let us rejoice and be glad in them. But let’s forget the boasting.

Darkness was upon the face of the deep

When first created the earth was tohu and bohu  – “without form and void,” as the AV translation has it. The words could also be translated “confusion and emptiness.” And there was darkness over all this chaotic mass – not a physical darkness, which would be meaningless before the vision of the Creator – but spiritual darkness was present here from the very beginning and would soon begin to manifest its subversive presence in God’s creation.

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” I much prefer the “moved” of the AV to the “hovered” found in many newer translations. “Moved” indicates a purposeful surveying of the chaos below with a plan for what it would become. The first indication of that purpose was shown when He said “Let there be light,” and instantly there was light, and a clear demarcation between light and darkness.

Not much later, God caused the dry land to rise up out of the water, then proceeded to populate the land with vegetation, animal and bird life and finally humanity. The sequence of the events in the days of creation are significant. The conflict between light and darkness, between the sea and the dry land, are themes that play out all through the narrative of the Bible, and these conflicts existed before man made his appearance on the earth.

I will not say much about darkness and light, for I suspect the concept of the powers of darkness and the God who brings light are at least somewhat familiar to most people.  Water and the sea are often used in the Bible as symbols of the  unstable state in which most of the people of the world exist. Consider the following verses:

Revelation 17:15 – And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Psalms 18:4  – The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
Psalms 65:7 –  Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.
Isaiah 8:7  – Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks.
James 1:6  – But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

There are fearsome creatures in this water, of which leviathan appears to be the chief. The description of leviathan in the book of Job led many commentators in past years to identify leviathan as a crocodile. Fearsome though a crocodile may be, the turmoil and devastation caused by leviathan goes far beyond the powers of a crocodile. More recent writers conjecture that leviathan was a water-dwelling dinosaur. Perhaps that gets us a little closer to the physical description, but the Biblical passages describing leviathan go beyond even that. They appear to describe a mighty spiritual power that is behind the stirring of the waters and the tossing of the waves of this world – Satan himself.

Isaiah 27:1  – In that day the LORD with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.

The dry land – eretz – is meant to be a place of safety and stability for those who put their trust in God. Nevertheless, the book of Revelation shows us the prototypes of two forms of false religions. One arises out of the sea of confused humanity that does not know God and its power comes from the dragon, or Leviathan. This is paganism and all forms of false religion. The other arises out of the earth, has the appearance of a lamb, yet speaks as the dragon. This is counterfeit Christianity and is as dangerous as the first.

God promised a land to His Old Testament people – eretz Israel. They did possess it in peace for a short time. The teaching that some near day God will once again rule from eretz Israel is fantasy and delusion. He has something much better in store for his people. The description of the new Jerusalem shows a land where there is no more darkness and the sea is now a solid and safe sea of crystal . There are no more monsters; there is no evil, no sorrow. The redeemed of all the ages shall dwell there in peace and joy in the presence of their Lord and Redeemer.

 

Knowing who the true enemy is

While driving through downtown Saskatoon today, my wife and I noticed a billboard for the University of Lethbridge, which boasted “We teach you how to think, not what to think.” I wonder how true that is. As far as one can tell, the whole public education system in our country is committed to teaching and enforcing the doctrines of secular humanism – neo-Darwinism, atheism, the meaninglessness of life, etc.

The mass media are entirely supportive of this doctrine, acting in unison as a propaganda machine for it.  Some politicians may not be entirely at ease with this doctrine, but none dare say so openly.

Yet the “scientific” arguments of the New Atheists are incoherent and have no actual scientific foundation. Why is it that no one seems to be listening when it is pointed out that “the emperor has no clothes?”

It is because the people in academia and the media are only front men for a massive spiritual onslaught on mankind. Our true enemy is not people, but “the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Satan has duped people into seeing him and his messengers as angels of light, bringing the message of sweet reason to a world long held captive by belief in God.

However, the outcome of Satan’s message of light always tends to death. Christians are concerned, and rightly so, by the slaughter of millions of unborn babies and the creeping acceptance of euthanasia. There is also the slow and sure death of the soul as people are convinced that there is no meaning to life, no reason to hope, and no reason to care about others. Is it any wonder that suicide has become an epidemic in our day?

What the world needs is not better teachers, better reporters, or better politicians. They would all be subverted by the prevailing despair and spiritual darkness of our age. What the world needs is Christians who can explain why the existence of God gives meaning to all of life and to every individual life. God is not a vindictive monster who wants to make life miserable for us. He is a loving God who wants to give us a living hope that our life is precious to Him, that we can find joy and fulfilment in life, and that He has something even better planned for us in the life to come. It is true that “God is angry with the sinner every day,” but that is simply because sin leads to death and God wants us to live, truly live.

There are people who attempt to accommodate themselves to the thinking of the world, yet live as though they believed in God. They are attempting to appear intellectually respectable to the world, and at the same time fit in among Christians. Isn’t this the frog spirit described in the book of Revelation? Frogs are amphibious, able to seem at home  in the water (the world) and on the dry land (among Christians). This is not the way to lead an overcoming Christian life.

The meaning of Romans 12:2 is that we should not allow our thinking to be moulded after the prevailing thought of the age we live in, but that our thinking should be transformed by the renewing of the mind. That will set us free to allow God to use us to do His work here on earth.

The world needs such people. I believe that it would be possible to turn the world upside down once more if Christians could grasp the true liberating power of the gospel message. Yes there are people who desperately want to believe that there is no God to whom they will have to give account for their actions. Nevertheless, God has created all men and women with a heart that will feel empty and alienated until they experience the love of God. Don’t we have an obligation to speak plainly to the real needs of such people?

The apostle Paul makes three statements in Romans 1:14-16 that should be the motto of every Christian:

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

I am ready to preach the gospel.

I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.

Do we feel that debt? Can we truly say that we are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ? How ready are we to do something about it?

And the darkness comprehended it not

“And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5).  Here is a verse where the English language seems to lack a word to fully express what is meant.  Darkness, and English synonyms such as obscurity, shadows, blackness, all indicate the absence of light.  The word used in French in this place is ténèbres.  I believe that Bibles in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese also use forms of the same word.

Ténèbres indicates a darkness that has an independent existence, not just the absence of light, but something that is opposed to light.  It is a moral or spiritual darkness, the opposite of the light of God.  In Ephesians 2:2 where the apostle refers to“the rulers of the darkness of this world,” the wording in French is “the princes of this world of ténèbres.”

The apostle John tells us in another place that “the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19).  That is, the whole world is ruled by the powers of darkness.  Jesus came into this world as the embodiment of the light of God.  And the darkness pushed back.

The time came that Satan and the rulers of darkness thought they had succeeded in forever snuffing out the light of God from this world.  Then the light burst forth again with a brilliance that told them that they had forever lost.  The forces of darkness will never again be seen in heaven; the place reserved for them is called “outer darkness.”

Nevertheless, their fury against God, and their hatred of the light, drives them to take as many others with them as they can.  The forces of darkness are very real and they are constantly at work to ensnare people into their darkness.

The apostle Paul tells us that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).  He sends his messengers to us, speaking as the voice of sweet reason and offering us a counterfeit of the light.  However, the more we listen to the “light” they are offering us, the darker the pathway before us becomes.

The only way that we can push this darkness back is to allow God’s light to illuminate our hearts and minds and to inform our attitudes and actions.  We are called individually to walk in the light.  One little light all alone is good, but it is better if those lights are gathered together in homes and congregations so that the light shines farther in this dark world.  As we walk together in God’s light, we are the light of the world and we are doing our little part to drive back the darkness that has so engulfed this world.

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