In this modern day and age, we like to think of ourselves as enlightened. Looking back in time, we observed that many times the human race was plunged into periods of darkness, often for extended periods of time. The most famous of these was that period referred to as the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages were the bleakest part of the Middle Ages, roughly from 400 to 900 A.D. During this period of time, the civilizing influences of the Greek and Roman Empires were all but lost inEurope. The average lifespan declined to about 30 years. Education, the arts, and skilled trades all but vanished asEuropeplunged into a period of ignorance, disease, and nearly constant bickering and fighting.
Prior to the Dark Ages, Roman and Greek civilizations provided the safety and security of stable government and educational enlightenment. At least that is what the history books say. After the Dark Ages, the Renaissance and Age of Exploration and Discovery have culminated in the modern age we now enjoy. There is no doubt that on either side of the Dark Age lifespans, education, trade, and industry were vastly better. However, can we really call any period in human history truly “enlightened”? Roman and Greek history is festooned with war, treachery, and deceit. The ides of March—et tu Brute—“games” in the Roman coliseum, and the treachery and depravity of rulers such as Nero and Antiochus Epiphanes fly in the face of civility and enlightenment.
Similarly, the period after the Dark Ages is no less disheartening. Slavery, subjugation of indigenous peoples, and nearly constant warfare have plagued humanity. Indeed, the twentieth century, the most advanced century in human history, sawEuropeplunge into the darkness of Nazism and Fascism. Much of the world found itself behind an “iron curtain,” and the Western world suffered a Great Depression and a mind-boggling “cold war” with its accompanying threat of nuclear annihilation. In the final analysis what part of human history has not been “dark”? Even at this moment, this post-9/11 world in which we live is characterized by terrorist threats, greed, corruption, and severe economic turmoil, among many other grave problems. There is an explanation for what has caused the human condition and the way out of it. The great dilemma of our time is how to shed light in a dark world.
The Source of True Light
The gospel of John chapter 1:1-5 reads as follows: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Christ came as the true light of the world when Greek and Roman “enlightenment” was near its zenith. In spite of all their knowledge and achievements, Scripture says clearly mankind dwelt in darkness and it did not comprehend the light of Christ. The world is no different today—but that will soon change.
From beginning to the end the Bible is concerned with bringing light to a dark world. Genesis 1:3 records Christ’s voice saying, “Let there be light.” In the lead article of this month’s A Word in Season, the light referred to was the truth that would regenerate and renew an earth that had become a ruined wasteland full of misery, destruction, death, ignorance, and wickedness. God’s plan called for shedding light in a dark world (Genesis 1:18) through the use of two great lights. Quoting Genesis 1:14-17 will lay the foundation for us to comprehend God’s plans: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.” Verse 17 says, “God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth.” God was setting in motion something absolutely astounding. He was not physically creating the sun and the moon at that moment. He was attaching new significance to them as spiritual timing devices for signs and seasons in addition to them being used to track physical time as we do on our calendars.
A few definitions from the Hebrew will help us grasp this:
- Set – God set (verse 17) the sun and moon. Set is nathan (#5414, Strong’s, 1995) which means to assign or appoint.
- Signs – signs is owth (#226, Strong’s, 1995) signals to appear as evidence or beacons (down through time).
- Seasons – seasons is mowed (#4150, Strong’s, 1995) an appointment, fixed time or season, specifically a festival, conventionally a year; by implication an assembly, an assembly of the congregation for a definite purpose, by extension the place of meeting, also a signal.
Amazingly the sun and moon would now mark off more than physical days and years. From that point forward, they would be signs and way-markers of future meetings important to God’s people. Each year these appointments could be marked off on the physical day God would establish as a festival (holy day) upon which the congregation was to assemble. These holy day assemblies would be used by God to shed light upon the earth that would eventually eradicate the misery, destruction, death, ignorance, and wickedness that man suffers from. In essence, light would dispel darkness.
From Genesis we leap forward 4000 years to the time of Christ’s first coming. We already read in John 1:1-5 that Christ was the life and light of men and that humanity did not understand His light because of the darkness they dwelt in. Keep in mind that, of the two great lights of Genesis 1, the sun is greater. Let’s read Matthew 4:15: “‘The landof Zebulonand the landof Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galileeof the Gentiles: the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Therefore Jesus Christ is in actual fact one of the great lights, and the sun in the sky represents what He is to mankind. Just as all life on earth depends on the light of the sun, mankind depends on Jesus Christ for the light of the truth and eternal life. In a prophecy of Jesus Christ’s coming, the last book in the Old Testament records a prophecy in which He is referred to as the sun. Malachi 4:2 says, “But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.”
In the gospel of John 8:12 Christ said of Himself, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Christ only lived on the earth for 33 years, and His ministry was just three and one-half years long. So where is His light today? How will the prophecy of Isaiah 49 be fulfilled in which Christ’s light would not only be forIsraelbut for all people on earth? Let’s read this intriguing prophecy in Isaiah 49:6: “Indeed He [God the Father] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
The Other Great Light
Genesis chapter 1 said that God instituted two great lights. Obviously the two great lights in the earth’s sky are the sun and the moon. The moon itself does not generate its own light. The moon reflects the light of the sun. Both the sun and the moon are effective for keeping track of physical time. Even today some cultures use a lunar rather than a solar calendar. It is the moon, however, by which God keeps track of His annual holy days. God’s holy days mark off prophesied events, when the great light Christ would interact with His people, with which He would share the light of His truth at specified times in history. The light came to the people of ancientIsraelin the Old Testament, and to God’s Church in the New Testament. Therefore, just as the physical sun typifies the role of Jesus Christ, the physical moon typifies the role of God’s people. God designed the holy days to form the nexus of His interactions with His people. Deuteronomy 16:16 explains that there are three general seasons in a year in which God’s people are to assemble: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles….” These three seasons are further subdivided into seven holy day periods as listed in Leviticus chapter 23 and outlined below.
- First and Last Days of Unleavened Bread
- First Day of Feast of Tabernacles
- Last Great Day of Feast of Tabernacles
Each of these holy days has deep spiritual significance. For example, Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost are important in the history of ancientIsrael. Passover was the occasion in which they were directed by God to kill a lamb and mark their homes with its blood for protection from the angel that would pass overEgyptkilling the firstborn. Unleavened Bread corresponds to the exodus fromEgyptwhere they had been held in bondage. Lastly Pentecost was the holy day atMount Sinaiduring which the congregation received the law and agreed to the old covenant. These were the appointed occasions in the Old Testament when Christ and the people interacted. Tremendous light and truth thus passed from the “Sun,” as it were, to the “moon” for eventual reflection to the whole world. Indeed, Exodus 34:29-35 tells how Moses, the intermediary between the people and God, would absorb so much light from God that His face literally shone! He was literally reflecting divine light like the moon reflects the celestial light of the sun.
Light in the Christian Dispensation
Old Testament events may seem irrelevant or like quaint stories to Christians. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Those were sacred events that were to point prophetically toward future interactions between God and His people. Future events would culminate in freeing the human race from the tyranny, bondage, and darkness, imposed by Satan and his cohorts.
Christ literally came to earth as Immanuel, meaning “God with us,” in the fall holy day season. Christ’s coming is depicted by the holy day called the Feast of Trumpets. While on earth Christ proved He was a great light and indeed called Himself “the light of the world” on several occasions. When that light died for the sins of mankind, amazing prophecies were fulfilled. Hidden deep within the holy days was their significance to all mankind. Christ became flesh and blood so He could die as our Passover Lamb, and we could be set free from sin. I Corinthians 5:6-8 says this concerning Unleavened Bread and Passover: “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Pentecost is just as important and fascinating as Passover. Pentecost was when ancientIsraelreceived the Ten Commandments from God. The first Pentecost after Christ’s death and resurrection is when Christ descended upon those who believed in Him and were gathered together to observe the holy day. Christ’s Spirit came in the form of wind and fire to dwell within the first Christians. The fulfillment of Pentecost was the beginning of the Church’s mission to take the light of God’s truth to the whole world, as we read in Isaiah 49. Reading excerpts of Acts chapter 1 and 2 will help us to understand how the second great light began to shine in a dark world. Luke records in Acts 1:1-8 Christ’s instructions to His believers just prior to Pentecost: “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart fromJerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom toIsrael?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me inJerusalemand all Judea andSamaria, and to the end of the earth.’” Verses 12-15 of Acts chapter 1 record that 120 followers of Christ were then gathered together on Pentecost. Acts 2:1-4 reveal how Christ’s Spirit descended upon them and the effects that followed: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues as a fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The result of the miracle of Pentecost was that an assembled crowd had gathered because of the sound of the wind in the house. When Peter and a few others spoke the truth of God to them, each could hear the words in their own language even though every corner of the Mediterranean world was represented. This miracle along with an amazing explanation given by Peter led to 3000 baptisms and launched the Christian dispensation.
Peter explained in Acts 2:16-24 how Christ’s life and death as our Passover, and Pentecost for baptism, were critical fulfillments of prophecy. He told the crowd, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
Verses 22-24 explain how the Sun’s light was put out and how the moon turned to blood as Peter went on to say, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
Three thousand people realized they had recently been associated with the death of Christ, thereby putting out the light of the Son of God. But rather than despairing, they also realized Christ’s shed blood now covered the moon with blood, redeeming from sin those who would repent and be baptized. Thus the light spread from the original 120 believers to 3000 more. Christ’s words in Matthew 5:14-16 were fulfilled: “You are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
From that day to this the Church has had many struggles in its efforts to reflect God’s light. Upcoming issues will discuss the trials and tribulations of the Church.
This year the Feast of Pentecost falls on May 27th. If you want to learn more about the light of Christ and how you can join in the effort to shed light in a dark world, at your request we will be happy to provide study materials about the holy days, God’s light and truth, and His marvelous plan for all mankind.