Brother Beebe: - When you have leisure, please give your views on the words, “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” in its connection with the preceding and succeeding verses.
W.F. Kercheval Hanibal, Mo.,
August 17, 1863.
The Light of which the two Johns (the apostle and the Baptist) bear their concurrent testimony in the text and its connection, is designated as “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” in distinction from all other lights, and in distinction from all the figures, types and images presented in the law and the prophets pointing to it. In the creation of the natural world God said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” “And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” “And God said, Let there be a firmament,” etc. “And God called the firmament Heaven.” “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” (Gen. 1:3-6,8,14-16) The first chapter of John makes a direct allusion to the creation of the world, as emblematic of the creation of the new heaven and the new earth, and begins with the same words, “In the beginning.” Moses, in Gen. 1:1, says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and John 1:1-3, reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made,” from which we learn not simply the fact that Christ was, at the time of the creation of the natural world, in company with God, as he was ever with God, both before and subsequently to the creation, as one brought up with him, but to us these words imply that the Word which was with God, and which was God, was to be emblematically set forth in the wonderful works of the natural heavens and earth, so that the heavens should declare (Christ as) the glory of God, and the firmament shew forth his handiwork. “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” That is, the natural day figuratively speaks of and to the spiritual day. The old heavens and earth are figurative of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and Christ and his kingdom are portrayed in all the wonders of the old creation. So the psalmist says, “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Everything belonging to the creation and organization of the natural world speaks in prophetic language of Christ and his spiritual kingdom. “In them,” the psalmist adds, “hath he set a tabernacle for the sun; which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it.” (Psalms 19:2-6) The firmament, which God called heaven, beautifully describes the kingdom of Christ, in which God has placed all the lights which adorn, beautify and illumine the spiritual firmament. The greater light, which represents Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, to rule the day, or gospel dispensation; the law, as a lesser light, to rule the dark or legal dispensation; and the stars also, for signs, seasons, days and years. Stars are emblematic of the gifts which are given in evidence of Christ’s exaltation. He gave some prophets for one season, or set of days and years, etc., and some apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, adapted for signs and seasons, days and years, under the gospel dispensation. So that all the lights in the natural firmament proclaim the spiritual lights with which God lighted up the spiritual firmament of the new world, wherein dwelleth righteousness. In the fourth verse of this first chapter the apostle John says of the Word of God, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” In this verse we not only learn that the light spoken of in our text is life, eternal life, immortality, but also that all mankind are in total darkness, or death, until this life which is light is communicated to them; and the same inspired John says, I John 5:11,12: “This is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, [or light] and this life [or light] is in his Son. He that hath the Sun, hath life, [or light] and he that hath not the Sun of God, hath not life [or light].“ This life which is light is not imparted, or taken out of Christ and put in us, for it cannot be separated from him. The light of the natural sun cannot be separated from the sun and given to us, for if the sun were for a moment taken from the firmament its light would cease and all nature would be at once shrouded in darkness. As we cannot have the light of day without the sun, and as all the light beaming on us does not lessen or diminish the fountain of light in the sun, so neither can we have a single ray of spiritual light only as we have Christ in us the hope of glory, and all the light of immortality poured forth in living floods on all the saints in ages past has not diminished the splendor or fullness of Christ. Paul testifies that He “is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, the Lord of lords; who only hath immortality [or light], dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.” (I Tim. 6:15,16) As in the lesser lights of moon and stars, which sparkle in the firmament of the natural heaven, they only shine as they are shined upon by the sun, so in the spiritual world the law, with all its types, the prophets, the apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers, would be lost sight of at once if Christ, the source and fountain of life and light, should cease to supply them with light, for they could be supplied from no other source; he only hath it, none beside him therefore can supply it. How dark was chaos before God commanded the light to shine out of darkness! “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.” (Gen. 1:2,3) So we were once darkness, but now are we light in the Lord. But what a dark and shapeless mass were we until the Spirit moved on us with quickening power, until God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We do not read that God shined into our hearts, but he shined in our hearts; he first took possession of them and shined in them, and thus he gave us the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Christ, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person. But in tracing the analogy of the natural with the spiritual world, we remark that the natural sun had been shining in the firmament of the natural heavens nearly six thousand years before any of the present generation of mankind were illuminated by its light. The reason for this delay is very clear: we could not see the light of the sun until we were born into this world on which it shines, until we entered into the world, and we entered into this world by our natural birth. So until we were born again we could not see the kingdom of God, and this kingdom of God which was invisible to us until we were born again, is the antitype, in this figure, of the natural world. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that fleshly birth qualifies us to see the light of the natural sun; but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, and this is indispensable to qualify us to comprehend the light of the Sun of Righteousness. For “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Now, as we are told positively that only the Spirit of God can know the things of God, and that no man possesses that Spirit until he is born of the Spirit, and that all the things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned, we can see how impossible it is for any one to enjoy the light of immortality until he is born into the spiritual world. God has hidden these things from even the wise and prudent of this natural world, and he has revealed them to babes. We must be born in order to sustain the character of babes, either in nature or grace. By this spiritual birth God’s children are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the marvelous light and life of Christ, for as he is our life, so he is our light, for the life was and is the light of men. John the Baptist tells us how the children of the light, who believe on the name of Jesus, came into the world, which is lighted with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. God gives them power to become the sons of God, manifestly, by a spiritual birth. “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Here are three negatives crowded into this sentence, with but one affirmative, for the very evident purpose of settling this matter decidedly, effectually and forever, that the birth which alone can bring us into the world of life, light and immortality, of which he speaks, is not of the will or works of men, but exclusively of God. How impossible it is for men in their unregenerated state to know God, or Christ, is still further demonstrated from the fact that he was in the world, and the world was made by him, and yet the world knew him not. Paul says, None of the princes of this world knew him, for if they had known him they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. To know him is eternal life, or true light. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) When he came unto his own, his own received him not. This is equally true, whether we apply it to his own kindred according to the flesh, his own nation, the Jews, or to those whom the Father had given to him, for no man has ever even felt disposed to receive him as the eternal life and light of the knowledge of the glory of God until this life or light was revealed in him. We know that the Jews did reject him as the promised Messiah for whom they professed to be looking. He was refused by the Jewish builders, but God has made him the head of the corner. So Christians feel disposed to say, also:
“We turned our eyes away,
And treated him with scorn.”
We hid, as it were, our faces from him, but when it pleased God to reveal his Son in us, when he, as our life and true Light, took possession of our hearts, how changed was our condition, we were brought out of darkness into the true light, from death to life, from condemnation and wrath into justification, liberty and peace.
Still further, we are told in the context that, “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” It is not only true that the darkness of the Jews and Gentiles was such when Christ was among them in the flesh that they knew him not, but it is also true that the darkness of our earthly nature is such that where he dwells and shines in his quickened and regenerated people the darkness of our flesh, of our carnal minds, of our reasoning powers of the natural minds, no more comprehend him than the carnal minds of the unregenerate can. This, we conclude, is the reason why the Christian ever doubts or fears. The sensibilities of our fleshly nature demand some evidence of an indwelling immortality, which only the faith of the Son of God can comprehend. The Jews required external signs such as they could comprehend, like loaves and fishes, and things which the wisdom of this world could understand, and so do our reasoning powers of mind struggle for some assurance that is clear and tangible to our fleshly sensibilities, and for the want of such evidence the old man is forever disputing the validity of the Christian’s hope. All our unbelief, all our murmurings, disquietude, rebellion and disobedience arise from our flesh, which wars against the Spirit, and which brings us into captivity to the law of sin which is in our members, and show very clearly that the darkness of our fleshly nature has utterly failed to comprehend the light of immortality which dwells in us, for the life which we live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, who hath loved us, and gave himself for us.
How glorious is the contemplation of this subject; Christ is our life, our light and our salvation. Christ dwells in us, and our life is in him, and he dwells in the bosom of the Father, therefore our life is hid with Christ in God. All the godhead dwells in him bodily, and the saints are one with him, as he is one with the Father.
“Hail sacred union, firm and strong!
How great the grace, how sweet the song,
That worms of earth should ever be
One with incarnate Deity!
One in the tomb, one when he rose,
One when he triumphed o’er his foes,
One when in heaven he took his seat,
While seraphs sung all hell’s defeat.
This sacred tie forbids their fears,
For all he is, or has, is theirs;
With him their head, they stand or fall,
Their life, their surety, and their all.”
September 1, 1863.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 397 – 403