Light of the World

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Isaiah. 9:2)

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. (Isaiah. 60:1)

The glory of God veiled from sinful man

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, is alone immortal and he lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see (1Timothy 6:16).

Before the fall of man Adam and Eve enjoyed fellowship with God and were unashamed in His presence, but as soon as they disobeyed God their eyes were opened to good and evil and they were afraid and hid themselves from Him. After the fall man was banished from the Garden of Eden and separated from the presence of God. When the Lord appeared to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai the people were terrified and remained at a distance. They said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18) The people wanted a mediator between themselves and God and this was granted to them through the ministry of Moses, the priests, and then the prophets who represented them before God and spoke the word of God to them. Moses was given a glimpse of the glory of God but even he could not fully behold the glory of God for no one can see God and live:

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my Name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:17-23)

The Menorah – a symbol of God’s light

Moses was instructed to make a tabernacle as a sanctuary in which God would dwell among his people. He was told to make a menorah (lamp stand) of pure gold according to the pattern shown to him on the mountain. It was to have three branches extending from either side, all of one piece with the lampstand. Its seven lamps were to be set up upon the lampstand so that they would light the space in front of it. This magnificent golden lampstand was to be placed in the holy place of the tabernacle. The Israelites were instructed to bring clear olive oil which the priests would use to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening to morning. (Exodus 25:31-40).

The seven-branched menorah symbolically represents the light of the glory of God. It has been a symbol of Judaism for thousands of years and was chosen by the modern State of Israel to be the national emblem representing undying and irresistible light which triumphs over the powers of darkness.

The light of the menorah shone in the holy place behind the first curtain where the priests ministered before the Lord. It could not be looked upon by the Israelites. Only the priests could enter the holy place to provide olive oil for the lamps and to light them at evening. Symbolically this affirmed that the glory of God is veiled from sinful man and that sinful man remains separated from the presence of God.

The Torah created barriers in the temple which separated Gentiles from Israelites, men from women, Israelites from priests, and all men from the presence of God in the Holy of Holies. The high priest would enter the inner room of the temple only once a year to make atonement for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

“The Holy Spirit was showing that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the earthly tabernacle was still standing” (Hebrews 9:8).

Under the Old Covenant all men were in outer darkness, figuratively speaking, for they were excluded from the presence of God. Only the priesthood who were appointed as mediators between God and man could enter the holy place where the menorah stood representing the light of the presence of God. The rest of mankind was kept at a distance waiting for the Redeemer who would reconcile them to God and restore them to an intimate and personal relationship with the Lord through which they would again behold his glory.

In his brief description of the temple, the writer to the Hebrews mentions the menorah, the table and the consecrated bread which were in the first room called the Holy Place . After describing these things he goes on to say that they were only “external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” The worship of the Old Covenant was just a shadow of the reality which has been revealed through Jesus the Messiah (Colossians 2:17). The symbolic light of the menorah has been fully revealed to us in Jesus who is the light of the world and the radiance of God’s glory.

Messiah – Light of the World

Israel was God’s chosen instrument to reveal his glory to the world. To them was given the law, the covenants and the promises, but more importantly, through them the Messiah who would a light to the nations was to come. It is only in and through the Messiah that Israel would be a light to the nations:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).

The Lord also said through the prophet Isaiah that the Messiah would be called, “Immanuel” i.e. “God with us,” “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6).

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world! (John1:9).

Simeon, a righteous and devout Jew living in Jerusalem gave this testimony on seeing the infant Jesus:

“My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).

Who would have imagined that God would appear to us in the likeness of man, his glory veiled in the humility of a servant? But this is exactly what the Lord had promised through the prophets. He would become the temple in which God dwells among his people, the light shining within the temple of his earthly body – a suffering servant, perfect in righteousness, who would lay down his life to rescue his people from the dominion of darkness and bring them into his kingdom of light. Previously men would go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in the temple where his glory was hidden behind the veil of the temple. Jesus came to call all men into the light of his presence:

“I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

The disciples who lived and walked with Jesus for three years were slow to perceive the true extent of the glory of God’s presence among them. On one occasion, John, Peter and James, Jesus’ closest disciples, were given a glimpse of the glory which abided in the sanctuary of his earthly body and they were terrified:

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. (Perhaps the six days figuratively represents the days of creation, the seventh day being the full revelation of the glory of Messiah.) There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. . . While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8).

Only the priests were allowed to enter the holy place of the earthly temple and while the temple was still standing it testified that the Messiah had not yet come. The light of the glory of God veiled in the earthly sanctuary, the human body of Jesus the Messiah, was unveiled when he suffered and died for our sins. When his body was “torn” on the cross, the way into the glory of God’s presence was revealed and at the same time the veil that separated the Most Holy Place in the temple was torn from top to bottom, symbolising that the way into God’s presence had been fully revealed. Soon afterwards the earthly temple was destroyed.

We now have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body….(Hebrews 10:20).

As we have already noted the people trembled with fear when the glory of the Lord appeared at Mt. Sinai . Sinful man would fall down dead in the presence of Almighty God. How could sinful man ever hope to approach God’s glory? There is only one way! That way is to be hidden in the Rock and that Rock is Messiah! Just as Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock while the glory of the Lord passed in front of him, so are our lives hidden in Messiah, the Rock of our salvation:

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Messiah in God. When Messiah, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:3).

No one can see God and live so God sent his Son, in whom the fullness of God dwells, in the likeness of man to reveal himself to man. Whoever wants to know what God is like need only look to the Son who is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being:

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known (John 1:18).

The disciples became intimately acquainted with Jesus during his earthly ministry and were unafraid in his presence. The face of God revealed in Jesus is full of compassion, mercy and forgiveness, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. This is the same Lord revealed to Moses:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation”  (Exodus 34:6).

Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, did not come to terrify sinful men with a display of his majestic heavenly glory, the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. Instead he laid aside his glory in order to call sinners out of darkness into his wonderful light and to redeem them with his blood, cleansing them from all guilt and shame so that they have no need to hide from God’s presence any longer:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Messiah is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:12-15).

Light exposes what is hidden in darkness

In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (John 1:4).

Those who want to worship God in sincerity and truth must come to him in humility. In the same way that the people of Moses’ generation were terrified to draw near to the glory of God’s presence many still refuse to come to the light because they do not want the secret thoughts and attitudes of their hearts to be exposed. God’s verdict against such men is harsh. Jesus himself testified:

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:19-21).

The revelation of God appearing as a man to redeem mankind was destined to cause many to stumble. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be a rock of offense to many in Israel:

The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall (Isaiah 8:13).

While the menorah was hidden behind the veil in the temple, its light, figuratively speaking, did not shine within the hearts of the people. Worship under the Old Covenant had become formal and ritualistic. The people could draw near to worship without their inward thoughts being exposed. The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13).

It is possible to create an impression of righteousness before men because only God can see the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Jesus harshly rebuked the religious hypocrisy of his day. There are many religions which claim to walk in the light while rejecting the true light revealed in Jesus. Jesus warned his followers, “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23).

The light of his word examines our hearts

The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being(Proverbs 20:27).

Jesus is the word of God made flesh. When the light of his word shines in our hearts it searches out our inmost being and brings to light everything hidden in darkness: “Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you” (Luke 11:36). The Word of God gives light and understanding to all who receive it. If we walk in the light of his word we do not stumble in darkness. When we come into his light we allow his word to examine our very thoughts and attitudes and to bring us to the conviction of sin:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than a double- edged sword – it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12).

Whoever rejects Jesus rejects the Father who sent him for he did not speak of his own accord but only what the Father had commanded him to say. The rabbis and religious leaders of the day expressed the vacillating opinions of men but Jesus said that his words would never pass away: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). We do not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. His word sustains our very life:

For with you, Lord, is the fountain of life; in your light we see light (Psalm 36:9).

The New Temple and Priesthood

The prophet Zechariah was given a vision of the temple and the golden lampstand with two olive trees, one on either side. As a priest he should have understood the symbolism of the menorah, but he asked the angel what the two olive trees standing by the golden menorah were. The angel replied, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6).

The building of God’s temple would not be achieved by human strength or determination but by the Spirit of God. The sages always taught that the Messiah would build the temple. We, the believers in Jesus, are that temple. It was revealed to Zechariah that God would accomplish his purpose through the high priest, Joshua and through Zerubbabel of the royal line of Judah . The prophetic word to Zechariah was that the Messiah would be “a priest on his throne, and there will be harmony between the two” (Zech. 6:13). The priesthood and the royal line were always separate, the one being from the line of Judah and the other from Aaron. In Messiah the roles of priest and king are combined – Jesus is both our high priest and the King of kings. Furthermore he builds his temple through a royal priesthood:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:7-10).

This is the new temple in which God dwells by His Spirit to give light to a world stumbling in darkness. As a royal priesthood we are called to testify to the glory of God in Messiah and to hold out the word of life. As the menorah was behind the curtain of the temple, we, who believe in Jesus, are the living stones of the new temple in which the light of his glorious presence shines. But his glorious light is contained within earthen vessels:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Messiah. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:6-7).

The lamps burn through the night

The apostle John was given a similar vision of the seven golden lampstands to that of the prophet Zechariah. It was revealed to John that the golden menorah represents the seven churches – the called out, faithful assemblies of the Lord who testify to the true “Light of the world.” The oil which keeps their light burning even through the darkest period of the night, is the oil of the Word of God which abides in them through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the high priest tends to the lamps in his temple, but he warns those who do not abide in the truth that if they do not repent he will remove their lampstand from its place. Only the consecrated pure olive oil, which figuratively represents the Word of God brought alive by the power of the Holy Spirit, may be used to keep the light burning within the temple. This is the oil which keeps the light miraculously burning through the darkest hour of the night when the world and much of the ‘church’ is falling into apostasy and darkness. Jesus told the parable of the foolish virgins who did not ensure that they had enough oil to keep their lamps burning as a warning and exhortation to keep ourselves filled with the pure oil of his living word illuminated by his Spirit.

The priests had to light the lamps in the evening and ensure that there was enough oil to keep it burning till morning. With this in mind let us consider the words of the apostle Paul writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12).

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:8-14).

When Jesus comes again at the end of this present age the glory of God will be revealed throughout the earth. A time is coming when even the light of the sun will be replaced by the Light of the glory of the Lord:

The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end (Isaiah 60:19).

I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp (Rev. 21:22-23). The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever (Rev. 22:3-5).