THE LIGHT OF LIFE AND LOVE
BY: ADOLPH E. KNOCH
The restoration of the earth from the chaos of the abyss was effected by vibration, as apparent in light (Gen.1:2,3). But this was a recurrent phenomenon, for it was alternated with darkness. Darkness, however, is not a positive, forceful manifestation in Hebrew, but a negative, impotent thing, as is evident from the Hebrew word, which signifies KEEP-BACK. This is well illustrated by Abraham, who did not keep back, or withhold (AV) Isaac, his son, when he was called upon to offer him up to God. (Gen.22:16) It is simply the absence of light. It is practically ignored, however, in the following account, for it effected nothing. At first the light alone is called “Day.” (Gen.1:5) Thereafter, however, except on the seventh day, the evening and the morning are added to it; yet it is still reckoned a “day.” We also use the word day as distinct from darkness or night, and also for the whole period of twenty-four hours, which includes both.
It was the recurrent light that accomplished the restoration of the earth. It separated the atmosphere and the seas from the dry land. It provided the vitality for the verdure and the soul life in the water and the air and on the land. The stages in this restoration were marked by the recurrence of darkness. The work was evidently done during the day, for the vibratory power of God’s spirit not only made the scene visible, but provided the energy that separated the waters and made the atmosphere and supported the verdure, as well as the living souls which cannot exist without these to this day. Yet after the day’s work was done, we read “and it became evening” (skipping the night), “and it became morning,” which made a whole day. “Evening” is just before the night, and “morning” follows it. In the night no work is done. (cf John 9:4)
Much has been made of the length of the days by scientists, falsely so called, with the purpose of discrediting the inspired account of creation, although these days are not concerned with the original creation at all, but the restoration of the earth. Now, however, the latest scientific theory, based on the study of atomic energy, claims that creation took a very short time, much less than six days! The length of time it takes to accomplish a given task is altogether dependent on the conditions under which it is done. I am told that a process somewhat similar to that of the restoration, in which the solid, liquid, and gaseous elements of the abyss were separated into land, water and air-that of refining crude oil into asphalt, the various liquid products, and gas-has been greatly accelerated by newer methods. As we know nothing of the precise conditions, which obtained during the six days, we have no real premises on which to reason out the length of time. Under some conditions it might have taken what we call billions of years, under others an infinitesimal part of a second. We cannot measure absolute time without a standard, and the day itself is the basic unit of chronology.
It is quite true that the word “day” is used, with a figurative force in divine revelation. The “Lord’s day,” or the day of Yahweh, seems to last somewhat over a thousand years. Man’s day has already run much longer than that. That these are figurative “days” is evident from the fact that, while they are like ordinary days in some respects, they differ from literal days, not only in their length, but in being composed of many such days in time. Moreover, they are not repeated with periods of darkness between. But the days of the restoration have every feature of literal days such as we are acquainted with in our own lifetime, which have been recurring throughout man’s history. The days of the restoration are composed, not only of light, but of evenings and mornings. As such they would make a rather complicated figure of speech.
The length of time consumed in any action is not an infallible measure of the result. I have often been criticized because of the briefness of my messages. But I would rather speak a minute to the heads and hearts of my hearers for their edification, than an hour to their hulks to their stupefaction. When I was in Europe, my relatives showed me an old church in which one of my ancestors had preached. They also exhibited the collection bag at the end of a long pole, so as to reach down the rows, with bells on it to wake up the drowsing. They told me that it was not only used for that purpose, but also to prod anyone who snored too loudly. I am told that, in these days, a modern audience can endure only about twenty minutes of solid sermon. Time, like space, is only relative. If we should travel around the earth at the same speed as the sun, we would live only one continued, literal day, from our standpoint. Theoretically, if we had a vine with us we could transform water into wine in a single day. God is independent of time as He is of space. So Christ could transmute water into wine without either time or effort. (John 2:1-10) Consequently, I would have no difficulty, on that score, in believing modern scientists, that creation was the work of an instant. Then, of course, it would not strain my faith at all, to believe God, when He tells us that He took six days for the restoration of the earth.
But, just as we cannot fully learn the lesson of light during the night, unless it is followed by the day, so, on the larger spiritual scale, men cannot learn the larger lesson of God’s illumination during the evil eons. They sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and grasp it only after the rousing from among the dead, when they live in the sevenfold radiance of the eons of the eons, or stand before the great white throne. Only those whose hearts have been illuminated by God’s holy spirit, get a glimpse of the glory. But even their eyes must look through a dark glass, lest the blazing brilliance blind them, so long as they are in the flesh.
Fault has been found with the CV rendering: Let light come to be! And it became light. It is a great pity that, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the difference between the simple (be) and the causative form (become) of the so-called substantive is practically ignored in our popular versions. During the restoration of the earth there was continual change, not merely a repeated state. Translators into English have our profound sympathy in this case, however, for English idiom makes it almost impossible to be faithful to the original in this matter. So the CV often changes it to b come, and sometimes into b be, where the context directs it.
Nature is God’s primer, full of illustrations, with words, which give us the vocabulary of His revelation. The first lesson is taught us daily at the rising of the sun. Darkness gives place to light. God is light. In Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) This constant contrast is given us in order that we may grasp His glory. Just as the light unfolds to our admiring eyes the wonders of the visible creation, so the power of His spirit reveals to our minds and hearts the marvels of the spiritual realm. In the beginning, His initial act in the restoration of the earth was to illuminate the scene by the vibration of His spirit in producing light. We know what this was because He rehearses this in our experience every day.
Missionaries to the heathen who have never heard of God have grave difficulties, I am told, in making Him known. I have sometimes thought that they should first begin with the book of nature and interpret it by the Scriptures. Beginning with light and darkness, the day and the night, which is known to the most ignorant savage, they could reveal Him Who is light, as well as the powers of darkness, and His Son Who is the Light of the world. Showing first that all life depends on light in nature, they could go on to make known the Life of all that lives, as well as His Son, Who descended into the darkness of death for their sakes in order to express His love and win them for Himself. Nature is known by all, and God has given it to illustrate His revelation.
We are all training to be missionaries among the celestials, so we should be deeply interested and sympathetic to the problems of our missionaries on earth. Their greatest task is to reveal God to those who do not know Him. One of the first difficulties is a name. Choosing one they already have is fraught with many dangers, for none is like Him. In China there was much discussion on this theme for many years, for none of the pagan titles fully fitted. Even in English, we attach only a vague notion of deity to the title “God,” instead of the definite idea of the Subjector. I have often wished that we could change to this, but it seems to be impracticable, so I seek to associate this idea to the title as much as possible. The Greek version has it better, for there He is called Theos, the Placer.
Nature speaks a universal language. In order to reveal God as Light and Life and Love, I would point to the lesson of light as illustrated every day and night, and show how good the light is compared with the darkness. Life and death may be used in the same way to show that He is the Living One. I would press the point that man’s life depends upon death, for all his food must die that he may live, and so prepare for the death and resurrection of the Saviour. I would use the many examples of love and hate among mortals to prepare for the revelation of the love that gave His Son to reconcile all to Himself.
The apostle Paul has given us the highest revelation of God and His Christ. But this by no means supersedes or abolishes the teaching of nature. Paul himself appeals to the Corinthians, who were going contrary to natural instincts. He does not refer them to previous revelation or give them fresh instructions, but asks the question: “Is not even nature itself teaching you…?” (1 Cor.11:14) Even the nations, by nature, fulfill some of God’s law, although their great mistake is to go contrary to nature. (Rom.2:14; 1:26) Yet some of the saints, doubtless influenced by the false rendering of soulish by “natural” (1 Cor.2:14; 15:44, 45,46), seek to be unnatural in their speech and conduct, as if nature were sinful. This leads to an unnatural, artificial, unwholesome mode of life, which is to be deplored. Let us be natural.
But let us also learn from nature the lessons, which God teaches through it. We cannot understand the Scriptures themselves without this preparation. “God is light” means nothing at all to one who has not learned what light is from the primer of nature. The greatest of scholars dare not forget his abc’s. And, conversely, let us not fail to use the Scriptures to reveal to us the full lesson of nature, the great and glorious truth that it is not a meaningless jargon, without significance, purposeless and vain, but a revelation of the Deity, through which His creatures may learn of His attributes and divinity, and, moreover, by means of which He can reveal His inmost affection for them in His written revelation.
Darkness, the “keeping back” of light, may furnish the most instructive lesson in all nature. We usually take the night for granted, as if it were normal, an essential and indispensable feature of human existence. Quite the contrary is the truth. In the new earth there will be no night and no darkness. (Rev.21:25) The literal meaning of the Hebrew stem, as usual, gives us a correct clue as to its place in God’s plans. It signifies KEEP-BACK. It is abnormal. God is keeping back the light during the first few eons in order that men may appreciate the light. It is a daily lesson that all have learned to some extent. It has made many sun worshipers, but it leads none to worship the God Who made the sun. Like sin, it is a temporary and intermittent evil, introduced as a foil to reveal the light. Because it gives us a temporary respite from the duties of the day, and helps us to recuperate our failing faculties by entering into a death-like sleep, we welcome the shades of night, and fail to see its essentially evil character. This is shown us in the Scriptures, where the darkening of the sun, moon and stars and the kingdom of the wild beast (Matt.24:29; Mark 13:24; Rev.8:12), are shuddering portents of judgment. Some of the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness where there will be lamentation and gnashing of teeth. (Matt.7:12)
But all this is only a picture of the spiritual darkness, which holds sway in the world today. At the advent of Christ, even Israel, the one nation to whom God had revealed Himself, is represented as sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. (Isa.9:2; Luke 1:17) If that was true of them, how much more so of the nations today! The unintelligent hearts of the so-called “heathen” nations are certainly as dark as ever. (Rom.1:21) Even so-called Christendom, with all its religion and ritual, has far more darkness than light. Few, indeed, have turned their backs on the light of nature and reason, and entered the holy place and reveled in the light of revelation. And, of these, far fewer bask in the bright blessings of the Shekinah glory, for they do not see that the curtain has been rent, so that the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God beams upon them in the face of Christ.(2 Cor.4:6)
The activity of God’s spirit is manifested in the three “ells,” light, life and love. The passivity of His power is evident in the three “hells,” darkness, death, and indifference, if we take the word “hell” in its true meaning of that which is imperceptible. We perceive light and experience life and revel in love, but our senses are numbed by darkness, we enter the imperceptible in death and we are calloused in indifference. So far as the earth is concerned, God created light in one verse in Genesis, and life in the first chapter, but it takes the whole Bible to create love. Figuratively speaking, light is only the root, and life the tree on which love is the fruit. These are three stages in God’s revelation, but the highest is love. Many years ago a manuscript was sent in by a very intelligent and beloved brother, seeking to show that all evil is due to the absence of God. At that time we did not know the vast difference between evil and sin, so that there seemed to be much evidence in its favor. Adam sinned when God was absent from Eden. But there were other Scriptures, which seemed to show that evil occurred in His presence. In fact many of His judgments consisted in the infliction of evil. Why, He is even said to be the Creator of evil. I was very much inclined to publish the article of this beloved brother, even if I had my doubts. Now I am most thankful that I did not do so, for it led to the study and separation of evil and sin.
It is sin, not evil, that comes from the withholding of God’s spirit. Adam and Eve indeed had light and life, nevertheless they were in a measure of darkness, for their eyes were closed to spiritual light, even if they did see the forbidden fruit. The serpent predicted that their eyes would be unclosed if they ate of it, and, sure enough, they had never seen themselves until after they ate! More than that, although they had more light, which should have kept them from sinning, death was now operating in them. The lack of life is even more provocative of sin than the lack of light. And the lack of life led to the lack of love, so that they feared God and hid themselves. For the present, let us thank God for the darkness that enables us to appreciate the light, yet, at the same time, we may exult in the future, when we will bask in the full blaze of His effulgence without being blinded by His glory. Then the light that restored the ruined earth will restore us, and enable us to enjoy its full fruitage of eonian life, and everlasting love.
LIGHT OF LIFE AND LOVE, THE [Adolph E. Knoch] 1