I imagine that if the apostle John had lived to see the invention of the light bulb and the advent of electric Christmas decorations, his house would have been the best one on the block. The guy loved light, so much so that the Gospel that bears his name practically glows in the dark:
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
and yet the darkness did not overcome it (John 1:4–5).
The true light that gives light to everyone,
was coming into the world (John 1:9).
“But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God” (John 3:21).
Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world.
Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness
but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
And here in 1 John, the fisherman-turned-apostle is still lighting up the night. He writes, “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1John 2:8). John does have a flare for symbols and figurative language, but the reality he’s describing is more than poetic.
If you think back to Genesis, you may remember that the first thing “God said” [was] ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Prior to that, the earth was “formless and empty” and “darkness covered the surface of the watery depths” (v.2). To put it mildly, there was chaos and disorder. The world was not suited for life. Then God spoke light into being, and a new age dawned. As God brought form to creation and filled what was empty, He saw that the world He had created was good, again and again (Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31).
When sin entered the world, it brought with it its own brand of formlessness and emptiness. John sees in Jesus a new light dawning. Just as it was at creation, the light is bringing with it a new age, an age in which all things are being made new—every bit as “good” as we can imagine. But the old age, the darkness, is still here. God is too gracious to simply destroy the darkness and those trapped by it. Instead, the gospel invites “people walking in darkness” to enter into the light (Isaiah 9:2).
First John is a reminder to all who profess to know Christ: Look around! Don’t fool yourself! Make sure you’re walking in the light. “But whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete… The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now” (1John 2:5,9). The light shines brightly. It’s hard to miss if we’re following Jesus.
Written by John Greco