Probably the most easily identifiable and popular verse from the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” While most people could quote that, many people probably can’t identify under what circumstances those words were spoken. The words were spoken by Jesus to a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who came to talk with Jesus at night under the cover of darkness. And while that one statement is a wonderful summary of the Good News found in Jesus Christ, by quoting only that verse from this passage, we overlook the seriousness of the necessity of that Good News. The rest of the passage is:
But this is a larger analogy that is consistent throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. The very first thing that God created was light – not the sun, but light. He separated the light from the darkness. He didn’t have to create darkness because darkness is simply the absence of light. So He created the light to dispel the darkness. After Moses spent time with God on the mountain, his face shone so brightly it had to be veiled. David describes the Lord as his light and his salvation. Jesus quotes Isaiah at the beginning of His ministry saying, “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.” Jesus calls His followers to be a light unto the world. He says that we are the salt and light of the world.
God is continually referred to as light, and man as being in darkness. In John 3:19, Jesus even says that men prefer to be in darkness because that’s where they can do their evil deeds. We prefer to be in darkness because we think we can hide in our sins. But it is in the light that our true sinning nature is exposed. It is in the presence of a Holy God that we realize our total depravity. Satan’s work is to keep us veiled in the darkness so that we prefer to be there. He wants to hide the truth and the light away from us so that we will not understand who God is. But the sun doesn’t shine any less brightly when we are kept in the darkness. Likewise, God is no less pure and holy when we shut our eyes to Him.
In the beginning God commanded the light in order to break through the darkness. He shines His light to reveal man’s true condition, our true condemnation. And once we confess our sins and come out of the darkness to stand in His light, He places that light inside of us. He then wants us to shine that light to others so that we can expose the condemnation of the dark, so that we can unveil the truth that has been hidden by Satan. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Paul says, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The “god of this age” is referring to Satan. His sole mission is to keep us blinded from God’s light. He wants us to remain in the dark – both in our knowledge of who God is and in the things that we do. John 3:17 says that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world. That’s because the world has already been condemned – through Satan. Satan’s work is to keep the truth veiled and to keep men in darkness. And that is our condemnation--that we prefer to hang out in the dark. Jesus came to shed light on that darkness and draw men out of the dark, into the light, and into salvation. Jesus came that through Him the world might be saved. God’s ability to bring light is greater than Satan’s ability to veil it in darkness.
Darkness is the absence of light. So if God is the light, then darkness is the absence of God – the absence of love, mercy, justice, and holiness as well. And that indeed would be a very dark place. The absence of God is exactly where we are in our sins. One day God’s light will shine over all things to reveal what was once hidden. What will your deeds look like once they are brought into the light? How can we then escape the darkness? That’s what Jesus tells us in John 3:16. Whoever believes on God’s Son will not perish. He will be the one whose deeds done in truth will be in the light to be clearly seen because they have been done in God.