Yesterday we went to the east side of the Pinnacles National Monument with our youth group. It was a really special day. We got there a little after 10 am, and then hiked up through the natural caves created by large rocks covering parts of a canyon. At the top we stopped and did a little study by a small reservoir and then came back down for lunch and heading home.
When Jesus came Matthew 4:12-17 tells us He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that the people who live in great darkness have seen a great light. In Luke 1:78-79, Zechariah, John the Baptist's father, filled by the Holy Spirit, prophesied, "because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." [boldface is mine]
I asked the youth what the land was like when Jesus came, and the answer, according to the Bible, was that it was in darkness. So, I asked, does that mean the sun wasn't shining? Obviously, the answer is "no." This is a description of spiritual darkness, and based on what we talked about to start—darkness is the absence of light. Who is the light of the world? Jesus. The people lived in a spiritual darkness, absent of God (they had plenty of religion, just not God).
Light and dark are big words in the Bible. In the English Standard Version there are 88 different uses of a variation of the word "light" or "dark" in the Gospels, alone—and almost all of them have to do with light in the sense of illumination, not weight. If it is true that darkness, in a spiritual sense, is the absence of God, then we would expect to find Hell described like that. Sure enough, in multiple places, it is the place of "outer darkness." To the contrary, if God is light and light chases away darkness, then we would expect to find Heaven a place of tremendous light. Hence the words of Revelation 21:22-25, "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there." [again, boldface is mine]
So, darkness is the natural state without the addition of light. When we walk in darkness we get lost, hurt, and even die. This is the condition of man until the light comes in and shines in the darkness. I'll talk more about darkness and light and walking in them in the next post, but for this one simply reflect on the fact that, absent of light there is darkness. It is the natural condition. You don't need to do anything to make it dark. You do need to apply light to remove the darkness. So many people who don't know Jesus seem to believe that they are on a road and one day they have to choose Heaven or Hell, God or not. The reality is that all are on the road to Hell. It is not one we choose. It is our natural path. We are all absent of God and in the darkness. We must choose to apply the light to get out of the darkness, and that light has a name. It is not some mystical idea of "light" or "God." It is Jesus who said, "I am the light of the world."