And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness (Genesis 1:3-4, NIV)
Before He created anything else in the universe... half a chapter and who knows how many eons before He even made what we humans consider to be sources of light... God created light.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
As it turns out, Jesus is the light, and the life, and the Word too. But even before His physical arrival on Earth, there were hints that these things are really all One:
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)
As we have continued through the "What's After ATX?" sermon series, I've become so fascinated with all the stories of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) that I've been reading Imagine Heaven, by John Burke. It's the larger book on which the little book What's After Life? was based. It contains dozens of NDE stories, but also scripture and discussion about what these stories mean for our current lives and the life to come.
Over and over, NDEers describe the light they see and feel when they arrive in Heaven, or even on the way there.
"'I'm glad I don't have physical eyes at this moment,' I thought. 'This light would destroy the retina in a tenth of a second.'
"No, I corrected myself, not the light.
"He would be too bright to look at. For now I saw that it was not light but a Man who had entered the room, or rather, a Man made out of light...." (What's After Life? pages 12-13, quoting George Ritchie).
Ritchie went on to describe that this light, or this Man made of light, was full of overwhelming love:
"An astonishing love. A love beyond my wildest imagining. This love knew every unlovable thing about me... and accepted and loved me just the same" (page 13).
Whether you find this (or any) personal NDE testimony to be compelling, it is worth noting that this aspect of the stories holds true to scripture. Jesus said, "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, NIV).
I've always thought Jesus was being metaphorical when He said He's the light of the world. He's the one who opens our minds (enlightens us) to the Spritual truths we're often blind to when operating solely by what we see with our eyes. If you really dig into what the Bible says about light, though, it's also possible that Jesus was being quite literal, at least from an eternal perspective:
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 (Revelation 22:5, NIV).
I've been meditating on the word "light" this week, and I've come to realize something surprising. Light is something I often shy away from, both literally and metaphorically. The idea of Heaven being a place with no night isn't something I've ever been excited about. As often as not, bright light makes me feel overstimulated, tired, and headachy. In my earthly body, I'm also exceedingly fond of sleep. Metaphorical light, when shined too brightly on my innermost thoughts or intentions, is less than flattering too.
While I would hesitate to rest too much weight on any one person's testimony, unless held in inspired Scripture, the NDE testimonies I've been reading have helped me grasp why the light in Heaven is something to look forward to.
When I experience the Light that is Jesus, I'll have a new body. It will be physical, but it will have senses that my current, limited state cannot understand. In that new body, the Light will not be painful to experience - it will be beauty beyond comprehension, and it will fill me with awe and joy. In the metaphorical sense of light that reveals secrets, I now understand that Jesus' Light will expose all my secrets, but He will hold me so closely and love me so well that I will not feel oppressed by these ministrations. Rather, I will realize how great His love is for me, and that His mercy allows us to be together in spite of my darkest secrets; He's washed them all clean.
Thank You, Jesus, for being the Light, and the Life, and the Word. Thank You for Your mercy. I'm so glad we can experience You in part now, but I'm especially excited to see You in person!
What do you think? How does it feel to contemplate the light of Jesus? How do you imagine Heaven? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!