In the previous installment of this series, we compared the context of Jesus’ Alpha and Omega declarations to passages from the Old Testament to illustrate the picture He was painting for the 1st Century church. For this installment, we’ll look at John’s description of Jesus as the True Light, along with the role John the Baptist played in illuminating that light.
Let’s get right to it…
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:1-11 ESV – emphasis mine)
Before we dive headlong into this entire passage, notice John’s first declaration regarding Jesus as the light of men: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Is life possible without light? It’s interesting how light is associated with life in the Bible while darkness is associated with death.
“I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12 ESV – emphasis mine)
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:41-43 ESV – emphasis mine)
And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6-8 ESV – emphasis mine)
Those are just a few examples of darkness associated with death, specifically eternal death, since we know “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 ESV). Those who are judged worthy enter into eternal life, while those judged unworthy are condemned to the lake of fire – the second death.
Even more interesting, is how John seems to echo the Psalmist who wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105 ESV). The Psalmist was speaking to Jehovah, yet John describes Jesus, the Word of God, as the True Light giving light and life to everyone.
Now, following John’s pattern, let’s look at the importance of John the Baptist. According to John, we know John the Baptist “was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light” (John 1:8 ESV). So, let’s look at Matthew’s account.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3 ESV)
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3 ESV)
Matthew clearly depicts John the Baptist as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, but he goes further to describe John’s role in preparing Jesus for His earthly ministry.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17 ESV)
In the next chapter, Matthew mentions Jesus’ awareness of John the Baptist’s arrest and how Jesus’ reaction was the fulfillment of scripture that coincides with John’s description of Jesus as the True Light.
Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:12-17 ESV – emphasis mine)
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 ESV – emphasis mine)
Certainly, Matthew was confirming Jesus as Messiah, but there is more to John’s description of Jesus as the True Light. Before we get there, however, we need to finish Matthew’s coverage of John the Baptist and his role in confirming Jesus as Messiah. John the Baptist directly confronted Jesus, and Jesus responded by referencing a prophecy from Isaiah in conjunction with His own miracles.
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 ESV – emphasis mine)
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert…” Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV)
John the Baptist was not casually thrown into the opening of John’s Gospel record. He was mentioned because he was a key player in the greater story of Messiah. And, Jesus confirmed that John the Baptist was foretold elsewhere, as well. At the same time Jesus was confirming John the Baptist’s role, He was also laying additional breadcrumbs that He was Jehovah in the flesh, which we’ll cover in greater depth in our next installment.
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ (Matthew 11:2-15 ESV – emphasis mine)
“Behold, I send my messenger [John the Baptist], and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1 (ESV – emphasis mine)
By referring to this prophecy, Jesus was declaring Himself Jehovah, since John the Baptist was the messenger Jehovah declared to Malachi. It’s also clear that Jehovah is stating He is the One the messenger is preparing the way for, so Jehovah will be the One “suddenly come to His temple.” Who did John announce as Messiah? Jesus! Jesus, the Lord God Almighty, came to His temple…and preached the kingdom of heaven.
So far, we’ve confirmed that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of prophecy as the forerunner to Messiah, and how Jesus used John the Baptist to lay additional breadcrumbs to His true identity. Returning to John’s description of Jesus as the True Light, we’ll highlight another passage from Isaiah that further illustrates John alluding to Jesus as Jehovah.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … In him was life, and the life was the light of men. … The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:1-11 ESV – emphasis mine)
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. … The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the LORD, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, with no one passing through, I will make you majestic forever, a joy from age to age. …and you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. … The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. … I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it. (Isaiah 60:1-22 ESV – emphasis mine)
John clearly depicts Jesus as the True Light, while Isaiah confirms it is the LORD (Jehovah – YHWH) Who shines His eternal light on Israel as their savior and redeemer. We already connected the dots of Jesus being the only name by which men can be reconciled to God in our previous study, but this passage from Isaiah goes further in declaring Jehovah both redeemer and everlasting light.
With that in mind, let’s go to the Book of Revelation to see what John records there.
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. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27 ESV – emphasis mine)
For anyone still confused about who Jesus is, let’s look at a few Old Testament references to the Book of Life.
But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.” (Exodus 32:32-33 ESV – emphasis mine)
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous. (Psalm 69:28 ESV – emphasis mine)
And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem… (Isaiah 4:3 ESV)
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. (Daniel 12:1 ESV)
Please note that Moses was speaking with Jehovah, and it was Jehovah Who declared, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.” David, Isaiah, and Daniel were also referring to Jehovah’s book. Now, compare that to Jesus’ declaration.
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5 ESV – emphasis mine)
Whose Book of Life? Didn’t Jehovah declare to Moses that it was His book, and He would be the one to blot out the sinner? Then, Jesus declared, “I will never blot his name out…” And, Revelation 21:27 calls it the “Lamb’s book of life.” Now, look at these other references.
…and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:8 (ESV – emphasis mine)
This book was “written before the foundation of the world” and is the same book mentioned by Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Paul also mentioned the boo in his letter to the church in Philippi.
Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:3 ESV – emphasis mine)
Paul was talking about his fellow workers in Christ, written in Jehovah’s book of life, which is the Lamb’s book of life. And one final reference…
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. … And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12, 15 (ESV – emphasis mine)
Who is the final judge? Jesus! And, He judges according to what is recorded in His books, the same books referenced as Jehovah’s by the Old Testament prophets.
Please stay tuned for the next installment as we explore more confirmation of Jesus as both Messiah in the New Testament and Jehovah in the Old.
You can also watch the entire video for this installment (below) or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud.