Follow the Light of the World
“He that follows me . . . will possess the light of life.”—JOHN 8:12.
1. How vital is light?
WHAT would we do without light? Imagine waking up every day of the year to 24 hours of darkness. Imagine a world without color, for without light there is no color. Indeed, if light did not exist, neither would we! Why not? Because, in the process of photosynthesis, green plants use light to make the food we eat—grains, vegetables, and fruits. True, sometimes we eat the meat of animals. But those animals ate plants or other animals that lived off plants. Thus, our physical lives totally depend on light.
2. What powerful sources of light are there, and what does this tell us about Jehovah?
2 Our light comes from the sun, which is a star. While our sun gives off a tremendous amount of light, it is still only a medium-size star. Many are much larger. And the star grouping that we live in, the Milky Way galaxy, contains more than a hundred billion stars. In addition, there are countless billions of galaxies in the universe. What a tremendous array of stars! What enormous quantities of light emanate from them! What a powerful source of light is Jehovah, who created all of that! Isaiah 40:26 declares: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.”
Another Kind of Light
3. How important is spiritual light from Jehovah?
3 Jehovah is also the Source of another kind of light, one that enables us to have spiritual vision, spiritual enlightenment. One dictionary defines “enlighten” this way: “To furnish knowledge to: instruct; to give spiritual insight to.” It defines “enlightened” as: “freed from ignorance and misinformation.” Spiritual enlightenment from Jehovah is supplied by means of the accurate knowledge of his Word, the Bible. That is what enables us to know who God is and what his purposes are. “God is he who said: ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ and he has shone on our hearts to illuminate them with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Thus, the truths in God’s Word free us from ignorance and misinformation. Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.
4, 5. How does knowledge from Jehovah serve as light in our lives?
4 Jehovah, the Source of true spiritual enlightenment, is “perfect in knowledge.” (Job 37:16) Also, Psalm 119:105 declares of God: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” So he can spiritually light up not only the next step of our lives but also the road ahead. Without that, life would be like driving a car along a winding mountain road on a dark night with no lights on the car or anywhere else. Spiritual light from God may be compared to the light provided by the headlights of the car. The light illuminates the roadway so that we can see exactly where we are going.
5 The prophecy at Isaiah 2:2-5 shows that in our time God is gathering out of all nations people who want spiritual enlightenment so that they can learn and practice true worship. Verse 3 says: “He will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” Verse 5 invites truth seekers: “Come and let us walk in the light of Jehovah.”
6. Where will the light from Jehovah eventually lead us?
6 Thus, Jehovah is the source of two kinds of light vital for life: the physical and the spiritual. The physical light helps our physical bodies to stay alive now, perhaps some 70 or 80 years or so. But the spiritual light leads to eternal life on a paradise earth. It is as Jesus said in prayer to God: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
World in Spiritual Darkness
7. Why do we need spiritual enlightenment now as never before?
7 Today we need spiritual light as never before. Prophecies such as Matthew chapter 24 and 2 Timothy chapter 3 show that we are near the end of this system of things. These and other prophecies foretold the dreadful things that have taken place in our time, letting us know we are in “the last days.” True to such prophecies, this century has experienced calamity upon calamity. Crime and violence have grown to fearful proportions. Wars have taken more than a hundred million lives. Diseases, such as the dreaded AIDS, stalk millions, some 160,000 having already died from AIDS in the United States alone. Family life has broken down and sexual morality is viewed as old-fashioned.
8. What situation now faces humankind, and why?
8 Former secretary-general of the United Nations Javier Pérez de Cuéllar said: “The world situation offers overwhelming evidence that poverty [is undermining] the cohesion of societies.” He noted that “over one billion people now live in absolute poverty” and that “this has fed the forces leading to violent strife.” These “grave afflictions,” he said, “defy the remedies that governments can administer.” And the head of an influential organization affirmed: “The central problem facing society is that it has become ungovernable.” How true the words of Psalm 146:3: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.”
9. Who are most responsible for the darkness engulfing mankind, and who can rid us of this influence?
9 The situation today is as Isaiah 60:2 foretold: “Look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups.” This darkness covering the vast majority of earth’s inhabitants is due to their not absorbing the spiritual light from Jehovah. And the root cause of the spiritual darkness is Satan the Devil and his demons, the chief enemies of the God of light. They are “the world rulers of this darkness.” (Ephesians 6:12) As 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, the Devil is “the god of this system of things,” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” No human rule can rid the world of Satan’s influence. Only God can.
“A Great Light”
10. How did Isaiah foretell that in our day light would be shed on mankind?
10 Yet, while gross darkness covers most of mankind, God’s Word also prophesied at Isaiah 60:2, 3: “Upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen. And nations will certainly go to your light.” This is in harmony with Isaiah chapter 2, which promised that the enlightened, true worship of Jehovah would be established in these last days and, as verses 2 and 3 say, “to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah,’” that is, to his exalted true worship. So although the world is controlled by Satan, light from God is being shed and is freeing multitudes from darkness.
11. Who would be most prominent in reflecting Jehovah’s light, and how did Simeon identify him?
11 The prophecy at Isaiah 9:2 foretold that God would send someone into the world to reflect his light. It states: “The people that were walking in the darkness have seen a great light. As for those dwelling in the land of deep shadow, light itself has shone upon them.” This “great light” is Jehovah’s Spokesman, Jesus Christ. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” (John 8:12) This was known by some even when Jesus was a young child. Luke 2:25 says that a man named Simeon was “righteous and reverent” and that “holy spirit was upon him.” When Simeon saw the young child Jesus, he said in prayer to God: “My eyes have seen your means of saving that you have made ready in the sight of all the peoples, a light for removing the veil from the nations.”—Luke 2:30-32.
12. When and how did Jesus begin removing the veil of darkness covering people?
12 Jesus began removing the veil of darkness from mankind shortly after his baptism. Matthew 4:12-16 tells us that this fulfilled Isaiah 9:1, 2, which spoke about the “great light” that would begin to shine on people walking in spiritual darkness. Matthew 4:17 says: “From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” By preaching about the good news of God’s Kingdom, Jesus enlightened people about God’s purposes. He “shed light upon life and incorruption through the good news.”—2 Timothy 1:10.
13. How did Jesus describe himself, and why could he do so with such certainty?
13 Jesus faithfully reflected God’s light. He said: “I have come as a light into the world, in order that everyone putting faith in me may not remain in the darkness. . . . I have not spoken out of my own impulse, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to tell and what to speak. Also, I know that his commandment means everlasting life.”—John 12:44-50.
“By Means of Him Was Life”
14. How is Jesus identified at John 1:1, 2?
14 Yes, Jehovah sent his Son to earth to be a light to show people the way to everlasting life. Note how this is featured at John 1:1-16. Verses 1 and 2 read: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning with God.” Here John calls the prehuman Jesus by the title “Word.” This identifies the function he performed as Jehovah God’s Spokesman. And when John states that “in the beginning the Word was,” it means that the Word was the beginning of Jehovah’s creative works, “the beginning of the creation by God.” (Revelation 3:14) His preeminent position among God’s creatures gives real basis for his being called “a god,” a mighty one. Isaiah 9:6 calls him “Mighty God,” though not Almighty God.
15. What additional information does John 1:3-5 give us about Jesus?
15 John 1:3 states: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.” Colossians 1:16 says that “by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth.” John 1:4 says that “by means of him was life, and the life was the light of men.” So by means of the Word, all other forms of life were created; also by means of his Son, God makes it possible for sinful, dying mankind to gain everlasting life. Certainly Jesus is the mighty one whom Isaiah 9:2 calls “a great light.” And John 1:5 says: “The light is shining in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it.” Light stands for truth and righteousness, in contrast with darkness, which stands for error and unrighteousness. Thus John shows that the darkness will not conquer the light.
16. How did John the Baptizer point to the scope of Jesus’ work?
16 John now argues at verses 6 to 9: “There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John [the Baptizer]. This man came for a witness, in order to bear witness about the light, that people of all sorts might believe through him. He [John] was not that light, but he was meant to bear witness about that light [Jesus]. The true light that gives light to every sort of man was about to come into the world.” John pointed to the coming Messiah and turned his followers toward Him. In time, all sorts of people were given the opportunity to accept the light. So Jesus did not come just for the benefit of Jews but for the benefit of all mankind—rich or poor, regardless of race.
17. What does John 1:10, 11 tell us about the spiritual condition of the Jews in Jesus’ day?
17 Verses 10 and 11 continue: “He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, but the world did not know him. He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.” Jesus, in his prehuman existence, had been the one through whom the world of mankind was created. When on earth, though, he was rejected by most of his own people, the Jews. They did not want their badness and hypocrisy exposed. They preferred darkness rather than light.
18. How does John 1:12, 13 show that some could become children of God with a special inheritance?
18 John says in verses 12 and 13: “However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” These verses show that to begin with, the followers of Jesus were not sons of God. Before Christ’s coming to earth, neither such sonship nor a heavenly hope had been open to humans. But by the merit of Christ’s ransom sacrifice in which they exercised faith, some humans were adopted to sonship and were able to have the hope of life as kings with Christ in God’s heavenly Kingdom.
19. Why is Jesus in the best position to reflect God’s light, as shown at John 1:14?
19 Verse 14 reasons: “So the Word became flesh and resided among us, and we had a view of his glory, a glory such as belongs to an only-begotten son from a father.” On earth, Jesus reflected God’s glory as only God’s firstborn Son could. Hence, in a unique way, he was best qualified to reveal God and His purposes to the people.
20. As recorded at John 1:15, what does John the Baptizer tell us about Jesus?
20 Next, the apostle John writes in verse 15: “John [the Baptizer] bore witness about him, yes, he actually cried out—this was the one who said it—saying: ‘The one coming behind me has advanced in front of me, because he existed before me.’” John the Baptizer was born some six months before Jesus’ birth as a human. But Jesus did far more works than John, so that he advanced in front of John in every way. And John acknowledged that Jesus existed before him, since Jesus had a prehuman existence.
Gifts From Jehovah
21. Why does John 1:16 say that we have received “undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness”?
21 John 1:16 reasons: “We all received from out of his fullness, even undeserved kindness upon undeserved kindness.” Although humans are born in sin because of inheriting it from Adam, Jehovah purposes the destruction of this wicked system, the survival of millions into the new world, the resurrection of the dead, and the removal of sin and death, resulting in eternal life on a paradise earth. All these blessings are undeserved, unearned by sinful humans. They are gifts from Jehovah through Christ.
22. (a) What does God’s greatest gift make possible? (b) What invitation is extended to us in the final book of the Bible?
22 What is the greatest gift that makes all of this possible? “God loved the world [of mankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Thus, accurate knowledge of God and his Son, “the Chief Agent of life,” is vital for those who want spiritual light and everlasting life. (Acts 3:15) That is why the final book of the Bible extends the following invitation to all who love the truth and who want life: “‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.”—Revelation 22:17.
23. What will sheeplike people do when they come to the light?
23 Humble, sheeplike people not only will come to the light of the world but will follow that light: “The sheep follow him, because they know [the ring of truth in] his voice.” (John 10:4) Indeed, they delight “to follow his steps closely” because they know that doing so will mean eternal life for them.—1 Peter 2:21.
How Would You Answer?
□ What two kinds of light flow from Jehovah?
□ Why is spiritual enlightenment so important today?
□ In what way was Jesus “a great light”?
□ What does John chapter 1 tell us about Jesus?
□ What gifts flow to those who follow the light of the world?
[Picture on page 10]
Simeon called Jesus “a light for removing the veil from the nations”