“The Light of the World”

“Ye are the light of the world. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
—Matthew 5:14, 16

IN OLD TESTAMENT times, God’s ancient prophets and faithful servants acknowledged that the Lord was their light. They had personal experiences that revealed to them his mighty power employed on their behalf. Thus they could testify that the darkness in the world could be displaced by God’s wonderful light.


During the Gospel Age the light of God’s glory has been manifested in quite a different manner. When in our text Jesus said, ‘Ye are the light of the world,’ he was speaking to his disciples. The era during which God miraculously manifested his hand in the protection and blessing of his chosen people, and in the punishment of their enemies, was rapidly drawing to a close. In a few short years God’s typical people were to hear those fateful words, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38) Then the light of God was to shine out through other channels, and by different means.

In this new arrangement Jesus was the Leader, the Captain, the Forerunner. He declared of himself, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) But Jesus knew that he would not personally remain in the world, and that the work of God entrusted to him would be continued by his representatives, his ambassadors. In Revelation 20:4 they are referred to as those who are “beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God.”

This language describes martyrdom, or the giving up of life in the service of Jesus and the Word of God. During the Gospel Age faithfulness leads to death; and we are encouraged by the promise, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10


In the beginning of the age, and continuing through the lifetime of the apostles, miracles were employed which demonstrated the glory of God. Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. The apostles did the same, but they themselves died, and the onlooker was given no evidence of Divine overruling or care in their lives. Jesus was raised from the dead, but few aside from the disciples believed it. The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting disciples at Pentecost, but their enemies refused to accept what they saw and heard as evidence of God’s hand in their affairs. Instead they charged that the disciples were intoxicated.—Acts 2:15

Soon after the apostles fell asleep in death, all miraculous demonstrations of Divine protection and love ceased, and the Lord’s people throughout the age since have been called upon to walk entirely by faith. They have been witnesses of Jesus, not because Divine favor has been manifested toward them, but because they have been faithful in proclaiming the “gospel of Christ,” which, as Paul asserts, is “the power of God unto salvation.”—Rom. 1:16

The commission given to these by Jesus was that they should be his witnesses in all the world by preaching the Gospel. (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8) In the ages past when the Lord’s people were called his witnesses it was because God revealed his glory by the miraculous manner in which he dealt with them. In the Gospel Age those who witness for Jesus do so by proclaiming the marvelous plan for human salvation which Jesus was sent into the world to execute. In proclaiming this Gospel they tell not only of the mighty miracle of Jesus’ resurrection, but also of the miracle of the resurrection of those who will live and reign with him.

Furthermore, the full Gospel message calls for a declaration of that great future miracle which will be necessary for the awakening of all the dead, and the restoration of the willing and obedient to full perfection of life as human beings on the earth. In proclaiming the facts concerning these miracles the witnesses of Jesus are strengthened by their knowledge of what occurred in the past. They know that the God who delivered Israel from Egypt, who escorted them safely through the Red Sea and across Jordan to victory in Canaan, is abundantly able to fulfill all his good promises pertaining to the deliverance of all mankind from sin and death.

Only a handful of these witnesses for Jesus ever actually saw him, but they believed the testimony of those who affirm the fact that he was raised from the dead. They also believe and proclaim the testimony of Paul that when Jesus was raised from the dead he was highly exalted above angels, principalities, and powers, and above every name that is named, to the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Eph. 1:18-23) They also accept and preach the further testimony of Paul which declares that ultimately “every knee should bow, … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:9-11

These witnesses of Jesus are glad to occupy this place, as his ambassadors, in the arrangements of God. They delight to obey the Divine command to honor the Son even as they honor the Father. Indeed, they realize that they cannot honor the Father at all, except as they do so through the Son. (John 5:23) They know that to honor and worship the resurrected and glorified Jesus, and to serve as his witnesses, does not detract from the glory of God. They realize that it was the Father’s power that exalted his Son to this high position, at his own right hand.

As witnesses ‘of Jesus, and for the Word of God,’ these go forth with a song of praise upon their lips, praise to God for his love in sending Jesus to be the Redeemer and Savior of the world. They also have praise for Divine wisdom which designed such a loving plan of salvation. They praise Divine justice which, while it could not clear the guilty, made provision to wash away their sins by the blood of the Redeemer. They extol the power of God by which every feature of his glorious purpose is implemented and made sure.

These do not go about shouting, “Praise the Lord!” But they do praise and honor God by making known his loving plan as it is centered in Christ Jesus, the Redeemer. They rejoice that the Spirit of God has authorized them to be witnesses thus of Jesus, and that they are authorized to explain the plan of God as it relates to those who are invited to be joint-heirs with Jesus in the spiritual phase of his kingdom. These proclaim the glorious hope of ‘restitution’ for all mankind during the thousand years of Christ’s reign.


This glorious testimony which has been given throughout the age by the witnesses of Jesus has not converted the world, nor will it now convert the world. It was not God’s plan that it should. His will is that the chief accomplishment of this witness work would be the reaching and development of those who would join the witness class and prove worthy to live and reign with Christ.

Others have heard, and to some extent have been blessed. Thus have they been in a measure prepared for the blessings of the kingdom which will reach the world during the millennium. Many have heard the message, but have paid no attention to it, yet it has been a witness even to these. Jesus said that “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [of the Gospel Age] come.”—Matt. 24:14

Jesus likened his individual witnesses to candles shining in the dark. We know that a candle does not project its light any great distance into the darkness. It is of benefit only to those who are close to it. So the light of the Gospel shining through Jesus’ witnesses is a guide and great blessing to those who, by belief and devotion, draw near to it and to the Lord whom it represents, but the outside world see only an indistinct glimmer.

Someone has said that the light of the Gospel as it shines through the witnesses of Jesus is like a lighthouse in the ocean. It is not put there to light up the ocean, but to guide the mariner. So the Truth has not enlightened the world during the Gospel Age, although it has been the only light in the world. This light, however, has been a guide to the Lord’s own people, enabling them to find and to walk in the narrow way which leads to glory, honor, and immortality.


Through Jesus’ witnesses, the Gospel is preached until the ‘end’ comes—the end of the present age. Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and the Tares also brings us down to the end of the age. The witnesses of Jesus are in this parable called “children of the kingdom.” When the work of harvest is fully consummated these ‘children of the kingdom’ are said to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”—Matt. 13:38,43

This shining ‘forth as the sun’ will be in association with Jesus, the foretold “Sun of righteousness” who is to arise with “healing in his wings” to enlighten and bless the whole world of mankind. (Mal. 4:2) The witnesses of Jesus will, together, as the church triumphant, become a part of that ‘Sun of righteousness,’ and together with Jesus will cause the knowledge of the glory of God to fill the whole earth, “as the waters cover the sea.”—Isa. 11:9; 40:5

Thus we see that when Jesus said to that handful of disciples to whom he preached his sermon on the mount, “Ye are the light of the world,” he meant that ultimately they would be more than merely a light ‘in’ the world. It is in the latter, limited manner that they have thus far let their light shine. This has not been due to lack of zeal or enthusiasm on their part, but because of human limitations.

Jesus explained, the darkness of this world hateth the light, and therefore those who dwell in darkness usually turn away from the light even when they see it. Satan is largely responsible for this, for, as the “god of this world,” he has blinded the minds of those who believe not, “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”—II Cor. 4:4

When the Sun of Righteousness arises, and the children of the kingdom shine forth with him, Satan will be bound, that he may “deceive the nations no more.” (Rev. 20:1-3) With the ‘prince of darkness’ thus prevented from interfering with the shining forth of light from that glorious ‘Sun,’ all the world will have a full opportunity to become acquainted with Jehovah, the true God, and with his beloved Son who died for them that they might live. Then will be testified to all that great truth that Jesus gave himself a ransom for all.—I Tim. 2:4-6

The work of enlightening all mankind will require a thousand years of Christ’s kingdom. First, the living generation will have turned to them the “pure language” mentioned by the Prophet Zephaniah. (Zeph. 3:8,9) This will be immediately after the “fire of my [God’s] jealousy” has destroyed the symbolic earth in the great “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

Many who go through that ‘fire’ will be quite ignorant of the true God, hence the necessity of having the pure message of Truth given to them. Thus they have an opportunity to know and serve God properly, “with one consent.” (Zeph. 3:9) But that will be only the beginning. There will then come the awakening of the billions who have died. Each generation of these hear the voice of the Lord calling them forth from the tomb and they will need to be enlightened. Although the Sun will be shining throughout the millennium, it will not be until near the close that the darkness of the long night of sin and death will have been fully banished.

The Prophet Zechariah gives us a beautiful illustration of this. He speaks of the thousand years of Christ’s reign, during which the Sun of Righteousness will be shining. He says, “It shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.”—Zech. 14:7

“And it shall be in that day,” the prophet continues, “that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem.” (vs. 8) Also, “The Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.” (vs. 9) Because God loves natural Israel for the “fathers’ sakes,” (Rom. 11:28) those regathered in the promised land will be the first to have the life-giving waters of the kingdom offered to them, but the river of life will quickly flow out to all nations.

This “river” is shown in Revelation 22:1,2 to flow from the “throne of God and of the Lamb.” On either side of the river are the trees of life, bearing all needed life-giving fruit, and the leaves of the trees are “for the healing of the nations.” It will be then that the “Spirit and the bride say, Come. … take the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

Thus in this beautiful combination of symbols the future work of the present witnesses of Jesus is portrayed. Now our message to all who fully believe is to take up their cross and follow Jesus into death. Then, as through them the light concerning God’s plan is revealed to all mankind, the invitation will be, ‘Come. … take the water of life freely.’

The saints of God today are honored to be light-bearers and witnesses of Jesus. They look forward with joy to the still greater honor of shining forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. They will cause the knowledge of the Lord to fill the earth completely and no one will need to say to his neighbor, “Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”—Jer. 31:31-34

Dawn Bible Students Association
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