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THIS SUCCINCT, profound statement of Genesis 1: 3, we owe to William Tyndale, peerless translator of the Bible. To his genius we can trace many Biblical expressions which have survived through the centuries and become native elements of the English language, expressions such as, ‘the apple of his eye’, ‘signs of the times’, ‘the salt of the earth’, ‘the powers that be’, ‘my brother’s keeper’.[fn1] Once, in not-too-distant times, a gentleman’s education was considered incomplete if it lacked a working knowledge of the Bible, and these expressions were sprinkled throughout intelligent conversation. For most in the English-speaking world the standard was the King James, or Authorized Version, first published in 1611.[fn2]
Genesis 1: 14-19 tells us that the sun and moon were revealed on the fourth creative day. The Sun was to ‘rule’ the day, and the moon the night. Lunar illumination has always been supplemented by artificial light. In ancient times this took the form of torches – poles around which were wrapped oil-soaked rags – tallow candles, or lanterns fuelled by vegetable oil or fat, and tow or flax for the wick.
In 1863 the American John D. Rockefeller launched an oil refining business (later organised as the Standard Oil Trust), and built a personal fortune converting crude oil into paraffin and shipping it around the world. He monopolised that industry until his company was broken up into its component parts by the United States Supreme Court in 1911.[fn3]
In 1878, the British inventor, Joseph Wilson Swan, lodged a patent for his electric incandescent lamp, and the following year began installing the bulbs in homes around England. His house in Gateshead, in the northeast, was the first residence in the world to have working light bulbs installed. After Thomas Alva Edison sought to patent his own version of the electric lamp in 1879 under a British patent, the two men accused each other of patent infringement but eventually settled their dispute out of court, creating a joint enterprise, Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company Ltd. In 1883 (‘EdiSwan’).[fn4]
THE GREATER LIGHT
The prophet Isaiah describes the world of his day as covered by the ‘gross darkness’ of ignorance. Not even the nation of Israel, God’s covenant people, enjoyed full illumination. For the law cast a shadow before it, an unremitting reminder of sin and the need for atonement, represented in the recurring sacrifices of bulls and goats. Embedded in the Jewish laws and the functions of the Tabernacle were the dim predictors of a permanent Reconciler, the promise of an end to the tyranny of sin and a vague hope for deliverance. This state of affairs lasted throughout Israel’s long history, as they by degrees abandoned their covenant calling and drifted into unbelief.
And then there was Light.
Jesus is the antithesis of darkness. He is The Light, of whom the Apostle John gave witness (John 1: 9). Christ brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1: 10), opening up a new way and, by His death on the cross, providing the antidote to the Jewish law of works. And to as many as would accept Him, he gave them power to become the sons of God through justification by faith.
THE LIGHT FLICKERS
With the rise of the apostasy predicted by St.Paul the Church got lost in a maze of traditions and errors which set back the cause of Christianity and led to the persecution of those who would not accept the innovations (2 Thessalonians 2: 3-12).
After centuries of darkness, the light again began to break through, due to the efforts of early reformers such as John Wessel, Martin Luther, William Tyndale and many others. The Reformation restored the lost doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone. This set the stage for the Enlightenment, beginning in the 17th century.
Though minds had been liberated from some of the worst effects of pagan and religious superstition, the corollary effect was to open the door for scepticism and infidelism. Lacking the knowledge to counter the arguments of the emerging Higher Critics, the Christian Church began to cede the field of battle. After Darwin, the philosophy of man would never be the same. The religio-scientific debate which his ideas set in motion still rages, its arguments enhanced by numerous discoveries in the fields of palaeontology, anatomy, biology, and genetics.
The Western world has for some time now been turning away from the Light and has entered what some commentators refer to as a post-Christian darkness, in which many of the benefits derived from the Christian faith are being demeaned or thrown away. The assaults on Christian belief are weighty and numerous, and it would be impossible to calculate the numbers who have fallen by the wayside in despair.
None of this is accidental, but of the Lord’s doing. We live in an interconnected world in which trends and movements are increasingly globalized. Our period is referred to in Scripture as the Epiphany, or ‘bright shining’, when knowledge in all its forms, high and low, is revealed, and social mechanisms – the springs and cogs of motive and action – are exposed for all to see. In the King James Version of 2 Thessalonians 2: 8, this Greek word is translated ‘brightness’, and is clearly associated with the returning Christ.
This Epiphany is a time of agitation of the minds and hearts of the world’s population, and will lead to widespread infidelism. The effect of all this will be to de-stabilise society and will lead to severe upheavals. Christians will not be exempted from the troubles and will likely face severe persecution.
When the time of trouble is over and the world is suitably prepared for the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom at hand, God will speak peace and, in the words of Isaiah 25: 7, will lift away ‘the vail that is spread over all nations’, and out of the dark swirling mist of ignorance the sun-drenched uplands will appear.
^[fn2] Even the confirmed atheist Richard Dawkins regards an acquaintance with the Bible as essential to a literary foundation:
‘The King James Bible of 1611 – the Authorized Version – includes passages of outstanding literary merit in its own right, for example the Song of Songs, and the sublime Ecclesiastes (which I am told is pretty good in the Hebrew too). But the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture.’ (Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 341; Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006)
^[fn4] ‘Further links between the borough [of Gateshead] and historical figures of note include Sir Joseph Swan who invented the first electric light bulb and Charles Parsons who built the world’s first turbine generator. An experiment involving Swan, Parsons and the firm of Clarke, Chapman and Parsons in 1886 saw skaters on Swan Pond in Gateshead Fell witnessing one of the first attempts at outdoor electric lighting.’
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