Right after Jesus identifies His disciples as the salt of the earth, He identifies them as the light of the world:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 5:14-16
Just as our being identified as a preservative agent (salt) presupposes a morally-decaying world, our being identified as light presupposes a dark world. This is a primary theme of Scripture – that Jesus Christ is the light of the world, and as His children and He is in us, we are identified as the light of the world as we reflect and transmit the light of our Savior.
A major problem with dominionism (in its various postmillennial forms) is that is assumes the world is getting better. A main tenant of this system posits that Christians must “take dominion” over every facet of life and society. They also believe that Christ, through them, is restoring the earth as Christians reconstruct society in obedience to the cultural mandate found in Genesis 1. Thus, as the Gospel is preached and sinners are converted, some dominionists (Christian Reconstructionists or theonomists) believe that societies will en masse conform to “God’s Law” and rebuild (or reconstruct) their nations to biblical standards. Other dominionists, in the case of charismatics adhering to Kingdom Now theology, believe the world will be subdued by Christians coming to power with supernatural signs and wonders being manifested throughout the earth. Whatever the brand of dominionism, adherents believe they are establishing the kingdom of God on earth, and, as a result of this presupposition, they believe the world must therefore be getting better.
This ideology, however, is not consistent with Scripture. The emphasis in the New Testament that Christians are the light of the world does not allow for a world that is getting better. According to Scripture, the world will always be a foreign land, it will never be our home, it will always be putrefying, and it will always be in a state of darkness. To consider further, let’s take a look at a few verses (bold emphasis added):
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12
to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ – Acts 26:18
in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— – Ephesians 2:2
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, – Colossians 1:13
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. – 1 John 5:19
Recognize the theme in these passages? The darkness is a present reality because the world is and always will be in opposition to God; and, Satan – “the prince of the power of the air”- is “now” at work. The “domain of darkness” will always be from what God delivers His people. It is ever present until the day Christ returns. Satan remains in power over sinners until Jesus delivers them from the evil one, and finally when Jesus returns to crush him underfoot. Scripture, then, opposes the postmillennial ideology of the world becoming a better, brighter place.
Jesus calls His disciples light, because we emanate the light of the Savior in us. If the world was becoming less dark, the light of Christians would be less noticeable. In reality, the least dark the world will ever be is today, and thus, the least bright Christians will be is today. As the world grows darker, Christians shine brighter by God’s design.
It cannot be denied that our culture is in moral decline. Truly, the state of affairs is a nightmare for certain postmillennial ideologies. The best argument against a two-kingdom worldview is to build straw man after straw man yelling premillennialists are responsible for the raging immorality and lawlessness of our society. Charges of “defeatism” or “escapism” serve to keep the reconstructionist base in check and distracted away from Babylon’s harlot in the room.
Acknowledging reality and submitting to the Scriptures is not defeatism. Neither should it cause Christians to give up on society and hunker down waiting for the rapture. That would indeed be defeatism and escapism. I’d also call it a sinful derelict of duty.
No, recognizing the world is in a perpetual state of darkness should cause us all the more to be who we are – the light of the world. We are not to put our light under a basket (which a rapture escapism mentality and washing ones hands of society do, by the way), but we are to shine the light of Christ into the darkness, especially as the darkness grows darker.
The light that shines from us is our godly character. Our pursuit of holiness is a stench to the world. Our intolerance for sin is an abomination to those enslaved to their sin. Nevertheless, this is what the grace of God does,
training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. – Titus 2:11
Being the light of the world is to no longer walk as sinners do, who live
…in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3-5).
No, our Lord has called us to walk as children of light and take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:7-12). Because we are children of light and of the day, we are not to do as those who are of night and of the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4-8). When we, therefore, do not live as they do in their revelries; gossips; drunkenness; sexual immorality; lust for money, pleasure, and power; lying and cheating; foolish talk and crude joking; murder of pre-born children; and ways of inventing evil – they hate us because they hate the God in us.
Yet, among those who hate us for not partaking in darkness with them, some may very well glorify our Father in heaven because of the good works they see us do (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12). These good works may come in the form of compassion, seeking justice, generosity, honor, integrity, benevolence, kindness, forgiveness, patience, longsuffering, humility, or enduring trials and persecution with hope and joy. Accompanied by the light of the Gospel spoken by the believer, our godly conduct may be the means by which God draws sinners to Himself.
We are the light of the world, dear Christian. Though the world will remain in darkness, we are the vessels through which the God of Light shines. As such, we are His ambassadors, His emissaries, to go throughout the kingdoms of this world to announce the Good News of the Kingdom – God’s Kingdom, which is to come to everyone who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. That will be the subject of the next article.