We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world. (John 9:4-5)
The Son of God spoke these words to His disciples, prophesying of a time that was still in the future. After the light of the world was no longer in the world, a time called "night" would come when no one would be able to do the work of God. What was He talking about? What was the light of the world?
According to the Master's own words, He was the light of the world. But He also said in Matthew 5:14 that His disciples were the light of the world. So, according to His prophecy, "night" would come when neither He nor His disciples were in the world. At that time, no one would be able to do the work of God. But when would this happen? Has there ever been a time when Yahshua was not on the earth and also had no disciples on the earth? Will there be in the future?
When Yahshua finished His mission on earth and ascended to His Father, the work of God was left in the hands of His disciples. They were His Body on earth, the dwelling place of His Spirit, carrying out the deeds prepared for them. 1 Their primary task was to serve each other and build each other up until they all became like their Teacher in every way. 2 They were a witness of the coming Kingdom. Their life together showed what it will be like when Messiah returns and the whole earth obeys His commands. 3
Once every nation has seen this demonstration, the end will come. At that time, according to Revelation 19:7-8, the Church, the Bride of Messiah, will be ready for Him. She will be clothed in righteous deeds, the works that He prepared for her.
So, if the Church did the works of God in the beginning, and will be doing them at the end, what did the Master mean by "night, when no man can work"? Could there have been a time in between that the light went out? Surely this prophecy must have a fulfillment. The Son of God Himself spoke it. Did the works of God ever stop being done? Could this be what Revelation 2:4-5 was talking about?
I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
What was going on at the end of the first century when this was written? If the churches had "abandoned love," and God is love, did this mean that they had abandoned God? If they weren't doing the works of love they did at first, does that mean they weren't doing the works of God? If God "removes your lampstand," does that mean you are no longer the light of the world, as far as He is concerned? Is it possible that the people this was written to disregarded it? 4 Did they not have ears to hear this warning that the Spirit spoke to the churches?
What if the light of all the churches actually went out at some point in history, between the bright beginning recorded in Acts and the glorious end prophesied in Revelation? Could such a thing be possible? In John 8:31, Yahshua said, "You are truly My disciples if you keep obeying My teachings." Did He mean that if the churches stopped obeying His teachings, then they wouldn't be His true disciples anymore? It was His true disciples who were the light of the world. If there were no more true disciples, would the light of the world cease? What does it take to be His disciple?
We know that He said, "None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." 5 We also know that the twelve apostles left everything to follow Him 6 and that they taught others to do the same. 7 The first church in Jerusalem lived this way in obedience to His commands:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For all who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
This sharing did not come from mere external obedience, out of a sense of obligation. Obviously, they had a deep concern about each other's pressing needs. It was greater than their consideration for their own future security. This was the result of God's love being poured out in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. 8 These deeds of care were the "works of God" that had been prepared for the "light of the world" to do in the sight of the watching world. 9
So if the light of the world ceased, as the Master predicted, how would we know? Would there be no more true disciples on the earth? How could we tell? Would it be that they didn't obey His commands? Would they no longer give up their own possessions? Would they stop sharing everything they had and start becoming rich? Would they start to have poor and needy people in the churches? How disobedient would they have to get before God no longer considered them the light of the world?
If the churches stopped being the light of the world, what would they be like? 10 If they no longer had God's love in them, would they start loving the things of the world? 11 Would they get involved in the world's politics? 12 Would they fight in the world's wars? 13 Would they persecute people who disagreed with them? Would they claim to have God's light in them, when really it was darkness? 14
If all the lampstands of the first century churches went out, as Revelation 2:4-5 warned, 15 it would explain a lot of things in history. It would explain Christianity becoming the state religion under Constantine. It would explain the atrocities of the Crusades, the horrible tortures of the Inquisition, the flagrant corruption of the Popes, the religious wars of the Reformation, and the splintering of Christianity 16 into over 36,000 current denominations. It would explain why the Christian Church, supposed to be the dwelling place of God in the Spirit, 17 has for nearly 2000 years been filled with what Galatians 5:19-21 calls the obvious deeds of the flesh.
Is it possible that humanity has been dwelling for centuries in the "night" that the Son of God prophesied? And if so, would the loving God who sent His Son to die for us be so gracious as to give the world another chance? Would He consent to light new lampstands, 18 after such a long time? Could the same life that the first disciples had be restored to the earth again? 19 And if the light of the world were once again on the earth, what would it look like? Would they do the works that the disciples did at first, like Revelation 3:4-5 talks about? Would they obey the Master's teachings to love each other, 20 like the first Church in Acts 4:32-35? Would they leave everything to follow Him?
And if the light were once again on the earth, how would people respond to it?
How would you respond?
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light... I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. (John 12:36,46-48)