Part 2 - The Sanctifying Work of Christ
Separated in the Rule of Christ
Day four of creation brings the final aspect of separation. Genesis 1:14 records: "Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth'; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day" (Gen. 1:14-19).
Separation is mentioned twice in this passage. God created lights "to divide the day from the night" and "to divide the light from the darkness." Both light/darkness and day/night were mentioned in day one. The separation in day one was a separation of nature. The essence of light made it distinct from the darkness. Here, a further separation is caused by different relationships to the sources of light which God made. God made the "greater light," a reference to the sun, to rule over the day. He created the "lesser light," a reference to the moon, and He created the stars, to rule over the night.
The word "rule" in the passage means the rule of government or of a dominion. The light and day are under one dominion, while the darkness and night are under another. The subjects of the realm of the sun are the light and the day. The subjects of the realm of the moon and stars are the darkness and the night.
As a type of the sanctifying work of Christ, this separation models the different dominions that are over those in the light and those in darkness. In day one was the separation of light and darkness. Those who are saved have the light of Christ and are said to be "of the day." These are under the rule and grace of Christ, who rules over His church as a husband in marriage. Those in darkness are under a different dominion, that of the law with its condemnation.
Israel: three sources of light
That the "greater light" and the "lesser light" are speaking of the sun and moon is shown in the Psalm: "To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever: The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever: The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever" (Ps. 136:7-9). The sun, moon, and stars, referenced in the fourth day of creation, are connected with Israel several places in the scriptures.
Joseph had a prophetic dream involving these. Genesis 37:9 records: "Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, 'Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.' " Jacob his father rebuked him saying, ". . . Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" (verse 10). Jacob, the elder and head, was represented by the sun, Joseph's mother by the moon, and Joseph's brothers, the future heads of the tribes of Israel, were represented by the stars.
The nation of Israel is pictured also in the book of Revelation, where these same elements are also present. Revelation 12:1 shows: "Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars." A few verses later this woman is shown to be Israel out of which came the Messiah: "She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron" (verse 5).
God said when creating the lights that they were to "give light on the earth." The tying in of the sun, moon, and stars with Israel is appropriate since it is through the nation of Israel that God gives spiritual light to the earth. The three sources of light that God has given through Israel are the Messiah, the law, and the prophets.
Christ: "the greater light"
The greatest of these lights is Christ. Likewise, the sun is referred to as "the greater light." When Joseph told his dream to his father, Jacob immediately recognized himself as being represented by the sun. Jacob was the head of the family, and in that patriarchal society represents the preeminent one among Israel. Down the generational line, the forefathers were always considered greater than the succeeding ones.
Thus Jesus brought out a puzzling point in teaching one day: "Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, 'How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.' " Therefore David himself calls Him "Lord"; how is He then his Son?' " (Mark 12:35-37). Even though the patriarchs preceded Christ, He is greater than them all and the ultimate head of Israel.
The sun is used several places in Scripture as a type of Christ. Revelation 1:16 says of Jesus: "He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." Further in Revelation, speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Bible states: "The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light."
There is a parallel passage in Isaiah 60:19-20: "The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended."
Matthew also quotes Isaiah in referring to Christ as a "great light." Matthew 4:16 says: "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." Matthew also records concerning the transfiguration: "and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light" (Matt. 17:2).
Psalm 89 also uses the sun to refer to the seed of David, Christ, and His throne: "Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky" (Psalm 89:35-37).
The rule over darkness
Those who are of the day are ruled directly by Christ, but those in darkness are under the dominion of another light, this being the light of the law and the prophets. God made the "lesser light to rule the night." This reference to the moon is very appropriate. The moon does not give light of itself but only reflects the light of the sun. The night never sees the light of the sun directly, but it does see it in a dimmer way through the reflection from the moon. Such is the light given by the law. The law is a reflection of the light of Christ.
Jesus said, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:18-20). Unrepentant man will not embrace the light that Christ brings and so the light of the law is given for the purpose of revealing sin.
Paul says, "But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust" (1 Tim. 1:9-11). God's light through the law reveals the sinfulness of fallen man and his need for deliverance from sin and death. The law is a hard and unrelenting taskmaster whose dominion is over the unregenerate. It is said to be a "ministry of death" and a "ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor. 3:7, 9). It reveals the spiritual death of fallen man and condemns all unrighteousness.
In Joseph's dream, Jacob related his wife to the moon in the dream. The nation of Israel is likened to being married to the law. They are tied together in a covenant under God. Likewise Jesus Christ and the law are inseparable. He came to fulfill the law and establish the righteousness of it.
The phrase "the law and the prophets" is used many times in Scripture to express the concept of God's revelation to man through the nation of Israel. "The law" is referring to the law of Moses, given by God. "The prophets" refers to those Jews whom God used to speak forth the meaning of the law and the consequences that Israel faced for not keeping it. They spoke of the devastation that sin would bring but also showed the need for a redeemer and so prophesied concerning the Messiah.
The prophets can be likened to the stars shining in the night. The prophets were men of God whom God specially gave his Holy Spirit to. The Spirit of God was speaking through them manifesting light to those in darkness. When God made His promises to Abraham, He likened Abraham's descendants to the stars when He said, " 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be' " (Gen. 15:5). Of such are the prophets.
In Joseph's dream, the stars were obviously his brothers, who were the fathers of the tribes of Israel. The prophets were descendants and are in the category of stars as used here. The greatest prophet of all was Jesus Himself. His ministry prior to His death was one of a prophet to Israel. Jesus says, "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star" (Rev. 22:16).
As a descendant of Abraham and David, Jesus calls Himself a star. His role as prophet preceded His role as savior. Being the greatest and last prophet, He is the "Bright and Morning" star. The night is ending and the day dawning with the coming of Jesus.
The apostle Peter refers to the word of the prophets as being a light that shines in the darkness of the night. He says in 2 Peter 1:19: "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." The morning star is Christ. With Him is the coming of the day. Until this however, the prophetic word is shining over the night.
Just as "the moon and the stars" rule the night, the law and the prophets were given so that sinful man would repent and turn to Christ. The law and the prophetic word have dominion over darkness. The sanctifying work of Christ separates and delivers those under this dominion to another dominion when one repents of sin and turns to Christ. Paul says, "But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal. 3:23-25).
Under the law or under Christ
Paul also speaks about these two dominions, one being the law, the other being the rule of Christ, in Romans: "Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:1-6).
In this passage is seen:
- A person is bound to either the law or Christ.
- A person cannot be bound to both.
- The law has dominion over those "married" to it.
- This dominion is broken only by death.
- The death that breaks the dominion is the death of Christ. His death and resurrection are the means by which one is separated from the first dominion and delivered to the other.
- Those delivered from the first dominion are married to Christ who now has dominion over them.
- Being married to Christ is the only place where good fruit can come forth.
- Being under the dominion of the law only brings forth "fruit to death" because the law arouses sin in the members.
- Those who are identified with the death of Christ are ruled and motivated by the newness of the Holy Spirit from within, that is the heart, and not externally by the law.
Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17-18). The law, being a "ministry of death" and a "ministry of condemnation," cannot make those under it righteous because of the power of sin. Only Christ has perfectly fulfilled the law and only through Him can right actions wrought in love come forth. This is what Jeremiah prophesied when God said, "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts" (Jer. 31:33).
When God made the lights in the firmament of the heavens, He said that they were "for signs." These signs point to Christ. In describing the new Jerusalem, John speaks of the true light:
"And the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and the Lamb is its light" (Rev. 21:23). This does not say that there will not be a sun or moon there, just that there was no need for the light from them. Jesus is the light. We are also told, "And there shall be no night there" (Rev. 22:5). Those apart from Christ have no part in His kingdom. There is no darkness and no night there. Jesus is reigning and is the source of light. "And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light" (Rev. 21:24). These are those whom Christ has separated and delivered from the realm of darkness to the realm of light.
The work of Christ
Being freed from the dominion of the law does not mean the absence of any rule. It is only though Christ that one is removed from the dominion of the law, so that, as Paul said, "you may be married to another; to Him who was raised from the dead." Paul likens this to a marriage. The risen and glorified Christ is the husband. Those in Christ are His bride, over whom He rules.
This rule is not just outwardly however, as the
law was, but also inwardly. It does not bring the crushing burden
that the rule of the law did. This is why Jesus said "Come to Me, all you
who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon
you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find
rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt.
11:28-30). There is still a "yoke" and a rule. But Jesus rules within,
changing one's heart and desires through grace. This separation from a rule
of condemnation to a rule of grace is a fourth aspect of the sanctifying work of Christ.