Power of darkness


J.C. Philpot

“Darkness” is often used in the scriptures to signify IGNORANCE, and especially that ignorance of GOD and godliness into which all men have been cast, by the transgression of our first parent.

Used in that sense, it denotes that absolute, complete ignorance of everything spiritual, heavenly, and divine, that black and gloomy cloud of worse than midnight, deeper than Egyptian darkness, which broods so thickly and settles so densely over the minds of men. Thus the prophet speaks– “Darkness shall cover the earth and thick darkness the people.” [Isaiah 60:2.] And again– “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light– those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.” [Isaiah 9:2.] So also– “And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” [John 1:5.]

In all these passages– and there are many more such in scripture– the word “darkness” is used to signify that dense ignorance which broods over the minds of men, so that they cannot see or know, understand or feel anything of the power of God’s truth. Well has David described their state, “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness.” [Psalm 82:5.]

This is the state described by the prophet as quoted by John, “Therefore they could not believe, because Elijah said again, He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they could not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.” [John 12:39, 40.] In this state all men are by nature, and in this state thousands live and die, ignorant of the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, and therefore destitute of eternal life.

But “darkness” has in scripture another meaning– that of sin. Thus the Apostle speaks– “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” [Eph. 5:11.] We know that darkness favors sin; that when the sun goes down and night covers the earth, that is the time for the sinner to creep abroad to practice his deeds of wickedness. Just as the owl, when the sun declines and the shades of night fall, comes out of her ivy tower in quest of her prey, so does the ungodly sinner come forth in the evening gloom or the midnight hour to commit, under the veil of night, those deeds that shun the light of day.

There is in man a natural conscience. There is in people generally an approval of what is morally right and a disapproval of what is morally wrong; and there are laws founded upon these innate principles of right and wrong which punish, and that most wisely and justly, evil doers. To avoid, therefore, these heavy strokes of human justice, for they fear nothing else, the thief, the murderer, the midnight prowler issue forth to do their deeds of darkness.

But the Holy Spirit uses the word as indicative of a still further meaning. We read of “the rulers of the darkness of this world.” [Eph. 6:12.] And the Lord said to those who came to apprehend him– “This is your hour and the power of darkness.” [Luke 22:53.] Satan is emphatically “the prince of darkness.” For as “God is light” [1 John 1:5.] and “dwells in the light which no man can approach unto,” so the enemy of God and man is the ruler of darkness, and when cast out of his present usurped dominion as the prince of the power of the air, will be shut up in the blackness of darkness forever.

The darkness of ignorance and sin in which men walk favors his deep designs. The blindness of man allows him to set his snares unperceived, and the mad love of sin hurries the poor blinded wretch into them. Satan was once an angel of light, a pure and bright seraph shining in the courts of heaven as the morning star in the Eastern sky, resplendent in beauty and glory; but pride and disobedience hurled him down and turned him into a foul fiend, and now holds him in chains and darkness unto the judgment of the great day. [Isaiah. 14:12; Jude 6.]

But there is still another meaning of the word “darkness”– namely, eternal misery; as Jude speaks, “To whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” In darkness itself there is something naturally miserable. If you were walking across a common on a dark night, when no stars twinkled in the sky and no moon gave its friendly light, and you wished to get home, but stumbled every step you took and had utterly missed your way, were there no other causes of anxiety and fear, such as inclement weather, fatigue, or hunger, the very feeling of darkness would be sufficient misery of itself. As light contains in its bosom the seeds of joy and happiness, so darkness enfolds in its breast the very elements of wretchedness and misery. To be shut up in a railway tunnel for an hour is very disagreeable; to be there all night would be misery.

But to be shut up in the blackness of darkness forever and ever, O, what heart can conceive or tongue express the weight of that woe? The unfathomable misery of being cast into outer darkness, where no beams of mercy and grace ever shine, but the lightning flashes and devouring thunderbolts of God’s eternal and unappeasable wrath forever beat upon the sinner’s head; to be forever shut out of heaven with all its bliss, and crushed into hell with all its horror and all its despair– language fails to give utterance to so fearful a doom.

How does the Lord deliver us from the power of darkness? I will show you. He delivers us by a work of grace upon our heart. And He may be said in a sense to deliver the very moment that this grace commences its divine and blessed operations. There is, if I may use the expression, an initial deliverance– deliverance in its beginning; not carried on, not completed, but commenced.

As it was in the patriarch Joseph’s case there was initial deliverance before accomplished deliverance. So it is in grace. The first ray of light, life, and divine teaching that enters the soul out of the fullness of the Son of God, is an initial deliverance. It is delivered thereby from the power of darkness. The darkness of ignorance no longer holds it down. Light has broken in to destroy that power.

Take it in nature. The earth is immersed in darkness. How is that darkness to be done away? Suppose there were a council of wise men called to devise means whereby it might be dispersed. They might propose various plans to illuminate the darkness, such as gas lamps, the electric light, an imitation sun to be suspended in the sky by poles and ropes; but all their plans would end in disappointment. The power of darkness would beat them. They might illuminate a room, a street, or a town; but all their candles and wax lights and illuminations would never enlighten the face of the whole earth. But when, in the midst of all their plans and lamps, tubes and pipes, the sun began to cast his first dawning beams across the morning sky, and those beams were refracted by the atmosphere over our globe, then the power of darkness would begin to be destroyed; the strength of the night which had held the earth down in obscurity would be broken; and long before the sun himself rose the shadows of gloom would have fled, as if frightened and dismayed by the approach of their mighty and glorious and irresistible conqueror.

So in the things of God– the weighty matters of salvation. The first dawn of grace upon your soul– the first breaking in of divine light, destroys the power of ignorance. It shows you the majesty, justice, holiness, and power of God; it convinces you of your lost, ruined condition; it discovers the dreadful evil of sin; it lays you low at the footstool of mercy; it makes you beg for some manifestation of pardon and salvation to your soul. And not only so, but it breaks the pride as well as the power of ignorance; makes you teachable and childlike; and, showing you your blindness and folly, leads you to ask wisdom of God, and seek constant guidance and direction from him. You now see what a prejudiced, blind bigot you were, and with all your knowledge and profession had not one glimmer of saving light in your heart. You turn from error and bend towards truth, like a plant to the light. Is not all this a delivery from the power of darkness?

So with the power of sin. When a man begins to feel the burden of sin, to cry out under its guilt, to be deeply exercised as to the state of misery and condemnation into which his transgressions have brought him, and to fear lest his dreadful iniquities should be a millstone round his neck to sink him into the depths of hell, he begins to be delivered from the power of sin. He breaks off his old habits and from his old companions; the outer branches, at any rate, of sin are lopped off; and he is delivered from the power of those practices in which he lived heedlessly, thoughtlessly, without guilt for the present or fear for the future. If not yet delivered from the guilt and condemnation of sin in his conscience, he is delivered from its outward practice and performance. And as the Lord carries on the work begun he is delivered in due time, by the application of atoning blood, from its guilt, and is saved by the love of God shed abroad in his heart from its reigning dominion and power.

He is delivered also from the power of Satan. The strong man armed once kept his palace, but the Stronger than he has come upon him and overcome him.

The Lion of Judah delivers from the power of the dog! [Psalm. 22:20.]

The eagle soaring in the sky will not allow the vulture to come near. Jesus Christ drives back the Prince of darkness, and says– “This once slave of yours, is now Mine– My property and My possession; I have redeemed him by My blood; he shall be an eternal trophy of My victory over sin, death, and hell. Satan, avaunt! Touch him not. He is a chosen vessel; YOU no longer have power over him!”

But there is a being “translated into this kingdom.”

The word “translated” means a transferring, a removal, a bringing a man out of one state and putting him into another. Nor can this mighty act of God’s grace, this work of sovereign love and power, take place without some experience of it in a man’s own heart. It is impossible for a man to be translated by a divine work upon his conscience from a state of darkness to a state of light– from a state of condemnation to a state of justification– from a state of guilt to a state of pardon– from a state of misery to a state of happiness– from a state of the dominion of sin to a state of the dominion of righteousness, WITHOUT HIS BEING SENSIBLE OF IT, without his having had an EXPERIENCE in his soul when and where and how it was done.

To be translated, then, into the kingdom of God’s dear Son is to be brought out of that darkness, death, guilt, misery, and condemnation arising out of a sense of the curse of the Law, and transferred by a mighty act of His victorious and invincible grace, into the kingdom of His dear Son, that He, and He alone, may reign and rule in the heart.



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