"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who ..." (John 12:46)

"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." (John 12:46)

What does Jesus mean by 'light'?

The Greek word φῶς (phōs) does translate to "light," but this is not as though Jesus is physically illuminated. It is not like the light from a light bulb or the sun that Jesus is referring to.

Rather, Jesus is utilizing a metaphor. According to Thayer's lexicon, the word, when used in the metaphorical context can mean, "of truth and its knowledge, together with the spiritual purity associated with it."

It can also refer specifically to God. "God is light because light has the extremely delicate, subtle, pure, brilliant quality."

In this context, Jesus is utilizing both meanings for this metaphor. Jesus is illuminating his followers with Truth and knowledge: Truth and knowledge that relate directly to coming to know and love the Supreme Being.

What does Jesus mean by 'darkness'?

This metaphorical use also applies to the Greek word, σκοτία (skotia), which has been translated to "darkness."

According to the lexicon, the Greek word σκοτία (skotia) can also be used metaphorically. The lexicon suggests that is relates to: "ignorance of divine things, and its associated wickedness, and the resultant misery in hell."

'Ignorance of divine things' relates directly to the opposite of the illumination of Truth about the Supreme Being. Having such ignorance is specifically linked to loneliness, heartache and suffering in general.

Jesus' use of darkness also describes wickedness. Wickedness is self-centeredness. This physical world where ignorance of God is common, wickedness prevails.

This accommodates, as the lexicon suggests, the "resultant misery in hell."

Is hell somewhere else?

Hell is not necessarily a physical place. Hell is a matter of consciousness. Hell is that consciousness where ignorance of God and self-centeredness - wickedness - prevails. Hell is described in scripture as relating to pain, agony, death, and violence.

A cursory review of the international news clearly indicates this world contains all these elements. Every inhabitant of the physical world must deal with periodic pain, periodic agony, and periodic violence in one respect or another. And all of the physical world's inhabitants must deal with the death of the physical body.

Yes, every physical lifetime ends in tragedy. One may suffer at any point during our physical life. A soul may be born into a body with suffering, and experience such tragedy throughout that physical lifetime.

Or a soul may be born into a body that experiences only intermittent sufferings in the form of diseases, injuries and accidents.

Regardless, every body ends up dying. And at this time of death the body typically suffers a great pain, which is only relieved by the soul leaving that physical body.

Yes, every physical lifetime is a story of tragedy in one respect or another. Even the greatest, most famous and wealthy physical lifetimes will end in suffering, forcing the soul to leave the body and all those riches and fame behind.

Why are there so many hardships in this world?

The physical world is a place of consequence, and each of us must work through the consequences of our past activities of this lifetime and prior lifetimes. Why? To learn and understand what our actions produce.

A person who causes the suffering of others is destined to suffer in the same way. Jesus stated this clearly as he spoke to a man he had healed:
“See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14)

This is meant to teach us. Just as "consequence learning" has become the scientifically best way of raising children, it is also part of God's design for our rehabilitation. And why should we be rehabilitated? Aren't we all "okay"?

What causes ignorance?

Due to the illusory nature of this dimension, as we vie for the temporary tidings of this world we choose to ignore the suffering involved in it.

It is ignorance that prevents us from seeing the physical world as it is. What causes this?

We are so caught up in our self-centered search for happiness that we refuse to see all the suffering around us. And we tend to forget our own pain - thinking that we can somehow be happy in this world even though our bodies are quickly aging, and headed for death.

Yes, self-centeredness produces ignorance.

Why is ignorance connected to wickedness?

These two words - ignorance and wickedness - sum up our current consciousness in the physical world. Here we walk the planet in search of our own happiness. We want to make me happy. We want stuff for me. We want others to love me. We want money for me. We want success, acclaim, power and wealth, for me. It's all about ourselves. It's all about our self-centered search for our own happiness.

This is ignorance - the "darkness" Jesus speaks of. We are ignoring the reality of the relationship that exists between each of us and the Supreme Being. What is that relationship?

The relationship we are ignoring is that the Supreme Being created us to be His caregivers. Our natural position is to love Him and please Him. He created us to share a relationship with Him, but while He certainly enjoys loving us and taking care of us, the foundation of our side of this relationship is our loving service to Him.

Even when two people come together as a couple, the relationship is based on each person doing things that please the other person. From the very beginning, when the man presents a flower to the woman, the relationship is an exchange of loving service to each other. And the success of that relationship is also dependent upon the continuation of loving service to each other. But this is all related to choice. Each has the freedom to love or not.

Do we have a choice to love God?

Our relationship with the Supreme Being also has that freedom. We can essentially choose to love Him or choose to love ourselves. This is the choice that the physical world presents to us.

Now we dwell here in a physical body that allows us to ignore God. We cannot see God with the physical senses of these bodies because these bodies were designed not to see God. They were designed to allow us to forget God. The Supreme Being is giving us the 'space' to love Him or not. It's our choice.

If we make the choice not to love Him, we remain here, virtually away from Our Best Friend and Companion. This is virtual because we can never really get away from the Supreme Being. He is present everywhere through His expansive qualities. He is here as the Creator of this world, but also He is present through personal expansion. He thus dwells unseen next to each of us, simply watching, waiting and lovingly helping when we need it.

This has been spoken of in the Biblical scripture as the Holy Ghost, but God's expansive capability is not a ghost. His ability to expand Himself into the environments He creates is quite complex, yet simple for Him. Just think of how we can now broadcast television into millions of homes at the same time. The Supreme Being utilizes His own broadcasting method to extend Himself and be personally present for each of us.

This is the purpose of prayer. We can communicate to Him if we want. We can ask if we can come home and return to our constitutional loving relationship with God.

This is the "light" that Jesus was trying to illuminate our lives with, in order to remove our "darkness" of ignorance. This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)