One of the most spectacular exhibits in our natural history museums is found in a darkened room. Daylight or artificial light illumine mostly drab-colored pieces of rock. Some have interesting colors and patterns, but most would not attract our attention as anything but gravel. A companion display contains an array of crystals in a palette of hues, beautiful in their natural state, and a collection of faceted gemstones, sparkling in polished splendor. Then, the light fades to darkness. After a moment, the same display of specimens blazes with vibrant colors that cover the color spectrum of the rainbow. The rocks appear to have a glowing aura of color radiating from their core, each different specimen manifesting its own color response to stimulation from an unseen energy source.
Fluorescence is the word used for the glowing response of some minerals to ultraviolet light. Fluorite was the first mineral discovered to manifest the glowing response, and its name was the basis for the term applied to the phenomenon. The mechanism of fluorescence is as fascinating as the glow itself. Not all minerals fluoresce. Not all specimens of the same mineral fluoresce, either. What we see requires the combination of two things we do not see.
First, consider the electromagnetic spectrum. It consists of an array of energy waves that include several forms of radiation, including gamma radiation, x-ray radiation, ultraviolet radiation, visible light radiation, infrared radiation, terahertz radiation, microwave radiation and radio waves. Long wave radiation at the low frequency end of the spectrum has waves, measured from the crest, through the trough, and to the next crest, of up to one thousand meters, or about a fifth of a mile. Gamma radiation, at the highest energy end of the spectrum, has a wavelength of about one ten-billionth of a meter, or one angstrom. The visible light we term white light is actually a blended segment of the spectrum, broken by a prism into its component color bands. It is a very narrow band, from between 760 nanometers for red, up to 400 nanometers for violet. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. This energy level, reflected by objects, stimulates the retina of the human eye, and is interpreted by the brain as images, and we say that we see. It is only in this narrow fragment of the spectrum that the visual process functions. The other radiation frequencies are invisible to us without assistance.
Second, we must focus on the nature of the rocks themselves. Atoms of elements form a crystalline lattice, or combine to form molecular compounds that are arranged in a similar structure. The rock specimen may include several minerals within the same specimen, and within the structure may exist what are, geologically speaking, termed excitable inclusions. These, and the molecules of some minerals themselves, react to the impact of ultraviolet radiation. The invisible ultraviolet light transfers its energy to electrons in the atoms of the excitable portions of the specimen. Just as firing an on-board rocket will boost a space capsule to a higher orbit, the excited electron jumps to a higher shell, but only temporarily. It jumps back to its original orbit, and in so doing, it releases the energy absorbed from the invisible ultraviolet light as a visible light glow, in the color band typical of its mineral variety. While some minerals fluoresce in a specific color range, others, depending on the nature of the invisible inclusions, may fluoresce in a variety of colors from specimen to specimen, or even within the same specimen. A rock composed of a variety of minerals may manifest oceans of green, with islands of blue, red, yellow and violet that seem to pulsate as we gaze.
Some inclusions in the same variety of rocks have the opposite effect. If they exist within the specimen, they mute or block the fluorescing response. The same light impacts the specimens, but the response varies, revealing the nature of the inclusions.
Fluorescence also distinguishes between the authentic and the fake in gemstones. The gems may appear identical to the unaided eye, but the response to ultraviolet light reveals the reality beneath the appearance.
The unseen light from without interacting with the unseen excitable inclusions within reveal a glory at which we can only marvel. But, the unseen light with the power to reveal also has the power to destroy. The short wave UV that best reveals the hidden glory in the rocks is the most penetrating and most damaging to tissues, organs and DNA. It is the most antibiotic, and unfiltered, it would leave the landmass on Earth lifeless.
The astonishing beauty of the fluorescing rocks points us to an even higher glory. The first broad stroke of creation was light. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and the earth being without form and empty, and darkness on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God moving gently on the face of the waters, then God said, Let light be! And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good...” (Gen 1:1-4) He saw the light, all of it, in all of its aspects and influences. We do not. We see only in part, and a small part at that. But He who is Light gave light to reveal His creation, through which He in turn reveals His glory and His nature. “And this is the message which we have heard from Him, and we proclaim to you: God is light, and no darkness is in Him, none!” (1John 1:5)
This is a concept fascinating to contemplate. The message is as incomprehensible to us as the reality it contains. God uses a reality we can see to convey one we cannot. Habakkuk records, “And His brightness is as the light; rays from His hand are His, and there was a covering of His strength.” (Hab 3:4) Even that covering of His strength is light, as the psalmist describes it: “...covering Yourself with light like a cloak, and stretching out the heavens like a curtain...” (Psa 104:2)
The rays, or outshining of His glory, veiled for our protection in our fallen estate, are declared rather than perceived. “The heavens are recounting the glory of God, and the expanse proclaiming His handiwork.” (Psa 19:1) “The heavens declare His righteousness and all the people see His glory.” (Psa 97:6) “For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things made, both His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse.” (Rom 1:20)
My wife enjoys seeing the misty rays as the hidden sun shines through breaks in the clouds that conceal it. Sometimes a beam of sunlight illuminates a small circle of water on the ruffled surface of the bay in front of our house, a spotlight that sets the ripples aflame like dancing diamonds. What a picture of God's revealing work in the lives of believers. But, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, “...we not considering the things seen, but the things not being seen; for the things being seen are not lasting, but the things not being seen are everlasting.” (2Cor 4:18)
Using an ultraviolet lamp, geologists search for mineral deposits that fluoresce because they have within themselves the ability to respond to that energy source. With humanity, there is no quest for people who harbor within themselves some spark of glory, some interest, some desire that will respond to God's heart of love. There are none. God's evaluation of all humanity, through the pen of the Apostle Paul, is a blanket indictment, and is all-inclusive: “...according as it has been written, There is not a righteous one, not even one! There is not one understanding; there is not one seeking God. All turned away, they became worthless together, not one is doing goodness, not so much as one!” (Rom 3:10-12)
His glory, like His general blessings, fall on all humanity, but only a remnant will respond, and that response is only by His purpose and His grace. Dull we are, drab and hardened against the reality of God. As rocks only fluoresce if they contain excitable inclusions, so we only respond to His power, His love and His grace as He prepares that within us that will have the capacity to respond. All that He is remains foreign to us, absent His preparatory work. He is “...the only One having immortality, living in light that cannot be approached, whom no one of men saw, nor can see; to whom be honor and everlasting might.” (1Tim 6:16) “But a natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1Cor 2:14) As with ultraviolet radiation, we are incapable of perceiving or comprehending the pure light of His holiness and love. His nature is true light. Ours is not. Our mortal body is centered in and focused on this temporal realm in which we live, and our flesh, with its intrinsic desires, resonates to the values of this world. We revel in our drabness, and call it glory, the glory of man, and term the best of humanity luminaries of literature, of philosophy, of commerce and of philanthropy. Even at our self-proclaimed best, God calls us darkness, not light. The Light that He is reveals the darkness that we are, apart from His works of grace. In the worthless rebels we are, He determined to reveal His glory. To accomplish this, He must place within us the necessary excitable inclusions that will make the Light that He is visible.
Through Paul, He encapsulates the process: “But we ought to thank God always concerning you, brothers, beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, to which He called you through our gospel, to obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Thes 2:13-14) In the ones chosen to, or better termed, marked out for salvation, His miraculous work changes the condemned rebels we are into trophies of His grace, to be displayed in His presence eternally.
The first complex work of grace regenerates us, engendering within our mortal bodies a new creation in Christ Jesus. “So that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new!” (2Cor 5:17) There is no reforming, no cleaning up the mess we are, no reconstituting. That which He creates within us is an entirely new being that inhabits this earthly tabernacle, or as my mother termed it, this husk, that is destined to be shed before we stand in His glorious presence. This regeneration, or salvation, is entirely His doing. God, by His Spirit, His love, His grace and His word, draws us to Christ Jesus. “No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” (John 6:44) Even in that initial drawing, we find the assurance of the purpose of God in the last phrase. The drawing of the Father assures the ultimate presentation in glory.
The sovereign working of God in salvation is intricate, while our thought processes are sequential. We try to arrange the work of salvation into steps that will fit our fixation on time. The creation of the new believer, or quickening, involves the Holy Spirit sensitizing the dead heart of the natural man to the Word of God, opening the understanding of the foolish mind, applying the truth of the gospel to the heart, inclining the heart to believe the Truth, and applying the gift of faith to that heart. The one in whom this work is accomplished is made conscious of believing, and the new believer is placed by the Spirit in Christ. The entire process is wrought by God Himself. “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God...” (Eph 2:8) “Because it is God who said, 'Out of darkness Light shall shine,' who shone in our hearts to give the brightness of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Cor 4:6) “But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption...” (1Cor 1:30) It is the new being of the heart, and the indwelling Spirit, and the abiding Word of Truth, and “...Christ in you, the hope of glory...” (Col 1:27), that comprise the excitable inclusions in believers, the elements within that resonate to the power of God's holy working of His good pleasure.
The on-going work of grace works to eliminate the quenching internal inclusions of sin, and their occluding external encrustations that obscure the revealing of the glory of His gift of life. This “sanctification of the Spirit” is the continuing process of eliminating the inward attitudes and meditations, as well as the outward behaviors, the habits of our former way of life. Paul assures us of the inevitability of that work of God: “...being persuaded of this very thing, that the One having begun a good work in you will finish it until the day of Jesus Christ..” (Php 1:6) He couples this assurance with the responsibility of submissive response to our new reality: “...for you then were darkness, but are now light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” (Eph 5:8) It is the responsiveness to God's indwelling Holy Spirit, and His leading, that allows the light that God is to be made perceptible in the believer. “But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another; lest whatever you may will, these things you do.” (Gal 5:16-17) The deep love, lavish grace and coordinated effort of the Godhead will accomplish the eternal purpose of God in each one He has marked out for salvation, in whom He works His perfect will: “... for it is God who is working in you both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure.” (Php 2:13)
The Apostle Paul, using himself as an example, tells us what constitutes that good pleasure: “But when God was pleased... having called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me...” (Gal 1:15-16) The revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ in each believer is the fluorescing response of the responsive elements God has placed within us, the light of what He is performing within us manifesting the reality of Christ, and in turn revealing the glory of God, because “...in these last days He spoke to us in the Son, whom He appointed heir of all; through whom He indeed made the ages; who being the shining splendor of His glory, and the express image of His essence, and upholding all things by the Word of His power...” (Heb 1:2-3) All that He has wrought within the believer declares His glory, fluorescing in the darkness of this world in response to the invisible Light of God. As Paul writes, “But all things being exposed by the light are clearly revealed, for everything having been revealed is light.” (Eph 5:13) To the degree He is effacing the opaqueness of the flesh, this residue of Adam we inhabit, the light He has made us reveals His Son in a perceptible fashion.
Positionally, we are light in Christ. “You are all sons of light and sons of day; we are not of night, nor of darkness.” (1Thes 5:5) We look to God, “...giving thanks to the Father, who has made us fit for a share of the inheritance of the saints in light...” (Col 1:12) We anticipate the realization of what God sees as accomplished. That, though, is a heavenly reality awaiting us. It is heavenly. We are not, yet. As Paul points out, “And there are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies. But the glory of the heavenly is truly different, and that of the earthly different; one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” (1Cor 15:40-41) He uses the distinctions among the celestial bodies that proclaim the glory of the Lord to show the contrast between the veiled glory the light of God is revealing in our mortal lives to the glory he has prepared, that awaits us. We are in a progressive transition as He works in us. He has begun His sanctifying work that will bring into being all that He has declared, opened our understanding, and drawn us to yield to His Spirit as He uses His Word to conform us to the very character of His Son. “But we all with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord Spirit.” (2Cor 3:18)
God's purpose for this dispensation places believers in the darkness of this world, where His revealed glory shows more brightly, as Christ is revealed in us. Paul tells us that God's purpose for us is “...that you may be blameless and harmless, children of God, without fault in the midst of a crooked generation, even having been perverted, among whom you shine as luminaries in the world, holding up the Word of Life...” (Php 2:15-16) We are to serve as light-bearers God will use to reveal the Light of the world, and the light of the gospel of Christ.
The response to the light of the glory of Christ will be decidedly divergent. Some, the Spirit will draw, leading them to an opportunity to hear the gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give an answer to everyone asking you a reason concerning the hope in you, with meekness and fear...” (1Pet 3:15) Others will back away. In the words of our Lord, “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness more than the Light, for their works were evil. For everyone practicing wickedness hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, that his works may not be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) Still others, perhaps the majority, will respond with animosity: “And, indeed, all desiring to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12) The words of our Savior to His own underscore this reality: “I have spoken these things to you that you may have peace in Me. You have distress in the world; but be encouraged, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In Him, we are overcomers, as well: “But in all these things we more than conquer through Him loving us.” (Rom 8:37) This statement, true of every true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, looks beyond our earthly pilgrimage, to the inheritance reserved in Heaven.
The trials and troubles of this journey are trivial in two comparisons. They fade to insignificance when the sufferings of Christ are juxtaposed with the most severe earthly distress. In addition, as Paul assures us, “For I calculate that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to compare to the coming glory to be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18) “...according as it has been written, Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor has it risen up into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love Him.” (1Cor 2:9)
That greater glory is the purpose of of the Father for every believer He has chosen out of the world, cleansed, justified, sanctified and purified, and presented as a cherished love gift to His Son. It is the earnest purpose of the Son, Who prayed, “Father, I desire that those whom You have given Me, that where I am, they may be with Me also, that they may behold My glory which You gave Me, because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) When our mortal body, plagued by the quenching inclusions and matrix of sin, is shed for our immortal, incorruptible body, the glory of His abundant grace will be freely displayed. “Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy; to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty and might and authority, even now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)