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At my church (Calvary Chapel) we have guest speakers from time to time. Many of them mention the same phrase "living in darkness", refering to the time before they were saved.

Are there Biblical (or more specifically New Testament) references to this concept and a description of what it entails or is it just a relative and subjective phrase coined by man?

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Variants of the phrase appear several times in 1 John

1 John 1:5-6 (ESV)
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

1 John 2:9-11 (ESV)
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Darkness is contrasted with the picture of God as light, and describes living in sin without knowing or seeing God.

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Nice answer. (+1) See also: Proverbs 4:18-20. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 4 '12 at 4:35
    
This is good, can anyone expand on this?? –  Greg McNulty Jul 4 '12 at 6:34
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Language is loose and everyone develops a certain lingo to describe theological concepts. The speakers you heard may have had a particular idea in mind when they said that phrase. E.g. They might have been thinking of particular sins in their lives. Even when you read "darkness" in the Bible, each occurrence of the word may be used differently and have a nuanced meaning. So it is good practice to look at the way the word is used in its own context within the Bible to determine what it actually means.

Having said that, it's safe to say that "living in darkness" general means "living in sin". And while "sin" can be described in terms of actions, like murder or fornication, it ultimately means rebellion against or rejection of God. Christians are those people who no longer walk in darkness because they live with God as their king. Non-Christian people, even if they "live a good life", continue to reject God and therefore remain in darkness.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:17-21)

And here's the paradox of the Christian life (which was expressed in those 1 John verses): Christians no longer walk in sin ... but we kinda do. What I mean is, Christians are those who acknowledge that God is king and therefore turn away from their life of rejecting God. But in practice, we see that Christians do still sin everyday. That's why we need Jesus as our saviour, because we never will be able to do it ourselves. Through Jesus we become perfectly righteous in our standing with God, as though we have a place in God's kingdom as his children already.

In light of this (no pun intended), when the New Testament commands Christians to keep turning away from their sins, it tells them to live out the reality of their heavenly status. It does not say to keep trying because you've slipped back over the fence to the darkness. Rather, it says don't go back because you don't belong there anymore.

7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:7-11)

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the concept of a Christian living in sin and someone flat out rejecting God is the concept I was missing, thanks –  Greg McNulty Jul 5 '12 at 1:43
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Despite your question asking about darkness, I will probably speak more about light. Because darkness and light interact (or I suppose do not interact).

Darkness, as the other answers have already stated is the lack of "light." And this is light, as described by Psalm 119:105.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

So in a sense, darkness is like being lost. That type of lost that describes not being physically lost, but lacking a direction and a purpose in life. Or maybe there is a direction, but it's the wrong direction. And God's word, is a light that guides us back to the correct path and directs us out of the darkness and towards God. This is still quite surface level. Let's go a little deeper.

As mentioned by the other answers, the word "darkness" is often used in the bible to describe a life of sin, a life that rejects God. If you think of the word darkness, and think about real life physical darkness, it is often very hard to see in the darkness. And in the darkness, you can hide a lot of things that you do not want people to see. (In the case that we're talking about, these 'things' are our sins.) stevenl mentioned Ephesians 5:7-11. Particularly, I want to look at Ephesians 5:11.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

God's light purges the darkness and reveals sin. However, I'd like to add that this is not done in a condemning way, but rather in a way that will lead people to God and that will glorify Him rather than in a way that turns people away from God, as stated also in a verse that stevenl mentioned, John 3:17.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We do not share God's light with the world to condemn, but rather to save.

So in conclusion, (there's kind of a bunch of off-topic stuff as well, but it's necessary) living in darkness is essentially to us, being lost. The people who are lost do not think that they are lost. They believe that the direction that they are chasing will lead to happiness and joy. The direction that they chase often leads into sin and disappointment, sometimes causing them to become more lost. We however, know that the true direction is to chase after God. That path should lead us away from sin (though we sometimes stray). When we interact with those who are "in darkness" we should be revealing the sin in their lives to them, not in a condemning way (this is hard), but in a way that leads them to the same path that we're on, into repentance.

I hope this answer helped! If you need more clarification about something, please do not hesitate to comment!

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The part about chasing after something we think will lead to happiness is something I see in myself and others all the time. The only thing is that if we chase after God too much, I think that can turn into a different type of darkness as well, I mean just look at the middle east.... –  Greg McNulty Jul 5 '12 at 1:46
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Hello there Tom MacLachlan here. I think that most of the replies are missing the point.

Think again of the first time God uses the words darkness in Genesis chapter 1. Think also of the eternal God in his own realm He calls eternity; and then think again on how in an instant He creates our whole world and universe in an instant out of "Nothing" which He calls is a new founded place which is "Void and without Form and Darkness and Upon The Deep" and think again of how lifeless this means. That there is no micro-biology in there to instigate the big bang theory; and that there was no light - life breath of God in it to bring it to life. Think also of the fact that this whole place is no larger than a pin head in God's eternal eternity, and that He instantly creates our whole world in it's entire structure and functionability in an instant - now with His breath of Life in it to sustain it and us and all of the animals and insects and creepy crawlies and dust and oxygen and carbon and nitrogen and the heavens and the cosmos and all things.

Then think of how perfect God had made it; where no rust and no corrosion and no defect in it at all. Then think of this perfect universe that God sustains by His very will and breath and word, will soon to be cast into darkness and bound in darkness, bound by the power of Sin from the moment Adam eats of that forbidden fruit. Then think of how perfect the animals have it amongst themselves and with Adam and Eve and the weather conditions as mentioned in Genesis chapters 1-3; and how soon that peace and harmony will soon be shattered for all time in Adams Sin. And then think of how perfect we are in Adam before the fall to do with out health, and our spirit/soul's condition to do the will of God freely, and without restraint, nor tainted in any way; and then think of how perfect we are in him to do with our moral fibre and conscience and body functions and stature before God, before the fall of us all in Adams Sin. And then think of why God uses the terms in Genesis chapter 3 to do with the two Seeds - the one to do with Jesus Seed and the other to do with Satan's Seed. And then think of why this out come is necessary as to the two Seeds, and only the two Seeds, before and after the fall. And then think of how from the moment Adam did eat of that forbidden fruit that Sin entered into the Seed of Jesus Christ only in Adam; and then think of how the perfect condition of the whole universe was shattered by that Sin of Adam's which started the whole universe to begin to decay and die in due time according to God's almighty wisdom and counsel and providence as well;and then think of how this same Sin that Adams Sin has wrought upon the animal kingdom as well, so that they are now at odds with each other and the so called food chain of God's perfect world has now been set into dis-array and collapse as well. And then think of how God also uses the word darkness as the judgement upon the world and in the world and upon mankind and upon His seed in Adam and upon Satan's Seed in Satan as well, and why He has to introduce us to His Ten Commandments and how to set up our societies and nations structures and laws each time and every where by the simple structure of a man and a woman in holy matrimony; firstly by Adam and Eve, and then by Noah and his wife, and then by their sons and their sons wives and so on, since then. And then think of how God continues to use the word Darkness and Sin to do with Satan's Seed only who will never enter into His heavenly kingdom in Jesus Christ; and are in fact pre-ordained to end up in His judgement place called Hell and Damnation since before the beginning of God's creation time. Then think again of how God uses the term Darkness and Sin with the word Bondage and being Bound in Sin and in Darkness to described how His people only are bound by Sin and darkness in a temporary state - till they are called out of darkness by Jesus Christ to do with The Lamb's Book of Life, and the biblical doctrinal standards as they are mentioned in the Westminster Confession of faith and in the Larger and Shorter Heidelberg Catechisms. And as to why Satan and his Seed are always bound in Darkness and in Sin for all eternity because they are darkness and sin incarnate in themselves in Satan and the fallen angels. Then think of why God uses such pictorial words like "The Potter and the Clay" and "Vessels for Honour and Vessels for Dishonour to drive His points home to us since those times. And why God always keeps a remnant of His Seed in Jesus Christ even though He starts again in Noah and so on; and as to why He decides to scatter the whole of the human race (Jesus' Seed and Satan's Seed), in Genesis chapter 11. And think also of why God uses the word Darkness and Sin to be in the world and in us too (those who are truly of God's elect in Jesus Christ) as to how a strong man's home can never be invaded and corrupted and taken into captivity if he keep it according to God's Word and Ways; and how easily it can be over taken (meaning his soul), can be over taken by this same Sin in him again and again if he does not remain under God's power and authority and influence spiritually and consciously - hence the word Darkness and Sin are being used inter changeably here. And think again of why a nation can be led into captivity against God from the moment they turn from God and become like Sodom and Gomorragh all over again and again, so that, that nation is living by darkness as much as they re living in darkness by the power of Sin in them. And then think of why we have so many so called mental health diseases diagnosed to us these days when in fact we have a mortal physical spiritual condition in us and around us called Sin within and darkness all around us to deal with from the womb to the tomb. Again these are lies which take us away from knowing God and being obedient to Him in Jesus Christ by the very same Seed of Satan amongst us to this very day; and then think of how God uses the word Darkness and Sin to describe some one who has been captured by a demon with in them that has similar symptoms to do with insanity appears to be to their parent and why some people suffer from blood disorders and so on. And why the only cure all for all of these things is in the name of Jesus Christ all of the time.And then think again of why God has put in place such people as Kings and Queens and their national laws and constitutional laws against all forms of murder and espionage and insurrection and the worshiping of false gods. Again these are done so as to teach the ungodly in satan's seed how to worship God in between times and why God's people who are still held in darkness at this time and who still have the corruptness of Sin in them affecting their ability to worship God as they ought to do still need to be abiding in these self same man made laws that do not contradict nor usurp any and all of God's Laws to do with The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And that when they are called out of darkness and filled with the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and Baptised in His name, how they are to live by all of God's laws from then onwards, because they now can due to the influence of in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in them from then onwards. And how Jesus Christ is still the Sovereign Lord and God above all gods and lords and kings and queens and governments and false religions as seen in Matthew 28: last three verses - 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, *All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.*19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Which includes the Lord's prayer too.

So the word Darkness is inter linked with the word sin to do with the physical condition the whole universe is in, and as to the physical condition mankind is in to do with our mortal bodies being so easily falling victim to various colds and flues and diseases both natural and man made ones as well. And as to why Satan's Seed always wants to go for world domination and control over every ones mind and consciences; that is why Jesus uses the metaphor to do with "If a house be divided against itself it can not stand, but will fall." So too that is why none of Satan's Seed can stand by each other unilaterally for very long, except for their one determination - World domination and control just as Nimrod did in his day to do with the Tower of Babel. Nimrod was Noah's great, great grandson, but not of the true Seed of Jesus Christ - just as Cain rose up against his fellow man (brother in this respect) Able and killed him from a Sinful resolution in him we know as spite.So too does the Seed of Satan rise up constantly against God and His seed in each and every generation.And why God is always forewarning us all and especially our women folk not to rise up above their rightful place at the side of their husband and want to have dominion in the home and in their society and in their nation all of the time (as seen in Isaiah chapter 3, and in Numbers chapter 30, and in the first five books of Moses and in the book of Proverbs and in the New Testament as well - which takes us back to Genesis chapter 3 where God tells the woman this about her place in the world from that moment onwards - 3: 16 - Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt ring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And yet how often do we see darkness and sin having the dominion in their homes because they often break this simple rule of Gods. And we also see the same thing in husbands like this when Adam said to God - don't blame me for what I've just done...it's your fault God, you gave her to me to be my wife. I'm not to blame at all. Then think again of how and why our children raise up against us since the fall of mankind in Adam, simply by the indwelling of sin in us all, in Adam's Sin. Which takes us back to the whole significance of the two words darkness and sin, throughout God's Holy Bible. And the need for His divine saviour in himself in Jesus Christ (His only begotten Sonship in His Son), by the power of the Holy Spirit just as John the Baptist said of Him by the river Jordan where he said "I indeed do baptise you with water, but there comes such a one from God whose shoe latches I am unworthy to loosen; and it is he who will baptise you with power by the power of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

So think again most deeply and prayerfully as to how you choose to understand this word Darkness because if you allow the same Sin that is in us all to misdirect you to some other interpretations then you are going to get it wrong all of the time and then you will teach others the wrong things too. And you will teach your children the wrong things too.

Sincerely, Tom MacLachlan, Mount Gambier, South Australia.

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