Sometimes we can read what look like perfectly ordinary statements in the Scriptures, and think we have grasped the truth, only to find that we have overlooked something important. This may be a human foible, but on the other hand it could be that we have not been ready for the work of the Holy Spirit.
This happened to me over such a well-known text that I was surprised! It was John 1:4 & 9, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men . . . . . He was the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world.”
Now, it is possible to read this sentence in two ways. We could re-arrange the words to read, “He was the true light coming into the world, thatenlightens every man.” In other words Jesus was the Light, and now He was coming into the world. There is nothing wrong with that statement. It is perfectly true. But is it a justifiable translation of the original Greek? The order of the Greek words suggests rather that the other meaning should be adhered to. In other words, “Every man coming into the world is enlightened by Jesus.” Every person, before being conceived, has been given enlightenment in the heavenly realm.
Can we obtain some reinforcement of this conclusion? In the Apocryphal book of 2nd Esdras 7:21-24 we find the following words. “God has given clear instruction to all men when they come into this world, telling them how to attain life and escape punishment. But the ungodly have refused to obey Him; they have set up their own empty ideas, and planned deceit and wickedness; they have even denied the existence of the Most High, and have not acknowledged His ways. They have rejected His law and refused His promises, and have neither put faith in His decrees nor done what He commands.”
I make no apology for introducing the Apocrypha at this point. The book in question was written, according to scholars, about the first century A.D., and therefore reflects current thought in that era. The writer put these words into the mouth of the instructing angel who was speaking to Ezra, and the sense is exactly the same as that in John’s writing.
If we can accept this understanding from the pen of the Apostle John, then we have learned one more important truth about our pre-existence. Whatever man’s moral condition was before birth, every soul received enlightenment from the Lord Jesus before leaving for earth. No one can therefore claim that God was unjust, and that we were never given a chance to know the truth. Even though we have passed through the “river of forgetfulness”, it is apparent that a certain awareness remains. Quite the majority of human beings are aware, for example, of much within the ten commandments, without ever having heard of them. They know that Murder, Falsehood, Theft, and Adultery are wrong. What has told them? Or should we say, WHO has told them?
It may come as a surprise to learn that even the Greek philosophers of the fourth century B.C. were debating this very point, and some of them came to remarkable conclusions, in line with what John said in his first chapter, and this was achieved without any contact with the Jewish nation, who held the oracles of God. Somewhat later in this series, we shall have to return to this.