Jesus is the “brightness” of God’s glory! That’s what Hebrews 1:3 says as the writer begins his dissertation on the complete superiority of Jesus to the Prophets, Moses, the Law and even Angels. I was curious to learn what it means to be “the brightness of God’s glory.” After looking at a lot of my English Bibles (I have 50 or more!!) many of them use the phrase “radiance” instead of “brightness.” The New Jerusalem Bible says “He is the reflection of God’s glory.” Oh no!! Kistemaker has it right. He says, “The translation ‘radiance’ here is proper, as against some others which use ‘reflection.’ There is a vast difference between the two, as different as the functions of our solar system’s sun and moon. The moon reflects light, whereas the sun radiates light because it is its source. Jesus does not simply reflect God’s glory; he is part of it! This was shown on the Mount of Transfiguration when ‘His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them’ (Mark 9:3). It was his own essential glory, but it was also the Father’s. This is what blinded Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3; 22:6). This is why the Nicene Creed sings of Christ, ‘God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.’”1

It reminded me of John 1:4-5 that says, speaking of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Since John began with the same phrase as Genesis “In the Beginning” we can’t miss the allusion to the creation account at the beginning of the Bible where “darkness was over the face of the deep.” But God said, “Let there be light! And there was light.” Then in John 8:12 Jesus told the religious leaders who opposed him, “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” Then in John 9:5, he said, “as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” What happened to the light when Jesus ascended into heaven? In Matthew Jesus called his followers by the same title. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” We often teach our children to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine…” Some of the “Christ-consciousness” New Age cults use this passage to argue that we are our own Christs who can save the world in some way. We need simply accept our role as divine ourselves. Watch out for that!! Geisler explains it well, “Jesus is the primary light, and we are the secondary light. As the light of the sun is to the moon, so Jesus is the source of the light, and we are the reflectors of the light. Now that He is no longer here, we are His reflected light in the world.”2

I like the way Bolls describes Jesus as being “the radiance” of God’s glory. He says, “He (Jesus) is the corona of the everlasting flame, the effulgence of essential light, the burnish of celestial brilliance, the aurora borealis of spiritual magnificence, the radiance of supernal resplendence and the nimbus of heaven’s loveliest luster. If the iridescent halo of the ineffable Shekinah that abode on the mercy seat of the tabernacle of old was so awe-inspiring, what are we to say of His eternal excellence, flashing rays of exquisite light from His transcendent countenance to the uttermost bound of heaven’s ceaseless domain?” 3 Thus, Jesus is the only light we’ll ever need. I expect that’s why John explains the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:23 that says, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

1Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984), p. 29.

2 Norman L. Geisler and Thomas A. Howe, When Critics Ask : A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992), 329.

3 Charles J. Rolls, The Indescribable Christ: Names and Titles of Jesus Christ: A-G (Loizeaux Brothers, 1984).