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What does the Bible reveal about…
especially spiritual darkness

• Spiritual • Physical • Symbolic • Words for darkness in original languages


Spiritual darkness is a symptom of spiritual death. The un-regenerate are spiritually dead and live in spiritual darkness. All humans are born spiritually dead due to the original sin of Adam. The regenerate are made alive spiritually; they live in spiritual light. Only people who are spiritually alive can truly understand God’s Word in its truth and richness. For the unregenerate, this is impossible. Their mind and heart are darkened, and they are following a path of darkness, although they may not perceive it. They are enemies of God; He is not within them. A heart of darkness boils within them.

…being darkened in their mind, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart. And they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. —Ephesians 4:18-19 LSB

“For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.” —Romans 1:21 LSB

The un-regenerate are children of darkness—following in the ways of Satan, while regenerate followers of Jesus Christ are children of light.

The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” —Proverbs 4:19 ESV

“For you [true Christians] are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” —1 Thessalonians 5:5 ESV

“He has delivered us [true followers of Christ] from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” —Colossians 1:13 ESV

“…If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” —Matthew 6:23 ESV

Christ told the corrupt, dead church in Sardis,

“I know your deeds… you are deadrepent… You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. …” —Revelation 3:1-4 NKJV excerpts

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” —1 John 1:6

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness,
but instead expose them.”
—Ephesians 5:11 ESV

“…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 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.” —1 John 2:8-11 ESV

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” —2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV

“…let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” —Romans 13:12 ESV

Universe currently dominated by spiritual darkness

We live on a spiritually dark planet, due to actions of Satan, his demons (the fallen angels), and the fall of man to spiritual death and sinful depravity, all Creation is dominated by spiritual darkness.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” —Ephesians 6:12 ESV

“To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” —Acts 26:18 ESV

True followers of God can see despite the spiritual darkness of this world.

“Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” —Psalm 139:12 ESV

The Kingdom of Darkness / The Kingdom of Lies

Learn about LIES and the Kingdom of Lies

Streaming video— 
“The Kingdom of Light Amidst the Kingdom of Darkness”
Dr. John F. MacArthur Jr., pastor of Grace Community Church (Sun Valley, California), chancellor and founder of The Master’s Seminary and The Master’s University
Length: 62 minutes

Works of darkness

These are impure actions—sins, the opposite of righteousness.

“…let us cast off the works of darkness…” —Romans 13:12 NKJV excerpt

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness…” —Ephesians 5:11 ESV excerpt

God is light

Although God is sometimes described as being concealed on darkness, there is no darkness in Him. He is light.

“…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” —1 John 1:5 ESV

God brought light to spiritual darkness through Christ

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” —2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

Jesus Christ, the Son of God is light

“…Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” —John 12:35 ESV

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” —John 1:5 ESV

Christians are to shine light

Warning from the Apostle John

“The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.

The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness blinded his eyes.” —1 John 2:9-11 LSB

…be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,Philippians 2:15 LSB

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:14-16 LSB

Sinners willfully stay in darkness

And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light lest his deeds be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been done by God.” —John 3:19-21 LSB

God sometimes judges with spiritual darkness

“To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. …they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” —Isaiah 8:20-22 ESV

“I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.’” —Isaiah 45:7 NKJV

See: What are the Judgments of God?


All was dark in the beginning

Earth and universe initally lacked light

“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” —Genesis 1:2-3 NKJV

There is no theological problem with God beginning Creation in darkness, as scientist and theologian Dr. Henry M. Morris explained…

The idea that God, being Light, could not create a world in darkness is invalid, God Himself said: ‘I form the light, and create darkness…’(Isaiah 45:7). The physical universe, though created, was as yet neither formed nor energized , and light is a form of energy. The absence of physical light means darkness, just as the absence of form and inhabitants means a universe in elemental form, not yet completed. No evil is implied in either case, merely incompleteness.

Further information concerning this initial stage of the creation is given in the phrase “the face of the deep.” The word “face” is the Hebrew panim and is used primarily to refer to ‘presence’ (e.g., ‘in the face of danger’); in fact, it is often translated ‘presence.’ This is probably its meaning in Genesis 1:2—not “surface” but “presence.” That is, wherever the “deep” was, there also was darkness. The ‘deep’ (Hebrew tehom ) refers later to the waters of the ocean. Initially, however, the earth had no form; and similarly, this state must apply to the waters also.

The picture presented is one of all the basic material elements sustained in a pervasive watery matrix throughout the darkness of space. The same picture is suggested in II Peter 3:5: ‘…The earth standing out of the water and in the water.’

…the face of the deep originally had no…sphericity—it was formless, exactly as intimated in Genesis 1:2. Elements of matter and molecules of water were present, but not yet energized. The force of gravity was not yet functioning to draw such particles together into a coherent mass with a definite form. Neither were the electromagnetic forces yet in operation and everything was in darkness. The physical universe had come into existence, but everything was still and dark—no form, no motion, no light.” —Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings


“God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” —Genesis 1:5 ESV

Were the Moon and stars visible on Earth’s first night?

No, not only were they not visible, they did not yet exist. God did not create the stars, Moon, or the Sun until Day 4 of the Creation Week.

See: Genesis 1:13-19

See: What is the order of events in the biblical Creation? Answer

Stars. Photographer: Kevron2002. Licensed. File ID: 30835309

“O Yahweh, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who displays Your splendor above the heavens!
…When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have established;
What is man that You remember him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands… —Psalm 8 LSB excerpts

In eternal life, there will be no night and no need for a sun or moon, for God’s glory will illuminate it (Rev. 21:23; 21:25).

Physical darkness after Christ’s death

When Jesus hung upon the cross, from the 6th hour there was darkness over all the land unto the 9th hour (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). This was a physical miracle, a sign from God.

Darkness during The Great Tribulation

Physical darkness is a symbol and a literal fact of the judgments that will appear upon the 2nd Coming of the Lord in judgment during The Great Tribulation (Isaiah 13:9-10).

“…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” —Matthew 24:29 NKJV

Sinners hiding in physical darkness

“Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, ‘Who sees us? Who knows us?’” —Isaiah 29:15 ESV

However, God sees all…

“He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.” —Daniel 2:22 ESV

Darkness of Hell

Hell is certainly spiritually dark and far away from the Light of God forever (spiritual and physical). But Hell may also be physically dark, unless the inspired authors of the Bible are using a figure of speech. The writer of the Epistle of Jude says that false teachers are among those…

“…for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” —Jude 13 NASB

NKJV: “the blackness of darkness forever”

KJV: “everlasting chains under darkness”

ESV: “the gloom of utter darkness”

“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day…” —Jude 6 NKJV

“…God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment…” —2 Peter 2:4 NASB

KJV and NKJV: “…chains of darkness…”

ESV: “…chains of gloomy darkness…”

See: The Bottomless Pit and Hell

Plague of darkness

The 9th plague on Egypt—the plague of darkness—Egypt (Exodus 10:21) is described as darkness “which may be felt.” It covered “all the land of Egypt,” so that “they saw not one another.” It did not extend to the land of Goshen (Exodus 10:23).

“Day of darkness”—locusts in vast, dense swarms

The “day of darkness and gloom” in Joel 2:2, caused by clouds of locusts, is a symbol of the obscurity which overhangs all divine proceedings.

The Arabs knew locusts as “the darkeners of the sun.”

Mt. Sinai—“thick darkness” or “thick cloud”?

On Mount Sinai, Moses (Exodus 20:21 KJV; Exodus 20:21 NKJV; Exo. 20:21 ESV; Exo. 20:21 NIV) “drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” This was the thick cloud upon the mount in which Jehovah was when he spoke to Moses there.

Note that some other Bible translations do not have the word “darkness” or “dark” (e.g., Exo. 20:21 NASB).

Thick cloud upon the Ark of the Covenant

The Lord dwelt in the cloud upon the mercy-seat (1 Kings 8:12), the cloud of glory.


  1. Symbolic of ignorance

    Darkness is also a symbol of ignorance (Isaiah 9:2; 60:2; Matthew 6:23) and of spiritual death (Job 10:21; 17:13).

    “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” —Ephesians 4:18 ESV

    “…Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.” —John 12:35 ESV

    “They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness…” —Psalm 82:5 ESV

  2. Symbol of misery and adversity

    Darkness is a symbol of misery and adversity (Psalm 107:10; Job 18:6; Isaiah 8:22; Ezek. 30:18).

  3. Outer darkness

    “Outer darkness” refers to the darkness of the streets, which are never lit up by any public or private lamps after nightfall, in contrast with the blaze of cheerful light in the house.

    This is symbolic of spiritual darkness and of Hell (eternal separation from the Light of God)…

    “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom [the Jews] will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” —Matthew 8:11-12 NKJV

    “…‘take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” —Matthew 22:13 NKJV and similar Matt. 25:30

  4. Inscrutableness of God

    When the psalmist describes the inscrutable nature of God’s workings among the sons of men, he says,

    Clouds and thick darkness surround Him” —Psalm 97:2 NASB; Psa. 97:2 NKJV

  5. Through a glass, darkly

    God’s ways are far above our ways or understanding. In our present condition, in fallen bodies with fallen minds and our sin nature, there is much that we cannot know or understand. As the Apostle Paul said,

    For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” —1 Corinthians 13:12

    See: Sanctification

ORIGINAL LANGUAGES—words for darkness

“Darkness” or “dark” is the translation of various original manuscript words in Scripture.

  1. Hebrew: חשֶׁךְ —transliteration: hhoshekh or choshek —meaning: darkness, dark, obscurity —Example: Genesis 1:2

  2. Hebrew: עֲרָפֶל —transliteration: araphel —English translations: cloud, thick cloud, heavy cloud, thick dark cloud, thick darkness, deep darkness, gloom, thick gloom, gloomy —Examples: 2 Samuel 22:10; 1 Kings 8:12; Job 38:9

  3. Greek: σκότος —transliteration: skotos —meaning: darkness

  4. Greek: σκοτία —transliteration: skotia —meaning: darkness

More information

Article Version: November 4, 2022