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  • Writer's pictureShelli Owen

The Bible Illuminated (very revised)

Updated: Mar 11


Bible on the edge of a picnic table outside with a page turning in the wind.

Jesus said to His disciples:

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—

he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)

 

Not long after I met Jesus, there was something else I discovered. I have to admit it surprised me:[1] the Bible had become an entirely new book!


The contrast between reading the Bible before and after I met Jesus was like night and day. The whole Bible went from being just another one-dimensional book in black-and-white print to something that, in comparison, was like four-dimensional, virtual reality in high-fidelity stereo and living, breathing color!


Illuminated by Jesus’ Spirit of love and light, it became vibrantly, joyfully alive. It has ever since then, been more like an ever-relevant, personal love letter from God through Christ to me. Everything in it has glorious, practical, personal meaning and significance straight from the Lord’s heart to mine. Having His Word so near—planted in the core of my soul—still often causes spontaneous joy and gratitude to Him to rise up in me. After meeting the Bible’s Author and central figure, the Lord Jesus, no other words in any other book can compare or even come close to His vital, active word.

 

Because of what I believed about the Bible due to my upbringing in the LDS Church,1 you might see why this transformation was so very unexpected. Another unforeseen thing was that, in contrast, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price were Spiritless and flat.


I was greatly dismayed when these other writings I also considered to be Scripture did not come alive under the influence of God's Spirit in the way the Bible had—with Christ’s love, having new light and meaning. While I wondered about this distinction of the Spirit at the time, I just couldn’t—wouldn’t—accept that these other LDS books of Scripture might not be inspired by God.


I loyally loved and revered these other LSD Scriptures. I reasoned that they did not need to be illuminated by God’s Spirit in the same way the Bible did because they had not been “corrupted,” as I had always been taught that the Bible had been.


Admittedly, I wasn’t fully at peace with this “conclusion.” Somehow it didn’t seem all the way right. But I had previously put these other LDS Scriptures to the test—just as we had been taught to do—and I had sincerely “felt good” about them. I believed this was sufficient proof that they were true. I still trusted that these other Scriptures were more directly from God than the Bible was, especially The Book of Mormon. I wasn’t willing to consider anything else about these beloved books. Therefore, I made an almost desperate, very deliberate decision not to dwell on this disparity any further. So, this is how things remained, and this is how I understood things intellectually, for many more years to come.

 

Considering my perspective on the Bible at the time, you might wonder why I was reading it in the first place. Even though the LDS Church doesn’t regard the Bible to be as pure or undefiled as its other scripture, it still considers it to be the word of God—though to an undefined degree or measure. I was reading the Bible mainly because I had been following the example of one of the apostles in the LDS Church at that time, whom I admired because of his loving demeanor. In one of our General Conferences, he mentioned that he read from one of the four Gospels every day. In my recent zeal to try to make myself righteous enough to receive the Holy Spirit as a constant companion, I had added the goal of reading from the Gospels every day, to my list of activities to pursue.


Also, after meeting Jesus, and after Jan’s further inspired personal counsel to me from the Lord to be a student of His Word,[2] I wanted, with all my heart, to learn all I could about Jesus’ life and teachings.


I didn’t know it then, but this was just the oak tree seed—the acorn—of a love for God’s Word. In time, I also began to fall deeply in love with the intimations of and prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. Some of these I’d learned about already from my Dad, but now the Holy Spirit began to help me recognize even more of them. Eventually, I began to see Jesus everywhere in the Old Testament. For example, I glommed on to how He is foreshadowed or typified in the symbolic animal sacrifices, the Tabernacle and its implements, the activities and vestments of the priests, the feast days, and in aspects of various characters and stories. These were revelations that gave me exhilaration and joy (and still do as I continue to find or revisit them)! These studies have been a huge delight and blessing to me in my life. I know most people cannot relate with me on this; nevertheless, I’ve grown to deeply and thoroughly love the Old Testament witness of the Lord, His works, and purposes.

 

My unusual love for the Old Testament is something that in large measure I attribute to and still appreciate about my upbringing in the LDS Church. The LDS Church didn’t shun the Old Testament in the same way many people outside of it did—including many devout Christians. Although LDS Church doctrine was developed by picking and choosing and using many Bible verses out of context, at least both the Old and New Testaments were held in equal esteem. Reading and studying the Old Testament was on the same plane as reading and studying the New Testament for me. Even though, generally, the Bible was held in lesser regard than the other LDS Standard Works (as the collective LDS Scriptures are called), there was some deference. It might seem strange, but, in this respect, I consider it a blessing that I was raised LDS and so did not pick up the common strong aversion to the Old Testament that was and still is so prevalent in and out of Christian circles.


So, I did look into the Old Testament and the New with equal fervor. Eventually, through the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Bible, I became a bona fide, absolute, irreversible, whole-Bible enthusiast. It wasn’t until years later that I began to realize how uncommon this love for the Word in the whole Bible truly was and is in this world. Though this viewpoint is somewhat singular and sometimes even actively rejected, resisted, and even fought against by various groups and individuals, I wouldn’t trade this gift the Spirit has given me for anything. It has exponentially deepened and expanded my understanding of the goodness and greatness of the Lord. I pray for whoever is sincerely searching to know the Lord, to be given this gift as well!

 

Now, I don’t want you to get me wrong. After meeting Jesus, it’s not like I spent all my time reading and studying the Bible—not even close. I wish I had, but, in truth, I wouldn’t have known where to start an in-depth study at that time. I went on with my life in most ways as I had before, except I read from and referenced the Bible a lot more. I had a new respect for the Bible. Reading and studying it would never be the same for me.


Another thing the Holy Spirit’s illumination of the Bible has taught and confirmed for me is that the light and love of the Spirit of Christ is fundamental to understanding the Word of God contained in the Bible. To comprehend God’s word—especially God’s meaning and will—to any degree, we, humans, must be guided and enlightened by the same Spirit who inspired it. But honestly, it wasn’t until after I left the teachings of the LDS Church and came under solid biblical teaching that I was able to more fully appreciate this intellectually. At first, this realization was only intuitive because of how Christ’s light and love directly affected my understanding of the Bible.


Only later did I come to more fully appreciate, as the apostle Peter explained, “Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21, emphasis added). The apostle Paul also testified, All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added).


The prophecy and Scripture Peter and Paul were referring to are the Old Testament Law, Writings, and Prophets (the Tanakh). Their own and the other apostles’ witnesses that Jesus is the Christ of God were only beginning to be compiled into what eventually came to be known as the New Testament.


Jesus proclaimed to the Jewish leaders of His time, who did not believe in Him or who He was declaring Himself to be:

The Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:37-40, emphasis added)

The Old Testament books were “the very Scriptures” to which Jesus was referring. The Jewish leaders, ever seeking favor for their own “religious” agendas, had hardened their hearts against the living revelation of God’s Word, which Word was and is embodied in Jesus and confirmed by the Spirit of the Lord.


After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to a couple of His disciples in a physical body that they did not initially recognize. In reply to their inquiry: “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18) and to the report they gave Him of His own ministry, crucifixion, and death, He reproved them with these words:

“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things [a false trial, rejection, and crucifixion] and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27, emphasis added)

Again, the Scriptures to which Jesus, Paul, and Peter were referring are the same compilation of books now contained in and called the Old Testament. It is clear from these and other references that Jesus Himself considered the Old Testament to be Scripture about Himself—the unchanging Word of God.


As the book of Hebrews records, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The Lord of the Old Testament, who Jesus perfectly represented throughout His earthly life, is the same Lord whom born-again Christians worship and anticipate being with forever after this life. The Lord, God, is One Lord.[3] 


Also, as the apostle Paul taught:

We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:

What no eye has seen,

    what no ear has heard,

and what no human mind has conceived”[Isaiah 64:4]—

    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit....For, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”[Isaiah 40:13]. (1 Corinthians 2:7–16, emphasis added)


Long before Paul, the prophet Isaiah declared:

Seek the Lord while he may be found;

    call on him while he is near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways

    and the unrighteous their thoughts.

Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,

    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6–9, emphasis added)

Over time, I’ve come to perceive that without God’s Holy Spirit, none of these ancient yet still relevant writings could have entered the minds or hearts of any of the men who recorded them in the first place. These men were all instruments, but they were not the authors. The writings contained in the Bible have the spiritual signature of God’s Word and Spirit on them.


Many other believers throughout history and alive today have also seen, understood, and added their witness to this reality. We can only understand the Spirit-inspired words of God in the Bible through the same Spirit who gave them. Even then, we can only understand them in a humanly limited way.


Merely from living life, I’ve observed that we human beings can't even understand one another rightly most of the time. Even when we do get a glimpse of someone else’s mind or heart, it’s always brief—and we can never be sure we have completely understood.


How then can we, at any time, claim to comprehend the mind or heart, words or actions of the LORD—the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, utterly holy, absolutely perfect, only good, wholly loving God—on our own? Especially when He dwells and works both inside and outside the material realm of time and space, in dimensions and ways we can’t even begin to understand. How can we, who were created by Him, comprehend Him, our Creator? We cannot. That is, unless He intentionally reveals aspects of Himself to us through His own Spirit, as He has done and continues to do—a little at a time, beginning mainly, as the LORD did in Old Testament times, with symbols, pictures, or types in the material world to demonstrate spiritual realities.


Without the illumination of God’s Spirit, even the Bible is flat and subject to human misunderstanding. In proof of this, many merely look at it as ancient wisdom literature—if they look at it at all. Many just believe the rumors about it and leave it alone. God’s Spirit illuminating His Word has taught me to reexamine my own suppositions and those of others about God and His Word in the Bible. I’ve found I can no longer rely on mere human understanding or assumptions alone to be right or true about the Bible or its content. I’ve learned I must humbly and prayerfully seek to understand God’s mind and heart each time I read and study the various Bible accounts and teachings.


When I seek the Spirit’s illumination as I read and study the Bible, I learn something new about the Lord each time. This is because, each time, I’m in a different place of understanding in my own life and walk before Him. Light from the Lord, in turn, often causes me to see my life, other people, and the circumstances all around me very differently than is my human tendency. The Lord can even help me to have empathy for and love my “enemies!” Even when each of us and our worlds are a mess, there is always hope in God’s Word, promises, and work, past, present, and future. The Bible contents in context, illuminated by the Lord’s Spirit, reiterate this over and over again.


There truly is a great difference between reading, studying, and interpreting God’s Word independently—by human means alone—and reading, studying, and interpreting God’s Word by the light and love His Spirit gives. I’ve observed, especially later in my life when I was taking university-level classes in Biblical studies, that even some of the most well-meaning people who have spent most of their lives studying the Bible have missed this.


It seemed like some professors and scholars, while they had thoroughly studied the Bible—the container of the words of God—they had also somehow missed the heart of the Lord altogether. The picture this brought to my mind was this: here were these scholars spending their lives studying, examining, evaluating, and re-evaluating the exterior of a deep well from which people were drawing pure, cold water; but they were themselves—in some kind of mistaken pride or fear—refraining from ever actually drawing up or drinking any of the living water for themselves.


What kind of blindness is this? What keeps souls from seeking to understand and draw near to the Author of the Bible? What prevents them from praying, from believing in Him, and from receiving for themselves the life-giving water contained in and poured out through His true words by His Spirit? I believe it has to do with an inordinate pride in or reliance on human understanding, abilities, and accomplishments—a self-sufficiency that causes even “sincere” people to reject the Spirit behind the words of the living God. Until God reached out to me through Jesus and filled me with His Holy Spirit, this is exactly where I was—thinking somehow my own works and self were or could be sufficient.


Short-sighted, self-righteous (declaring oneself to be fundamentally good), comfort-and-ease-seeking human nature is naturally opposed to God. There is also a lying spirit of evil that twists the words of God and misrepresents who He is. This is the spirit behind false assumptions about God and His Word. Too often human nature is eager to agree with this spirit. God’s own Spirit never misrepresents Him this way.


Unless people have a change of heart, they are generally loath to agree with God’s Spirit about their lack of sufficiency or perfection before (compared to) God. Either that or, like I have also done in my past, people agree with the Accuser (Satan) and only focus on their faults and what they lack before God and “forget” the redemption, the release, God has prepared through His Son, Jesus Christ. Neither of these extremes is from God’s Spirit.


God’s Spirit, who inspires and sheds light through the Word (Jesus) of God, does expose the darkness within us and in the world. But the Lord’s Spirit only convicts us of specific sins. This is to bring us to a knowledge of our need of Jesus Christ so that we might, in humility, turn (back) to Him for His Help—His Spirit to strengthen and guide us. As the apostle John declared:

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light [Jesus] has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:16–20) 

Darkness cannot and doesn’t want to apprehend the Light of God. Still, we need God’s light to dispel our darkness. If we love God and want to draw near to Him, we need to let Him and even ask Him to take away our sin and darkness, to free us from them through Jesus’ righteousness and His body and blood given for us, so that we might receive His Spirit, Light, and Love by His merits.


After the loving Spirit of Christ began lighting up the Bible’s meaning for me, and as my love for the witnesses of Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments continued to grow and grow, I came to see for myself that the whole Bible points centrally to Jesus Christ—along with emphasizing why we always have needed Him.


You might be thinking, This is all well and good for you, but why should I care? What difference does all this make for me or anyone else?


Please, let me tell you. As the Lord has indicated throughout the Bible, one day we will all be judged by Jesus and the words God has taken the trouble to preserve for us about Him. Words that in every place point to the life, death, resurrection, and eventual return to the earth of Jesus Christ, whom God sent on our behalf. Paradoxically, if we choose to misjudge God and His Word—if we don’t seek His Spirit of love to enlighten us—our own misguided ideas will come back on our own heads to condemn us.


God’s judgment, or the manifest wrath of God against injustice, isn’t just a phenomenon that was relegated to Old Testament times. Jesus repeatedly talks about God’s judgment in the New Testament as well. There will come a last day, a final day, a Day of Judgment when all beings and spirits who continue to—choose to—misjudge and hold relentlessly onto evil will be destroyed or separated from God and His people forever. God’s words, historical examples, and symbols throughout the Bible warn us about this. It is part of God’s passionate, unchanging, eternal love that He hates injustice, no matter the source, no matter how well-meaning, well-dressed, or well-presented it is.


What is incredible, in truth, is God’s mercy, not His wrath. In the end, the only beings His wrath will fall on are those who refuse His release from His rightful condemnation of them—a release which God Himself has provided and offers them. An emancipation He planned for before He created humankind with free will. A redemption from the bondage of sin and evil He foreshadowed and ultimately fulfilled through the blood or life sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His only begotten-in-the-flesh Son and earthly representative. A release that includes total forgiveness of every sin, every injustice a person has ever committed against humanity and therefore against God.


In reality—which, by the way, only God can rightfully define—it’s essential to the life of one’s soul, to one’s eternal welfare, to find out about Jesus from God’s own word about Him. It is a life-or-death proposition. These are no idle words. From the earliest times, the Lord’s prophets have said as much. As Moses emphasized to the ancient Israelites:

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:15–16, 19)

Many centuries later Paul enjoined:

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter [the Lord’s] rest, so that no one will perish by following [the ancient Israelites’] example of disobedience. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:11–13)

 

The Holy Spirit’s light has repeatedly taught and affirmed these foundational teachings in the Bible to me and others. But each person must choose. Each must seek to know the truth about the Lord, Jesus Christ—who He was and is and ever will be. Only God’s Spirit, through Jesus Christ, can reveal the truth to you, me, or anyone else about God and His Word.


It certainly has been true for me that meeting Jesus caused the Bible to go from being a somewhat revered good book to becoming a present, living word from a present, loving Father. The illumination of the Bible by His Spirit of love and light is the means God has used to bless me with a deep and still growing regard for His word that many other people do not seem to have, whether they are LDS or otherwise affiliated. Meeting Jesus and His Spirit’s illumination of the Bible has played a vital role in my spiritual walk and continuing relationship with Him. Jesus Christ and God’s words about Him through His Spirit have become deeply embedded in my heart. This is my dearest desire. I want this to be true until I am with Him in His unveiled, glorious love and light forever.


The apostle Paul’s prayer is also my prayer for you along with myself: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17); and that God would, “fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9).


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[1] To understand my previous LDS perspective on the Bible see chapter 20, “Beginning the Study of Greater Things”; https://www.wordsintime.net/post/beginning-the-study-of-greater-things

 

[2] See John 1:1, 14; Isa. 55:11; Rev. 19:13; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 1:1-2; 1 John 4:2


[3] “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4).

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