“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
“The night is far spent; the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:11,12).
DAY AND NIGHT IN SCRIPTURE
Some able Bible expositors have taught that the “day” and the “night” in the above passage must be viewed in a dispensational light. The world’s night, they have suggested, came with the fall of man. Then, when our Lord appeared on earth the day dawned, for He was “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). But the world, including “His own,” rejected Him and night fell again as He left it and ascended to heaven. Nor will the world know the light of day again until He returns to reign.
At first sight this interpretation seems sound enough, but it does not stand the Berean test. As we search the Scriptures, we do indeed find our Lord saying to the people: “I am the Light of the world,” but He adds: “he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). It was only His true followers, then, that did not walk in darkness, and they had “the light of life.” This agrees with the inspired testimony of the Apostle John:
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
As to the world, which did not partake of this life, John goes on to describe how deep was the darkness of its night:
“And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (Ver. 5).
The light shone forth but did not penetrate the dense darkness; the darkness was not diffused by it.
Indeed, so deep was the night when our Lord was on earth that God sent John the Baptist to point men to Christ, the Light.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
“The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe” (Ver. 6,7).
It is evident, therefore, that our Lord did not dispel the world’s darkness at His first coming and that, dispensationally, it was not day while He was on earth. We believe, rather, that the world’s night began with the fall of man and that the darkness will not be dissipated until the second coming of Christ to judge and reign. Then the wicked will be judged and burned up as “stubble” (Malachi 4:1), but for those who fear His name:
“…the Sun of righteousness [shall] arise with healing in His wings…” (Ver. 2).
This is why He is called “the Morning Star” in those Scriptures which apply primarily to the great tribulation (Rev. 22:16 cf. II Pet. 1:19).
But what, then, does the Apostle Paul mean in Romans 13:12, where he says that “the night is far spent” and “the day is at hand”?
OUR NIGHT AND DAY
We believe that the answer to this question is that the apostle is not speaking dispensationally in Romans 13:11,12. Certainly, if the “night” of this present dispensation followed the supposed “day” of our Lord’s earthly ministry, Paul could not have written that the night was “far spent.” When he wrote, it had barely begun.
Rather, Romans 13:11,12 should be compared with such passages as II Corinthians 4:6:
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Thank God, the day has dawned for the believer in Christ, though the night be dark about him! And because the day has dawned “it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.”
Our salvation as believers in Christ is secure, but it is not yet complete. No matter how we rejoice in Christ, or how we love to testify to His grace, or how we enjoy the study of the Word, there is still more, much more to follow. The dawning of the light which has brought us so much blessing and joy will suddenly burst into full-orbed day when our Beloved comes to catch us away to Himself.
LET US NOT SLEEP
Mark well that it is not the dawn that we are waiting for. For us the day has dawned and it is the full-orbed day1 that is at hand. Could there be a better argument why we should “awake out of sleep”?
We find the same challenge forcefully presented in I Thessalonians 5. After explaining in I Thessalonians 4:16-18 how “we” shall be caught away to meet the Lord and be forever with Him, the apostle goes on in Chapter 5 to say that “the day of the Lord” will come upon this world as “a thief in the night”:
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (Ver. 3).
But the apostle continues:
“But ye brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (Vers. 4,5).
And this is the sole argument upon which he bases his appeal to be awake and alert. He does not urge us to be awake to defend ourselves against the thief, for before our Lord comes as a thief, we will have been caught away. He rather says: the thief will come in the night, but “Ye are all the children of…the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.”
“Therefore let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober” (Ver. 6).
HIGH TIME TO AWAKE
We should not fail to observe the urgency of the apostle’s inspired appeal in Romans 13:11,12.
“It is high time to awake….The night is far spent [all but dissipated]; the [full-orbed] day is at hand.”
What a disgrace to be sleeping at so late an hour, especially when there are battles to be fought and victories to be won! Thus the vigor of his appeal to “cast off” the night clothes of indolence and to “put on the armor of light.”
This armor of light is nothing less than Christ Himself, as indicated in Verse 14:
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Believers are already “in Christ” positionally, but we must “put Him on” experientially (See Col. 3:8-14).
In Ephesians 5:8 the apostle says: “For ye were sometime [once] darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” And as we thus “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and “walk in the light,” we find that the light is an armor to protect us from sin and to defend us against Satan, who would overcome us and put us to flight.
AWAKE AND ARISE
Finally, while Romans 13:11 bids us “awake out of sleep,” Ephesians 5:14 bids us “awake…and arise from [among] the dead.” Believers have already been raised from the dead with Christ by grace (Eph. 2:4-6). Too often, however, they are fast asleep—asleep to their responsibilities and opportunities, asleep to the need and the challenge of the hour. Are such Christians of any greater use to God or men than those who are still “dead in trespasses and sins”?
Thus the apostle exhorts:
“Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from [among] the dead, and Christ shall give thee light [or, be to thee a light].
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,
“Redeeming [buying up] the time, because the days are evil.
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:14-17).
- This is the meaning in the Greek.