Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Rom. 13:11a (Holman) “Besides this, knowing the time, . . .”
Like most gifted people, Paul was haunted by the shortness of time. He could always hear “time’s winged chariot hurrying near” (Andrew Marvell).
Minutes never cease ticking themselves into the past. Each flying moment holds another by the heel. Life is gone before we know it. Waves of an ocean continue to return, and raindrops fall again, but moments never return. We can recall some things, but not the minute just passed by. If wasted, it cannot be retrieved. If used wisely, it cannot be regretted.
At age 130, Jacob called his years “few” (GN 47:9). In Psalm 90, Moses compared us to grass that flourishes in the morning, but in the evening is cast down. He said our lives pass quickly, and we fly away. James (4:14) described our lives as a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes. The first chapters of Chronicles are a huge cemetery. More are buried in St. Louis than live there.
Life is short, but this does not mean this world of time is insignificant. We live in a sphere of critical importance. Compared with eternity, time is but a grain of sand on the seashore, yet it is the realm of creation and salvation. This world is the battlefield of good and evil. Therefore, we cannot afford the luxury of sleeping.
Rom. 13:11b “. . .it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, . . .
This infers many Christians were asleep with regard to their obligations to others. “Sleep” refers to sluggishness, a lethargic non-aggressive Christian life. “Awake” points to spiritual readiness, willingness to undertake responsibility.
People are lost and dying. We who are saved must wake up. Time is wasting away. We must gain a sense of urgency with regard to time. Ignatius, hearing the clock strike, would say, “Now I have one more hour to account for.” He knew God was watching. Time wasted would be punished.
In times of urgency, a sleeping person is no better than a dead one. Epaminondas found one of his watchmen asleep and immediately thrust him through with a sword. Upon being accused of severity, Epaminondas replied. “I left him as I found him.” In other words, the man had been found in a useless state.
Believers, shake off our sleepiness and set ourselves earnestly to work. We must rise from our sloth and negligence. We have received and received and received; therefore, we must give and give and give.
It is wrong to let our religion consist in receiving only, with nothing ever being given in return. We have enjoyed eating the Bread of Life, have we in return fed the hungry? We drink from the springs of Living Water, have we responded by giving drink to the thirsty? We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, have we clothed the naked? We have health, have we shown your gratitude by visiting the sick? We have been found, are we seeking the lost?
It is time to wake up. Do not let our life be a barren wilderness when it could be a garden. Let us be a fruitful field, not a desert. Rather than running a race, many of us are merely sleepwalking.
We are active, but in a stupor with regard to matters of real importance. We sing hymns, oblivious to the meanings of the words we sing. We attend worship services, but do not focus on the Lord Himself. We hear a sermon, but the message does not soak in. We read the Bible, but cannot remember what we just read. We talk of missions, but do not win souls at home. Spiritual sleepwalking! We go through the motions, but our minds are blank. We must wake up.
Rom. 13:11c “. . .for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”
The Bible speaks of salvation in three phases. In justification we have been saved from the everlasting penalty of sin; in sanctification we are being saved from the power of sin; in glorification we shall be saved from the presence of sin. This later aspect of salvation was what Paul refered here.
Someday our deliverance will be fully consummated. Our lives will end here and begin anew in Heaven. This glorification will come about in one of two ways.
One, the return of Jesus to Earth. In discussing the second coming, our main concern is not to be the exact time He will come. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (AC 1:7).
The disciples knew Jesus was returning, but did not obsess on the time of it. They emphasized the uncertainty of its time as a motivation to holy living. Live as if Jesus will come within the hour; plan as if He will not return in our lifetime. Early Christians expected Christ to return any moment. We should do the same. Even if He does not come in our lifetime, the other means of glorification will.
Two, physical death. The timing of this event is also unknown to all. We can be sure of one thing. None of us knows when God will bid us leave earth. Twenty-four hours may take some of us there; for some, it may take less time than that. Day by day the time allotted us decreases. The walls of this earthly tabernacle are drawing ever nearer to one another. Our life will eventually be squeezed upward.
Our glorification will happen. It may be caused by the second coming. Amen, so be it. As Christ’s coming gets nearer, may we find ourselves drawing nearer to Him. Our glorification may come by physical death. Once again, Amen.
Glorification is a time to anticipate, something to look forward to with satisfaction. Donald Grey Barnhouse longed for it, saying he would finally no longer have to pray his prayer of every night, “Lord, cleanse me once more.” Someday we will enter a local church where the congregation is never dismissed.
Whether by Jesus’ coming, or our going, we will soon enter the gate of Heaven. Be sure we have shown others the way to this same gate. There aren’t many days left. Reach out with both hands and take others home with us.
Get ready for Heaven. Work, work, work. Do the labor of two people. Throw all our strength into the task. Reach out to pluck more brands from the fire.
Billy Sunday was once stricken while preaching. Thinking he was dying, he fell to the platform floor, crying, “I am going, I am going; who will go with me?”
George W. Truett, semi-conscious in his final days, repeatedly said, “Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus.” One day he was found at his hospital room window, looking out on the masses below, and saying “Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus.”
Wake up! Wake up! We do not want to enter Heaven with sleep in our eyes. Shall we enter our New Jerusalem half-awake?
When my children were small, they quickly learned something about traveling at night to their Grandpa and Grandma Huey’s. If the children were asleep when we arrived they were quietly carried to their beds immediately. If they were awake, the Huey’s would make a big fuss over them and immediately begin the process of spoiling them. The children soon made us promise we would always fully wake them long before we arrived at Grandpa and Grandma’s. They enjoyed being treated like somebody special. Even if it were midnight, they wanted a cookie, a chicken leg, a piece of pie, and/or a soda.
Brothers and sisters, we should want to enter Heaven wide awake. We don’t want Jesus to carry us quietly off to a corner where we can continue our slumbers. Let’s want Heaven to make a fuss over us. Want a crown, a welcome, a well-done.