Romans 13:11-12 “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
You and I are living at an exciting time, if we would only wake up to realize it. Paul is bending over our sleepy souls and shaking our shoulders. Our salvation is near. To understand what Paul means by this, we need to understand that the Bible uses the term salvation in more than one way.
The apostle is not suggesting there was something incomplete about the saving work Jesus did when he came the first time. There is no secret stash of sins somewhere yet to be paid. There are no atoning sacrifices for us to perform. The words of John 3 still stand, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” In the life and death of Jesus Christ, our salvation–our rescue from sin and death and hell– has been accomplished. By faith we already hold the deed to our own piece of heavenly real estate.
But it’s no secret that death still pursues us. Every flaw in our health, every pain in our bodies, reminds us that it is just a matter of time. Our lives aren’t models of heavenly perfection. A rich stew of sin simmers and boils just under the surface. We are still waiting for final deliverance from the world in which we now live.
This salvation is coming closer every day. What a night and day difference its arrival will make! Paul reminds us, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” Now we live in the night. Sin darkens our vision. So many things we consider real, and important, are passing dreams and fantasies. The institutions we rely on, the enemies with whom we battle, this created world which seems so solid and permanent–all of it will suddenly disappear when Jesus’ coming brings the dawn of a new day.
That day will make everything good and clear. Every trouble will end. God’s ways will be vindicated. Our Christian faith will prove itself the one thing we have of lasting value. The hard days of carrying our heavy burdens will be over. The everlasting holidays will begin. You and I have never experienced a bigger day in our lives.
Since the sky is already reddening in the east, now is the time to wake up and prepare. Paul encourages us to understand the present time. The signs of Jesus’ return are all visible for us to see. Upheaval plagues current events. The gospel is spreading far and near. Paul himself witnessed so much fulfillment of the signs Jesus gave that he believed his return was imminent almost 2000 years ago.
This is why “the hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” We wouldn’t need the encouragement if many Christians weren’t spiritually drowsy. Take his warning to heart! Many believers resemble a person nodding off, barely awake, head bobbing as eyes flutter open and closed. Satan sings his spiritual lullaby to soothe us into the sleep of unbelief. He might croon the tune of earthly cares, desires, goals, pleasures, or worries. They all draw our attention from our spiritual needs. Faith begins to slip. The eternal sleep of unbelief follows.
The stress, distraction, and materialism which so surround Christmas can have the same sleepy effect on the soul. “Be careful,” Jesus warned, “or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
Jesus’ return is an occasion that demands we be properly prepared. It’s time to wake up!