Summary: The elderly couple had spent the evening with some friends and time passed rapidly. When they saw that it was past eleven....
“IT’S LATER THAN IT HAS EVER BEEN!”
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Romans 13:11-14
The elderly couple had spent the evening with some friends and time passed rapidly. When they saw that it was past eleven, they said goodnight and drove home. Some years before, they had purchased a cuckoo clock which they took great pride in. The couple, not being home at eleven, did not know that as the clock sounded eleven a little chip had broken off the gear drive which would result in sounding two different hours back to back.
They entered their home just as the cuckoo began sounding the hour. They stood there listening as the cuckoo sounded the midnight hour. They counted each cuckoo. One, two, three…and finally twelve. But then the cuckoo sounded the thirteenth time. The old man looked at his wife and said: “Bessie, it’s later than it’s ever been!”
This is exactly the message that Paul was writing to the saints in Rome. The Apostle may have been referring to the return of our Lord when he wrote “the night is far spent, the day is at hand”. The world’s dark night is the Christian’s work shift. The “day at hand” is His return when our work on earth is ended and we are caught up together to meet Him in the clouds of glory.
Perhaps Paul was referring to our brief lifespan. Each day that passes brings the child of God one day closer to heaven and, tragically, it brings the unbeliever one day closer to eternal damnation. Every day that passes shortens our remaining lifespan. It is sad that many Christians today, as Paul said was true of his time, are asleep while the unbelieving world stumbles and falls in the darkness of sin and unbelief. The Apostle sounded the cry: “Awake! As Christians we are admonished to recognize the lateness of the hour in which we live; take off our spiritual “pajamas” and put on our work clothes which Paul described as putting on “the armor of light”.
Let us look carefully at the challenge that Paul set before the church at Rome. These four verses provided significant food for thought for every child of God as we confront the reality that our work day is rapidly passing. Just ahead of us, and perhaps much sooner than we care to consider, is the Judgment Seat of Christ when we shall stand before Him and “each one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12). Consider the intensity of each phrase in this passage.
“And do this” refers to the previous verses of chapter 13 where Paul referred to respecting governmental authority, paying taxes and evidencing love toward others as fulfilling the law. If we genuinely love our neighbor as we love our self, then keeping the commandments will automatically follow.
“Knowing the time” means that world conditions are not secret. We live in perilous times. Crime and violence are commonplace in our cities and neighborhoods. Sex and profanity floods the airways and TV channels. The internet provides an open cesspool for the morally depraved.
Consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy. “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” II Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV). Paul further cautioned that “evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (v. 13).
The phrase “now it is high time to awake out of sleep” is Paul’s way to say that time to do God’s work is fast slipping away from us and that the church has been asleep too long and needs to wake up. When we are suddenly awakened out of a deep sleep, the first question we usually ask is “what time is it?” Paul is asking the church to wake up and realize what time it is!
The phrase “for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” is a reminder that our earthly workday is nearly over. The Scripture tells us that although our salvation is eternal, perhaps it can be best understood when expressed using the three tenses.