The Night Is Far Gone
If the President were coming to dine at your home this evening, I surmise you might clean the house, plan a big and fancy dinner, dress for the occasion, make sure the little ones were on their best behavior, and other such preparations. You wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared and thereby be embarrassed before the President, his entourage, and the whole country. In like manner, the New Testament writers would often use our Lord’s return as an exhortation to holy living in the here and now (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; 1 John 3:1-3). Even Jesus told parables that warned of readiness at his return (Matthew 21:33-44; 22:1-14; 24:1-51; 25:1-46; and parallel passages in Mark and Luke). And so we see Paul using our Lord’s return to exhort the Christians in Rome to godly living.
He begins by using several metaphors which express the urgency of the time: “The hour has come for you to awake from sleep,” “The night is far gone,” and “The day is at hand.” And lest we take these words lightly, let us remember the warning from the Apostle Peter, “Scoffers will come in the last days … [saying] ‘Where is the promise of his coming. For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). It was 2000 years for the promise to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:1-3), and even longer for the promise to Adam of Eve (Genesis 3:15), both passages about the first coming of Christ, to be fulfilled. God is very patient. But in the meantime, we must be vigilant and steadfast, lest he come and execute terrible judgment (Matthew 24:45-51).
And how do we prepare? By “cast[ing] off the works of darkness and put[ting] on the armor of light.” Paul mentions those things we must cast off: orgies and drunkenness, sexual immorality and sensuality, quarreling and jealousy. This, of course, should be a “no-brainer.” We are to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires,” the flesh being our sinful nature with its passions that draw us towards the world and away from God. Instead Paul tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” imitating his character which we see in the gospels. This is really not much different than the passage before this one that commanded us to “love each other.”
Our Lord is coming and I don’t want to be ashamed on that day. I know there are yet some works of darkness I need to cast off. May we each be ready for his coming by cleaning our “houses” before he returns.