The Night Is Late; The Day Is Near
1. It is already half past the seventh month of 1999, in which [month] a dreadful great king is supposed to fall down (Really?)1. Some say, "No, it does not correspond to July in our calendar." They will probably try to pass off some emendations to it even after next year. (It won't matter what "the seventh month" means then!) Anyway, when they talk about the end of the world and its final cataclysm, and not just about the great prophecies of Nostradamus, the main interest of many persons is always, in the final analysis, on "when." Of course, that focus has even been within Christianity's own historical traditions. That has been true since the early church. But, in regards to that question [of "when"], a gospel writer left behind in his writings the following words of the Lord Jesus: "That day, that hour no one knows. Neither the angels nor the son know. Only the father knows," (Matthew 24:36).
2. The Bible does not speak on "When will the end be?" as the most important thing. That's because knowing "when" is not as important for humans as we think it is. The important point to recognize is the truth that that there is an end and that we are heading for it. There is an end to human life. There is even an end to the world's own history. It hasn't made a big deal of whether it is near or far. [Our] certainty is in the truth that time is irreversible. Time can't go back. The end is certainly closer today than yesterday and will certainly be closer tomorrow than today. Based on this fact we must consider the present hour. So, the Bible addresses the following words to us, "The time has already come when you ought to wake up from your sleep," (verse eleven). Well, what in the world does this mean for us?
Morning Is Near
3. Let's begin by reading from verse eleven to half of verse twelve.
"Moreover, you know what hour it is now. The time has already come when you ought to wake up from your sleep; because right now, salvation is even closer than when we entered the faith. The night is late, the day is near," (13:11-12a).
4. I don't think the phrase "the night is late" is one we intuitively are able to comprehend [in Japanese]. The sun has set. It is getting darker out, in fact, the world has already been totally shut down by the darkness. And the hours of darkness drag on. If a person seriously were to consider his or her life and this world, he or she would not draw a sketch of it as a world in daytime where the brilliant rays of sunlight come brightly pouring in. [It's more like] "Night" -- Yes, it is plainly "a night."
5. We don't need to conjure up anything grandiose [about what this stuff means]. The every day world familiar to us tells us the story within it. For example, in verse thirteen, three pairs of words appear in the text, "drinking sessions and drunkenness, lewdness and lustfulness, strife and jealousy." [They bespeak of] momentary pleasures, messed up sex, and unending fighting. Paul calls them "deeds of darkness." If put more simply, it is the rule of impulses and aggression or lust and hate. They stem from the black darkness of human sin and cause deep down darkness at the macrocosm in the whole world, at the microcosm in homes and in individual lives. The world, about two thousand years ago which Paul looked at, is hardly different from the world of today. [The world is still a place] of people chasing after fleeting pleasures and loitering in a big void. [The world is still a place] of people seeking for their lusts to be satisfied for just a bit and reaping day after day of suffering and distress as they live. [The world is still a place] of people suffering in the slimes of strife and jealousy. Through lust and hate the world has been motivated, its miserable history has unfolded and that's how it has been to this very day. It has truly been "a night." And it is definitely "night" right now.
6. Time is ticking on in this world of night. The hour is ticking and can't go back. That's where we find our own lives as well, we can't go back. History doesn't back track but, works on to the end. "The night is late. Yes, it's very dark!" For those who can only say that, the passage of time does not yield forth hope. If all there is to it is that a life of darkness in a world of darkness is going to its end, what kind of hope could one possibly have in a world like that? A year goes by in a flash. Thus, another year is added to our life. Our bodies are falling apart and our minds are even fading. We have to keep on going though we are [always] losing so much. Then [our] destination point is no where else but the grave. It's the same for this world, too. If we look seriously at the condition of this world, its destination, after all, would look only like catastrophe and destruction.
7. However, Paul just doesn't only say, "The night is late," but adds the following: "Day is coming!" He doesn't just see the pitch darkness of night. He sees that this night is a night certainly heading for morning. Why could Paul state that "Day is coming?" Because he knew that the cross of Christ was established in the midst of this world of night. The cross of redemption for sin was set up in this world. This world is not forsaken by God. This world is a world where the cross was established by God. It's a world where the flesh of [God's] son was torn for the redemption of sin and where his blood was shed. It's a world in which God revealed [his] love through [his] son. Even though it is a world that only looks filled with sin, filled with misery and is heading for catastrophe, it is in fact still a world loved by God. Thus, he says with conviction that the night will not go on for ever; morning is coming. Just as the darkness of the cross was broken and the morning of Christ's resurrection had come, morning will surely come even to this world of night.
8. This will be a joyous homecoming. [That's] the gospel. We have passed this good news on by means of generations and generations of the churches' preaching. We were told of God's love, then we first received reconciliation of ourselves with God and then were made into persons who live heading for morning. When it's a night that keeps moving towards morning, the passage of time is not sorrowful. There is hope in it. Thus, Paul says, "because right now, salvation is even nearer than when we entered the faith," (verse eleven). What time was it when you entered the faith? Was it thirty years ago? [Your] salvation is nearer than it was back then. Did you enter the faith a year ago? [Your] salvation is nearer than it was at that time!
The Hour Has Come When We Should Wake Up From [Our] Sleep
9. If we understand this, we also know what time it is presently. The Bible says, "Moreover, you know what hour it is now. The time has already come when you ought to wake up from your sleep," (verse eleven). In the every day lives of those in the Bible their senses got quite an early start. They did not wake up in the morning after the sun rose. That would have been too late. Because morning was coming they were awake and waiting. He says it's time they should already be awakened from their sleep.
10. Awakening from sleep is nothing other than living as if morning has already come. Therefore, Paul makes the following exhortation. Please look at verse twelve and following.
"The night is late; morning is near. Thus, let us throw off [our] deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Shall we not walk with dignity as we do in the daytime? Throw away drinking sessions and drunkenness, lewdness and lustfulness, strife and jealousy and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't use [your] heart for the flesh trying to satisfy [your] lusts," (verses twelve through fourteen).
11. If a person can only think, "The night is late. It's so very dark," then he or she will probably say, "So, why not live doing deeds of darkness?" Those without hope can only live as hopeless persons. But, the person who is given hope should not live as a hopeless person. Those believing that morning is coming should not live as if the night will go on for ever. Those who are given the hope of soon participating in the glory of God had better not end up destroyed in darkness by making a waste of [God's] grace. If they are fast asleep, right this very moment is the time they ought to wake up.
12. If we were to express that [same concept] in the negative it would be what Paul said when he said to "throw off the deeds of darkness." One is to throw off his or her deeds of darkness like one throws off his or her dirty clothes. That picture is specific. As I said before, he expresses this with three pairs of words, "Drinking sessions and drunkenness, lewdness and lustfulness, strife and jealousy." Time is certainly flowing on to the end without any mercy. We are given a limited amount of valuable time in which to prepare in the morning. We should not cling to works of wickedness in that interval of time, nor remain in darkness. Why should you burn up valuable time in swapping out your good senses and turning yourself over to titillation? Why should you burn up valuable time in being swung around by sensuous desires as you chase after them in the pursuit of their satisfaction and live hurting yourself and others? Why should you consume up precious time over unending fights and jealousies? Christ's torn flesh and shed blood were not given for us to remain in darkness and spend [our] nights [like that]. Christ did not suffer for us to meet the morning sleeping away soundly. We are called to live from now on in the light of the kingdom of God and to live as persons in wait for the Morning. Wretched clothes that are run down and overrun by the stench of sin are not proper in the morning sunlight. They should be thrown away for good.
13. Then from a positive perspective we are "to put on the armor of light" (verse twelve)2. In this world of night to live in the light like the sun is already up is also a battle in itself. A power is at work wanting to pull us back to the darkness. A power is at work trying to lead us astray again in the deeds of darkness. We must do battle. We are not to be pulled back into the darkness so full of sorrow and pain. That's why we must put on armor.
14. What does it mean to put on the armor of light? The following is recorded in the First Epistle To The Thessalonian Disciples in chapter five beginning with verse seven.
"A sleeping person sleeps at night and a wine bibbing person does so at night. But, since we belong to the daytime, let us put on faith and love as a breastplate, let us put on the hope of salvation as a helmet, and let's watch what we're doing," (First Thessalonians 5:7-8).
15. In addition, the following is written in The Epistle To the Ephesian Disciples in chapter six and beginning with verse fourteen.
"Stand, secure to your waist truth as a belt, put on righteousness as a breastplate, wear as foot gear a readiness to announce the gospel of peace. Beside this, take faith as a shield. With it you can extinguish each and every arrow of fire which the evil one releases. Also, put on salvation as a helmet, take the sword of the Spirit, which is, the word of God," (Ephesians 6:14-17).
16. As we have thus seen, "to put on the armor of light" does not seem to mean to obtain anything by a special mystical experience. Nor is it simply to acquire knowledge pertaining to scripture or theology. [Scholars] feel that when the Bible says to put on truth, righteousness and so forth and when it says to take the word of God it is probably the expected day to day life that is being pictured by it. It is not anything special. It is the new life which worships the Lord, listens to the message of the gospel, takes part in the torn flesh and blood of Christ, and obeys the Lord based on the gospel. It means to put on this lifestyle. Unless we learn the faith life in an accurate way, we can't expect to win the battle.
17. In addition, "put on the armor of light" could also be changed to the words "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." The phrase "put on (that is, put something on your body)" gives one the impression of only an external change and not an internal one, but of course, that is not what is being said here at all. We are not imitating Christ only outwardly. The central idea which this phrase expresses is "to become one body." In the mystery cults back in that time when they said "to wear god," it had the meaning of a mystical oneness with god. However, Paul did not intend it to mean a mystical experience of that nature. He connected wearing Christ more than anything else to "baptism." In The Epistle To The Galatian Disciples it reads as follows: "For all you who have received baptism and been united to Christ are wearing Christ," (3:27). Therefore, the exhortation to "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ" means essentially none other than "to put on (your body)" a life with a relationship with Christ which was given in baptism, that is, "an every day lifestyle living a new life [in Christ]," (6:4). Of course, for those persons who are still on the journey for truth and have yet to receive baptism, they should be able to hear this as an invitation to a new lifestyle beginning in baptism.
18. "Moreover, you know what hour it is now. The time has already come when you ought to be awake from your sleep."
19. Today we are hearing the call of the Lord to us to "Wake up and wait." You might say that this call goes out to us at each and every time of [our] worship services. If you're dead asleep, you ought to wake up here. If you have been living as if morning will never come, you can begin living once again in the morning light. You [may] put on Christ, you [may] recover a life with a relationship with Christ. Thus, as we hear the word of the Lord, while time ticks on week after week after week, I would like for us to live together through the irreversible intervals of time as we head into the late night [on to the dawn of morning].
1 Many TV shows and the general public in Japan have been talking about prophecies, including those of Nostradamus and his prophecy about a great king falling in the seventh month of 1999.
2 "Wo mi ni tsukeru" can be to "put on, wear, learn, acquire (knowledge)."