Vol. 8, No. 1
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A very serious mistake is made in biblical interpretation when the expression "the day is at hand" in Romans 13:12 is sometimes made to refer to the second coming of Jesus Christ. In this passage of Scripture Paul said, "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." On the basis of this statement, there are those who say Paul was expecting a soon return of Christ. That makes Paul contradict himself when he rebuked the Thessalonians (who were looking for an imminent coming of the Lord), saying, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand" (2 Thessalonians 2:1). The day of Christ is not noted in the Bible by any projected date or by any precursory signs. Those who say so are not properly interpreting the Bible and are misleading people.
The statement in Romans 13:12 "the day is at hand" stands in contrast to "the night is far spent" and is expressive of an expected corresponding change in the conduct of the saints in Rome. They are not to be asleep to the righteousness of God that has been revealed in the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:17), but are to awaken to that righteousness through the light that Christ gives (cf. Ephesians 5:14). The "night" of this passage is in reference to the longstanding "mystery" (Ephesians 3:3), kept secret from the beginning of the world, concerning how both Jews and Gentiles were to be reconciled unto God in one body by the cross. This was neither preached nor practiced in full understanding for about a decade after the beginning of the preaching of repentance and remission of sins in the name of Christ--not until the Gospel was preached to Cornelius (Acts 10) and confirmed through the giving of the Holy Spirit to Gentiles. Even then, and for years afterward, there was not a clear understanding of the full force of this truth. The apostles were continually having to cite the miraculous works of God in testimony that all men equally were to be justified by faith (Acts 15:9; et al). The darkness of this ignorance was still hanging on through the work of Judaizing teachers trying to keep Christians under bondage to the Law. But the light of the day was prevailing.
The light of the day that revealed purification for all through obedience to the Gospel of Christ also shined clearly to expose the proper conduct relative to purification in contrast to improper conduct that was according to the course of this world (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3). With this light of the Gospel of Christ shining ever brighter, as the revelation came nearer and nearer to completion, it is, Paul said, "high time" to awake out of sleep--the sleep of ignorance and apathy. Fuller and clearer knowledge of the full impact of the Gospel system called for action.
First, the apostle said, "Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light" (Romans 13:12). The works of darkness are clearly exposed by the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, and it is high time for enlightened saints to cut themselves off from these works of darkness. In so doing, those who are still "asleep" will, Peter said, "think it strange that you run not with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you" (1 Peter 4:4). Dear friends, think how professed saints are doing just about everything the world is doing, in the name of tolerant unity and political correctness! This ought not so to be!
Secondly, the apostle said, "Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy" (Romans 13:13). Christians are to have their thoughts and doings fully exposed to the scrutiny of the Gospel of Christ and those who are wise therein, not in cunning hypocrisy under the cloak of feigned religion, "having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin" (2 Peter 2:14).
Thirdly, the apostle said, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:14). When the sincerely penitent believer is baptized into Christ, that one puts on Christ (Galatians 3:27). This is not a matter of joining a "church"; this is a matter of putting on the very mind and nature of Jesus Christ, like Paul said, "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:19).
The day that is at hand is the season when the light of the Gospel extends to every person the equal right to purification, carrying with it the requirement to live righteously in Christ Jesus.