At one point in His ministry here on Earth, Jesus turned to His disciples and told them to “…watch ye therefore and pray…” (Luke 21:36). The Apostle Paul followed with this same advice later, saying: “…let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6). The true disciples of God must not be caught in spiritual sleep. Sleep can be natural or spiritual. It is not appropriate for those who are children of the day, but for those of the night. The opposite of sleeping is watching, meaning “to keep awake,” to be in a position of watchfulness, along with prayer.
Then we read “…The night is far spent, the day is at hand…therefore cast off the works of darkness, and…put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:11-12) against the coming destruction that will catch the children of the night by surprise. The Christian’s “armor of light” here is faith, hope and love. Children of the day are the people of God who are told to put on this armor before Christ comes back. When we are sleeping, our senses appear relatively inactive, but when we are watching, they become noticeably active. “Watching” refers to preparing for Christ’s coming, so that we won’t be surprised like others and will remain prepared.
Sometimes the Bible compares sleep to sin. The spiritual senses of sinners have not been activated, so they cannot use them to see what the difference is between good and evil. Those who sleep have no fear or concern, and therefore feel secure. But after a long period of sleeping in sin and imagined safety, the time comes to wake up and deal with reality. Paul said, “Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame”(1 Corinthians 15:34). To watch means to struggle against spiritual sleep, which is sin. Repenting can be compared to waking up, not only from sin, but to being in right standing with God. Therefore, Christians need to “…take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting [over-indulgence], and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares…” (Luke 21:34).
We are enjoying a morning of peace, opportunity and light right now. But the night will soon come, bringing calamity and trouble. “The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night…”(Isaiah 21:12). It is therefore wise to make good use of the morning during this time to prepare for the night to come. We are urged to do it quickly, for there is no time left to play around. And all who return and come to God will find much work waiting for them, but little time left to do it. “…seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).
Those who are dead in sins need to get out of the spiritual death they are lying in. Every day, Christ uses His ministers who preach the gospel to call people to arise from the death of sin by repentance, and to encourage them with the promise of eternal life. He wants His ministers to condemn the unfruitful works of darkness, and to wake up sleeping, dead sinners and bring them to His light.
Our duty is to watch and pray. “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33). We need to watch for the coming of Christ, so that it will not surprise us at any time, and to pray for the grace we need to qualify for it. Christ urges men to “…be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44). This is why God keeps the time He will come back hidden, so that we will always be standing guard. Since we“…know not when the time is…”, we need to be ready every day for His coming—which could be any day now.
Not knowing the time when Christ will come should also compel us to work hard and diligently to avoid sinning, since sin is compared to sleep. We should judge ourselves to keep from sin, since we expect the judgment to come as we continue to watch. This way, we will be ready, no matter what time He comes. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man”(Luke 21:36). Only by living a life like this can we make ourselves ready for Christ’s soon coming.
When we hear the watchman threaten judgments to come, some will wake up, while others will mock, crying, “Watchman, what of the night?” (Isaiah 21:11). This means, “What judgments will threaten us, and when will they happen?” And the watchman will reply: “The morning comes—the time allowed for repenting.” Today we see the morning of God’s long-suffering kindness. Yet the night is also coming when He will not extend His grace any longer, but will cut sinful man off like a worthless weed.
If you sincerely want to learn how to escape the coming judgments of God, then do it now—the door of hope is still wide open. Continue to turn from your sins and pray for God’s mercy. Remember, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” (Romans 13:12). Now is not the time to sleep but to look for Christ, so that He will be able to take you to be with Him when He returns.
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[Image credits: Featured image (when available) by William Alexander from New York Public Library (CC0 1.0); Momental/pixabay; Zhang Kaiyv/unsplash; Patrick Hendry/unsplash; Krystal Black/unsplash]