“Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake out of sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then, let us cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its desires.” (ESV)
It is remarkable that Romans 13:11f receives so little attention in eschatological discussions. It is somewhat strange, because this set of verses encapsulates so many of the critical end time themes and elements, and, of course, emphatic statements about the “when” of fulfillment.
Our purpose in this article will be to examine the major constituent elements in this text and demonstrate that it anticipated the consummation of God’s scheme of Redemption, at the parousia of Christ in A.D. 70.
Knowing the Time
One thing that strikes us immediately about this text is that the apostle affirms that the Romans knew what time it was on God’s eschatological calendar: “Besides this, you know the time, that the hour has come… the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” These statements speak eloquently of the fact that the Romans were informed on the time of salvation.
It is important to note that the Roman’s knowledge was not a mere hope, nor speculation. Paul said they were knowing (Greek eidontes, a present active participle, from oida). This knowing that Paul refers to goes beyond simple knowledge, and goes to certain knowledge. This is more than a little challenging for the traditional eschatologies. How did the Romans have certain knowledge about the night being far spent and the Day, the day of salvation, being near, and at hand?
Let us remind ourselves again, from the text, what it was that the Romans knew, for certain.
A.) They knew “the time” (the definite article appears). The word for time here is not the generic word for time, i.e. chronos. It is kairos, and means, “The critical time.”1 According to Trench, kairos means designated, appointed time, as opposed to time generically considered.2
B.) They knew for certain that “the hour” (Greek, hora) had come for them to be raised out of sleep.
C.) They knew for certain that their salvation had drawn near.
D.) They knew for certain that the night was far advanced, almost gone.
E.) They knew for certain that “the day has drawn near” (eggiken, perfect participle of engus).
The Romans knew for certain that the day of salvation– the day of their raising– had drawn near! Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.
How Could The Romans Know, With Certainty, The Time of the Day?
As just noted, the word “know” indicates that the Romans had certain knowledge of the nearness of the Day, the time of their salvation. Of course, to properly appreciate the significance of this knowledge, we need to investigate the nature and identity of the approaching Day, the Day of their salvation.
What appointed Day, the time of salvation, the time of their raising, could Paul refer to?
When we examine the epistle of Romans, one thing that becomes abundantly clear, if we are sensitive to seeing it, is that Paul is focused on the fulfillment of God’s eschatological promises, that is, His promises to Israel, the time of her salvation. One thing is for certain, in Romans, Paul does not use the term salvation loosely, or with a wide range of meanings. He uses the term salvation four times in this epistle:
Romans 1:16– “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
Romans 10:10– “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Romans 13:11– “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.”
He likewise uses the word save, or saved, with corollaries, in the same manner. What this means is that the salvation being anticipated in Romans 13 is of the same nature as the salvation brought through the preaching of the gospel, the salvation that comes through faith, etc.. This is not a “salvation” unrelated to the work of Christ. This is also designated by the fact that Paul does not simply say “Your salvation is nearer.” He literally says “our the salvation is nearer.” Paul has a definite, well known, salvation in mind, because he used the definite article. It is no vague, generic ambiguous salvation that was near.
The significance of this is that it means that Paul was affirming the nearness of the parousia. This is clear when we read in Romans 16:20, that, “the God of peace shall crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Greek, en taxei. This term is somewhat rare in the N.T., and never indicates rapidity of action over the nearness of when the event was to occur. The term is a powerfully strong indicator of the imminence of the event that was “en taxei.”) This victory of Satan takes us back to the Garden and the promise of the ultimate, consummative victory over sin and death.
So, when Paul says, “For now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed”, he is affirming the imminence of the end, the parousia, the resurrection!
Those who reject Covenant Eschatology have a severe problem with Romans 13. Here is what I mean.
A.) It is often argued that when Jesus said in Luke 21, “lift up your heads, for your redemption draws nigh” (Luke 21:28), that he was not referring to any kind of spiritual salvation. He was referring solely to the escape from physical death.
B.) We are told that the judgment on Jerusalem was a localized affair, with the rest of the ancient world knowing little of it,
and caring less.4 This supposedly means that the “salvation” of Romans 13, since it was concerned with the Romans living hundreds of miles removed from the coming conflict in Judea, could not be referent to the A.D. 70 judgment. But this is actually problematic for those making the argument.
In this case, what salvation, to come at the Day of the Lord, were the Romans anticipating– and knowing of a certainty that it was near? Paul certainly said it was near. By divorcing Romans 13 from the Lord’s A.D. 70 parousia, the futurist has created a worse problem, for this view demands that Paul was affirming the nearness of the “end of the world.” And, as our skeptical friends like to observe, that did not happen soon. This is a major problem for anyone delineating the salvation and Day of the Lord in Romans from Christ’s A.D. 70 parousia.
To escape this problem, the futurist must deny the imminence of Romans. They must say that the salvation was, after all, unrelated to the salvation mentioned throughout the book of Romans. They must say that just because Paul said it was near, does not mean it was truly near. Paul was using time in a vague, nebulous, elastic sense, that actually makes no sense!
Unfortunately for this kind of objection, the language of the text is too clear, too emphatic. Remember that Paul said the Romans had certain knowledge that the Day was near (literally, had “drawn near,” from the perfect tense of engus). This does not sound like the Romans viewed that nearness as timeless elasticity!
But, all of this does not answer our question. How is it that the Romans knew, with certainty, that the Day of their salvation was at hand? After all, it is often argued, the New Testament writers could not know and affirm the nearness of the Day of the Lord because Jesus himself said that he did not know the day or the hour of his coming (Matthew 24:36).
Romans 13:11f and Matthew 24:36
It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of Matthew 24:36 in the amillennial and post-millennial views of the end times. Both of these paradigms insist that in Matthew 24 Jesus spoke of two comings: his A.D. 70 judgment coming against Old Covenant Israel, and, his “final” coming at the end of the current Christian age.5
The argument goes like this: In verses 4-34 (or 35), Jesus responded to the disciples’ question about the signs of the fall of Jerusalem. By observing the signs, the disciples could know “it is near, even at the door.” (Matthew 24:33). However, per this theory, in verse 36 Jesus contrasts “that day” with “those days” of the previous verses. He says, supposedly, that although there would be signs of his A.D. 70 coming, and that they could know the time of that event, there would be no signs of his “real” coming, and, “of that day and hour no one knows”. Mark’s version adds: “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels or the Son, but the Father only.” (Mark 13:32)
Based on Jesus’ statement, it is then claimed that the New Testament writers, “could not have been predicting the literally imminent return of the Savior, for such knowledge was not made available to the Lord’s penmen. Not even the Lord himself knew the time of his return to earth (Matthew 24:36).”6 In other words, because Jesus, while on earth, could not circle a day on the calendar, this is taken to mean that he could not know the generation of his appearing. This supposedly means that even though the apostles and inspired writers of the epistles said the Lord’s coming was near, their writings cannot be taken at face value. There is a severe problem with this argument, however, and I will give here a small portion of that problem presented in my book Can God Tell Time?7
Begin Quote: It is wrong to use Matthew 24:36 to try to mitigate the time statements in the epistles. To suggest that because Jesus did not know the exact time of his coming while he was still on earth, does not mean that the disciples could not know, by inspiration, when it was near, after Jesus’ ascension and sending of the Spirit. It is true that in Matthew 24:36, Jesus did not know the day or the hour of His coming. It is not true, however, that He did not know the generation. He emphatically stated the contrary, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall by no means pass until all these things be fulfilled.” And, the “all these things” included His coming on the clouds with power and great glory of verses 29-31.
In John 16, Jesus told His disciples that there were many things He could not yet tell them, but that the Father would send the Spirit, who would reveal to them “things to come” (John 16:13). The Spirit was to reveal to the disciples what Jesus could not reveal to them while He was on earth. What was to be revealed was “things to come.” In other words, what Jesus did not know while He was on earth, was to be revealed by the Spirit after Christ’s ascension.
Jesus did send the Spirit. The Spirit revealed to the disciples the things that Jesus could not reveal to them while he was on earth. Thus, when we read the epistles, all written after the sending of the revelatory Spirit, and they say that the coming of the Lord had drawn near, we must accept their statements as the inspired revelation of God. Let me express it like this:
The parousia of Christ in James 5:8-9 (and of course, in Romans 13:11, DKP), is the coming of Christ concerning which Jesus, while on earth, did not know the time.
The Holy Spirit was, after Christ’s ascension, to guide the apostles into all truth, and reveal “things to come.”
James (And Paul in our text, DKP), was writing after Christ’s ascension, and was writing through the inspiration of the Spirit, who instructed him to write concerning things to come “ the parousia has drawn near.” (James 5:8-9; Romans 13:11f)
Therefore, what Jesus did not know while he was on earth, the Spirit, in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, was revealing to James (and to Paul).
Thus, the parousia truly was near in James 5, (and in Romans), unless the Father, through the Spirit was not revealing the Truth about things to come.
The reality that all of the New Testament books were written after the out pouring of the Spirit means that all of the N. T. statements about the nearness of Christ’s coming were true. They were not the statements of hope, or of personal belief versus fact. It means that what Jesus could not reveal while he was on earth, was now being revealed by the inspiration of the revelatory Spirit.
It is a denial of the revelatory work of the Spirit to insist that because Jesus did not know the time of His coming while on earth, that this same “ignorance” prevailed after His ascension, and the sending of the Spirit. (End Quote)
Clearly, the disciples claimed that they had (inspired) knowledge that Christ’s coming was near. In the text before us, Romans 13:11f, remember that Paul said that the Romans had “certain knowledge” that the Day was at hand. Paul said they knew their salvation was nearer. They knew for certain that it was time for their raising (this is resurrection language!), was at hand. They knew for certain that the “night” was almost gone.
The reality is that Paul and the N.T. writers were writing through the inspiration of the Spirit, just as Jesus promised. And, they emphatically say, repeatedly, that Christ’s coming was at hand, near, and coming soon. This means that what Jesus did not know when he was on earth (in Matthew 24:36), was now being revealed to and by those inspired authors. This means that when Paul said “knowing the time…our salvation is nearer…The day is at hand”, it was the Father, through the Spirit, revealing that the Day was truly near! Thus, Matthew 24:36 cannot and does not mitigate the imminence of the parousia in Romans 13. Instead, when seen in the light of Jesus’ promise concerning the revelatory Spirit, it emphasizes the reality of that imminence.
THE HOUR HAS COME
What a lot of translations do not render in Romans 13, but that is indisputably present, is that Paul literally says, “the hour has come for you to be raised out of sleep.” (V. 11). A couple of things jump out at us here.
First, Paul uses the word “hour” in what is indisputably an eschatological text, a resurrection text. He says that they know for certain that the hour has come for them to be raised!
John uses the word hour in an eschatological, resurrection context as well, when he said that the last hour would be the time of the raising (from anastasis) of the dead (John 6:44). Furthermore, John tells us, like Paul, “Little children, it is the last hour. As you have heard that anti-christ should come, even now there are many anti-christs, whereby you know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18).
Second, we should point out that the word rendered by some translations as “awake” here, is from the Greek word egerthenai, which is an aorist, (first), infinitive passive of egeiro. This is the word most often used of the raising of Christ from the dead. While the word can be used in a “mundane” sense, unrelated to resurrection, it nonetheless has a strong a resurrection motif related to it.
The reason that egeiro is rendered as awake here, is because very often in scripture, “sleep” is a euphemism for death, both physical (e.g. John 11:15; 1 Corinthians 15:50), and non-physical death (Ephesians 5:14). And, the use of the passive in this text indicates that someone other than the Romans was to raise them up. They were to be the object of the raising. To what might this raising refer?
In Romans 6 Paul spoke at length of the Romans being joined withe death, burial and resurrection of Christ, through baptism: “Therefore, we were buried with Christ, by baptism, into death. That like as Christ was raised (egeiro) from the dead by the glory of the father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Paul is clearly linking the raising of Christ with the raising of believers, and even goes on to say, “If we have been like him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Now, one thing that jumps out to us, if we are willing to see it, is that patently, Paul cannot have physical life and physical resurrection in mind here! The Romans had not participated in Christ’s physical death and burial! And, yet, Paul said they had joined him in his death, and in his burial. And, the coming resurrection life was to be in the same likeness of his resurrection, that they had participated in through their baptism into him! Now, if their participation in his death and burial was not through participation in physical death and physical burial, then the future raising, (which was to be in the same “likeness”), was not going to be a raising from physical death!
Our point of course is that egeiro has strong eschatological as well as soteriological connotations. And, the fact that he uses it in the passive in Romans 13 telling the Romans that they would be raised up, at the Day of Salvation strengthens the eschatological (resurrection) motif.
Paul’s declaration that the hour had arrived for them to be raised resonates of the same sentiment as in Peter, written just a short time later than Romans. In Peter’s epistle, the apostle spoke of Christ being “ready to judge the living and the dead”, that, “the end of all things has drawn near”, and “the time has come for the judgment to begin.” (1 Peter 4:5, 7, 17). So, Peter and Paul agree that the critical eschatological, appointed time, the time for the resurrection and judgment, had drawn near.
THE NIGHT IS FAR SPENT
Again, Paul’s language is highly suggestive. He says “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” What is the “night” that Paul refers to? Is he referring to the bleakness of the human experience?8 Was Paul a pessimist that viewed this world as something to be endured, and then escaped? No, Paul was no pessimist, and contrary to futurist eschatologies that hold that this world is essentially cursed and evil, Paul believed that the arrival of the Day, would mean continuing life–although a different kind of life– here on earth! But, before we demonstrate that, we need to look a bit closer at Paul’s concept of the Day and the Night.
One thing we can be sure of is that Paul’s concept of light and darkness is colored by the Old Testament.
The Old Testament writers sometimes referred to the majesty of YHVH as encompassed in darkness as in Psalms 97:2: “Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” However, in the majority of references to darkness, dark, night, etc., there is an overwhelming sense of negativity. In fact, it is despair, hopelessness; is directly linked with death!
The Psalmist said: “Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High, 12 Therefore He brought down their heart with labor; They fell down, and there was none to help.” Notice the direct interplay between darkness and death. Jeremiah called on his people to repent and turn to YHVH: “Give glory to the LORD your God Before He causes darkness, And before your feet stumble On the dark mountains, And while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death And makes it dense darkness.” (Jeremiah 13:16) For Jeremiah– and all the prophets- darkness and death were virtually synonymous.
On the other hand, notice the re
lationship between being brought out of darkness– it is being brought out of death: “Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces (Psalms 107:13-14) This motif of darkness / death– v– light / life, is repeated many times in the O.T..9
Isaiah lamented Israel’s condition under Torah and sin, “Therefore justice is far from us, Nor does righteousness overtake us; We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness!” (Isaiah 59:9 ). But, he also foretold a better day; “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:2 ). The Day would arrive, when Messiah came: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2f). Notice again the resurrection motif, for it is explicit. To come out of darkness is to come into life.
Isaiah continued with the motif of the coming of the light when Messiah came: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, And the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness.” (Isa 29:18). The Messiah would “open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.” (Isaiah 42:7 ), and, “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16).
While we cannot develop it here for space considerations, we need to briefly note that the promises of the coming Day- to dispel the Darkness– are couched within contexts of the restoration (resurrection) of Israel in the last days. This is especially graphic in Isaiah 49 where we find the restoration of the “tribes of Jacob”, followed by the calling of the Gentiles (v. 6), when the earth would be restored, the New Covenant would be made: “That You may say to the prisoners, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.” (Isaiah 49:6-9).10 Israel is depicted as restored back to her God. This restoration, this time of light, would be the time of salvation.
And we cannot fail to notice, again, the resurrection motif that is present in these texts. Israel, expelled from the presence of God, was in Darkness, and dead (Ezekiel 37:10f). As the wife divorced from her husband, Israel was also slain by YHVH (Hosea 3-6). Her darkness was the darkness of death and alienation from her God. She dwelt “in the dust of the earth,” but, she would arise (cf. Isaiah 26; Isaiah 52:1-9;11 Daniel 12:2).12 The coming of the Day was the coming of resurrection life– restoration to the presence of YHVH!
It is clear from these prophecies that the coming of the Day was the Day of Salvation (Isaiah 49), the restoration of Israel under Messiah, the time of the raising out of the dust. It was the time of the resurrection.
So, in prophecy, the coming of the Day, the Day of Salvation, was eschatological to the core. It involved the restoration of the “earth”, the resurrection of Israel, the kingdom, the New Covenant, and virtually every tenet of salvation that one can possibly imagine. It was deliverance from the darkness of sin, despair, alienation, and death. This means that when Paul said, “Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed”, he was not saying that they were nearer to their personal death, or, that the passing of the few years from their conversion had brought them that much nearer to their salvation in some vague, elastic, ambiguous way. Paul was saying that the Day of Salvation, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises of the Day, stood on the very brink of fulfillment.
I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD- LIGHT HAS COME
Of course, one cannot read these promises of the coming of the Day, and the dispelling of the darkness without thinking of Jesus and his mission. Matthew 4 cites Isaiah 9: “Those who sat in darkness have seen a great light”, and affirms that Christ’s presence heralded the fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise. And, in the book of John, Jesus affirms over and over, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”13 (John 8:12- Note again the interplay between light and life, as opposed to darkness and death).
Now, one thing is fascinating about light and darkness in the gospel of John. Jesus affirmed that he was / is light, and that to dwell in him is to walk in light, and not darkness. But, notice what Jesus told them: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’” (John 12:25-26)
Do you catch what he said? He said that while he was with them, they had the light. But, he told his disciples that the darkness was coming, when he would be taken from them.
So, while Jesus was with the disciples, the light was present. When he was taken from them, the darkness would prevail again, the darkness would return. But of course, this is where the promise of the coming of “the Day” becomes so significant, and wonderful! If the Darkness came with the absence of Jesus, then the Day would arrive with the presence of Jesus!14
It will be argued by many that the promise of the Day must therefore, demand a physical presence of Jesus. Of course this is not true, since Jesus was to return, not as a man, but, “in the glory of the Father” (Matthew 16:27), to be revealed, not as man, but, as King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15f), the Great God and Savior (Titus 2:13).15 The fact, scripturally indisputable, that Jesus was to be revealed as God, mitigates any possibility that he was to return as a man, in human flesh.
So, Christ is the light, and his parousia (which of course means presence, not coming), was to bring “the Day.” The Day would be the time of his eternal presence with man: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with man.” (Revelation 21:3). The parousia would bring the New Jerusalem, and one of the characteristics of the promised City, taken directly from Isaiah 60, is that God would be the light, and there would be no need of the sun or moon (Revelation 22:5f).16
Peter and John agree with Paul that the Day was at hand. Peter urged his readers to give heed to
the O.T. scriptures “until the Day dawn” (2 Peter 1:17f). Likewise, John wrote: “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:8-11).
A couple of things are apparent from this text. The Light and Darkness cannot be referent to two spatially contrasting worlds. In other words, if the True Light was already shining, one cannot make it referent to a dimension after the end of time. And, if the Darkness was already passing away, it is apparent as well that John was not referring to the material creation, although he did believe that “the world (kosmos)17 is passing away” (1 John 2:18).
It is sometimes argued that the idea of the “already-but-not-yet” of eschatology and salvation is mistaken. Amillennialists have a tendency to condemn the preterist for saying that the kingdom was established in infancy / immaturity / incompletion on Pentecost, but awaited consummation and perfection at Christ’s A.D. 70 parousia. It is claimed that the church was complete, perfect, at Pentecost. But, if this is so, how could Paul say that the night was not yet past– although it was far advanced? And how could John say that the True Light was already shining, yet, he was awaiting the complete passing of the night? Patently, a process of some kind had begun, was in progress, and was awaiting imminent consummation. John was awaiting the Day that would arrive at the parousia (presence) of Christ, the True Light.
It must be kept in mind that the anticipation and promise of the coming of the Day has its roots in the O.T. promises made to Israel, as we have seen above (cf Isaiah 49). The coming of the Day of Salvation, as foreseen by Isaiah was the promise of God dwelling with His people in the New Tabernacle, under the New Covenant. There is no doubt that the process of the restoration of Israel, and establishment of the New Tabernacle had begun (cf. Acts 15:14f; Ephesians 2:19f; Hebrews 8:1f). However, just as John and Peter said that the Night was not yet past, the New Testament writers also affirmed that the Temple– the presence of God– was not yet fully “built.” It was “under construction (“you are being built up a habitation of God…” Ephesians 2:20). Paul emphatically told the Corinthians that they were the Temple of God promised in Ezekiel 37 (2 Corinthians 6:16f), and that the Day of Salvation had arrived (2 Corinthians 6:1-3). Yet, he was also clearly looking for the consummation, the Day of Redemption (Ephesians 4:30). As Paul says, “The Day is at hand.” (Romans 13:11f)
LET US WALK HONESTLY, AS IN THE DAY
I am somewhat amused, yet saddened, when I read or hear the opponent’s of covenant eschatology make the following claim: “In the N. T. ethical conduct was based on eschatology, i.e. the coming of the Lord. If the preterists are right and the Lord has come, there is no longer any ground for ethical exhortation.”18 Unfortunately, this argument fails to even consider what Paul says in Romans 13.
Notice that Paul urges living breathing humans “let us walk honestly, as in the Day.” He gave both negative mandates (put off the works of darkness), and positive, “walk honestly.” But, the key point is that Paul urged them to live as if the Day had arrived, although clearly, it had not yet done so.
Paul’s exhortation demanded both negative and positive moral and ethical mandates. And that statement, “As in the Day” means, undeniably, that when and after the Day arrived, the ethical lives he mandated before the arrival of the Day, were the types of lives he expected them to live after the arrival of the Day! Do you catch that?
If one takes the position that the Day of the Lord is an earth burning, time ending, kosmos destroying event, then, in the truest sense possible, ethical exhortations for after that event are moot and meaningless! You can’t put off the works of Darkness if there is no Darkness to abandon, after this so-called end of time. You basically don’t have the choice of putting off evil after the Day, because in the traditional view of the Day, there are no more choices, no more dilemmas, no more temptation, after the Day arrives. Yet, Paul envisioned the continuing need for putting off the works of Darkness and living holy lives after the arrival of the Day. The arrival of the Day would make holiness requisite, and Paul was preparing them for that Day. This is incredibly important!
What Paul is saying is perfectly consonant with what Peter and the other writers had to say. Peter said that in the New Creation, it would be a world of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13)– which is taken directly from Isaiah 65-66. Yet, Isaiah 65-66 positively posits the New Creation as a time when man is still on earth, living in a new relationship with his God. It is not about the end of time.
Likewise, in Revelation 21-22, after the “end” inspiration posits the continuing existence of evil outside the city, and evangelism, i.e. the nations coming into the city for healing (22:3f). This speaks powerfully of the continuing human experience, but, that in the city, there is refuge, life and security. Scripture knows nothing of an “end of time and human history” theology.
So, what have we seen in this relatively brief article? We have shown that Paul expressed, in the strongest terms possible, the imminence of the Day of the Lord.
We have shown that you cannot mitigate the objective nearness of the language by an appeal to Matthew 24:36, because it was the revelatory Spirit from the Father that inspired Paul to say “The Day is at hand.”
We have seen that the Day that he anticipated was the Day promised in the O.T. prophets, the time of Israel’s restoration under Messiah. This is a corporate concept, not of individual salvation at death.
The Day of Salvation that Paul was anticipating cannot be an end of time scenario, for he expected the Romans to continue to live on, in lives of holiness, beyond the Day.
The Day of Salvation that Paul anticipated could not be referent to the personal conversion experience, for Paul was writing to people who had already been converted.
The Day of Salvation that Paul anticipated could not be referent to the death of individuals, for Paul expected and mandated that after the arrival of the Day, those very people would live lives of holiness.
So, Paul was anticipating the full arrival of the Day of Salvation. That Day had already dawned, but, had not yet fully come. That Day of Salvation is rooted in the Old Covenant promi
ses to Israel. It was the restoration of Israel under Messiah and the New Covenant. That Day was the consummation of the eschaton, and the full arrival of the New Creation, where righteousness makes its home. Those who put off the works of Darkness and are clothed with Christ, walk in the wondrous security and splendor of his light and his life.
3 If the salvation of Romans 13:11f is the salvation of Romans 11, and particularly v. 25f, then the point we will make below is verified beyond refutation. Paul anticipated the salvation of Israel at the parousia of Christ. This parousia and salvation would be in fulfillment of Isaiah 27 and 59, and both passages predicted the Day of the Lord, the salvation of Israel, when Old Covenant Israel was judged for shedding innocent blood. So, the salvation of Romans 13:11f, being the salvation foretold by Romans 11, cannot under any circumstances be referent to personal salvation of the individual at a person’s death. It was to be a historical parousia in the same nature of YHVH’s parousias in the O.T.. Attempts to strip the N. T. of predictions of objective eschatology are misguided and false.
4 In my March 2008 debate with Mac Deaver in Carlsbad, N. M., Deaver argued that the Athenians (Acts 17), would not have known of, or cared about, the fall of Jerusalem as the fulfillment of O.T. prophecy. His point was that the fall of Jerusalem could not, therefore, have been of such monumental significance as to be the eschaton. I responded by showing that fewer people– including the Athenians– knew of Jesus’ passion than A.D. 70, but, that this does not mean that Jesus’ passion was less important! MP3s of that debate are available from me at: www.eschatology.org.
This view is so well accepted in the amillennial and post-millennial world that there is no need to produce multitudinous quotes.
6 Wayne Jackson article, “The Menace of Radical Preterism” on his website www.christiancourier.com.
7 That book can be ordered from my website: www.eschatology.org.
8 The pessimism of the futurist eschatologies is exemplified by Moo in the following: “There is of course, a sense in which Christians will always be pessimistic about this world, for Scripture makes it real clear that no real or permanent transformation can be expected until Christ returns.” Douglas Moo, The NIV Applications Commentary, 2 Peter and Jude, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1996)203. Moo has other, equally pessimistic comments in that commentary.
9 There is a direct link also between darkness and a life devoted to sin in the Old Testament. In Proverbs 2:13; 4:19; 20:20, a life of rebellion is directly likened to walking in darkness, and death.
10 Note the perfect correlation between Isaiah 49 and Romans 13. The passing of darkness in the day of salvation in Isaiah, and Paul’s declaration that the Day was at hand and their salvation was near. As Paul reminds us, if we will listen, his eschatological hope was the hope of Israel, grounded in Moses and the prophets.
11 Unfortunately, Isaiah 52 is not often seen as a resurrection text. However, Israel and Jerusalem are depicted as in the dust of the earth, and this is undoubtedly a “death” motif (Isaiah 26; Daniel 12). However, Israel would be raised out of the dust, when she was restored to the presence of God, after being cast out of His presence, and this would be the Day of Zion’s redemption (Isaiah 52:7-9). Resurrection permeates the text.
12 This dwelling in the dust is not referent to physical death and burial in terra firma, however. The language is hyperbolic and metaphoric, as demonstrated by the fact that in Ezekiel, YHVH was calling living humans dead and in the graves! Likewise, Hosea called living humans dead, and yet, they sinned “more and more” (Hosea 13:1-2). The modern reader needs to grasp the Hebraic thought forms in order to properly assess the language of these texts.
14 There is a caveat here. Before the Day arrived, it is said that by being baptized into Christ, and following his word, they dwelt in him, and in the light. Thus, John wrote to those who said they dwelt in the light, but, he castigated them for living lives inconsistent with “the light” (1 John 2:9f). So, by being in Christ, they could walk in the light, but, this does not in anyway negate the reality of the coming of the Day.
15 See my exhaustive discussion of the nature of the parousia in my Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, available from my website: www.eschatology.org.
16 The coming of the City, the New Heavens and Earth, and the Tabernacle, the Wedding, are all clearly corporate ideas, and do not speak of individualistic concepts. They are depicted as occurring at a singular, punctiliar point in time, not as every human who accepts Christ dies. There is, lamentably, an attempt on the part of some to make virtually all Biblical eschatological predictions a referent to personal salvation, Christ’s coming at the point of death, etc.. However, the Day of the Lord is not an individualistic concept, but an objective, corporate reality. YHVH came in judgment of nations, in concrete historical events (cf. Isaiah 19; 34, Ezekiel 29f, etc.). Christ’s coming on the clouds, with the angels, in judgment of Israel for shedding innocent blood (Matthew 23-24), can hardly be applied individualistically. To seek to mitigate this indisputable fact by conceding that it was a providential coming, is, in reality, to abandon the individualistic emphasis. Christ’s coming, so far as I can determine, is never applied to an individual’s death. It is a lamentable theological fabrication to claim otherwise.
17 Once again the objective, concrete nature of John’s eschatology is borne out. Kosmos is never used of an individual, but of societal order, a structured order, etc. Thus, for John, the objective passing of “the world,” which was symbolized by Darkness, was already taking place. Conversely, the Day was at hand. If kosmos referred to the Old Order, then “the Day” refers to the new kosmos, a new order of things, not individual death or conversion.
18 See my refutation of this charge in my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, available at www.eschatology.org.. It seems not to have dawned on some of the well-intentioned but misguided, adversaries of Covenant Eschatology that their argument is self-destructive. Consider that John and Jesus said “Repent, for the kingdom has drawn near.” Well, here is ethics based on eschatology! Did that mean that when the kingdom came, ethical living would be un-necessary? Hardly! Our opponents would argue that the arrival of the kingdom would emphasize morality. Amen! But, you see, the kingdom was to come at Christ’s parousia in the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:25-32; Revelation 11:15-18). So, fulfilled eschatology does not negate ethical paranesis, it emphasizes it.