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On Them a Light has Dawned
Building blocks for a theology of hope
“Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:11–12)
The New Testament is littered with a surprising number of references to night and day. Moreover, these references, when they are made, frequently have nothing to do with the way we generally think about night and day (as simple facts of creation). Rather, when the apostles speak of night and day in the Scriptures, they often present these twin realities as the bookends of history; “night” referring to the age prior to the coming of Christ and “day” referring to the post-incarnation age that was inaugurated with the coming of Christ and that will be brought to a glorious and climactic fulfilment at His return.
A few texts should suffice to demonstrate the point:
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. (Rom. 13:11–12)
[…] not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25)
[…] the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 Jn. 2:8)
More texts could be cited, but the basic point is clear enough: to the mind of the apostles, the world prior to Christ was a world of darkness. With the coming of Christ, however, a Light has come into the world which the darkness cannot overcome (Jn. 1:5).
And just as there is no dimming the sun once it has begun to break over the horizon, so there is no restraining the Sun of righteousness once He has burst forth from the grave to take His seat in the heavens (Mal. 4:2). His light, which first began to shine at the incarnation, will only continue to grow brighter until it eventually rises to fill the entire cosmos (Rev. 21:23). Christ is risen, and there is no crevice, shadow, nor nook in all the world that will fail to be illuminated by His light. God has decreed it, and He will make it so.
Our task, then, is twofold. As those who have been united to Christ and thus have been made “children of the day” (1 Thess. 5:5), we must live like children of the day. And this means living lives marked by soberness, watchfulness, and holiness. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, those who “sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:7–8).
Secondly, we must be those characterized by hope and not despair. If what the apostle wrote is true and the night is “far gone” and the “day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12), the church of Jesus Christ must be the most joyful, steadfast, and collected institution in all the world. After all, God has told us that history is moving in a singular direction — a direction that climaxes with the global exaltation of His Son, our King and Saviour. In other words, the Day is dawning and all cause for fear and fretting has been removed. The world can scramble after the bread of anxious toil, but our hope is secure.
As the prophet said, “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16; Isa. 9:1, 2).
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