Question: The Bible says that “Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). How do we know what the time is?
Answer: The key to understanding this verse is the phrase: “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” The Bible tells us that our salvation has three parts to it:
1. We are saved from the penalty of our sins by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8,9; Acts 16:31).
2. We are also saved from the power of sin in our lives. Because Christians still have the sin nature we need to daily yield ourselves unto God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans chapters 6 through 8 give us instruction on this aspect of salvation. (See also Philippians 2:12.)
3. We will also be saved from the very presence of sin. When will that salvation take place? It will be when the Lord Jesus comes in the air to take His redeemed people to heaven. This is often referred to as the rapture, and is mentioned by the Lord Jesus in John 14:3 and also the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and again in 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18.
The salvation mentioned in the verse that you quoted has to do with the salvation from the presence of sin. That salvation is nearer than when we believed. Do we know when that salvation from the presence of sin will take place? No! The Lord has not told us the day of His coming to take us to heaven but He has told us what the times will be like when He comes to take His waiting people home. These times are called the last days and are described as “perilous times … for men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent [without self-control], fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady [reckless], high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Does this characterize the times in which we are now living? Almost every daily newspaper has articles that describe most of the 19 things just mentioned. Each day that passes we read more and more about men and women who are guilty of these terrible things. If we agree that this is true, then the coming of the Lord Jesus to take His people to heaven is very near. It could be today! It is high time for us to wake up and serve the Lord. Those believers who lived in Thessalonica had been worshipping idols. When they were saved they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10).
Although almost two thousand years have passed since the Lord Jesus said that He would come again, we need to remember that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” So in one sense it has only been two days for the Lord. Why has He waited so long? God is “longsuffering … not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:8,9). Do we know what time it is on God’s calendar? If we do, may we imitate those Thessalonian Christians!
—John D. McNeil