The Night Is Far Spent, the Day Is at Hand – Part 1

Norbert Lieth

How do people recognize us as followers of the Lord Jesus?

Not by our radiant faces; not by the words that we preach; not by the songs that we sing; not by our regular Bible studies; not by the principles that we hold and defend; not by the pious affectations that we display, but by the love that we practice. In Lübeck, Germany, I once visited a marzipan factory. A wise saying printed on the wall reads, “Sugar won’t ever oversalt your food.” The thought occurred to me that the same is also true of love: with it, we can’t go wrong.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Without love, everything is meaningless. It’s the impulse behind every exhortation the Apostle Paul gives in Romans 13:10-14. When icy storms blow across Antarctica, thousands of penguins crowd together to keep each other warm. They take turns and rotate, so that the ones on the outside slowly move inward, and the ones on the inside move outward again. The icy cold can only be overcome together in this way. In these increasingly icy end-time storms, it is all the more important to hold fast to the ultimate goal of love.

Why does Paul say here, in Romans 13:10-14, that the night is far spent and the day is at hand? In other places he says the opposite: that members of the Church are children of the day and do not belong to the night:

“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5:5-8).

The Church of the Lord Jesus lives in the daylight: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8). Conversely, all the nations—Israel included—live in the night and are surrounded by darkness. Since the Church is still in the world, she experiences the night around her, even though she herself is in the light.

We have to take into account that Romans is the first apostolic letter of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit also arranged things this way. In Paul’s letters, there is a progressive, increasing revelation. The Apostle didn’t just address this first letter (in the Biblical canon) to the Jews living in Rome, but to the Gentiles as well. In other letters, he does this less and less. On the one hand, the letter to the Romans deals with the justification of all people through Jesus. On the other hand, it deals with the role of Israel in salvific history in great detail—its past, present restoration, and its re-adoption in the future (Rom 9—10). Paul skillfully switches back and forth between the Jews and the Gentiles again and again. At one point, he was clearly speaking to the Jews; at another, only to Gentiles. An example:

To Jews: “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God…For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (Rom 2:17, 24). To the nations: “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Rom 11:24).

When our key passage talks about the long-spent night, it’s about Israel’s night first of all. This is borne out by several biblical references. When Jesus was on earth, He said: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5).

As long as Jesus was physically present in Israel, it was day. When he left Israel, night fell over the people, and the day of salvation arrived for the nations. “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). Isaiah had already prophetically heralded this: “He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come” (Is 21:11-12).

Deep spiritual darkness and deadly shadows lie over the world and Israel. A new day, a new salvific chapter began with the first coming of the Lord Jesus. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Is 9:2; cf. Matt 4:16). Morning dawned—albeit through the rejection of the Lord by the Jewish people—and immediately night fell again for Israel. Jesus, who is the rising Sun, departed from the people for heaven. The deadly shadows of night assailed the Israelites as never before (Hos 5:15—6:3). The earthly presence of the Lord Jesus was just a brief dawn of salvation for Israel, just a bright moment.

“The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.” This declaration seems to be very prophetic, as if indicating a repetition at another time. As a matter of fact, Christ will return and will ask this question of His people again in the end time.

Israel has been in nighttime for 2,000 years. But a new day is dawning with the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the bright morning star (Rev 22:16), as well as the Sun of righteousness (Mal 4:2). However, this new day brings the nighttime of the Great Tribulation and the anti-Christian empire just before it. Morning comes, and also the night.

The Lord said something else significant in reference to Israel; namely, in the parable of the ten virgins: “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matt 25:5-6). And in the parable of the wheat and the tares, He said: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way” (Matt 13:25).

The advancing night is precisely the time in which the bright morning star rises (Rev 22:16). In the same way, the Lord will come like a thief in the night (Matt 24:43; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 3:3; 16:15). Both of these statements have always been about the return of Jesus in glory to establish His kingdom on earth. It’s always related to Israel. It’s night for Israel, and a spiritual sleep has come over the people (Mic 3:6-7; 7:8-9).

Paul already referenced this in his great chapter on Israel, in Romans 11: “(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day” (v. 8). This passage is referencing Isaiah 29:10. But when this time is over and Jesus appears in glory, Jeremiah 31:26 will be fulfilled: “Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.” God made something good from the bad. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps 30:5b).

Our passage reads, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Which day is this referring to? In this context, it’s the great day of Jesus’ return. When the Apostle Peter wrote to the Jews, he also had this day in mind and said: “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19).

Goethe is said to have cried from his deathbed, “More light!” He was a genius who possessed an enlightened human spirit, but he lacked the light of the Holy Spirit from above. Our world is also crying out for more light in this growing nighttime. But it can only be found in the living Word of God; namely, the Person of Jesus Christ—which the Word places at the center of salvation!

The Rapture of the faithful from among the Jews and Gentiles will already have occurred prior to the Day of the Lord. Paul says, “For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” When we believed, our souls were saved. However, with the imminent return of the Lord Jesus, our entry into heaven (and thus our physical salvation) is even closer.

“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep…The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Rom 13:11-12). We should be clear on where we stand. The night is far spent! Jesus reproached His contemporaries concerning their time, which we could certainly apply to ourselves and our time: “When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt 16:2-3). There is a striking Old Testament example of understanding the time: “…of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (1 Chron 12:32).

The Church is living in the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2; 1 Thess 5:5ff.). Christians are children of light and the day, whereas Israel and the world live in the night and are ruled by powers and principalities—by the powers of darkness (Eph 6:12). These are the actual world powers. The whole world lies under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Nevertheless, evil may never touch the children of God (2 Thess 3:3; 1 John 4:4; 5:18; Jude 24). This is because the Church has been moved from the domain of darkness to the domain of Jesus (Col 1:13).

It was once aptly said, “The new world order isn’t a Jewish conspiracy, but a satanic one.” Someone else remarked, “The world is ripe for judgment, evil is ripe for the harvest, and the church is ripe for the Rapture.” According to Daniel 10:13-20, governments and empires are ruled by princes who are fighting against the kingdom of God. So, the Church experiences the night around herself, so to speak, because we’re still living in the world. We need to understand that we’re living in the end times. It’s getting darker because the night is far advanced. But this is also why the new day of Jesus’ return is coming.

Paul was a prophet, and thus he spoke prophetically into the end time. He said that “now it is high time.” This aligns with the words of the Apostle and prophet John, who similarly wrote, “Little children, it is the last time…” (1 John 2:18). The coming of the Antichrist is approaching with the last hour. This truth of the Holy Spirit will always be prophetically timely, even if it lasts many hundreds of years. How much more do we have cause to testify to this today?

News From Israel - 11/2021

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