Are You Awake?

A couple weeks ago I went to a clinic for an overnight sleep study. I found out that I have a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea, a disruption of the breathing process while asleep. My case was caught in the early stages, and with proper treatment, I should be fine. Since my thoughts have been focused on sleep, I began to think about the number of passages in the Bible which use sleeping as an illustration.

First, the Bible teaches that those outside of Christ are asleep. In Ephesians 5:13–14, Paul writes, “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ ” According to Paul, those who are not Christians need to wake up—they are asleep.

Sleep is certainly an appropriate metaphor for those who are not Christians. Without Christ, we are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), and in the Bible death is sometimes referred to as sleep (as in the case of Lazarus in John 11:11). Those who are outside of Christ are in the darkness of sin, as Paul states in Ephesians 5:8 (“you were formerly darkness”). But just as the rising sun drives away the darkness of night, the Light of the world, Jesus, can shine in salvation on those who will “awake” and receive Him.

Second, the Bible teaches that Christians who become weak and lapse into the darkness of their former life need to wake up. Romans 13:11–12 says, “Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

In context, Paul is explaining the obligations of Christians who “live by faith.” Beginning in Romans 12 and continuing through the end of the book he explains the practical day-to-day impact of justification by faith. His point in Romans 13:11–12 is that we have already wasted enough time in the slumbers of sinfulness, and we need to engage our faith in earnest urgency. So if you are a weak and faltering Christian, Paul says you need to wake up!

Third, the Bible teaches we must be awake as we look for the coming of the Lord. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6).

The subject of this passage is the “day of the Lord,” which Paul says could occur at any moment. In view of this uncertainty, there is never a time in which we can spiritually “take a nap” or “fall asleep on the job.” We must be watchful and alert, waiting for the return of our Savior with sober minds.

Are you asleep or awake?