Vol.XV No.X Pg.3
December 1978

Knowing The Time

Dan S. Shipley

"And 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." (Rom. 13:11) The sentiments of this verse seem especially appropriate as we contemplate the beginning o a new year. Not, of course, that calendar dates mean that much to those who should be "always abounding in the work of the Lord", but such dates can serve as effective reminders. Properly redeeming the time (Eph. 5:16) begins with knowing the time in the way that Paul speaks of here. Just what all knowing the time involves is not detailed in this context, but it certainly would include such things as God reveals in other Bible passages.

For instance, God tells us that life is but for a "little time" (Jas. 4:14). Knowing the time, then, is to be mindful of its limited supply. Almost every time I see a scoreboard, clock ticking off the seconds remaining in a ballgame, I am reminded that at the same time it is ticking off the seconds and minutes remaining in my life — and that is sobering! Even when considered in its entirety, life is brief as James says. But think of the time that is forever gone in our past life; think in terms of "the rest of your time in the flesh" (1 Pet. 4:2) and you will appreciate what Paul says about the time being shortened (1 Cor. 8:29). Knowing the time is to know that there is precious little of it — to begin with or remaining. Right NOW we have less time than ever before; NOW our salvation is nearer than ever before. That is why we must awake out of our lethargy and indifference to redeem the time.

But more than seeing it in short supply, knowing the time means counting it as opportunity, as our text implies. The sounding alarm not only means "wake up!" it also means "get up and get with it!" for there is much to be done, a battle to be won. Spiritually speaking, it means busying ourselves with putting off the things of darkness and putting on the things of light (v.12) while we can — while we have opportunity. In fact, "redeeming the time" in Eph. 5:16 is literally, "buying up the opportunity" (see ASV footnote). As Jesus has said, we must work "while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." (Jn. 9:4). Whether our "night" be the end of time, the grave or the infirmities of old age, it surely "cometh" and, with it, the end of opportunity. All too soon the present becomes the past; its wasted opportunities become haunting regrets. As those knowing the time; as those who hear God's alarm clock ringing, we must remain opportunity - conscious while it is day.

Finally, knowing the time means to appreciate it as an expression of God's longsuffering. Why does God allow us to continue here? Simply because He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore, we "account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation" (v. 15); i.e., opportunity to repent and serve and be saved. God waits, as in the days of Noah. Each of us determines, in our own case, whether He waits in vain. As the scoreboard clock reminds us, time is running out. No time-outs left. Tick... Tick... Tick...