Today’s selected reading continues I the New redeemed epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses Doreen through twenty of the fifth chapter. When I begin reading this particular portion of scripture found within the fifth chapter of the epistle which Paul wrote unto the Ephesians I can’t help but be stirred within my spirit concerning a thought that builds from and within the previous verse. If you transition back one verse in this chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking of that which was written concerning awakening from your slumber—and not only awakening from ones slumber, but also rising from the dead. In the fourteenth verse the apostle Paul writes concerning awakening from your slumber and rising up from the dead, and then in the fifteenth verse the apostle Paul goes on to write and speak of the walk of the saints and believers. In the fifteenth verse or the fifth chapter the apostle Paul instructs the Ephesian saints and congregation to walk circumspectly, and to do so not as fools but as wise. What’s more, is that in the sixteenth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul writes and speaks of redeeming the the time for the days are evil. Follow this pattern of thought, for in the fourteenth verse we find the apostle Paul speaking of awakening from one’s slumber, and in the very same verse the apostle speaks of rising from the dead. The apostle Paul then goes on to write that when we awaken from our slumber and when we rise from the dead Christ will give us light. I am convinced that it is that light which Christ gives us and shines on us that allows us to walk the way he speaks of in this particular passage. If you read this particular chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing and instructing the Ephesian saints—not only to walk in love, but also to walk on the light. The apostle Paul spends a considerable amount of time writing and speaking of the way in which we are to walk, and I am convinced the key to our walking the way the apostle Paul writes and speaks of is by and according to the light which Christ shall shine on our hearts.
I have to admit that I absolutely love what I read in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth verses of this chapter, for there is much that can and should be said about that which the apostle is writing unto this congregation. Within these three verses we not only find a powerful invitation to awaken from our slumber, but we also find a powerful invitation to rise from the dead. When and once we have awakened from our slumber and have risen from the dead and Christ’s light begins to shine on us we can then begin to walk in and according to that light as wide sons and daughters rather than foolish. In all reality, I am convinced that the only way we can walk circumspectly the way the apostle Paul wrote and spoke about is if we walk in, by and according to that light. The light of Christ must shine forth from Him within and upon our hearts and lives if we are to walk according to the pattern and way we have been created and intended on walking. AWAKEN! RISE! WALK! Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous power of those three words as they begin to paint and unfold a tremendous reality within our hearts and lives. Each one of these realities builds upon the other, and we cannot have the second without the first, and we certainly cannot have the third without the first two. We would be incredibly naïve to think that we can walk the way the apostle Paul wrote and spoke about while we are still sound asleep in our slumber. What’s more, is that we can’t expect or hope to walk the way the apostle wrote and spoke about if we have not risen from the dead and transitioned from death to life. We have all been created, designed and intended to walk in love, to walk in the light, and to walk as wise men and women and not Fooks, but there are these two realities which must needs be manifested within our hearts and lives before we are fully and completely able to do so. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are ready, willing and able to first awaken from our slumber and then rise from the dead.
Consider if you will the way these three verses actually read within the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian saints and congregation: “Wherefore he saith, Aawke thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:14-16). If you continue reading this particular passage of Scripture you will find that the apostle Paul goes on to write even more after instructing them to redeem the time because the days are evil, as he actually provides them with instruction and ways to perform such a task. Beginning to read with the seventeenth verse of this fifth chapter we find the following words written by the apostle Paul through the twentieth verse: “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:17-20). As this particular chapter began it did so with the apostle Paul instructing the Ephesian congregation to be followers of God as dear children, and to walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. The apostle Paul goes on in verse seven to write how we were sometimes darkness, but now we are light in the Lord. Because and as a result of our being light in the light we are now instructed to walk as children of the light. How are we to redeem the time for the days are evil? The answer actually lies in our walking in love, our walking as children of the light, and in our walking circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which the apostle Paul writes within this particular epistle, for the apostle Paul brings us face to face with a powerful word of caution and warning that must needs be carefully considered by us within our hearts and spirits. I am convinced that we must carefully understand that which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture, for his words within this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with a reality that is desperately needed within each and every one of our lives.
In the fourteenth verse of the fifth chapter of this particular epistle which Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation we find the apostle writing how it was said “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:16). The words which the apostle Paul wrote and quoted in this particular verse are generally quoted from the sixtieth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah beginning with the first verse. Consider if you will the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke unto the southern kingdom of Judah during the days in which he prophesied according to the word of the Lord: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ethan; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:1-7). Another literal reading of this passage can actually be a powerful word of instruction to be enlightened for our light has come—and not only has our light come, but also the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee. It is absolutely remarkable that when prophesying according to the word of the Lord the prophet Isaiah not only spoke of the light coming, but he also spoke of the glory of the Lord rising upon us. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the prophet Isaiah spoke and would eventually write in the ninth chapter of this particular book—words which would have direct application to the days and times in which Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God walked upon the earth. Consider the words which the prophet Isaiah wrote in the ninth chapter beginning with the second verse: “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” (Isaiah 9:2). These words of the prophet Isaiah were perfectly fulfilled during the days and time of Jesus and are recorded as being so in the fourth chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “…and leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up” (Matthew 4:13-16).
When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation concerning awakening from their slumber, I can’t help but find myself turning back to the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ. There is a specific and particular event which took place during the week of Jesus’ passion which I believe perfectly and wonderfully illustrates this tremendous need to awaken from our slumber. [As a side note, I am convinced that it is this awakening from our slumber that we are prepared to experience the rising from the dead which the apostle Paul wrote about in the very same verse. I absolutely love how the apostle Paul not only directly connected awakening from slumber to rising from the dead, but also connected both to the light of Jesus Christ shining within and upon us.] I wrote and mentioned a particular event which took place during the week of Jesus’ passion which perfectly illustrates the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation, and that even is first recorded in the twenty-sixth chapter of the gospel of Matthew. Beginning with the thirty-sixth verse of the twenty-sixth chapter we find Matthew writing and speaking of Jesus and His disciples coming to a place called Gethsemane, and then speaking unto His disciples concerning that which He desperately needed to do. Consider if you will the words which Matthew wrote, which carefully describe this particular event within the life and ministry of Jesus:
“Then cometh Jesus with them [the disciples] unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And He came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:36-46).
The apostle Paul first wrote of awakening from our slumber and then wrote and spoke of redeeming the time for the days of evil, and I can’t help but see a strong and powerful connection between this concept of awakening from slumber and the days being evil and this particular night during the week of Jesus’ passion. It is absolutely unmistakable that there was a darkness that was both pervasive and foreboding on the night in which Jesus Christ would be betrayed. It is absolutely unmistakable that there was a certain darkness and heaviness that was present on that evening, for even in the upper room where Jesus partook of the Passover meal with His disciples He declared that one from among them would rise up and betray Him. Scripture actually records that not only had Satan put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus, but Scripture also records how Satan entered into Judas and prompted him to rise up from the table—to rise up from the place of intimacy and fellowship—and go his way to betray the Son of man into the hands of sinners. I am utterly and completely convinced that the powers of darkness loomed very heavy on the night in which Jesus was betrayed, for the principalities, the rulers of darkness, the spiritual wickedness in high places, and the whole host of darkness were watching and witnessing as the Son of God was going to be betrayed by one of His own and handed over into the hands of sinners. ON the night in which Jesus was betrayed the snake and serpent once more entered into the garden—except this time, the snake did not enter into the garden to tempt Eve with the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but the serpent entered into the garden to seize the Son of God, to put the Son of God on trial, and to ultimately crucify Him upon the cruel Roman tree atop Golgotha. The Old Testament book of Genesis reveals how the serpent entered into the garden and not only tempted Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but also incited her against the Lord for somehow withholding that which was good from her. Scripture records how while at the table where Jesus partook of the Passover meal with His disciples Satan entered into the heart of Judas, which thus suggests that when Judas entered into the garden to betray Jesus with a kiss into the hands of sinful men, the serpent once more entered into the garden—this time to completely and utterly destroy the Son of God from within and upon the face of the earth.
When Jesus left Peter, James and John the first time, He left them with very specific instruction to watch with him. As Jesus brought these three disciples—this inner circle of His disciples if you will—He left them with specific instruction while He himself went further into the garden to pray. While the disciples were left behind by Jesus as He went further into the garden we find the Son of God instructing them to watch with Him, for He knew the hour that had come upon them. Jesus knew that on this night He would be betrayed by Judas into the hands of sinful men, and as a direct result of that knowledge Jesus instructed the disciples to watch with Him. Matthew records how Jesus went a little further, fell on His face, and prayed, saying unto His Father in heaven, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” What happens next after Jesus prays these words is actually what I feel is directly connected to the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation, for the apostle Paul that they were to awaken from their slumber, and not only to awake from their slumber, but also to redeem the time for the days are evil. The days were most certainly evil when Jesus took with Him Peter, James and John into the garden of Gethsemane, for the hour of darkness had come upon the earth. The hour had come for Satan to enter into the heart of Judas and put it within his heart to betray the Son of man into sinners. That night darkness would loom over the natural and spiritual realm like never before, as I would imagine both heaven and hell stood watching the events that would unfold. There is not a doubt in my mind that the events which took place on that night caused the powers of darkness and the agents of righteousness to stand still and watch as the events would unfold within and upon the earth. Undoubtedly Jesus could sense the darkness that was so pervasive within and upon the earth, and it was this sense of darkness that prompted Him to instruct the disciples to watch with Him. What happens when He returns to the disciples, however, is anything but what He instructed them, for when He returned unto them He found them sleeping. Upon finding them sleeping Jesus spoke directly unto Peter and asked him, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).
When Jesus left Peter, James and John alone while He Himself went further Jesus instructed them to watch with Him while He went further into the garden. Upon returning to these three disciples and finding them sleeping Jesus speaks directly unto Peter and first asks him whether or not he could watch with Him for one hour. Immediately after asking Peter—and ultimately these three disciples there in the Garden—whether or not he could watch with Him one hour, Jesus then instructs them to watch and pray in order that they might not enter into temptation. He then goes on to declare unto them that the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak. I can’t help but find a powerful connection between the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Ephesus and what we find in the garden of Gethsemane, for as the apostle Paul spoke of awakening from slumber and redeeming the time for the days were evil, so also the disciples there in the garden were called to awaken from their slumber and essentially redeem the night for darkness and evil were truly rising in great and unprecedented measure within the earth. The disciples could redeem the time for the night was evil by watching with Jesus for one hour in prayer and fervent intercession. Jesus—upon leaving these three disciples at first—instructed them to watch with Him, and then He went on a little further into the garden where He Himself prayed unto His Father who was in heaven. When He returned unto the disciples and found them sleeping He first asked them whether or not they could watch with Him one hour, and then instructed them to watch and pray in order that they might not enter into temptation. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this, for there are a number of saints who are in the very same place as these three disciples who were brought by Jesus a little further into the garden. There are a number of men and women who are asleep when in all reality they should be awake, alert, and attentive as they watch and pray that they might not enter into temptation. When I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation I can’t help but be completely and totally gripped by the tremendous need—not only to awaken from our slumber, but also to watch and pray in order that we might not enter into temptation. How do we redeem the time for the days are evil? We do so by watching and praying in order that we might not enter into temptation. The question is whether or not we can even be awakened from our slumber, or whether or not we are too far gone that we can no longer be awakened from our slumber that we might rise from the dead.
The more I read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesian congregation concerning awaking from our slumber and rising from the dead, the more I can’t help but by gripped and consumed with the account of Lazarus as recorded in the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of John. Beginning with the first verse of the eleventh chapter of John’s gospel we find the following words written and recorded concerning Lazarus and the sickness which would lead to death. Consider if you will the account of Lazarus’ life [and death] as it is recorded by the apostle John:
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was. Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; Burt I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him” (John 11:1-15).
The account of Lazarus’ death and burial in the tomb goes on and continues beginning with the seventeenth verse, for in the seventeenth verse we read: “Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already” (John 11:17). This particular passage takes an incredible turn once Mary rushes to Jesus in complete distress and distraught over the death of her brother and the seeming absence and silence of Jesus. Beginning with the thirty-second verse of this particular chapter we find the following account of Jesus’ journey to the tomb, and the subsequent events which took place thereafter. Consider if you will the events of this day as the apostle John recorded them in this particular gospel account: “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto Him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died. Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I. Not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that you hast sent me. And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:32-44).
Within this particular passage found in the eleventh chapter of the gospel of John we find directly connected to sleep the concept of death, for when speaking to His disciples Jesus first spoke of Lazarus as sleeping. Jesus would then go on to speak plainly unto them and declare that Lazarus was indeed and was in fact dead, and that He was going in order that He might awaken him. Within this particular passage of Scripture I can’t help but come face to face with the tremendous need—not only to awaken from our slumber, but also to rise from the dead. Within the eleventh chapter of the gospel of John we find Lazarus’ sickness leading unto death—howbeit, the death Lazarus would experience would only be momentary, and would be turned back and reversed when Jesus came to the tomb where they had laid his body. It was true that Lazarus had indeed died as a direct result of being sick, and it is true that his body would lay lifeless in the tomb for four days before Jesus would ultimately show up outside the grave, but once outside the tomb everything would completely and utterly change. Once outside the tomb where the body of His friend Lazarus lied—not only would the stone be rolled away, but Lazarus himself would be called forth from the tomb still clothed in his grave clothes. Upon emerging from the tomb with his grave clothes, however, Jesus immediately instructed those who were present at the tomb to loose Lazarus and to let him go. I absolutely love this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we not only find the stone being rolled away and removed from the entrance of the tomb, but we also find Jesus calling for the grave clothes which bound Lazarus to be removed from him. In other words, it wasn’t enough for Lazarus to come forth from the grave and still be bound in his grave clothes, for he needed to be loosed from those grave clothes which had bound him within the tomb. What I find so absolutely fascinating and remarkable about this passage is that it was Jesus who called for the stone to be rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and it was Jesus again who called for the grave clothes of Lazarus to be removed from his body in order that he might be able to move freely from that place. In order for Lazarus to rise from the dead, the stone which was found at the entrance of the tomb needed to be rolled away. Once the stone was rolled away Lazarus’ lifeless body could not emerge from the tomb until the voice of the Son of God called Him forth. Finally, once he emerged from the grave very much alive, the grave clothes which had bound him needed to be removed from his body in order that he might move freely among the living once more. How important is it that Lazarus’ grave clothes needed to be removed from his body, for grave clothes were never meant to be found or even worn among the living. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Lazarus left the tomb that day, he also might very well have left his grave clothes behind as he was now walking in and experiencing resurrection life.
As I sit here this morning I can’t help but once more and once again be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation within the first epistle which he wrote unto them. I leave you with the words of the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation, for it is what we read and what we find in this particular passage of Scripture that not only speaks to the tremendous need for resurrection from death to life among us, but also an awakening from our sleep and slumber. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian congregation beginning with the thirty-fifth verse, and recognize and understand the absolute and tremendous need for resurrection life to be manifested within our lives as we awaken from our slumber and walk in the light of Christ which has been shined upon us:
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in in corruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which was spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immorality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:35-57).