Sometime after the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in Germany, many Germans perceived the real intent of Hitler that was hidden behind his rhetoric to put a Volkswagen in every German carport. After organizing a door-to-door campaign to warn the German people of what lay ahead, they were met by a complacent, self-satisfied public that slammed the door on them for disturbing their peace.
It is with this in mind that we study the Apostle Paul’s warning to the Thessalonians that professing Christians, who are asleep spiritually, are living in danger of missing the Rapture.
The Greek word that the Apostle Paul used for “sleep” (I Thess. 5:6) is the Greek word katheudo, and means “to repose oneself in sleep.” The same Greek word is used in Matthew 25:5 to describe the faithless, careless, indifferent virgins.
However, context determines the Biblical meaning that the Holy Spirit intends. In I Thessalonians 5:6, therefore, katheudo is used metaphorically as “carnal insensibility to Divine things involving conformity to the world.” The Apostle Paul contrasted spiritual sleep (Vs. 6) with the natural sleep that comes at night and with the drunkenness that dulls a person’s senses (Vs. 7).
Another Greek word for “sleep” may be mentioned here that carries the same connotation as katheudo, but with a little different slant. This word is found in Romans 13:11.
“And that, knowing the time, and now it is high time to AWAKE out of SLEEP: for now is our Salvation nearer than when we believed.
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
“Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
“But put you on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:11-14).
The Greek word for “sleep” that we are exhorted to “awake out of” is hypnou, from the root word hypnos. It is the same word from which our word “hypnosis” is derived. “Hypnosis” is a “state that resembles sleep, but is induced by a person whose suggestions are readily accepted by the subject.”
Think of that! What better definition could we have of Spiritual Sleep than that of listening to the voice of the Devil (induced by a person) who suggests that we turn our eyes from the Lord and toward those things that direct our attention to the world?
Paul’s warning in the light of the imminent Return of the Lord Jesus Christ is to awake us out of our Spiritual Conformity to the world and to “put on Christ”; that is, our sole interest in life must be the same as that of our Lord to enter into His Views, His Thinking, and to imitate Him in all things. Why? Because, as the Apostle Peter said:
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8).
No sooner had the Children of God come out of Egyptian bondage than they became disenchanted and disillusioned and began to turn back to the beggarly elements of the world. The Christian experience is similar. When people are first Saved and begin their Christian walk, they are usually on a mountaintop high. For a time they continue bouncing from mountaintop to mountaintop, or, as King Solomon described it …
“leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Song of Sol. 2:8).
But sooner or later the season wears on. The petals fall in the rose garden until the thorns begin to show. The cherry bowl begins to display more pits than cherries.…
Unfortunately, most Christians believe their Christian gardens will never become invaded by weeds. They are taught by overzealous teachers and misguided preachers that a Christian’s walk should never come down from the mountaintops, but it always does. Why? Because it is only during these periods that we are able to stand back, evaluate our Christian Growth, and recognize the areas where we need more work.
Faith that has never been tested is a Faith that can never be quite certain. That is the reason that our reactions during these periods of “valley” Christianity determine the outcome of our Christian walk. Every moon walk has its reentry, and every spiritual high has its return to Earth. A solid enduring relationship with God is something to be arrived at only with hard work, sweat, and tears.
Too many Christians become indifferent with the passage of time. Living for Christ, in Christ, and like Christ becomes a bore. Attending church can become an inconvenience. If we fail to work at it and fail continually to renew our commitment and review our Blessings, it is possible for us to fall by the wayside.
It is always more fun to talk about the Blessings and the highs and the glory and the grandeur. But a farm would soon fall into disrepair and ruin if the chores were not done every day. If the cows were not milked twice a day, they would soon stop giving milk. If they were not fed daily and their stalls cleaned, they would soon sicken and die.
Chores keep the world turning. And if we neglect our Spiritual Chores, our eternal farm is going to wreck and ruin. We should spend more time on the chores of our Spiritual Walk rather than spending so much time lifting our eyes to the glories above.
We like to gather a crowd on a hill and point out the absolute beauty of the well-tended farm spread out below us. But, unfortunately, we do not give equal time to the cultivation that produced those tended fields.
A Christian has to make a conscious decision to walk in the Ways of God. Our human, carnal nature is such that we crave constant stimulation. We are easily drawn off into the world. But excitement and stimulation can come from the enemy. A Christian who wishes to be truly “in Christ”—to be an overcomer—must decide first whether he is willing to dedicate himself to this and every waking moment of his life.
We must constantly decide we are going to do these things necessary to grow as Christians—things that require energy and effort. Jesus said:
“He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Lk. 16:10).
These daily chores are the basis of the Christian life. Let us never lose sight of one fact: we do not do these things to earn Salvation or to win favor with God. No one earns anything from God. Everything we have from God comes to us by Grace. We are the ones who need the maturity that is the outgrowth of a daily consistent Christian walk. God can get along with or without our “works”; we cannot.
Just as a dedicated farmer does not fall asleep as he rushes from one chore to another, the Christian who spends each day exercising his Spiritual Gifts is neither blind nor prey to Satan’s devices. The problem comes when the Christian decides to take a break. He becomes bored, takes a few days off to refresh himself with an excursion into the world. Then, he becomes vulnerable to Satan’s serene song and soon falls prey to his hypnotic lures.
How many times have you been present among gatherings of “Christians,” where you mentioned revival, and no one perked up? You tried to get a conversation going about some Bible Passage, and then someone brought up the Super Bowl or the latest movie. What happened? Everyone was suddenly interested. These are Christians who are asleep in Christ and awake to the things of the world.
What elicits responses in your own heart? What excites you? What gets you out of your chair and heading for some activity?
The true answer may come as a shock to you. It is almost as though the world has taken a spiritual sedative. We are asleep at the wheel. Church services are a bore. Living for God has become a bore. God’s Word just is not as exciting as it used to be.
Or is it? Are we the ones who are out of step? A great percentage of the Christian segment of the world’s population has been lulled to sleep by Satan’s hypnotic lures. We believe when the Holy Spirit gave the words to the Apostle Paul, He was putting them there for Christians in this day as well.
Wake up, Christian world! Sleeping Christians are not going to have an alarm clock just before the Rapture.