The word “midnight” occurs fourteen times in the Bible. It is always associated with some demonstration of the power of God: either in salvation or in judgment. The term “midnight” speaks of that moment when one day ends and another day starts. It is often used symbolically to describe a major change in our life’s experience.
The first time the word “midnight” appears in the Bible is when the Passover feast was first observed in Israel. It was midnight when God sent the death angel to destroy the first-born son in the homes of the Egyptian people. At midnight, the Lord struck down the firstborn in each home in the land of Egypt (Exodus 11:4; 12:29). But the death angel passed over the homes of the Children of Israel, sparing them, because of the blood that was sprinkled on the door-posts of their houses.
It was midnight when Samson took the doors and gate-posts of the city of Gaza, and carried them to the top of the hill overlooking the city of Hebron (Judges 16:3). This act of taking away the massive gate of Gaza, a major city of the Philistines, demonstrated that God’s power was still at work in Samson’s life. Samson was repeatedly known for his great physical strength, but also for his moral weakness. Indeed, his life was a clear warning against the dangers of self-indulgence.
It was midnight at Philippi (a city in northern Greece) when Paul and Silas sang praises to God in the jail. God’s power was demonstrated by an earthquake which resulted in their freedom, and in the salvation of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-28). The fact that the earthquake shook the foundations of the prison, opened its doors, and broke off the prisoners’ chains without reducing the prison to rubble was clear evidence of God’s control.
It was midnight when the Apostle Paul performed his greatest miracle. He was giving his farewell message to the people of Troas in an upper room on the first day of the week. He had begun to preach at the time of the evening meal, and was still going strong at midnight. A young man named Eutychus was in the third-story chamber, way up in the balcony, sitting at an open window. Eutychus fell asleep at the midnight hour and tumbled out of the window. The Bible says he was taken up dead (Acts 20:7-9). At that point, Paul went down, touched the dead body, and life was restored. After returning to the upper room and taking some food, Paul continued the message. After that miracle, we can guess that no one was sleeping and that everybody was listening very, very carefully to what Paul was teaching.
The word “midnight” is significant throughout the Bible. It is usually used in connection with an outstanding event: an event related either to salvation or to judgment.
1. The Meaning of the Word “Midnight”
In its usual sense, the word “midnight” refers to that point in time which marks the end of one day and the beginning of another. In the Jewish world, the new day begins at nightfall or sundown. But for most of the world, the new day begins at midnight. There are many events that can be considered symbolic “midnight hours”—hours that mark an end and a beginning.
A concerned mother experiences a kind of midnight hour, when, for the first time, she says good-bye to her child as she sends him off to school with other boys and girls. For five or six years the child has been loved and protected and cherished by his parents. But now he or she is not a baby any longer.
There is a midnight that comes into the life of young men and women on the day of graduation. It is the time that marks the end of school days, and the beginning either of further education or of the time when one takes a regular job. As students approach the end of the final school year, they realize that the days of living under the oversight of their school teachers are over. The midnight hour has struck! It has ushered them to the end of one period of life; and now they will begin a new period of life.
There is a midnight hour that occurs in the life of an older person as he reaches the years of retirement. He remembers the dreams and longings of his youth—things that he hoped to accomplish in life. Now, as he starts the final journey down the other side of the hill, he knows that his dreams have either come true, or they will likely never come true. Midnight, in a sense, has struck.
The midnight about which we are concerned in this message, however, is the hour that is referred to in Matthew 25. The other midnights in life are important, but God’s midnight is the most solemn and serious of all the midnights that will ever strike in anyone’s life! It is the midnight which marks the end of a person’s opportunity to get right with God, and the beginning of one’s eternity either with God or without Him. This is the one midnight in life that is inescapable. Just as surely as your heart beats and the blood flows through your arteries, someday there will strike a midnight hour in your life, and your opportunity to get right with God will end. You will go out into eternity, either in companionship with the angels of God, or you will go alone into the great beyond!
2. Factors That Can Cause the Midnight Hour to Strike
What can cause the midnight hour to strike in a person’s life?
a. The Second Coming of Christ is one event that will cause midnight to strike in the lives of those who are still alive at that time.
There will be a generation of Christian believers who will be living when Jesus comes. One moment they will be on earth; the next moment they will be in eternity. It may be a generation that is living many years from now or it could be this present generation that will experience the first phase of Christ’s coming, when He will remove the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). The Lord Jesus could very well come back tonight. There are a multitude of events occurring today that point to His soon return!
There is simply no way to tell when Jesus will come back. We know there are certain general signs which point to the return of Christ. Just as travelers can often tell when they are approaching a town by reading the signs along the road, so Christians can notice certain special signs taking place on earth—signs which make our hearts beat faster.
There is, for example, the decay of moral standards on a global scale. There are growing militant forces against the people of Israel. There are dangerous cults that are deceiving millions. There have been unusual environmental disturbances in various parts of the earth. And there are “wars and rumors of war.” It seems that when things quiet down in one part of the world, it’s not long until unrest is noted in another part of the world. All these things are evidences of our Lord’s soon return.
Jesus may come for His followers at any time, even before those signs have completely materialized. There is not one prophecy that needs to be fulfilled before Jesus returns. Jesus will return on an ordinary day when people are doing ordinary things. The wicked will be practicing their ordinary sins. The followers of Jesus will be doing their ordinary service.
The only thing we know for sure about the removal of the Church is that it will be sudden, and it will come at an unexpected moment. Jesus uses illustrations like the sudden flash of lightning (Luke 17:24), the breaking-in of a thief (Matthew 24:43), and the unannounced return of a master (Mark 13:35) when He talks about His coming again.
The challenge to believers is to be ready always, not because of today’s trends, but because we don’t know when Jesus is coming back. All we know for sure is that when He does come, it will be a sudden experience.
There is a little motto that hangs on the walls of some of our homes. It says, “Perhaps Today.” That’s a good little phrase. We must never forget that Jesus may come on any day. It may be today; it may be tomorrow; it may be next week; it may be far into the future—but it will not be announced. It will be sudden and unexpected. “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).
When Jesus returns, it will be midnight in the lives of those who live to experience it. The opportunity to get right with God will be gone—and it will be gone forever!
b. Another factor that can cause the midnight hour to strike is the moment when death overtakes our bodies.
All human beings are marching in the long somber parade of death! The epitaph of all generations has been: he was born; he lived; he died. When our hearts cease to beat, and the blood ceases to flow, and the breath is gone from our bodies, then our chances to turn to God will be at an end.
Some are young in years. Life is rosy. Death seems far away. There’s a tendency not to think about eternity and what takes place after death. Others have reached the threescore-and-ten mark in life, and the realization that time is rapidly passing causes some to think more seriously about life. Others are under the grip of some fatal disease, and they know it is only a matter of time until this life will be all over. But whether you are young or old, or whether you are enjoying good health or under the grip of some disease, for any person death can come at any moment. Someday you will die. It could be at any time, day or night. It could be today.
The only time that belongs to us is the immediate present. We have no promise of tomorrow. Tomorrow belongs to God. Next year belongs to God. The only time that is yours is now. The only time in which you can make decisions is now.
Death is the supreme moment for the Christian. An older brother in Christ who was sick because a fatal disease had invaded his body was told by the doctor that he had only a short time to live. The older man of God said, “Bless you doctor, don’t let that bother you. That’s what I’ve been living for.”
Death is the critical moment for the unsaved person. When the moment of death comes, there’s no turning back. Your choice to reject God’s offer of salvation through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ will be sealed. Your decision to not be born again will stand for eternity. How sad it must be to go alone into the mysterious future, down the Valley of the Shadow of Death, without a Savior.
We will have just one chance to die. There will be no dress rehearsals. There will be no time then to do the things you want to do. That’s why the words of this message are reminding you to do them now!
Those who die rejecting Jesus the Messiah will suffer torment in the place of outer darkness (Matthew 22:13). By way of contrast, those who have lived for Jesus will be ushered by the angels into the presence of God, to live with Him throughout the eternal ages (Luke 16:22a).
There are just two ways to die. We can die like a Christian or we can die like a sinner. We can die in Christ or we can die out of Christ. We can die in peace or we can die in torment.
It would be a tragedy if some who are reading this message would come to the end of life without Christ as Savior and discover that there will never be another chance. It is that fact that makes dying bitter for many people. Hopefully, no one who is reading this message will be among those who are unprepared for death, or for the Second Coming of Christ.
3. The Destiny of Those Who Stay Out After Midnight
The end result for those who insist upon staying out after midnight is going to be a tragic experience. If we take time to read the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, we will discover how our decisions affect eternity.
Jesus told about ten girls who had hoped to participate in a parade, escorting the groom and his bride to a wedding feast at the groom’s home. No one was quite sure just when the wedding party would arrive. Finally, at midnight, the cry went out: “Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” But five of the girls were unable to light their lamps, because at the last minute they discovered that they had no oil.
The lesson of the parable is obvious. The Bible makes it clear that when the midnight hour strikes on God’s clock in any person’s life, the door of opportunity is shut, and is shut forever!
The five foolish virgins tried to get into the wedding feast after midnight, but the Bible says, “the door was shut.” They were not shut out because they had no invitation. They had received exactly the same invitation as the other five young ladies. They knew all about the wedding feast, and were fully aware of what was required of them. The five foolish virgins not only had the same invitation as those who got in, but they had the same intentions! They intended to be at the wedding feast.
When Jesus returns, there will be two classes of people—those who are ready, and those who are not. There will be those who are wise and watchful, and those who are foolish and careless. Jesus emphasizes the important lesson of watchfulness again and again in a number of places in the Gospel accounts.
Three of the saddest sayings of the Bible are found in these verses. The first sad saying is, “Our lamps are gone out” (verse 8b). The second sad expression is, “And the door was shut” (verse 10). The final distressing sentence is, “I know you not” (verse 12).
Someday your opportunity to get right with God is going to end. Whether you are ushered out into an eternity of blessedness and joy, or cast into the place of outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, will depend upon the decision you make here in this life, before the midnight hour arrives. There is a summer-time of opportunity, but there is also a time when the summer will be past. The broken and pleading heart of the prophet Jeremiah in Old Testament times utters this cry of despair (Jeremiah 8:20): “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
It is a great tragedy that there are many people who have received numerous opportunities to accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior, but they choose to reject the invitation and will someday be shut out of Heaven. How tragic that scores of men and women who have lived their lives intending some day to get right with God will find themselves barred from Heaven, along with the multitudes who never even gave salvation a second thought!
The second great tragedy is that there are many who have never received an invitation. If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, will you devote your life in some way to see that the message of salvation reaches those who have never had an opportunity to hear the good news?
If you are reading this message today, and someday you find yourself separated for eternity from the presence of God, remember that it will not be because you didn’t have an invitation. It will be because you stayed out after midnight! If you are not a believer in Christ today, why not open the door of your heart and say, “Lord Jesus, will you come into my heart, and take over my life? Control my will. Anoint my lips. Cleanse my heart.” He will do it—if you ask Him!