διὸ λέγει· ἔγειρε, ὁ καθεύδων, καὶ ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, καὶ ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ Χριστός. Therefore, it says, “Arise, the one who sleeps, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine light on you.”
In this sentence, we arrive at an interesting quotation. We simply do not know with any certainty what is being quoted. It seems that Isaiah 60 is being drawn upon, but we cannot be sure. Is. 60 does seem connected nonetheless, especially with the following words:
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (vv. 1-3, NRSV)
And these words are intriguing:
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified. (vv. 19-21, NRSV)
There are strong similarities between Is. 60 and Eph. 5:14b. Was the content from Ephesians an early Christian hymn? Was it some sort of summary of Is. 60? We simply do not know at this time. However, we can interpret Eph. 5:14b in light of Is. 60.
Paul has been talking about darkness and light. Note that Is. 60 concerns the darkness of the people (v. 2), and the nations would draw to the Lord, the penetrating light (v. 3). The imagery in vv. 1-3 is that as the Lord shines on his people, so they were to stand and shine as a light to the nations, which is precisely what Paul is exhorting in Eph. 5. Christians are children of light. They have been transformed by Christ, and their lives are to act as a beacon in the midst of a dark world. They shine because Christ’s light shines upon them. Note the further connection: the sun was no longer the source of their light, but rather, the Lord (vv. 19-20), and the Lord was responsible for creating the shoot that he had planted, the work of his hands (v. 21). The created being that the Lord worked with his hands was declared to be righteous (v. 21). Is this not what we find in Ephesians? God has created the church to do his good works (2:10), to be righteous as He is righteous (4:24). Therefore, Eph. 5:14b is claiming the entirety of Is. 60 in three lines. It seems to be a powerful summary that is serving as the capstone and climax of Paul’s discussion of the children of light.
Paul says, “Arise, o sleeper . . .” The participial phrase, ὁ καθεύδων, should be treated as a noun, not as a verb (“o sleeper” instead of “the one who sleeps”). This phrase is not dissimilar from Is. 60:1, “Arise, shine . . .” Paul continues, “And rise up from the dead . . .” The preposition, ἐκ, marks τῶν νεκρῶν as a genitive of separation or disassociation. Those who are children of light have been called to separate themselves from among those who are dead. And Paul continues, “And Christ will shine on you.” Christ acts as the Lord in Is. 60:19-20. Christ is our eternal light.
Therefore, it says, “Arise, o sleeper, rise up from among the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Is it not wonderful what God has done? He has worked with his own hands to build up the church. He has prepared the way for us to enter into relationship with him. He has made us righteous. We do not earn our own righteousness. God has graciously given it to us, despite the fact that we were formerly dead in our transgressions. But Christ, as a result of God’s glorious mercy, has shown us his love, shining his light upon on, transforming us into light ourselves, so that, we too can spread the light. We are not to be like the sons of disobedience. We are not darkness. We are light, so we ought to wake up, realize our duty as Christians, and live responsibly. God has called to be his witnesses in this world. If we blend in with the world in terms of our behavior, what kind of light are we truly being? Allow God to love you and shine his light on you, be transformed, and live out the life that he wants you to live. Pornography, adultery, lust, extortion, perjury, crude sexual jokes, and foolish and selfish language blur the distinction. We are not to be among the dead, but rather, we are to be of the living. Those who have been made alive in Christ, according to Paul, have no business being involved in such activities. They do not reflect light; they are the representation of darkness. They are things done in secret, and they are things that have shameful social outcomes. Christians are God’s representatives to the world. Instead of participating in such dark deeds, why not spread the truth? Why not live to emulate Christ and be righteous? Why not be good as the Father is good? Participate in the light, so that the nations might come to Christ.