In Ephesians we find that light (religious truth) is described as very powerful as it is able to make dead things living just by shining on them.

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

(Ephesians 5:13-14, ESV)

However, this is no direct quote of any biblical passage, so I imagine Paul simply puts it in his own words to apply it to the context. But what is 'it'; what scripture is he paraphrasing here which fully suits the context? Why is it an appropriate verse to quote in this context?

2 Answers 2


When one sleeps, it actually appears like the person is a corpse. (When I sleep, I snore, but that is different.) When my children were very, very young and sleeping in the crib, I would actually nudge them to ensure they were not dead, because in sleep the resemblance is almost exactly akin to death (except for those who snore like me).

When the Bible talks about those who sleep (and who are still physically alive), the connotation is that their righteousness, which is received through faith, is not visibly evident, and therefore the person appears to be no different than someone who is unrighteous. That is, the believer and unbeliever are sometimes indistinguishable, because the believer is living a lifestyle that is no different than an unbeliever.

Thus the believer is “sleeping.” While they have righteousness, and therefore are “alive” to God, they are indistinguishable from someone who is a corpse (that is, someone who is an unbeliever, and therefore unrighteous). The living believer actually looks dead from a spiritual perspective, but since they are actually alive to God, they are called “sleeping” Christians.

We have to remember that no one is physically unconscious (that is, no one is literally sleeping in this imagery). Thus the “sleeping” Christian is someone who consciously lives in darkness, where the light does not shine. Their Christian testimony therefore is compromised.

What I have described in the previous four paragraphs was the problem with the Church in Sardis, whose Christians were “sleeping” (the walking dead). Their garments were soiled (Revelation 3:1-6), that is, their Christian testimony was compromised with the world, because they were sleep-walking in the darkness. They were NOT physically unconscious in any sense of literal sleeping, but they were indistinguishable from the unbeliever, who is dead (spiritual corpse).

Now the passage is Ephesians 5:14 is cut from the same cloth (same imagery, same concept, same problem, same idea). From what passage is Paul quoting in the Hebrew Bible? If we follow the logic that is described directly above, then the passage in question is Isaiah 60:1-2.

This passage in Isaiah 60:1-2 is NOT talking about physical unconsciousness, but in the original Hebrew it LITERALLY starts and says “Rise and Shine!” from the “darkness” from among the nations (unbelievers) so that the glory of the Lord can shine upon you.

The Apostle Paul therefore compressed Isaiah 60:1-2 into one verse in Ephesians 5:14, which (again) is NOT about PHYSICAL unconsciousness!!

  • I have seen a few options and agree Isaiah 60:1-2 is the most acceptable answer.
    – Mike
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 4:32
  • For more information about this claim, one can look into Michel Bouttier's L'épître de saint Paul aux Ephésiens Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 19:31
  • I guess this is closed. In the NABRE (biblia.com/books/nabre/Eph5.14), we read this explanation: An early Christian hymn, possibly from a baptismal liturgy. For the content compare Eph 2:5–6; 3:9 and Is 60:1. This makes much sense since it is not a direct quotation from Scripture.
    – Dcn. Andy
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 0:53


I am thinking that Ephesians 5:14 is coming from Jonah 1:6.

Ephesians 5:14 KJV (14) Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.*

As we know, Jonah had fallen “fast asleep” in the sides of the ship…

Jonah 1:5-6 KJV (5) Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man unto his god, and cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it of them. But Jonah was gone down into the sides of the ship; and he lay, and was fast asleep.*

….and was called by the shipmaster to awaken from his sleep: O sleeper, ARISE and call upon your God so that God would “think”….that is, “shine”….upon us that we perish not. Think =shine.

(6) So the shipmaster came to him, and said unto him, What meanest thou, O sleeper? arise, call upon thy God, if so be that God will think upon us, that we perish not.

God’s Light shines in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as we show we know Him (seeing His face so to speak = knowing Him) by doing what He commanded to do: have love for one another.

2 Corinthians 4:6 KJV (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In order to enter in to the understanding of His knowledge (as He opens up the Scriptures to our hearing ears), we must “awake out of sleep” (awake from the forgetfulness to do His command and remember to have love for another ) and cast off the works of darkness (the wrath, the envy and strife, etc). We show we know Him (His face) by doing His will.

Romans 13:10-14 KJV (10) Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (11) 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. (12) 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. (13) Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

We must hear what the Spirit says and put off the old man and his corrupt behavior (the envying, fighting, strife, wrath) and put on the Lord Jesus Christ and not think to fulfill the lusts to contradict and berate (making provision for the flesh) just because it does not conform to our own interpretation.

(14) But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

If any man would “will” to do His will, then they shall know of the teaching (the opening up of the Scriptures to our ears via the Spirit of Truth) whether it be of God or whether one speaks of himself. The Light shall shine within our very hearts if we do His will and know that what we hear is from above.

John 7:16-19 KJV (16) Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. (17) If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Some will seek to contradict the things in their wrath (of what they hear) as they seek their own glory: wanting to be seen as wise. Those who do unrighteousness are not of God as they go about seeking to “kill the messenger” who speaks what they hear the Spirit of God saying. They are called to “awake” out of sleep and cast off the works of darkness.

(18) He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. (19) Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?

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