Therefore he says, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
Read Chapter 5
By sleep he signifies a stupor of the mind. The sleepers are lost from the true path. This estrangement is a kind of death, from which he calls them to rise that they may repent and acknowledge the truth, which is Christ. Thus the faithless and vicious, steeped as they are in mud without hope of life, are called to rise and come out and have a share in life with Christ, so as to pass from the shadows out to the light and from death to life.
And concerning these, he says, the Scripture speaks: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise, and Christ will give thee light.".
And the prophet says, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
The one who is content with a simple answer will say indeed that Paul must have read this phrase in some arcane prophet or in the writings called apocryphal. He then brought the text into the open, as he manifestly does in other places—not to substantiate the apocryphal texts but in the same way that he makes use of verses elsewhere from Aratus, Epimenides and Menander to substantiate what he says on other occasions…. Someone less content with this simple answer might argue that the apostle said this as an exhortation to penitence. It is as if he were assuming the voice of the Holy Spirit. For my part, scanty as my knowledge is, I have nowhere found this written after diligently scouring all the editions of the ancient Scriptures and the texts of the Hebrews themselves. .
By the sleeper and the dead, he means the man that is in sin; for he both exhales noisome odors like the dead, and is inactive like one that is asleep, and like him he sees nothing, but is dreaming, and forming fancies and illusions. Some indeed read, And you shall touch Christ; but others, And Christ shall shine upon you; and it is rather this latter. Depart from sin, and you shall be able to behold Christ. For every one that does ill, hates the light, and comes not to the light. John 3:20 He therefore that does it not, comes to the light.
Now he is not saying this with reference to the unbelievers only, for many of the faithful, no less than unbelievers, hold fast by wickedness; nay, some far more. Therefore to these also it is necessary to exclaim, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you. To these it is fitting to say this also, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Matthew 22:32 If then he is not the God of the dead, let u...
He is not speaking only to unbelievers. For there are many believers, no less than unbelievers, who remain still trapped in various sins. There are indeed some who do so all the more. Therefore it was necessary to call these to “awake,” etc. .