7 ¶ But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
Peter, like Paul and John, believed that the end of history had to be soon.
Romans 13:12 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.
Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
1John 2:18 ¶ Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.
The phrase at hand refers to the fact that it an event is near, close by. In the following it is said that Isaac will die soon.
Genesis 27:41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
Jesus said that His crucifixion was soon to come.
Matthew 26:18 And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
And in the following the Passover is coming up.
John 2:13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
They cannot be faulted for thinking events would happen soon. In fact, as reported by Rabbi Hillel Silver in his book, Messianic Speculation in Israel, for the last two thousand years many religious figures have tried to set a date for the end of history, the appearance of the Messiah if they are Jewish, or the return of Christ if they were Christian. But, we are not given to know such a thing. Still, this hope on the part of the Apostles gives relevance to the Bible in every age as we are to look up expectantly for Christ’s return for the church at any time.
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Paul even wrote a second letter to the Thessalonians to warn them that there were some things that must happen first before that day as, apparently, some people were not going about the necessary things of living as they expectantly waited for Christ to call them.
2Thessalonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
Still, because they do not know when Christ will call them out, Christians are called to be sober-minded and constantly in a prayerful state. As Paul gave instruction;
Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
1Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
This keeps us focused on God and the Jews were told in the Old Testament;
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Stay sober-minded, focused, and clear-headed. Paul uses sober in slightly varied ways. In 1Thessalonians 5:6 it is in relation to watchful and unperturbed, not spiritually asleep as the world is.
1Thessalonians 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
Then, in verse 8, protecting ourselves with Christian faith and love and our minds with the hope of salvation.
1Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
In other places observe the words used around sober to see what is meant. Paul, in the following, defines the character of a bishop, which today we would call a pastor, and a deacon, both of which serve somewhat different functions in the modern independent Baptist church than they did in the first century.
1Timothy 3:1 ¶ This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
8 ¶ Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. 10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. 11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. 12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
In Titus again Paul is clear on what being sober means by the other words he uses around it where in the following Paul is speaking about elders, bishops, in a city of churches that met in people’s houses;
Titus 1:5 ¶ For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
6 ¶ If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
These admonitions do not just apply to church leadership but to the congregation, as well;
Titus 2:1 ¶ But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. 6 Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. 7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, 8 Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. 9 Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; 10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.