Biblical Last Words: Paul Anticipates

Biblical Last Words: Paul Anticipates

Biblical Last Words: Paul Anticipates.

“As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me, the crown of righteousness… The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into His Heavenly kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. And may His grace be with all of you.”  (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 18, 22).

Imagine languishing in a cold, dank Roman dungeon awaiting execution, “chained like a criminal.” (2:9). Consider your bleak disappointment in this your second imprisonment after having been acquitted the first time years ago. Reflect on all the friends and associates who have deserted you when you needed them most. Think about the loneliness you experience, the literal chill you have because you don’t even have your winter coat. Note your mental restlessness because you don’t have your books or papers. You would be forgiven if you were depressed, or at least discouraged, and mortally fearful. And then when you carefully consider your long life of faithful service to God, you might wonder if this end of life scenario is some cosmic joke, if what you are experiencing seems more a punishment than a reward.

But that’s not Paul. Rather than wallow in his miseries, he wants to offer his last words of wisdom to Timothy, his spiritual “son,” Paul’s loyal disciple and former traveling companion on his missionary journeys. This letter of 2 Timothy is Paul’s last will and testament, his final thoughts as he awaits execution under Nero around 66/67 AD. Paul is confident of Timothy’s calling. Paul is content with his own life of service and zeal, and he is triumphant in Christ’s ultimate victory over evil and death. In Paul’s mind, his place is secure in the Lord’s eternal reward, and he rightly anticipates the crown of righteousness.

St. Paul knows the end is near, but he earnestly wants to pass the baton of leadership to Timothy. Paul uses his last letter to encourage new leadership in the Church. He wants to inspire a toughness and resilience to all the resistance Timothy will experience within the church and from outside the church. Paul wants Timothy to overcome all the adversity he will face, to be steadfast in living and preaching the truth of the Good News. Pursue a life of purity and godliness, Paul is saying, and use those spiritual gifts that have been given to you. Resist the false teaching, and rely on the solid doctrines and truths of holy Scripture.

In his last letter, Paul’s imagination was in high gear. In 2 Timothy he tries every way conceivable to describe God’s followers. Paul compares believers to soldiers (2:3), athletes (2:5), farmers (2:6), ministers (2:15), kitchen containers (2:21), and servants (2:24). Paul is trying to deepen Timothy’s understanding with many word pictures, and he has certainly displayed creative ways to inspire Timothy in his ministry.

Paul’s final thoughts are his closing benedictions, his confident statements of faith and love. Could there be a more fitting way for Paul to conclude his earthly life? Paul ends his last letter by passing the torch as Timothy’s spiritual father, commending upon Timothy the eternal hope of the Gospel message and a hopeful confidence in the grace of God.