Paul's Final Word And Dying Shout Of Triumph
Background Of The Epistle
The book of Acts closes with Paul in prison in Rome about 63 A.D.. This was the first arrest with the Jerusalem Jews having brought charges against Paul, and Paul as a Roman citizen having appealed to Caesar for a verdict. Bible historians believe that Paul was set free by Nero (as the current Caesar) since he had committed no breach of the Roman law, whereupon Paul returned to Greece and Asia Minor.
Later, in late 64 or early 65 A.D. he was re-arrested on Nero's orders probably at Troas and taken back to Rome and execution was ordered around A.D. 66 or 67. When Paul composed this last epistle he was imprisoned in the Mamertine dungeon, exposed to the chill of its damp walls, reeking with pestilence and recalling the miseries of generations of condemned criminals. There was one desire that Paul yearned to have fulfilled: He londed to see once more the dear friend of earlier years, whom he had led into this life of stern suffering. It was this situation that led Paul to dispatch this second letter, filled with advice and exhortation in case Timothy could not come, but especially full of desire that Timothy should try to come before winter set in and traveling became difficult.
There is no trace of despondence in this noble swan song, Though Paul would lose all earthly things, this to him was Nothing. He would gain Christ, which to Paul was Everything!
2 Timothy 4:9 & 21 ~ "Make every effort to come to me soon." v.21 "Do hasten and try your best to come to me before winter. Eubulus wishes to be remembered to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren." Amplified Bible version.
The Neronian Persection
The great fire in Rome occured in 64 A.D.. Paul had probably been released a matter of months before this took place. Nero himself burned the city. Though the inhuman brute that he was, he was a great builder. It was in order to build a new grander Rome that he put the torch to the city. He filled in glee at the sight of it all. The citizens suspected him; and historians have commonly regarded it as fact that he was the perpetrator of the crime. In order to divert suspicion from himself he accused the Christians of the crime.
The Bible does not directly mention Nero's persecution of the Christians, though it did happen in Bible times, and is the direct background of at least two New Testament books 1 Peter and 2 Timothy.
Our source of information is the Roman historian, Tacitus:
He knew that the Christians did not burn Rome, But somebody had to be made the scapegoat for the Emperor's crime. Here was a new and despised sect of people, mostly from the humbler walks of life, without prestige or influence, many of them slaves. The Christians were accused of incendiarism and Nero ordered their punishment.
In and around Rome multitudes of Christians were arrested and put to death in the most cruel ways. Crucified, or tied in the skins of animals, and thrown into the arena to be worried to death by wild dogs for the sake of entertaining the throngs of spectators who watched with great expectation the death of Christians. Or thrown to the wild beasts. Or tied to stakes in Nero's gardens, having pitch poured over their bodies and then used as human torches to light Nero's gardens at night while he drove around in his chariot, naked, while indulging himself in his midnight revels, gloating and laughing over the dying agonies of his victims.
It was in the wake of this persecution that Paul was re-arrested and brought back to Rome, this time by agents of Rome, not as at first by the Jews. This time as a criminal under Roman law, not as at first on some technical violation of Jewish law. Paul was the world leader of the people who were being punished for that crime. He had been in Rome for two years just preceding the fire. It was easy to lay this crime at Paul's door. Paul knew there would not be another acquittal.
I Know HIM
2 Timothy 1:3-5 ~ "I thank God Whom I worship with a pure conscience, [in the spirit of] my fathers, when without ceasing I remember you night and day in my prayers, v.4 And when as I recall your tears, I yearn to see you, that I may be filled with joy. v.5 I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith [the leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness, a faith] that first lived permanently in (the heart of) your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, (dwells) in you also." Amplified Bible version.
His prayers for Timothy in verses 3-5. Paul opens almost every epistle with prayers and thanksgiving. The "tears" in verse 4 is a reference to their separation at Troas.
2 Timothy 4:13 ~ "[When] you come, bring the cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus; also the books, especially the parchments." Amplified Bible version.
When Paul wrote 1 Timothy he was in Macedonia and Timothy was in Ephesus. It is thought they later met at Troas, where Roman soldiers under orders from Nero arrested Paul and took him back to Rome.
Paul's assurance is found in:
2 Timothy 4:6-14 ~ "For I am already about to be sacrificed ~ my life is about to be poured out [as a drink offering] the time of my [spirit's] release [from the body] is at hand and I will soon go free. v.7 I have fought the good (worthy, honorable and noble) fight; I have finished the race; I have kept (firmly held) the faith. v.8 (As to what remains,) henceforth there is laid up for me the [victor's] crown of righteousness ~ for being right with God and doing right ~ which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me and recompense me on that [great] day and not to me only but also to all those who have loved and yearned for and welcomed His appearing [His return]. v.9 Make every effort to come to me soon. v.10 For Demas has deserted me for love of this present world and has gone to Thessalonica, Crescens [has gone] to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. v.11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very helpful to me for the ministry. v.12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. v.13 [When} you come, bring the cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus also the books, especially the parchments. v.14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great wrongs. The Lord will pay him back for his actions." Amplified Bible version.
He had seen Christ. He had suffered for Him. Christ was the one unquestioned reality of Paul's life, his intimate companion, and he "knew Him"(as written in verse 12), as one knows his best friend. "Preacher, apostle, teacher" (as written in verse 11); preacher, proclaimer of the Gospel to those who had never heard it, foreign missionary; "apostle", with direct personal authority from Christ; "Teacher", instructor of settled Christian communities, our pastor.
The apostacy and disaffection at Ephesus (as written in verses 15~18). This was one of the saddest things in Paul's life. In Ephesus, where he had done his greatest work for the Gospel, and almost turned the whole city to Christ, the false teachers had so gotten the upper hand that they were able to use Paul's arrest to turn many in the church against him, at the time when he most needed their live, prayers and sympathy.
Give all to Christ and Christ becomes all to you. The proportion of your self-giving is the measure of your discovery of what Jesus will be to you. Such was Paul's discovery.
Paul's Note Of Triumphant Faith
In that dark hour is one of the noblest passages of all Scripture. Being executed for a crime of which he was not guilty. His friends forsaking him, and leaving him to suffer alone, The cause for which he would give his life was being blotted out in the west by the persecution and in the east by the apostacy. Yet we see no hint of any regret that he had given his life to the service of Christ and the Church. No hint of doubt but that the Church, though in apparent disarray at the moment, would eventually be triumphant. And no hint of doubt but that the moment his head would be severed from his body he would go straight to the arms of HIM, whom he had loved and served so devotedly. This epistle is the exultant cry of a dying conqueror.