by Steven Chan
In 2 Tim 4:6-8, the beloved apostle Paul wrote to his fellow worker and evangelist, Timothy and said that the time of his departure was at hand – referring to his departure from this world. He wrote:-
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
1. He did not express any fear about departure from this world. In his letter to the church at Philippi in Phil 1:21-24 he had explained his feelings about his stay on earth and his departure from this earth:
”21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
There is no fear of any loss on his part if he were to die. The reason? “To live is Christ” -and he explained that as meaning more opportunities to bear fruit (win souls – Rom 1:13) for Christ, as well as being able to continue to help the brethren. No attachment to the material things of this life. His primary concern was to live for Christ, preach the gospel to win souls for Christ and to help the brethren.
2. He looked forward to the reward, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to him and to everyone who loved His appearing on that Day.
To the apostle Paul, it was “far better to depart and be with Christ” (Phil 1:23). The reason? Because “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” When we come to the end of our lives on earth, will we be able to express the same feelings as the beloved apostle Paul – that we have indeed fought the good fight of faith, have finished the race and have kept the faith”?
There have been those who have failed to “keep the faith”. Paul referred to those who had failed to keep the faith in 1 Tim 1:18-20:
”This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
Hymenaeus suffered shipwreck of THE faith, and Paul had to deliver him to Satan in hope that the disciplinary action may teach him not to teach error; his error or blasphemy was “having strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:17-19). Hymenaeus taught that the resurrection is already past – and that would mean that there is no longer the hope of looking forward to the reward of the crown of righteousness at the appearing of Jesus as Judge (2 Tim 4:8). Brethren, the Bible declares that it is a serious error to teach that the resurrection of saints has already occurred in the past; it is not a matter of opinion. The apostle Paul preached in Acts 24:15: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” That resurrection and the transformation of our physical bodies into spiritual bodies will occur when Christ comes again (I Cor 15:20-28; 50-58; Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thess 4:13-18; I John 3:2). It has not occurred in the past – there remains the hope for us as Paul expressed it in Titus 2:13: “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”.
3. Paul charged Timothy to continue to preach the Word because Jesus will come and judge the living and the dead at His appearing, 2 Tim 4:1-5:
”I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
If the Resurrection has already happened in the past, and Christ has already appeared the second time, and judgment has already occurred then the “one hope” (Eph 4:4; Titus 2:13) has already been realized THEN Paul’s charge to preach the Word is no longer applicable to us today. Furthermore, we can no longer look forward to the reward of the crown of righteousness which apostle Paul said Jesus would give to him and all those who loved His appearing.
The coming Judgement upon the return of our Lord Jesus should be our primary motivation to preach the Word as repeatedly said by Paul as also in 2 Cor 5:9-11:
”Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
Let’s fight the good fight of faith, finish the race and keep the faith: “preach the Word”. Then we can look forward to the reward that the Lord Jesus will give us at His appearing.