Lesson 27: "Do the Work of an Evangelist. . .My Departure is at Hand" (II-Timothy 4:5-6)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. Welcome! This is lesson #27. We're starting the last chapter of II-Timothy. Let's review just a minute. Paul wrote, "to Timothy, my dearly beloved son." I remember thee in every prayer. I wish I could see you Timothy. Don't be ashamed of the gospel. Be a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel (1:8). Hold fast that form of sound words...KEEP THAT which is committed unto thee. Some have turned away, but still there are a lot of dedicated men like my friend and brother, Onesiphorus. Timothy, commit the gospel to faithful men...endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Remember, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to my gospel. If we be dead with him...we shall live. If we suffer...we shall reign. If we deny him...he'll deny us. Even if we don't believe...he is still faithful. Timothy, study and rightly divide the word. The servant of the Lord must not strive and use vain babblings that overthrows the faith of some. We must be patient, gentle, apt to teach and encourage those in error to repent. Timothy, a bad attitude exists in this old world, we live in perilous times... keep the faith, turn away from these things (3:5). Yea, all that live godly shall suffer...but, please continue in the things you have learned (3:12). The Scriptures are thorough, they will make you wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Hang-in-there! Is that about it?
Then finally, in this last chapter, the apostle breaks the bad news. The apostle is ready to be executed, it's probably just a matter of time. That sword that shall sever his head from his body is probably one of those that he has already heard dangling and clanking around there in the hall way. But, Timothy, I'm ready! My last glimmer of hope has darkened. Please come to me quickly. However, the old apostle says in effect, it will be great (for a change) to stand before a righteous judge...the Lord Jesus Christ. He's going to give me a crown, Timothy; because, "I have kept the faith." (4:7). Let's read it! Are you ready? Starting in II-Tim. 4:1, we'll read the first eight verses. Here we go! Please read it with me.
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
The apostle's words that left that Roman prison that day as mere Greek words, i.e. symbols, inked on to a roll of crude paper has spanned nearly two thousand years now and can still direct and activate our brain cells and appeal to our spirits and stir the sympathy and the motivation of those of us who look for and those of us who will love the re-appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. My friend, the second coming of Jesus and the general resurrection of the dead is not just some myth, it's not just a good story to tickle our ears and to fantasize about (it's not something made up by the strong and used to control the weak as some have said). Just as sure as this old world was created and just as sure as this old world exists, this old world will come to an end. It didn't just happen accidentally and it won't just disappear unnoticed. There is more to a man than and blood. We didn't just evolve from nothing, and we won't just disintegrate into nothing. This is the proving ground of our faith. Why is faith in Jesus so important? Only the maker of the universe and the giver of life knows the answer to that question in every detail. I don't have to understand every detail. All I have to recognize is the reality of the matter. The word for that is "truth." And, truth is absolute! Truth is not relative as our New Age friends try to spread it. Things exist because they exist; not for one reason today and some other reason tomorrow. There's more to it than some lifeless cosmic accident shuffling around dumb atoms and connecting up senseless molecules. Where did those wee little tinker toys come from? Who made them with systematic elemental differences and the capability of conducting electrons and passing along heat and light? Who apportioned to us an orderly, systematic computer-type brain associated with the concepts of time and space and the appropriate molecular mass to understand Christ died for our sins and he is coming again? Who made us free moral agents?
"I charge thee [Timothy]...preach the word!" Give it your utmost attention. Why Paul? Because, "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..." Many were not following the rules then! It has since gotten worse. Back up to II-Tim. 4:1 and let's go verse by verse. We find here possibly the last words written by the apostle Paul. They were written to Timothy; (yes) but, they have been preserved for the benefit of every Christian, YEA every soul and these things are just as applicable today as the day they were penned in that Roman jail. Timothy, I appeal to your awareness, that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again. "Who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing," (v.1). When Paul? At the end of a thousand years, is that it? The righteous dead first and then a thousand years later the unrighteous... is that it? What did Paul say? The Lord "shall judge the quick and the dead AT HIS APPEARING." What does that mean? Jesus said: "the hour is coming." An hour is not a thousand years! "The hour is coming, in the which ALL that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth." This coming forth shall involve both the righteous and the unrighteous, Jesus makes it very clear (John 5:27). In the next verse, our Lord said some would be raised to life and some would be raised to damnation. Paul in this verse to Timothy adds another dimension (in that word "quick," v.1). The word "quick" as used here, like we have encountered before, is a reference to the living, those that shall be living when our Lord returns, i.e. the second coming. The apostle said this very same thing to the Corinthians (I-Cor. 15:51), both the righteous and the unrighteous shall be changed when the Lord appears. Our verse here (II-Tim. 4:1) says: both the dead and the living will be judged when Christ appears. Peter said at the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:42), "it is he [i.e. Jesus] which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead." That same apostle (called Peter) said later in his book (we know it as I-Pet 4:5), we "shall give account to him [i.e. Jesus] that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." He is ready! The apostle Peter said in the very next verse, THAT is the REASON the gospel is preached. Now, notice the last part of v.1 here where Paul said, "at his appearing and [at] his kingdom." Not only will Jesus appear, he will be in his heavenly kingdom. Jesus the Christ will be the king of that kingdom. He shall be a king sitting on a throne. Do you remember Matt. 25:31-32? "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats..." My friends, we haven't been left to just a bunch of theories, and a lot of speculation about Jesus' second coining. We are told all we need to know. Timothy, "I charge thee...preach the word..." Now, when is that? On Sunday? Just when you feel good! Is that it? One of these days when you have made your first million and you have plenty of time? Is that it? Of all the sins in our day, and of all the things we omit; one of the greatest of these is the urgency of the Scriptures. We dangle along, and slouch along, and we never get around to doing our duty, and people are dying and going to hell by the droves. Paul in his first letter to Timothy discussed the problems at Ephesus, the need for more prayer and the quality of prayer (I-Tim. 2:1), how women were to dress and conduct themselves (2:9), selecting elders and deacons and how to select qualified men (ch. 3). Taking care of the widows and the orphans and doing nothing by partiality (ch. 5). The love of money (ch. 6), Timothy was to charge them not to be high minded; but, to be rich in good works, to distribute, willing to communicate. However, in Second Timothy, the apostle appeals: don't be ashamed of the gospel, suffer if need be, hold fast the form of sound words, be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, be a useful vessel in that great house called the church, preach the word be instant in season and out of season. What is the apostle saying? When we come to the end of the way, very much like the apostle, it all gives way to serving the Lord Jesus Christ, being prepared for that great day. The last thing that seems to get through to us is the urgency of the Scriptures. Don't put it off until the 11th hour and the 59th minute. Timothy, "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine..." (v.3). My friends, if there was ever a time when that was true, it is true today. It was true in Timothy's time and human nature hasn't changed. What was Timothy to do? Look at the verbs in v.5, WATCH, ENDURE, DO THE WORK, MAKE FULL PROOF. That's the work of an evangelist, one who evangelizes, i.e. one who converts to Christianity by preaching AND either you are converting to Christianity or you are preaching for Satan. Which is it?
Then in v.6-7-8, the apostle lays it on the line. "I am now ready to be offered..." i.e. Timothy, it could happen any time. The apostle suspects from what he knows, from the hearings (mentioned down in v.16) and otherwise, the apostle suspects that he will be executed... he just doesn't know how long. He was then on death row. It could happen quickly, it could be drug out several months. He was innocent, he should not have been there; but, he was. And in this letter, he doesn't even take time to get into those trumped up charges against him. It may be, as I have said before, most likely, Timothy got this information through the one delivering this letter (which was probably Tychicus, 4:12). Now, take just a minute to look at that phrase "my departure is at hand," (v.6). What does "at hand" mean? No one has any trouble with that phrase in this verse. When you learn what it means here; then, project it back to Matt. ch. 3:2, where John the Baptist said: "the kingdom of heaven IS AT HAND." And, Jesus began to preach (Matt. 4:17), "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven IS AT HAND." Jesus instructed the apostles to preach (WHAT?) (Matt. 10:7), "the kingdom of heaven IS AT HAND." Some think that may mean two or three thousand years and they are still looking for the kingdom; but, you must learn to let the Bible interpret itself. Context, context, context!
In v.6, the apostle said: "I am now ready!" What would this Roman execution do to Paul? They would kill his body; but, it would not kill his soul (Matt. 10:28); his soul would simply be transported through "the gates of hades" (Matt. 16:18), i.e. into that unseen world, the unseen realm. "Ready to be offered" shows that in fact, he was being martyred (actually against his will), i.e. slaughtered like an innocent sheep; but, he would die...he would not renounce his faith. Notice the verbs (in v.7), the apostle says: "I HAVE FOUGHT a good fight, I HAVE FINISHED my course, I HAVE KEPT the faith." He had done all he can do! His earthly fate was then in the hands of others.
As a result (v.8), he said, "henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness [i.e. a home in heaven], which the Lord, the righteous judge [who is that? the Lord Jesus Christ], shall give me at that day." At what day? The judgment day. And then the apostle goes on to say, he is no exception in this respect, "not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing," i.e. the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, in other words, Christ's second coming that will in effect transport everyone (saints and sinners alike), through the door of death and conduct them to that great judgement scene. Natural death, or Christ's second coming is just a matter of timing... from there the process will be the same, judgement, separation, heaven or hell. Paul knew his fate. He had been baptized into Christ, he was a child of God, he was faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10), the righteous Judge would give him a home in heaven. It was just the matter of taking that trip into the unseen world and he was ready. Are we ready?
Some have said Paul was a golf player, because he said "I have finished my course." That's supposed be a joke. Actually, this illustration comes from that Roman athletic race track. And, Paul did not hesitate to use an illustration from that source to describe his reward. He said, "there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness..." May I appeal to you in these closing moments of our lesson, open the curtain wide. Take in a full view. Timothy was an evangelist or preacher or minister at Ephesus, laboring with that congregation. That congregation had elders, and that congregation was (years later) commended for sound teaching (Rev. 2:2-3). Are you familiar with those today, who teach "mutual ministry?" I.e. they say (they have a theory) a congregation with elders cannot employ a preacher or evangelist? I submit to you, Ephesus had such an arrangement and Paul encouraged it. "The laborer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7). "The Lord ordained that they which preach to the gospel should live of the gospel" (I-Cor. 9:14). Paul said, "I have kept the faith" (v.7). The faith is the gospel. Thus, Paul said, I have kept the gospel. Thus, Paul would be preserved in death unto the heavenly kingdom. His concern as he faced this transition was that Timothy (v.2) and all faithful men, "Preach the word." We said before, that Timothy and Titus are in one sense a kind of preacher training manual. Please note what is said in v.2, in connection with that thought. A preacher is to: reprove, rebuke and exhort. To reprove means to "refute," i.e. refute error, point it out, make the right way clear. The word rebuke means to criticize and set right those who are unruly and sinful, remembering of course "the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentile unto all men" (2:24). The word exhort means to encourage those who have the truth, that they might be stirred up unto greater zeal. Every Christian is a preacher. We all have our limitations. However, we MUST DO what WE CAN DO. And I believe, we can do more. May I congratulate you on your study! That is the first step. But, don't forget the second step, the third step, and the fourth step..."walk circumspectly," (do you remember Eph. 5:15). Until our final lesson, have a good day.