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Bible Commentaries
2 Timothy 4

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Verses 1-6

Preach the Word

2 Timothy 4:1. In the previous verses Paul pointed out to Timothy the situation in Christianity where there is no improvement to be expected, but on the contrary deterioration. In the meantime, after many ages of church history that also appeared. But he also pointed out to Timothy resources for perilous times. He did that in a way from which you also may profit.

Now Timothy is able and has to get down to work. In a penetrating way Paul places Timothy “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus”, a presence that is reality to Paul himself. He lives before the face of God and of Christ Jesus and not before the face of men. In that way he is like Elijah, who, while he stood before king Ahab, was able to say: “As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand” (1 Kings 17:1). He wants to give that awareness both to Timothy and also to you too.

The way Paul relates Christ Jesus and God with each other indicates that Christ is God. Then three things of Christ are said that have to do with the fact that He became Man. First of all He “is to judge the living and the dead”. That judgment is given to Him because He is the Son of Man (John 5:27). Then He will visibly appear as Man. Finally He will establish His kingdom.

He will execute the judgment over the living and the dead at different times and at different occasions. He will judge the living when He has appeared on earth and is seated on the throne of His glory. The nations living on earth will appear before Him and be judged by Him (Matthew 25:31-1 Corinthians :). He will judge the dead when He is seated on the great white throne, after His millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:11-2 Kings :).

Allow me to recapitulate the events that are written in this verse:
1. First the Lord Jesus will appear on earth;
2. then He will judge the living, while He is seated on the throne of His glory;
3. then He will establish His kingdom and will reign for thousand years;
4. after which He, being seated on the great white throne, will judge the dead.

For the sake of completeness I mention another judgment that takes place earlier than both these mentioned, namely directly after the rapture of the church (2 Corinthians 5:10). There the reward is being paid to the believer according to the measure of faithfulness with which He served the Lord on earth.

As it is said, the charging before the face of two Divine Persons and the three events to come, underline the gravity of the order that must be fulfilled. But it also includes a great encouragement and that is that you may know that the hard times will come to an end when the Lord Jesus, Who is still being rejected, will return in power and majesty. The thought of His coming to judge makes you free from people and delivers you from the fear of men.

2 Timothy 4:2. Against the background of 2 Timothy 4:1 the order follows in 2 Timothy 4:2. The thought of His appearance will not paralyze you, but will actually make you more diligent. When Christ returns He will come with His reward that is determined before the judgment seat. That reward is to be gained by you on earth by using all your efforts and diligence in full devotion to the Lord and to do what He asks of you.

In measured terms Paul tells Timothy what is being expected of him. The whole point is: “Preach the Word.” After the Word of God has become apparent as the equipment of the man of God in the concluding verses of chapter 3 (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :), the next step is that it has to be preached. That is a great duty in all times, but certainly when the church has fallen into decay.

‘Preach’ here means openly proclaim, like the imperial herald did. The message to be brought was not made up by the herald himself. Not listening to the message of a herald was a serious matter.

Timothy must always “be ready”. He is supposed to be inwardly always ready to transmit the Word, that is the whole revealed truth of God. He is supposed to be always ready (cf. 1 Peter 3:15), “in season [and] out of season”, which means whether it is convenient for him or not, or whether the circumstances are favorable or not. He is also supposed to ‘reprove’, that is to deliver the convincing proof of the wrong in doctrine or life (cf. John 16:8). When that proof has been delivered then ‘rebuke’ should follow. The rebuking or denouncing, the openly indicating, makes clear how wrong the person has spoken or acted.

Not only courage is needed for that, but also the right mindset. Acting against evil and “exhort” to prevent evil must happen “with great patience”, that is with long-suffering and self-control and not with a quick temper. That must also be accompanied by “instruction” or education. Both with reproving and rebuking and with teaching the doctrine of the Scripture has to be applied. All these actions are to be explained from the Scripture.

Acting on the basis of the Scripture has always been of the greatest importance. As time goes by the importance increases more and more. I hope you are well aware of that or become aware of that. In any case Paul is not to be blamed when you do not consider this.

2 Timothy 4:3. He warns us that a time will come that men, namely ‘nominal confessing’ Christians “will not endure sound doctrine”. We have definitely arrived in that time right now. Just tell nominal Christians about ‘the sound doctrine’ of marriage for instance. There is a great chance that they will laugh at you and label you as old fashioned and that your ideas are no more adequate. In that way they reject the doctrine that is sound in itself and in its effect.

They choose for a free experience of sexuality. They do not want to realize that this has been the cause and the spread of a disease like aids. They prefer to hold a ‘Day for aids’ to focus the attention on the problem and they give money in order to overcome this disease themselves. But they have no ears for tackling the root of the problem by starting to live the healthy life in this view, meaning: in accordance with the sound doctrine.

On the contrary, they listen to teachers who say things they love to hear; who bring a message that smoothly enter into their ears. They know a lot of those. They have no lack of variation. A church may then chose or appoint a preacher who has a nice way of preaching. The truthfulness is not important to them, as long as it offers spiritual amusement and it caresses the spiritual emotions. The same happens with people who follow preachers whom they like, without asking themselves whether the preaching is biblical.

2 Timothy 4:4. The result of this all will be that such people will look the other way when they really come into contact with the truth. They don’t want to hear the truth at all, but consciously turn their ear away from it time and time again.

The automatic consequence is that they turn themselves under the influence of “myths”. It is actually very ironic if you think that modern, liberal theologians are now trying to ‘demythologize’ the Bible, which means that they indicate the myths in the Bible in order to rob the Bible from its power. They label the miracles of the Bible as myths and they even consider them as fairy tales. But they take refuge in the myths themselves by turning away from the truth.

Paul dismisses all the expressions of modern thinkers and preachers, who base their allegations on science, with one word: fables. A quite recent example of a fable, a myth, is the Da Vinci Code, a book that is full of ridiculous religious mysteries, distortions of the truth and blasphemous allegations about the Lord Jesus. This book, out of which they also made a movie, has dragged millions into its grip. It has been sold more than thirty six million times and has already been translated into more than forty languages. Isn’t it shocking that such a huge number of people turn themselves to the fables? It is the preparation work for the embracement of the anti-Christ when he reveals himself.

2 Timothy 4:5. For the third time you hear “but you”. Paul is warning you not to let yourself be dragged down by this strong anti-Christian movement. “Be sober in all things.” Be sure to remain free from false influences, for those will hinder you to keep a sober, biblical view on all things. Don’t be gullible and don’t let people encourage you for ideas that have no basis in the truth. Make well-considered decisions. Submit your plans to the Lord in prayer and always consult His Word.

Be willing to carry the consequences of such a way of life and to “endure hardship”. People will not thank and welcome you for your witness to the truth. Remain merciful to the lost man and “do the work of an evangelist”. Don’t hide behind the thought that you possibly don’t have the gift of an evangelist. That is not the issue. The point is that whenever you have the opportunity to point to the Savior you must do that.

The ministry of Timothy is extensive. He is supposed to fully accomplish each aspect of it, that nothing will be left undone. The Lord also expects of you to fully fulfill what He has ordered you to do. Thereby you may be sure that when the Lord orders you to do something He also gives you the strength and the means to do it.

2 Timothy 4:6. Paul calls on Timothy’s attention for all these things, because he himself will soon disappear from the earthly scene. His departure is another exhortation for Timothy to fully fulfill his ministry. Now he has to work hard himself. But he can build on the foundation that the apostle himself has laid.

Paul compares his departure with the outpouring of a “drink offering”. In the offering service of Israel a drink offering was added to the burnt offering, which was the main offering (Num 28-29; Philippians 2:17). His whole life in service to the Lord has been a life of full devotion and in that sense a burnt offering. Now he is close to pass away he sees his “departure” as a drink offering. A drink offering consists of wine and speaks of joy. He knows that he will enter into the joy of his Lord (Matthew 25:21).

The word ‘depart’ has the meaning of ‘to unloose’ (Philippians 1:23) and sees upon the disconnection of an attachment. Paul doesn’t see the execution, but the liberation! That that moment has come, means joy to him.

Now read 2 Timothy 4:1-6 again.

Reflection: Do you do the work of an evangelist?

Verses 7-15

Personal Circumstances

2 Timothy 4:7. Paul looks back on his ministry. There is nothing that he regrets. What he did in the past still has its full value. He doesn’t speak like a worn out warrior who is glad to have reached the finish. It is the acclamation of joy from a winner. When he says that he has fought the “good fight” he doesn’t emphasize the hardships and efforts and the sufferings that went hand in hand with it. For him the emphasis lies on the privilege that he had by partaking of such an excellent fight. The fight here is the fight of a wrestler.

Also “the course” is a sports term. It is about a race here. The race has been finished. He has reached the finish with full conviction. In Acts 20:24 he also speaks about a ‘race’ (cf. Philippians 3:13-2 Chronicles :). There he looks forward, while here he looks back and sees the goal that he had set before him and which he indeed had reached. At the finish he notes that on his way he has defended and kept the “the faith”, that is the whole truth of faith, against the countless attacks on it. He did not lose anything of all that the Lord entrusted him with.

2 Timothy 4:8. The only thing that’s left for him is to receive the crown. He looks like a wrestler here who has won and looks upon the victory platform where he is supposed to receive the prize. That will be given to him by the Lord, the perfectly righteous Judge, Who perfectly knows all his motives and efforts and Who is able to correctly recognize and reward everything.

The reward consists of a public recognition of the Lord Jesus that Paul has lived as a righteous one in the midst of so much unrighteousness. In his life he had, by following his Master, suffered as an unrighteous one.

“That day” is the day that the Lord Jesus will be seated on the judgment seat and will reveal all things (1 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This great perspective didn’t only keep Paul going, but he eagerly looked forward to it.

And he also says that this doesn’t apply to himself alone, but also to you if you at least love the appearance of the Lord Jesus and eagerly look forward to that. Don’t you find it also wonderful that Paul, despite his miserable circumstances and the prospect of the martyr’s death, thinks of other people?

When Christ appears He will be revealed to the world (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1). It is absolutely great to know that He will come first to catch up the church. But the world will sink down further into godlessness. When He appears He will make an end to that by judging all godlessness. Afterwards He will execute His purpose with the earth, which is the territory of His kingdom. What a joy that will be to Him to reign on earth where He was rejected and killed and where He is still being rejected. He will then take the earth into possession for God, that God may be honored. You certainly look forward to that, don’t you?

2 Timothy 4:9. The desire for the appearance of the Lord Jesus doesn’t make Paul insensitive for the help of other people. He is looking forward to see Timothy and he asks him if he could come as soon as possible and if he could do everything in his power to indeed come. He needed somebody whom he could share the feelings of his heart with and whom would surely understand him.

2 Timothy 4:10. Demas is the first of seventeen names Paul mentions in this chapter. Although his days are numbered he thinks of others. With pain in his heart he names Demas. In two earlier letters that he wrote during his first imprisonment, he also mentions Demas (Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:24). There he appears to be somebody who is close to Paul and who helps him. Nevertheless his heart was apparently not undividedly focused on the Lord.

It is not said that Demas is no longer a Christian and that he openly rejected the Lord. But it was not in his heart to bear the cross with the apostle. He started to love the world and forsook Paul. If you are not willing to pay the price of hardship and suffering, you will forsake the work of the Lord in favor of the present world.

It doesn’t directly mean that Demas submitted himself to lawlessness, but that he searched his future in the world. Probably he chose for an honorable job that absorbed all his attention, however. He traveled to Thessalonica. The church there was a sound church. However, he was not interested. He searched the world there and not the brothers and sisters. His love for the world was in sharp contrast to the love for the appearance of the Lord Jesus in 2 Timothy 4:8.

What is said of Demas implies the warning not to let yourself be dragged down by the love for the present, but by the love for the coming. When the present world is perfectly fine for you, you will not look forward to the coming world of Christ’ kingdom.

Especially young believers are highly attracted to the world. John particularly warns them not to love the world nor the things in the world (1 John 2:15). The world is not only all kinds of lawlessness, lusts and desires. It is the world as it has become because of the fall of man, where men are in control, who live a life without reverence for God. It also includes hard working people, who pursue a career or who do researches and make discoveries that improve the quality of life. They receive a lot of respect. However, when there is no place for God then it is the world.

Paul mentions two other ones, Crescens and Titus. They also left him. Of those it is not said that they have forsaken him. Most probably they went to another place in order to serve the Lord there. Of Crescens we do not know more than what is written here. Of Titus we know more, because Paul wrote him a letter that directly follows after this second letter to Timothy in the Bible.

2 Timothy 4:11. Although these two have not forsaken him like Demas did, Paul feels very alone. Not only that he was left to his fate by most Christians (2 Timothy 1:15), but also his companions in the work have left. Fortunately there is somebody with him, Luke. Luke has made the departure of the others, for whatever reason, easier for him.

It would make Paul also happy if Timothy took Mark along with him. Probably Timothy could pick up Mark somewhere on his way. What Paul says about Mark indicates that he has seen a restoration with Mark in his relation to the Lord. Actually also Mark has left Paul once after he first went together with Paul (Acts 12:25; Acts 13:13). The price for following the Lord together with Paul had become too high. Due to his attitude he even causes a distance between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-Malachi :).

Fortunately there has been a moment that Mark became aware of his wrong choice. He chose again for the Lord. In that way the disturbed relationship has been restored and therefore he became useful again for the service. The way Paul writes about him, suggests that Mark wants to be useful with more diligence and devotion. And isn’t it an amazing proof of the grace of the Lord that this failed servant has been allowed to describe the service of the perfect Servant in the gospel according to Mark? The Lord always gives a failing servant the chance for a new start.

2 Timothy 4:12. The three brethren of 2 Timothy 4:10 have departed from the apostle on the basis of their own decision. It was different with Tychicus, who was sent to Ephesus by the apostle. This Tychicus is a wonderful brother who is called by Paul a “beloved brother and faithful servant” (Colossians 4:7). He has delivered some letters that Paul has written during his first imprisonment: the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Colossians (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7-Ruth :).

2 Timothy 4:13. His request to bring his cloak and the books shows once more that Paul is an ordinary man. He cares for both his body and spirit. It is a pure human letter from someone who is just a man like we are with his needs and desires. In the place where he is imprisoned it could be cold and his cloak would be very useful. With winter approaching (2 Timothy 4:21) his desire for his coat is greater.

Paul would also be very grateful to have the books and the parchments. Those are not necessarily the inspired Scriptures. He may have asked for scrolls of books and parchments (made of animal skins) with data that are valuable to him. He wants to refresh his spirit with those. It cannot be novels like those, which today are often filled out from a vague memory of the Bible with unbiblical fantasies from the writer.

2 Timothy 4:14. Paul is also not indifferent about the harm that other people do to him, like Alexander the coppersmith. You can fight physical cold with a cloak, but from this man comes a spiritual cold that is not to be fought. It is not said in what way this man caused Paul harm. Any way it is “much harm”. Nevertheless Paul doesn’t call for revenge, but leaves the judgment to the Lord.

2 Timothy 4:15. While Paul puts this matter concerning himself into the hands of the Lord, he warns Timothy of this man. Timothy must keep on going; he is still in the midst of battle. We need to warn each other sometimes of people who resist against the Word. He is a dangerous man, who finds his own words more important than those of the Scripture. At the same time it is a test to ourselves how we stand and how we respond. Such people teach us lessons on patience.

Now read 2 Timothy 4:7-15 again.

Reflection: Do you love the appearance of the Lord?

Verses 16-22

Assistance From the Lord and Salutations

2 Timothy 4:16. This second and also last imprisonment of Paul has been extremely harsh. During his first imprisonment he had a certain liberty to receive people and he could preach and teach unhindered (Acts 28:23; Acts 28:30-Obadiah :). Now he is alone, imprisoned in a place for which you had to make great efforts to find it (2 Timothy 1:17).

There was no one with him at his first interrogation, nobody who defended him and spoke in his favor. Of course he could defend himself, but still he was in need of some assistance. But everybody was afraid to be identified with him. That could be damaging, for then other people will know that you are also such a Christian. Paul felt it being forsaken by them, as Demas had.

Still he does not blame anybody for anything. He is not filled with resentment and doesn’t ask Timothy what he had asked with regard to Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:15). He doesn’t see them as opponents, although neither could he recognize them as supporters. They have made his imprisonment more difficult by forsaking him. Nevertheless he follows the example of the Lord Jesus, Who prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Also like Stephen who also followed the example of the Lord Jesus (Acts 7:60). Here you have examples of how to respond when people do not like you anymore, because you testify of the Lord Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:17. Even if you feel left alone, just like Paul here, you are not alone, just like Paul is not alone here. The Lord wants to assist you and strengthen you. That is what Paul is experiencing. Even though everybody has forsaken him, the Lord stands with him (cf. Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11). The personal presence of the Lord is the special experience in situations when you lose everything around you because you want to remain faithful to Him. He has “strengthened me” literally means ‘He has poured out strength in me’ or ‘He has given me a power transfusion’ (Philippians 4:13). You feel your power being renewed when His presence is a living reality to you, when you expect everything from Him (Isaiah 40:31).

The Lord does that to make His work to be fully achieved by His servant. As far as Paul is concerned, it refers to his testimony in the courtroom and down to the palace of Caesar. He appealed to Caesar and he was going there. That he was going to make himself to be heard in the palace, regarding his testimony of the Lord Jesus, is a symbol for a testimony towards the whole western world of which the palace of Caesar is the center.

Only when somebody’s duty has come to an end the Lord will allow His servant to be killed by the enemy (cf. Luke 22:53; John 7:30; John 8:20). At Paul’s conversion the Lord announced his duty (Acts 9:15). Therefore He allowed that Paul was being imprisoned. Now he will bear the Name of the Lord Jesus before nations and kings. Everything that the enemy meant evil becomes a testimony, so that the rulers of the earth, they who otherwise would be unreachable, may hear the Word of truth.

That’s why for that moment he “was rescued out of the lion’s mouth”. We are reminded of Daniel in the den of lions (Daniel 6:23). Satan who is rampaging as a roaring lion against Paul to devour him (1 Peter 5:8), still does not get the opportunity for that. He is still being controlled by the Lord, through which Paul has been saved from a premature death.

2 Timothy 4:18. Paul is well aware of the tremendous threat of the lion and his anger to tear him up. But he looks beyond the lion to the Lord. He is assured that as the Lord delivered him from the mouth of the lion, He also will rescue him “from every evil work”.

Satan not only appears like a roaring lion. He can also transform himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). With ‘every evil work’ you may also think of everything that satan wants to whisper in Paul’s ear, in order to bring him to deny what he has kept up so fearless till now. To achieve that satan may be giving those well intentioned advices through people who find themselves good Christians. Of course these people are sober and do not exacerbate matters like Paul does according to their ‘humble opinion’. Paul is more afraid for such whisperings than for death.

He knows that he is not resistant to that in his own power, but that the Lord will deliver him from it and will preserve him. ‘To deliver’ here means to remove out of the danger zone and ‘to preserve’ means to remove into safety. Actually on the one hand the Lord removes him out of an area that is full of dangers and on the other hand the Lord brings him into an area where he is fully safe. That area is “His heavenly kingdom”.

His strong and simple faith counts on the Lord until the end. Even if he would fall asleep instead of being changed, he will always continue to look forward to the appearance of the Lord. Paul is looking forward to the heavenly kingdom of the Lord Jesus. That is not the same as what the evangelist Matthew so often calls ‘the kingdom of heaven’. The kingdom of heaven concerns the government of the Lord Jesus over heaven and earth according to heavenly measures. Therefore that kingdom consists of a heavenly part and an earthly part. The ‘heavenly kingdom’ is the heavenly part.

Paul looks forward to come together with the Lord Jesus when He will appear to the world. Then he will be one of those saints in whom the Lord Jesus will be glorified and one of those believers in whom the Lord Jesus will be admired (2 Thessalonians 1:10). He will be like one of those righteous, who ‘will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:43), another name for this ‘heavenly kingdom’. To shine forth as the sun means to shine forth as the Lord Jesus, for He is the Sun (Malachi 4:2). It is all about Him. Remembering Him a praise arises out of a cold and stinking prison cell in Rome to the honor of Him Who is worthy of “glory forever and ever”. With a profound ‘amen’ (= that’s true) Paul confirms his trust in the Lord and his praise.

2 Timothy 4:19. Paul wants Timothy to convey his greetings to Prisca and Aquila, his good friends whom he got acquainted with at Corinth (Acts 18:2). This faithful couple is now at Ephesus. Paul mentions them with feelings of particular gratitude, not only because they are faithful in the service of the Lord (Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19), but also because they had made great efforts for him, putting their own lives at risk (Romans 16:3-Numbers :). Timothy must also greet the household of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16).

2 Timothy 4:20. Then Paul mentions two names of brothers to inform Timothy about their circumstances. We may presume that Timothy was curious about them. Together with Erastus he has done a duty there in Macedonia on Paul’s request (Acts 19:22). In that way Timothy has got the chance to know Erastus better and a relationship may have come into existence. Erastus had a high position as steward in the city of Corinth (Romans 16:23). Apparently because of the responsibilities of his work he was not allowed to spend more time with Paul.

Trophimus comes from Ephesus (Acts 21:29). He traveled along with Paul from Ephesus (Acts 20:4) but got sick soon. Paul left him behind in Miletus because his sickness made it impossible for him to travel further. You see that Paul didn’t heal him just like that, although he was able to. He actually had the gift of healing. Paul and Trophimus accepted this sickness from the hand of God. It was not a sickness that had to be punished or something like that. There also is no mention of lack of faith at all with Trophimus to become healthy.

When a believer falls sick he can see the hand of the Lord in it and not the hand of the devil. Similarly Job did not accept his disasters and sickness out of the hand of satan, but out of God’s hand (Job 2:10).

It is possible that a believer falls sick, due to his own fault, incautiousness, possibly even because of a sin (James 5:14-Nehemiah :). Then a confession has to be made, so that God can give restoration. Believers may also fall sick due to their efforts on behalf of the work of the Lord, like Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-Amos :).

The Lord Jesus identifies with His sick brethren, as He identifies with them when they are hungry or thirsty or in prison (Matthew 25:35-:). Here you clearly see that sickness is not supposed to be automatically associated with sin. The Lord will never identify Himself with sin. He did that once for all on the cross in the three hours of darkness. After that He never had anything to do with sin (neither did He have anything to do with it before). Therefore don’t ever let yourself be fooled by extremely charismatic Christians that sickness has to be eliminated as a sin.

2 Timothy 4:21. Paul would love to see Timothy once more before the Lord calls him to be with Him and his earthly service has ended. That he would like to see him before winter also has a practical reason, namely because of his cloak (2 Timothy 4:13).

Then he greets Timothy on behalf of three men and a woman who had visited him and who also know Timothy. He passes their greetings to Timothy without any reflection of feelings of disappointment about the attitude of the brethren in Rome.

2 Timothy 4:22. He closes his letter with a personal wish for Timothy and a collective wish for all believers with whom Timothy was together. It is wonderful that the letter ends like that. He wishes Timothy that the Lord will be with his spirit. I hope that also for myself and for you. It implies that you in your life and service for God will continually experience the presence of Christ, the Lord. Don’t let your spirit be occupied with the world and its thinking, not even when you see how the decay is increasing more and more in Christianity and you want to do something about it.

When we see this then there is nothing more left than wishing one another the awareness of grace. But how great is that! Grace triumphs over each difficulty.

Now read 2 Timothy 4:16-22 again.

Reflection: What could you learn from the attitude of Paul?

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 2 Timothy 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/2-timothy-4.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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