Summary: It is important to have a good start in the Christian life; it is vital to have a good finish.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”
Final words spoken as death is imminent are freighted with significance in our estimate. Words uttered at the threshold of death are often a revelation for those remaining behind, as both saint and sinner hover before the grave, poised as it were with one foot planted among us who are yet trapped in the flesh even as the other foot settles in the realm of what lies beyond this life. It is as though for one brief moment the veil that now obscures our vision of that unseen world is parted, and through the eyes of those exiting this mortal existence we are permitted a glimpse of their eternal destiny. We thus receive a hint of our own final condition. Those things spoken at that moment of transition are of considerable interest to each of us, then, serving either as confirmation of what we have believed, or forcefully disabusing us of every false hope upon which we may have rested our eternal condition.
What would be the most important thing you could communicate with your final breaths? What would be your dying words? Your final words would perhaps be a revelation of what you were seeing for the first time, a spoken record of destiny, as it were, such as the words of D. L. Moody, who is reported to have said, “Earth recedes; Heaven opens before me.” When his son remonstrated with him, he replied, “No, this is no dream, Will. It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.”
What will be the matters of primary concern for you? Will your business, your occupation and the work in which you were engaged in those final days reign primary in your mind? Will the care of your family occupy your thoughts, as you involuntarily surrender your responsibilities to another? Will you inveigh against the unfairness of your enforced removal? Will your mouth be filled with exclamations of praise, or with execrations and imprecations? Will you rejoice at the prospect of something better, or will you experience regret at your loss as you leave behind all that you deemed valuable. What will you say? And what will you feel? Chances are that you will speak of those things that now occupy your attention the majority of the time and that you will reveal the true condition of your heart; your life will be exposed and naked before those gathered about you. It is, after all, only when eternity forcefully intrudes into our thoughts that we surrender all concern for current activities.
We have, as it were, the last statements of the Apostle Paul. The words he penned to his spiritual heir, Timothy, serve to inform us of his final thoughts as his exodus from this life was nearing. A review of those final thoughts serves to encourage each of us who follow the Son of God to review our spiritual priorities. I invite you to consider the final thoughts forced out of the Apostle’s heart, as his departure from this life neared.
There was, for the apostle, A RECOGNITION OF REALITY. We read his foreboding words recorded in the SIXTH VERSE: “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” That is reality speaking. “For I (Egò gàr)” in contrast to “As for you (Sù dè)” of VERSE FIVE. Timothy would continue to live and serve; but Paul’s service was ending. Therefore, what the apostle has to say is penned against the back¬drop of knowledge of situations which differed by the greatest imaginable degrees. Take note of the contrast presented by the two positions; just as Joshua succeeded Moses, and Solomon succeeded David, and Elisha succeeded Elijah, so now Timothy must succeed Paul. One generation succeeds another, as the work of God continues even though the life work of one generation reaches completion and that labourer ceases work while the labours of another begin.