2 Timothy - Combat Guide

Closing Credits part 1 (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Sermon Manuscript . . .

What You Want to Say at the End of Life–Closing Credits

2 Timothy 4:6-8, part 1

A headstone, tombstone, or gravestone is a marker, usually stone, placed over a grave. They are traditional for burials and in most cases have the deceased’s name, date of birth and date of death inscribed on them, along with a personal message. Sometimes those messages are funny and cleaver, most of the time they are reflective. But each message is final.

Here are some of the fun headstones I’ve read about. In England, “Anna Wallace–The children of Israel wanted bread, and the Lord sent them manna, old clerk Wallace wanted a wife, and the Devil sent him Anna. They say Anna was so mean they buried her face down so she wouldn’t get lost on the way to Eternity.”

In New Mexico, “Here lies Johnny Yeast, pardon me for not rising.” In memory of an accident in Pennsylvania, “Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake, stepped on the gas instead of the brake.” A widow wrote this epitaph in Vermont–“Sacred to the memory of my husband, John Barnes, who died January 3, 1803. His comely young widow, aged 23, has many qualifications of a good wife, and yearns to be comforted.”

Lester Moore was a Wells Fargo station agent in the cowboy days of the 1880’s. He’s buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona. “Here lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a .44, no Les no more.” In a cemetery in England, “On the 22nd of June, Jonathan Fiddle went out of tune.”

Anna Hopewell’s epitaph sounds like something from a Three Stooges movie. “Here lies the body of our Anna. Done to death by a banana. It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low. But the skin of the thing that made her go.” In the 1880’s in Nantucket, Massachusetts it says, “Under the sod and under the trees lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there’s only the pod, Pease shelled out and went to God.” Mel Blanc apparently has proudly engraved in his granite, “That’s All Folks!”

Tombstones are not always funny–as men and women face dying, they often reflect their true beliefs and feelings without hypocrisy. On his deathbed, Napoleon said, “I die before my time and my body will be given back to earth, to become the food of worms. Such is the fate which so soon awaits the great Napoleon.”

Not long before he died, Gandhi, the world-renowned Hindu leader, confessed, “My days are numbered. I am not likely to live very long—perhaps a year or a little more. For the first time in fifty years I find myself in a slough of despond. All about me is darkness. I am praying for light.” In contrast to that, I want mine to say, “CC Mueller–husband of his beloved Jean, father to two great sons, teaching pastor of his treasured FBC, content to have fulfilled his purpose in his generation, went home to be with his Savior on this date, 2040.”

But much better than mine, is the amazing apostle Paul’s in 2 Timothy 4:6 to 8. Turn there in your Bibles and follow along in your outlines. As Paul neared the end of his earthly life, he shares his heart about his life and death. Paul writes a triumphant epitaph. Some thirty years after his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, in everything that truly matters, Paul was without regret.

I, too, desire to live a life without regrets–it’s one of my driving passions. With an economy of words known only to a Holy Spirit-inspired writer, Paul not only affirms his own spiritual triumph, but shares a forceful motivation for each of you to live a life of faithful service to Christ. Read aloud with me verses 6 to 8.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future 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” (2 Timothy 4:6 to 8).

This is called “Paul’s Valedictory”–his final words, his epitaph, Paul’s biblical obituary. It’s given here for a reason. Paul told Timothy he must remain loyal to the inspired Word, and Timothy must “preach that word,” not only because of the current war with apostasy, but also in view of the fact that Paul is about to set sail for the shores of eternity.

It is now time for Timothy to fulfill his ministry of verse 5–Timothy must grab the baton in this great relay race and run his leg. That’s why Paul starts verse 6 with the conjunction, “for“. He’s connecting verse 5, “fulfill your ministry,” to verse 6, “my departure has come.” Do you remember what is happening in 2 Timothy?

When Paul wrote this letter, the pure Gospel was being contaminated. Ungodly teachers were distorting the truth and causing many nominal Christians, 1 Timothy 4:1, to “fall away from the faith [and to pay] attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Many believers were tolerating ungodliness in the body of Christ and in their own lives. Sadly, they were more concerned about pleasing themselves than pleasing God.

Paul knew his present imprisonment would be his final one–escape would only be through martyrdom. This was only difficult for Paul because of the spiritual predicament of believers he taught, trained and loved. Plus Paul had a special concern for his son Timothy, for the problems of false teaching and false living he faced in the church at Ephesus, and for the struggles with timidity and apprehension he faced personally.

Again and again, in his two letters to Timothy, Paul challenged Tim to show courage and faithfulness, and to resist the onslaught of evil and error with the power of God’s Word proclaimed accurately. Yet despite his deep concerns for the Church and for Timothy, the apostle’s final words reflect the eloquent calmness that comes only from settled confidence in the Lord.

In this passage, Paul examines his life and ministry from three different perspectives. In verse 6, he looks at the end of his 1) present life and ministry and declares he’s ready. In verse 7, he looks at the 2) past and declares he was faithful. In verse 8, he looks at the 3) future and anticipates heavenly reward.

As you examine your life, are you ready to die and face judgment–have you been faithful in life and ministry and are you anticipating future reward? In one of the most moving passages in the New Testament, the apostle lifts this letter and his apostolic career to a wonderful finale. Read again Paul’s biblical obituary.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future 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” (2 Timothy 4:6 to 8).

Again, Paul gives us in verse 6 his appraisal of the present, in verse 7 his summary of the past, and in verse 8 his exaltation of the future. Today let’s listen to Paul’s appraisal of the present.

#1  Paul’s current MINISTRY is ending soon

Verse 6a, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering.” When you read that, you can almost see the shadow of the executioner’s axe. Paul’s death is imminent–yet for Apostle Paul and for each of you born again Christians, the reality is, death is not the issue. Living is what counts.

So Paul starts verse 6 with “for I,” making the first person emphasized–emphatic. This is about me–I am reflecting my heart. Plus, this is God’s inspired Word, so you know this is absolutely true. This is genuine about me in every way. And this emphasis, “for I” on Paul, puts a challenge on Timothy.

If I said, “I am going to give half of all I earn to the Lord’s work,” that would challenge your giving. If I said, “I will share the Gospel every single day no matter what,” that would challenge your evangelism. If I said, “I will pray an hour a day, that would challenge your prayer life.” Paul says, “I, who have been the Lord’s apostle . . . I, who have taught the Word . . . I, who have established churches in the truth of God’s Word . . . I now am going to die.”

That will challenge Timothy’s ministry and hopefully will challenge your ministry. There is a special urgency for Timothy in verse 5 to fulfill his ministry with faithfulness, because verse 6, Paul’s faithful ministry is about to end. “For I am being poured out as a drink offering” is an image–a figure taken from the Old Testament sacrificial system.

The people of Israel were commanded in Numbers 15 to give a burnt offering of a prescribed animal, then a grain offering, then finally a drink offering. The order is important–first the animal sacrifice, then the grain sacrifice and finally, last of all, the drink offering.

According to this law, when a lamb was sacrificed, the drink-offering consisted of one-fourth of a hin of wine. One hin is slightly more than one gallon. When the offering was a ram, the prescribed libation they poured on the hot offering was one-third of a hin. And for a bull, it was one-half of a hin. As an offering, this wine was gradually poured out as the final act of the entire sacrificial ceremony. It would hiss, then rise like steam over the hot fire and cooked sacrifice.

So here in Paul’s usage, it pictured his entire life as a living sacrifice. And now, as an old man, the drink offering pictures the conclusion of a life of sacrifice, the final sacrifice. The drink offering is Paul’s final sacrificial action–he has lived for Christ, and now he will die for Christ. “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

While writing Timothy in verse 6, Paul is already being poured out as a drink offering–his final offering to the Lord was being made. Paul was now being sacrificed to the one who had sacrificed Himself for Paul. Just as Paul had offered himself to the Lord as Romans 12:1 says, “a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God” while he was alive, he is now offering himself to the Lord in his death.

About five years earlier, Paul wrote the Philippians about the possibility of his death, describing it in Philippians 2:17 as “being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” Back then, his sacrificial death was hypothetical. Now as he writes 2 Timothy, Paul’s sacrifice is actual. Notice the verb “being poured out”–Paul uses a tense to let Timothy know it is actually happening right now, as if it were actually taking place as he writes, a voice which tells you it is going to happen to Paul.

This is not his doing or his choice, and it is a mood which tells you it’s a certainty. And observe verse 6, “already being poured out as a drink offering.” Because Paul asks Timothy for his books and a warm coat in verse 13, most assume it will be some time before Paul’s execution occurs–truly, the last drops of Paul’s blood were, in a sense, beginning to already fall.

Paul’s speaking of his death as a drink offering also may have referred to the type of execution Paul expected to suffer. Because Roman citizens could not be crucified, Paul knew and tradition tells us, that Paul was likely beheaded–he would literally be pouring out his own blood for the Lord. Beheading was a mercifully quick death–sudden and final, no suffering, little pain. Thus, it was considered a privilege and a right for a Roman citizen. Paul would bleed out as a drink offering–the final sacrifice of a life of sacrifice.

Yet Paul was triumphant. It’s clear Paul didn’t think of himself as about to be executed–as one who is about to die. But rather, he thought of himself as offering himself to God. From the time of his conversion on the Damascus Road, everything Paul had was given to God–his wealth, his body, his brilliant mind, his passions, his position, his reputation, his relationships, and his dreams were all given to the Lord to use as He wills.

For years, the red blood of his life had been spilling onto the altar. Now, all that remained was his life’s breath, and Paul triumphantly gave that. Jesus Christ sacrificed all for you–are you a living sacrifice for Him? As you evaluate your life presently, not only would you say you are living for Christ, but have you sacrificed your life, your will, your dreams, your gifts for Him?

Is there anything about your life right now you can identify as ongoing sacrifice for Christ in ministry? Do you consider attending church, dropping a $20 in the plate once in a while and attending a CG a sacrifice? Would anyone look at your life and see sacrifice for Christ? Could you identify your life as a living sacrifice and the end of your life as the end of a life of sacrifice?

Timothy faces external persecution from Rome, which may jail him, to burn him alive. Timothy faces internal pressure from false teachers who want to distort the truth. And Paul is telling Timothy, live a life of sacrifice and prepare for the ultimate sacrifice. The statistics don’t lie. They are solid. Unless you are raptured, you are going to die. Only one life, soon passed–only what’s done for Christ will last. Paul’s life is coming to a close, because He tells us in verse 6.

#2  Paul’s DEATH is imminent

Verse 6b, “and the time of my departure has come.” Battle scars are the mark of the faithful soldier, and Paul had scars in abundance. Think about what Paul’s actual back looked like, as 2 Corinthians 11 tells us he’d been “beaten times without number, … received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes, … [and had been] beaten with rods.” Paul also had been stoned at least once and shipwrecked three times.

But the supreme mark of the faithful soldier is to give his life in battle, and that mark the apostle was now willingly prepared to receive. Paul was always ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, but now the process leading to his certain death was in motion. He says, “the time of my departure has come.”

The Greek word time does not here refer to chronological time, but epochal/period time. Paul was speaking of the final period of his life and ministry, not his final hours or days. The word time indicates the departure time has already arrived, paralleling his already being poured out. The time is present, my departing time is now here, at hand, imminent.

The Greek verb has come indicates that the time of Paul’s departure had arrived. And yes, “but this time has come” also means it has a continuing effect. The clouds of death have come and they are still hovered over him. But for Paul, they are not dark clouds because death held no peril for him.

Like Peter, he viewed death simply as 2 Peter 1:14 says, “the laying aside of [his] earthly dwelling.” Death is merely a move from his demanding and painful life on earth to the infinitely glorious eternal life of peace and rest to come, when he’d forever be with the Lord.

Paul probably expected to live a few more months before his departure, because he asks for the books, parchments and cloak in verse 13, and he requests Timothy in verse 21 “to make every effort to come before winter.” Paul maintained a comforting hope that he would see Timothy once more face-to-face before he died.

Verse 6b, “and the time of my departure has come.” The unique Greek word translated “departure” occurs only here in the Scripture. However, the verb departure in other verb forms occurs elsewhere. Paul used another form of departure when telling his Philippian friends in Philippians 1:23 about his “desire to depart and to be with Christ; which is far better.”

When Paul wrote those words to Philippi, he was in prison in Rome for the first time. That imprisonment was comparatively benign. The trumped-up charges were not likely to stand up in court, and Nero had not yet embarked on a course of open brutality toward Christians. Paul was uncertain then about what his sentence would be, but he was optimistic he’d be released. However, he had come to grips with the possibility of death.

The word translated “desire” in Philippians 1:23, “desire to depart,” is the common New Testament word for lust. Paul was lusting to go to Heaven. He was longing to weigh anchor and set sail for yonder heavenly shores, to attend the wedding and return with the groom. Now  Paul is back in prison, this time facing certain, imminent death.

Paul picked up his old word depart again–he had not changed his mind about preferring Heaven. Soon the anchor would be weighed, and he would be gone. In Paul’s mind, nothing about this prospect was grim or gloomy or gross. It was the logical end of a life poured out in service to the King. The journey Paul anticipated would not be long. The distance between Earth and Heaven is not measured in miles. Paul had long since thought through what was involved.

In one of the most interesting chapters in the New Testament, Paul explained how the transition worked in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” The journey would be over just like that–Earth to Heaven. This Greek word departure is picturesque. Now at the end, Paul declares it is time for Him to die by using this rich Greek word–my departure has come.

Like those you know in Christ who have died, Paul had “fought the good fight and finished the course and kept the faith.” Those dead loved ones are now experiencing “the crown of righteousness which is for all who loved His appearing.” As Paul writes these words, he shows all of you who love Jesus what to believe concerning death.

Paul looked at death as a departure. Say it with me, “For the Christian, death is a departure.” And this particular word is full of comfort for those of you who have lost a believing loved one, or are at the edge of eternity through age or health. As a Christian, what does it mean to depart from this world?

First  The Greek word depart was used for unleashing an animal from a cart

Paul sees death as an unleashing from labor–a beautiful picture of rest from labor, deliverance from carrying a great burden and experiencing toil. The toil of this life is burdensome and difficult and the Word of God declares that death is the release of that weight. Death is taking the burden from one’s back. Death is finally being truly free. Friends, your saved relatives and friends have been unleashed from the burdens of this life.

Second  The Greek depart is used as loosening the bonds of a prisoner

Death for Paul was a liberation–not only would he loose the physical pain which he bore so frequently in serving Christ and rotting in Roman prisons, but now he would loose the bounds of his own flesh, his fallenness and the sin that dwelt in him. He would exchange the confines of a Roman prison for the glorious liberty of the courts of Heaven. He would exchange the bondage of his own sin for the glorious liberty of perfect righteousness. The chains are cut and the prisoner is set free.

That is just what happened to your born again friends–they are not only free from illness, but they are also free from the sin that assails every believer in Christ. Not only are they free from the penalty of sin and the power of sin, but now because of their life in Christ, they are completely free from the presence of sin forever.

Third  The Greek depart is used for loosening a tent to take it down

Paul was a tentmaker–Paul made tents and Paul also knew how to use them. In fact, Paul was a nomad of sorts, travelling almost endlessly through his thirty years of ministry. He knew what it was like to strike camp again, to have to take his tent down. Now in death, Paul is taking his tent down again, but this time it would never go up again.

Paul is saying here, “I’m taking my tent down for the last time. I’m embarking on my greatest journey, and I’ll never need a place to sleep again. I’ll never need a place to rest from weariness again. I’ll never need to be comforted again, because the road I am taking now will take me to the house of God.”

So Paul strikes his tent to head for Heaven, to the place where Jesus Himself prepared a special place for him. In John 14:2 Jesus says, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” Because of their genuine repentance from sin and fait in Christ, your brothers and sisters who have died are now in that place. Their tent is down, but they are with Jesus, awaiting their future resurrection.

Fourth  The Greek word depart is used to describe a ship leaving harbor

The picture here is the departure of a ship when it’s loosed from the ropes that hold it to the dock,–its sails are unfurled, filled with wind in order to travel to its destination. Paul had many times sailed the Mediterranean Sea and many times felt the ship set free from the dock. Now as he departs, Paul would find himself in a new harbor called Heaven. So death to Paul was a departure–in every sense just a departure.

For the authentic Christian who dies, death is laying down the burden in order to rest, death is laying aside the shackles in order to be free, death is striking camp in order to set up residence in a heavenly place. And death is casting off the ropes of this world and setting sail to end up in the presence of God.

Your born again family and friends have departed, but you will see them again. They are not dead–they are more alive than they have ever been. And the only reason for that certainty, the only basis for that hope, is that they trusted only in Jesus Christ in order to get to Heaven. They believed Jesus died for their sins and rose from the dead. They knew Christ lived within them and now they live with Christ forever. And what they would say to you this morning is three words–“Don’t miss it.” If they were not in Christ, they would say three words to you, “Don’t mess up.”

Paul says in verse 6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” Paul did not die like those without Christ–hopeless. The apostle faced his departure with no feeling of despair, but with the divine assurance his real life was about to begin. Just as he had faced earthly living without fear, he faced earthly dying without fear because of Philippians 1:23, “But I … hav[e] the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.”

This final “departure” is the culmination of Paul’s long-held dream “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul believed with all his heart that death for the Christian is the door to a life far better than here. Those who have departed to be with Christ are far better off. Though you’ve lived seventy-five years, it is better to be with Christ. Though you are the richest man in town, life in Heaven with Christ is far better. Though you are brilliant, life with Christ is far better. If you have lived only five years, it is better to be above with Christ. If you died in the womb, it is far better to be with Christ. Do you believe Heaven is far better?


#1  CHARACTER is better than being remembered

Charles Spurgeon said, “A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.”

#2  HEAVEN is better than you can imagine

CS Lewis describes heaven in his book, The Last Battle, where it is explained to the deceased children that “they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Colossians 3:1, “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is.” Keep focusing on Heaven, friends. No one is too heavenly-minded. Long for home. Look forward to going there. Remember what awaits you there.

#3  Do not fret over the JOURNEY home

Paul’s door was beheading. Maybe yours will be in your sleep, or via cancer, dementia, car accident or heart attack. We do not choose our homegoing, but God’s Word says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

#4  Do not be TRIVIAL about your eternity

Turn to Luke 16. Some joke about Hell saying, “Since all my friends are there, I might as well go there too.” But the scariest reaction to eternity is those who attend church, but are marginal Christians. So-called, maybe believers, who don’t interconnect in the church, don’t disciple, are not discipled, don’t give, don’t serve and barely attend.

They are either disobedient, but more likely they are self-deceived, lukewarm, rocky or weedy soil make-believers, who identify with Christ, but are not born again. If you might be one of those, listen to Jesus describe your future. You are the rich man, not Lazarus.

Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead’ ” (Luke 16:19-31).

Will you respond to God’s Word or find yourself in the place of torment? Matthew 13:41 and 42,  “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 22:13, “Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ” Matthew 24:51, “and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Your sin must be judged–that judgment will either fall on Christ on your behalf or fall on you forever in torment. Turn from your sin and put your faith in Christ–exchange all that you are for all that He is. Remember, you cannot claim Christ as Lord and Savior if your allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including yourself.


About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

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