Introduction to II Timothy
Paul’s second epistle to Timothy constitutes his final inspired record, written shortly before his martyrdom (II Timothy 4:6-8). After release from his first imprisonment, followed by a few more years of ministry, Paul was again arrested in the great wave of Christian persecution by the emperor Nero following the great Roman fire of A.D. 64. He was apparently accused and falsely convicted of crimes against the state, sentenced to the cruel Mamertine Prison to await execution, and was then finally beheaded some weeks or months later. This is believed to have been in about A.D. 68.
Whether Timothy was still in Ephesus when Paul wrote to him from the prison is doubtful (note II Timothy 4:12), and his location at the time remains unknown. Paul longed to see Timothy once again and urged him to come as soon as he could (II Timothy 1:4; 4:9,13,21). The main burden of his letter, however, was not in reference to his own situation, as miserable as it was. His prison cell just above the Tiber River was damp and cold, with its only access a small door in the ceiling. He had been unjustly condemned, with none of his friends or disciples able or willing to defend him (II Timothy 4:14,16). Only his beloved physician, Luke, had stayed near by, seeking to help as best as he could under the circumstances (II Timothy 4:11).
Nevertheless, he was more concerned for the future of the church and the message of Christianity than he was for his own comfort. Accordingly, the main burden of this final letter of the great apostle was to encourage Timothy (and all who would later read his epistle, including us today), to stand firm in the faith and in the integrity of God’s Word (II Timothy 1:13; 2:1,3; 4:1-2; etc.). Paul knew that he had essentially finished his own ministry and was even looking forward to meeting the Lord (II Timothy 1:12; 4:7-8).
Surely these final words of this unique man of God constitute a rich mine of spiritual treasure to all who will study them. They contain the great prophetic description of the evils of the last days, for example (II Timothy 3:1-13), indicating clearly that the preaching of the gospel, all-important as it is, will never convert the world as a whole. That must await the coming of Christ and His kingdom (II Timothy 4:1). Nevertheless, the Christian must continue believing and proclaiming God’s Word until that day, or as long as he lives (II Timothy 1:8; 3:14; 4:2,5), knowing that at least some will receive it (II Timothy 2:24-26) and be saved.
Finally, it is significant that what is probably the greatest affirmation in the Bible of its own divine inspiration, infallibility, and complete profitability has been left for us here in these last words of the great Apostle Paul (II Timothy 3:16-17). May we take this definitive proclamation as our certain guide in these last days!