Paul’s Final Rescue

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

- 2 Timothy 4:18

In the greatest trial at the end of his life, the apostle Paul remained a steadfast imitator of Christ even when others threw in the towel. The apostle could have called down curses upon the persons who deserted him during his preliminary hearing before the Roman authorities; instead, he desired that their error not be held against them (2 Tim. 4:16), much as Jesus prayed for His Father not to hold the deeds of those who killed Him against them (Luke 23:33–37). May we likewise be magnanimous and gracious to those who let us down or even betray us.

Besides providing an example of grace and compassion, Paul’s attitude in the final days of his Roman imprisonment before being martyred under Nero is a model for us all as we face death. The apostle was con dent that the Lord would rescue him “from every evil deed” (2 Tim. 4:18), which does not mean that God would keep him from harm entirely. What Paul is getting at is the fact that Christians are saved from the real power of evil that seeks to destroy us. Death, reflective of the original curse as it is, is the worst that our Creator’s enemies can throw at us, but being united to Christ and thus released from slavery to sin (from which death gets its sting) means that death will not have the final word. We will be resurrected to live in the presence of God on a new earth (Isa. 65:17– 25; Rev. 20–21). All those who trust in Jesus for salvation can cry out with Paul: “Death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? …But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55–57).

Death will continue to plague us until that last day, but the believer does not cease to exist when he dies; rather, as Paul says in today’s passage, he passes into God’s “heavenly kingdom,” a realm of blessedness that is presently distinct from the fallen earthly kingdoms (2 Tim. 4:18). our bodies will be separated from our spirits at death, resting in the grave while our spirits enjoy heaven (2 Cor. 5:6–8). Yet even this glorious intermediate state is not our final end; it is just a foretaste of the resurrected life that will come upon Christ’s return — the life in glory for which we were created.

Coram Deo

God has made us creatures of body and spirit, and that is how we will enjoy the final state in the new heavens and earth. Every blemish in these bodies of ours, every ache and pain and disease will be gone and no longer will we have the desire or capacity to sin. This is what we should be longing for above all, not the comforts of this world that are temporary but the everlasting pleasures of living in the unmediated presence of the Lord God Almighty Himself.

Passages for Further Study

Job 19:25–27
Philippians 1:18b–26

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.