And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Timothy 4:18)
2nd Timothy 4:18 is a fitting conclusion to the life of the apostle Paul. This letter is the last that Paul wrote before being martyred for his faith. Earlier in the epistle, he wrote that he knew he was going to die: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand” (4:6). And yet with this knowledge, Paul wrote that he knew the Lord would deliver him from every evil work. This may seem a little puzzling at first especially if we believe he is referring to his death. Paul did not expect to be delivered from death. Instead, we can view this more towards his statement in the first chapter, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (1:12c). This verse accords perfectly with “…and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom.”
This is Paul’s great confidence in the assurance of his salvation. He would be protected from falling; he would be protected from renouncing his faith even in the most trying circumstances. In verse 17, he said that he was “delivered out of the mouth of the lion.” Various interpretations have been put on this phrase. Some think it means Nero who was the Roman emperor at that time. His hatred of Christians is legendary. Others believe it refers to the lions in Roman arenas which Paul may have faced (1 Cor. 15:32). Still others believe it refers to Satan who is known as our great adversary that seeks to devour us as a lion stalks his prey (1 Pet. 5:8). It may be that Paul simply means danger in general. Whichever interpretation is correct, the result is the same. Nothing could move him off the foundation of his faith. He was preserved until he would meet Christ face to face in the heavenly kingdom.
The same is true for every believer. The problem is that many believers lose assurance because they have not been faithful. If you survey 2nd Timothy, you will find Paul referring to the evidence of faith. The evidence for Paul is not different than found in other places in scripture. These are adherence to strong doctrine (1:13, 2:15), obedience to God’s command in removing sin from our lives (2:19-21), and then, of course, love for other believers (1:2). These issues are the bedrock of assurance. These enable the Christian to face uncertain days.
If you have doubts, are you able to trace the source? Do you love the word or ignore it (3:15-17, 4:3)? Is sin weighing you down (3:2-5)? Are you concerned for the welfare of other Christians (4:19-22)? If you guard your heart in these areas, the Lord will also deliver you from every evil work.
Finally, knowing he will soon depart, Paul offers his doxology: “to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” His life and death were for the glory of God. How he died did not matter; when he died did not matter. That God should receive all glory is all that counted. Do you have this commitment? If Christ should come today or wait another thousand years, will you live and die for the glory of God?
Pastor V. Mark Smith