Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow
In his “last will and testament” in 2 Tim 4:6–8, Paul (1) sees his impending death, (2) looks back at his life, and (3) considers his future. In light of his words, we could ask ourselves the three questions that you find below.
What is your “today”?
While still alive, Paul realized his end was near: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come” (2 Tim 4:6). Paul was a prisoner and apparently about to die (cf. 2 Tim 1:8, 16–17). As drink offerings were things poured out (e.g., Num 15:5–10), so Paul’s blood was about to be poured out in martyrdom (cf. Phil 2:17). Paul was likely beheaded under Emperor Nero in AD 67 or 68.
We must remember that our lives are like soon-vanishing mist (James 4:14). We know not what a day will bring forth (Prov 27:1). Our soul may be required by God tonight (cf. Luke 12:20). Then comes the judgment (Heb 9:27). Whatever today for us may be, let us live so that, like Paul in 2 Tim 4:7–8, we might be assured by our past faithfulness that we will be in heaven.
What was your “yesterday”?
Paul soberly reflected, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). The articles give a sense of finality―it is the fight, the race, the faith. The rhythm and variety of life descriptions adds to the sobriety. After his two metaphors (fight, race), Paul plainly says of his 35-year ministry, “I have kept the faith.” His belief, his exercise thereof, its content, its imperatives and implications―Paul kept it all.
May we live so that we can look back at our lives at any point and certainly at its end and be able to say that we have done the same.
What will be your “tomorrow”?
“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” (2 Tim 4:8).
Looking to the future, Paul anticipates the full experience of righteousness (i.e., the crown is righteousness, being the thing it is “of”; cf. 1 Thess 2:19; James 1:12; 1 Pet 5:4; Rev 2:10). This is not righteousness earned but awarded by the Lord, his righteous Judge. It comes through faith and by God’s declaration through His Son (cf. 2 Cor 5:21). This award is given “on that day” when Christ appears. Christians love this appearing in that they hope for it and find their affections what will be through Christ and not in what is passing away.
Christians today are included in “all who have loved His appearing.” May we find hope both now and in life’s dying moments that the full experience of our righteousness will be granted to us by our Savior at His appearing.
About David Huffstutler
David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.