2 TIMOTHY - CHAPTER 4
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2001 James Melough
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall
judge the quick (living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;"
It is generally agreed that
a better rendering of this verse is, “I charge (earnestly command) thee before God
and Christ Jesus who shall judge the quick (living) and the dead, and by his
appearing and his kingdom;”
Paul is here reminding
Timothy that God and the Lord Jesus Christ were witnesses to his having given Timothy
this command, the equality of their witness being indirect testimony to their
equality as God: Christ is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father: they are One.
The reference to judgment
reminds us that all judgment has been committed into the hand of the Son, as recorded
in Jn 5:22, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto
the Son.” It is to be noted, however,
that here Timothy is simply being reminded that his response to the command will be
judged by the Lord Jesus Christ at His judgment seat (the Bema), but it is not
saying that that judgment will occur at the time of the Lord’s appearing, for
Scripture makes it clear that the judgment of believers will occur after the Rapture,
and before the Lord’s appearing, that is, His return to earth in power and
glory with His saints to judge the nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.
The reference to Christ’s judging the living and the dead is simply
emphasizing that He is the Judge of all, and is describing what He will judge, but it
is not saying that the judgment of these two groups will be at the same time
(Scripture makes it clear in fact that they are a thousand years apart).
The mention of Christ’s
appearing (to end the Tribulation, judge the nations, and inaugurate His millennial
kingdom) is to remind Timothy that the reward given him at the Bema will be displayed
for all to see when he returns with Christ at His appearing described above. Such Scriptures as Lk 19:12-26 indicate that at least part of our
reward given at the Bema will be the appointment of a place in the hierarchical
administration of Christ, proportionate to the faithfulness of our service rendered here
on earth. This would be an incentive to
Timothy to render his service in view of that day of judgment and reward, as it was
to Paul, see verse 8, and as it should be also to us.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke,
exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Of paramount importance to
God is the preaching of the gospel of salvation for sinners through faith in His
crucified and risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ; nor should we wonder why He is so
anxious to have that gospel preached. First,
it cost His beloved Son a terrible price to make that salvation available to
perishing sinful men. It cost Him His
life, but not in the form of natural death: it involved the awful agony of death by
crucifixion, that agony being compounded by His having to endure the unimaginable
wrath of God against sin, and the hiding of His Father’s face from Him
during those hours when He hung on the cross enduring the taunts and mockery of the
very creatures for Whom He was giving His life.
And second, unless men
believe the gospel they are doomed to an eternity of torment, first in hell, and then
in the lake of fire, following the judgment of the great white throne; but as Paul
asks in Ro 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not
believed? and how shall they believe in
him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And
how shall they preach, except they be sent? as
it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace,
and bring glad tidings of good things!”
“... be instant in season,
out of season;” means do this work with the zeal of urgency, seizing every
opportunity, whether convenient or inconvenient, welcomed or rejected.
The preaching of the gospel
also involves the pronouncement of reproof, so that the hearers may be convicted of
sin, for until a man is convicted (shown that he is guilty before God) he can’t be
It also involves rebuke,
censure or admonishment. The man who
would be saved must be made aware that God disapproves of wrongdoing.
And it requires exhortation,
i.e., the sinner must be appealed to, encouraged to accept God’s priceless gift of
eternal life to save him from hell and fit him for heaven.
“... with all
longsuffering” means simply “with very great patience.”
And last, but not least on
the list, is doctrine, i.e., teaching. The
average unconverted man has little or no knowledge of God or of the things that
pertain to eternity. He must be taught;
but if we are going to teach him, we ourselves must be students of Scripture.
The fact that the primary
application of this section is to the preaching of the gospel, doesn’t exclude its
application also to believers: we too at times need reproof, rebuke, exhortation, and
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after
their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;”
Many a reader has been
puzzled by the KJ rendering of this verse relative to “itching ears.”
The correct rendering is “... they, having itching ears, shall heap to
“... will not endure sound
doctrine” means that they will refuse to listen to the truth as declared in
“... but after their own
lusts” means that their motive for refusing God’s Word will be that they will be
looking for teaching that will condone their evil conduct rather than condemn it.
As noted above it is the
people, not the teachers, who will have itching ears, i.e., itching to hear teaching
that will not condemn their evil lifestyles.
“... heap to themselves
teachers” means that they will find many, or a continuously changing succession of
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned
Rejecting truth, they will
gladly accept any fiction invented by man’s corrupt mind, and the proliferating
cults of Christendom testify to the fertility of man’s evil imagination.
“But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an
evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
“... watch” is variously
rendered as “be self-controlled, composed, calm,” in other words, he was not to
allow these evils to agitate him, but rather, with a calm mind he was to be prepared
to endure afflictions (hardship), and to let nothing turn him aside from spreading
“... make full proof of
thy ministry” means “do everything that your God-given service requires,” the
thought being that he was to be zealous, whole-hearted in spreading the gospel, for
it is clear that that was the work to which God had called him: he had the gift of
Having regard to the
Lord’s command to us, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to
everyone,” Mk 16:15, Paul’s instructions to Timothy are to us also.
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at
Virtually every translation
emphasizes that the sacrifice was already in progress, e.g., “I am already being
offered:” “I am already being poured out as a drink offering:” “... already
my life is being poured out;” “My life is already ebbing out.”
The truth is that from the moment of his conversion, Paul’s life had been a
sacrifice poured out daily to God, but now the sacrifice was almost complete, the
final act being the laying down of his life for Christ’s sake.
It is instructive also to
note that wine is the biblical symbol of joy, and in Php 2:17, written about eight
years earlier, Paul had declared, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and
service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” He doesn’t ever seem to have viewed his sufferings, or now his
approaching death, with anything but joy at being counted worthy to suffer and die in
the service of the Master Who had suffered and died in his stead to redeem his soul.
with “my departure” is the thought of release.
The faithful service, the patient endurance of hardship and suffering were
almost over. In a little while Paul
would be absent from the body and present with the Lord, which is far better, 2 Cor
5:6-10; Php 1:23.
We too may be nearer than we
think to the end of our time on earth.
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the
The KJ version suggests that
Paul was boasting, but other translations make it clear that he wasn’t: he was
simply declaring the privilege it had been to have been allowed to be a contestant in
a noble contest; to have been allowed to fight on God’s side in a great battle; to
have been permitted to run in a great race.
“I have finished my
course” clearly implies his gratitude to God for the sustaining grace that had
prevented him from becoming a drop-out, a failure.
Relative to his having kept
the faith, the meaning is that he had kept a firm hold on the faith.
It was his faith in Christ that had fortified him in everything he did.
It wasn’t so much that he had kept the faith, but that the faith had kept
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown (garland) of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only,
but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
“... crown of
righteousness” doen’t mean that the crown (garland) consisted of righteousness,
but that it was the reward for all the righteousness that had characterized Paul’s
life, the value of the crown being determined by the infallible judgment of “Jesus
Christ the righteous,” 1 Jn 2:1. The
same unerring Judge will determine the value of the crown we will wear eternally.
Since “that day” is
connected with the Lord’s giving each believer the reward earned by faithfulness in
service, it can only be that day when we stand before Him at His judgment seat
following the Rapture, and relative to which we are warned that, “We shall all
stand before the judgment seat of Christ,” Ro 14:10, and again, “For we must all
appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done
in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad,” 2 Cor
“... all them also that
love his appearing” is also translated, “... who have set their hearts on his
return,” and “... look with eager expectation for His return.”
In its proper context “his appearing” refers to the Lord’s return in
power and glory to end the Tribulation, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom, but in
this present context that glorious event is inseparably linked with His coming seven
years earlier to the air to Rapture His Church to heaven, because the rewards given
to believers following the Rapture, will be on display on that day when we come with
Him at His return in power and glory.
“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:”
“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is
departed unto Thessalonica: Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”
The very human side of Paul
shows here. He loved Timothy deeply, and
wanted if possible to see him one last time.
The only other scriptural
references to Demas are in Col 4:14, “Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet
you,” and Phm 23-24, ”There salute thee ... Demas, Lucas, my fellow- laborers.”
It is impossible to tell whether he was a true believer who had grown weary in
the conflict, or whether, like Judas, he had never been born again at all.
Its being said that he loved this present world, may indicate that the latter
may be true.
There is no other reference
to Cresens, but his going to Galatia may indicate that he had gone there on the
Lord’s business, as obviously Titus had gone to Dalmatia for the same reason.
There is no reason to believe that they, like Demas, had simply forsaken Paul
in his hour of need.
“Only Luke is with me. Take
Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry”
Luke seems to have been
faithful, and a great comfort to Paul to the very end.
This is the same Mark whose
departure from the work had resulted in the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas, and
which caused their separation recorded in Ac 15:37-40.
There must have been a reconciliation between Paul and Mark, however, for years later during his first
imprisonment, Paul writes in Col 4:10, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner saluteth
you, and Marcus (John Mark) sister’s son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received
commandments: if he come unto you, receive him.)”
In Paul’s letter to Philemon, verse 24, he is also included in the list of
those who were with Paul and who sent greetings to Philemon.
His being “profitable for the ministry” doesn’t indicate whether the
ministry (service) was in the work of the gospel, or in personal service to Paul,
though many take it to have been the latter.
His restoration to the work
after his early failure ought to encourage those of us who have also failed, not
once, but many times.
“And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.”
“The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with
thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”
His having sent Tychicus to
Ephesus makes it clear that Paul wouldn’t have the Lord’s work neglected, even
though the departure of Tychicus left him with one less companion in Rome.
He possibly needed the cloak
to keep him warm, for winter was approaching, see verse 21.
Nothing is known of the nature of the books and parchments (scrolls), or what
the difference is between them.
“Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according
to his works:”
It isn’t known whether
this Alexander is the one mentioned in 1 Tim 1:20, but it has been conjectured that
he had given false testimony against Paul at his trial, for one translation reads,
“he charged me with much evil in his declaration.”
His perjury, however, would be dealt with by the Lord at the proper time.
“Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.”
He appears to have
been a particularly viscious opponent of the gospel, hence the warning for Timothy to
be especially careful of this evil man.
“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God
that it may not be laid to their charge.”
At his first court
appearance there wasn’t one to stand with him, reminding us that in the Lord’s
case also, “all the disciples forsook, him and fled,” Mt 26:56.
Paul’s gracious spirit is revealed in his wish that God would not hold their
cowardice against them.
“Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the
preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was
delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”
The Lord was true to His
promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” Heb 13:5, and, “Lo, I am
with you always, even unto the end of the world (age,)” Mt 28:20.
“... that by me the
preaching might be fully known” seems to mean that in presenting his defence, Paul
was able to give a full presentation of the gospel, so that all in the courtroom,
including many high officials, would hear it.
His being “delivered out
of the mouth of the lion” is understood by some to mean that he had been delivered
from being thrown to the lions in the arena; others, that it was a discreet way of
saying that he had been delivered out of the hand of Nero, and of Satan.
“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.”
Clearly Paul wasn’t
anticipating acquittal and release, but rather resting in the confident assurance
that his approaching death, see verse 6, would transport his soul to heaven where it
would be safe forever beyond the reach of all the evil activity of men and demons. And so is it with every believer. The worst the enemy can do is to kill the body, but that is but
the means by which the soul is released to enter heaven to await the resurrection of
the body in a form suited to heaven: incorruptible, glorious, powerful, spiritual, 1
Cor 15:42-44, “fashioned like unto his (the Lord’s) glorious body,” Php 3:21.
Some take the deliverance to
be from recanting his confession of faith in Christ.
“Salute Prisca (Priscilla) and Acquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.”
Even with death impending
Paul still thought of others, and wished to assure them of his undying love.
His addressing the greeting
to “the household of Onesiphorus” has led some to speculate that
Onesiphorus himself may have died.
“Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.”
was chamberlain (treasurer) of the city of Corinth.
The fact that Trophimus was
left sick at Miletum, even though Paul had the gift of healing, demonstrates that it
isn’t always God’s will to heal, so that when we pray for recovery for ourselves
or others, it should always be with the qualification, “If it be Thy will.”
“Do thy diligence to come before winter.
Eubulus greeteth thee, and Pudens, and Linus, and Claudia, and all the
From this it is apparent
that Paul still had some contact with the believers in Rome, though it may have been
“The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit.
Grace be with you. Amen.
The first part of this
closing greeting is for Timothy personally; but the “you” (plural) indicates that
the second part is for all the believers in Ephesus.
With this last brief word of
blessing, Paul concludes the last letter he is known to have written, and what a
blessing this epistle has been to countless generations of believers.
Our prayer should be for the grace to live and die as he did.