«I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing» (2 Timothy 4:7, 8).
PAUL KNEW that his time was ending. The time of his departure had come. He had been a prisoner of the Roman Empire for some time, but a prisoner bound to the Lord since his conversion.
The Paul who had encouraged Timothy to suffer as a good soldier of Christ is the one who said he had fought the good, supreme, and grand battle of faith. He was a fighter all his life. He fought against authorities of this earth and against spiritual hosts of evil. He wore the same armor he offered to everyone. It was not Nero who would end his life; it was he himself pouring it out like a perfume, delivering it as an offering of gratitude.
The Paul who had told Timothy to run as an athlete was the one who said, «I have finished.» The race of his life had had more obstacles than any other, but he ran without distractions and never gave up. He had followed the rules and was sure of the prize. He who had challenged others to keep the faith said that he had kept the faith; that is, he had preserved and maintained it. His life was not necessarily comfortable, but he was faithful. We keep the faith by living and reflecting the principles of the Lord.
In ancient Greece, the winning athlete who was acclaimed by the crowd obtained the winning crown which consisted in a laurel wreath. However, Paul was not to be given a crown of leaves that would wither, but a crown of eternal righteousness.
Paul had fearlessly faced accusations and unjust judges; he was ready to face the true and righteous Judge. He was certain of his crown that was kept and preserved for him. He would not receive it when he died, but at the resurrection.
As his end drew near, the apostle knew how he was going to die. He was going to die the way he had lived: in fulfilling the mission. He knew that a crown awaited him, as well as all those who love the Second Coming of Jesus. That crown can also be ours if we love Christ’s return, if we live in obedience to His will, and if we fulfill the mission He has given us.
«Those who are ready will soon receive an unfading crown of life, and will dwell forever in the kingdom of God, with Christ, with angels, and with those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. . . A crown of glory . . . is laid up for us who wait, and love, and long for, the appearing of the Saviour . . . crowned with glory, honor, and immortality»