Today we will look at the Apostle Paul – His final days and His final words that where recorded.

Does anyone look forward to their final days? The older we get the closer they are. We like the idea of going to Heaven but we don’t want to leave our family. It is even a little scary walking into the unknown of Heaven. We know it will be awesome but the unknown causes us to hesitate a little.

We definitely do not want to suffer in our final days and hours. Whether we go peacefully in our sleep or struggle to the end we need to be Christ’s example even in our death.

What is our attitude as we near the end of this life – what are we concerned about – what are the final words we leave with loved ones?

Paul was going to be executed – he was in a nasty prison and he knew what was coming next, as a Roman citizen he knew he would be beheaded (citizens were beheaded, non-citizens were crucified).

What does Paul do? What is he concerned about? He writes a letter to Timothy to encourage him to continue to preach the gospel and to watch out for false teachers and to be willing to suffer for Jesus.

Let’s go back 9 years to 58 AD and hear the trouble Paul has endured.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

In the midst of all this suffering he learned contentment and was able to rejoice.

Remember what he wrote while he sat in a prison in AD 62 while he waited on his accusers to come to Rome.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

That needs to be our attitude as we face the difficulties of this life. We must rejoice and be content no matter the hardships we face as we serve Christ.

We can tell that Paul is still rejoicing and is content as he sets in a worse prison awaiting his execution.

If you visit Rome you can visit the prison that tradition says housed Paul and Peter before they were executed. Some believe they were there at the same time.

Nero had burned down Rome and blamed the Christians – who better to arrest and execute than the two leaders of the Christians.

Today a church stands over the old prison and there is an altar in the prison where people go and worship as they remember Peter and Paul being imprisoned there. This imprisonment was different than when Paul was under house arrest when he wrote his “prison epistles” five years earlier.

The Romans did not have prisons like we think of today. Wealthy citizens who were accused were simply kept under house arrest – most of Paul’s imprisonments. The poor generally found justice swiftly and were made slaves or executed. The prison in Rome truly served as a holding place for those condemned to die not as a form of punishment like today.

From what I have researched the only prison in Rome was what is called the Mamertine prison. It was constructed in the 7th century BC ((640-616 BC) at the site of a former stone quarry; it was a dark, damp, underground structure which was beside the main sewer system of Rome.

The Roman historian Sallust, writing a century before Paul, said of this dungeon, “[It] is sunk about twelve feet under ground. Walls secure it on every side, and over it is a vaulted roof connected with stone arches; but its appearance is disgusting and horrible, by reason of the filth, darkness and stench.”

The prison was two large rooms on different levels with iron shackles fixed to the walls.

The lower chamber was the Tullianum (Go to church’s Facebook page for a link to see a video of the room.)

It was a room, 6 1/2 ft. high, thirty feet long and twenty-two feet wide. The only way to enter the lower chamber was from the hole in the floor of the upper chamber. Prisoners were lowered or thrown in; thus the phrase “cast into prison.” There was no natural light, only torches.

Prisoners were chained with different length chains depending on the security risk to the guards.

A short chain could hold a prisoner continually upright; a longer chain might permit a prisoner to take a step or two from the wall and to sit or to lie down. Paul and the other prisoners would have to stay in one filthy spot unless of course a friend came or a guard was paid and straw was provided and the waste cleaned up.

Visiting a prisoner could be dangerous, you were known to be associated with the condemned criminal. The only way to visit was through the same hole in the floor and the only way out was if the guards would pull you out. Luke was willing to take that risk and help Paul during this imprisonment.

2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. … 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. … 21 Do your best to get here before winter.

How would you like be called to go visit Paul in prison?

Isn’t that what Jesus called us to do?

Matthew 25:37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

Have you or would you visit someone in prison?

A few weeks ago I simply asked if you would write a birthday card to Jody while he is in prison.

How many of you wrote that card?

If you won’t take the time to write a card do you really think that you would visit Paul in prison? You can’t find the time to write a simply happy birthday wish to a lonely man with a card that is setting in the foyer. Do you really think you would put your life in danger to take Paul a cloak and to clean up his waste?

Are you putting your faith in action?

Jody will be getting out in October, the only way he is going to live for Jesus is if he has a family of Christians that love him and support him. There are a few families that Jody will feel loved by because they have cared for him and written to him over the years in his time of loneliness.

I know that when I found my biological mother I felt more loved by my biological Aunt. Why? Because my Aunt took the time to figure out who I was and followed my life. My mother – dealing with grief of adoption did not. I felt loved because my Aunt took the time to know about me – she invested her time concerned about my life – she did it at a distance but she still cared.

You know when someone cares about you – we have to care about each other and others outside of these walls.

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

How are you treating Jesus? What are you doing for others? What are you doing for the “least of these”?

We all have many concerns and demands in this life but we need to look at our priorities.

When you are on your death what will your final words be? What do you want people to say at your funeral?

Let’s start living that way now.

Ill – An old preacher was on his death bed and he asked the local banker and the local lawyer to come and spend his last hours with him. Both were impressed that they would be ask and discussed what great pearl of wisdom the old preacher wished to share with them.

As the banker and lawyer enter his room he motioned for one to sit on his left and one on his right. As they sat down a great peace came upon the man of God, 30 minutes passed and not a word was spoken. Finally the banker leaned forward and ask, “We were wondering what great pearl of wisdom you may want to share with us since you called us here.” The old preacher looked at him and replied, “As you know Jesus has been my example all my life, and since he died between two thieves I decided that’s the way I wanted to go”.

We need to follow the example of Jesus in our life and in our death.

How did Paul follow Jesus’ example during his final days?

He encouraged and challenged young Timothy to be faithful and defend the truth of the gospel.

In his final letter to Timothy (2 Timothy) Paul first shows his faith.

2 Timothy 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.

Paul is thankful to God. It was serving God that landed him in this horrible place.

How could Paul still be thankful?

Paul had a positive outlook on life and death because he trusted in Jesus.

2 Timothy 1:12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

Paul thanked God that he was able to serve Him and suffer for Him – what an example for Timothy and for us.

Paul concludes his letter with a heartfelt evaluation of his life and looking to his future.

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.

Are you fighting the good fight? Are you running the race? Are you keeping the faith?

What was the first think that hit your head? “I need to do better at ….”

Consider how you can grow in Christ and His service.

Don’t beat yourself up over past sin – you have been forgiven.

Look to the reward that Jesus is giving you – run diligently toward the crown of righteousness.

Paul, as he is awaiting his execution in a filthy, damp, dungeon writes us words of encouragement.

2 Timothy 4:8 Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing.

Do you long for Jesus’ appearing? If you do you will also receive the crown of righteousness.

You show your longing for Jesus’ appearing when you accept His word – when you repent of your sins – when you are immersed into the watery grave of baptism for the forgiveness of your sins and the indwelling gift of God the Holy Spirit.

Paul was ready to die and meet Jesus – are you?

Will you come and accept Jesus today?