A scene was soon to occur in the summer of 67 AD that supposedly would bring to a close the ministry of the most prominent apostle chosen by Christ to reveal the new teachings concerning the Church Age. The Apostle Paul was in a Roman dungeon facing execution. He had been communicating the teachings that he received by revelation from Jesus Christ and under the ministry of the Holy Spirit accurately recorded them. It was only his physical life that was threatened by execution.
Emperor Nero’s efforts to stop the explosive spread of Christianity across the Roman Empire through torture and martyrdom had miserably failed. Quite to the contrary, the gospel of Jesus Christ was being carried by those persecuted to the furthest regions of the realm. Paul would declare that God’s Word is vastly superior to the innovative weapon by which Rome devastated and conquered its opposing enemies “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12 NASB). No power could equal that Truth for all things in this life are temporal … “But the word of the Lord abides forever” (1 Peter 1:25 NASB).
Once again, Satan with his system of evil miscalculated the omnipotence of God to fulfill His Word and Plan to redeem mankind from the clutches of sin. Death to the apostles and thousands of believers could not alter the Truth … “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4 NASB). Though the wages of sin is death, the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23) The Apostle John records the words of Jesus … “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death [spiritual separation from God] to life [with God]” (John 5:24 NIV).
No doubt, the emperor who ordered the execution of Paul was one of the “whoever hears.” It appears that Nero refused the gracious offer of salvation and would die three months after Paul’s execution. His parting words from this life are obscured in the annals of history with only the remembrance that “he danced while Rome burned.” On the other hand, the last words of the Apostle Paul have become a model and encouragement to countless believers who face the everyday challenges of life. When writing to his protégé in the gospel, Paul, wrote … “But you, [Timothy] be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future 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 4:5-8 NASB).
“Fought, finished, kept the faith and in the future” – what confidence in Christ the Apostle displayed as reviews the extraordinary life given him by God’s grace. Difficulties abounded on every missionary. Many days and nights were spent either in jail or in the sea from shipwreck. His preaching concerning faith in Christ was opposed by those who saw him as a threat to their lucrative system of religious practice. Yet Paul persisted: he fought, he finished, and he kept the faith. Thus, the apostle assuredly concluded that when this life was over he had a future with the Lord. Nero – well he has an eternity to reflect on his rejection of the Truth -- Jesus saves!!!