Second Timothy is the last letter Paul penned. He probably wrote it while waiting for his execution. Paul writes, “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 race, I have kept the faith. 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 4:6-8 [ESV]),

The Scripture says nothing about the Apostle Paul’s death. However, there is almost universal consensus among historians and biblical scholars that he was martyred under Emperor Nero who ruled 54-68 AD. As for the manner in which he was killed, it seems that he was “graciously” beheaded (not brutally crucified) because he was a Roman citizen.

Why did the Apostle Paul have to be killed? What reason did Nero have to get rid of him? It was during the first Jewish-Roman war (66-70 AD) that Emperor Nero was condemned by the Senate for his ever-growing madness and that he ended his own life. Considering that Roman deference toward Judaism continued at least until this war, it seems unlikely that Paul was executed for belonging to and advancing Judaism. If Nero had any reason to behead Paul, it must have been that Paul was one of the leading figures of the newly formed movement of the gospel of grace of Jesus Christ, not that he had been promoting the so-called Jewish causes.

Although the Apostle knew that he would soon meet his fate, I don’t see any regrets in his confession in 2 Tim 4. He fought the good fight. He finished the race. He kept the faith. He lived his life for the gospel of grace. And he was now ready to die for the gospel of Christ.

Far too often, however, we become oblivious to the fact that Paul gave his life for the gospel. Too many academics dismiss this gospel as an old-fashioned, confessional, conservative, and narrowly-defined concept of personal salvation and do not even view it as the core of Paul’s teachings. To Paul, the gospel was a matter of life and death. But to many biblical scholars and theologians, it is just one of the theological concepts that they believe they are licensed to toy with in whatever way they are pleased.

“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God”

(Paul to the Ephesian elders; Acts 20:24 [ESV])

Mattia Preti (1613-1699): “The Martyrdom of Saint Paul” (ca. 1656-1659)
Google Art Project

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