How To Die Without Fear
2 Timothy 4:6-8
By Paul Robison

If the truth be told―we all know! [Yes, you know that your death is coming.]  The real issue is when not if! [The] human mortality [rate] is 100%.  Some of us just act like we are going to be the exception.  [A modern American humorist] spoke for a lot of people when he said, 'It’s not that I’m afraid to die.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.' Did you hear about the three guys discussing their obituaries?  One asked, 'What would you like folks to say at your [funeral]?'  One of his buddies thought for minute, 'I’d like them to say that he was a great humanitarian who cared about his community.'  The fellow who had initiated the conversation replied, 'I’d like them to say that he was a great husband and father who was an example for many to follow.'  The two nodded in agreement and looked to the silent [fellow].  Without hesitation he added, 'I’d like them to say: 'Oh look, he’s moving!'  Our text [this morning] was penned by a man who knew his days were numbered.  These words come from the last chapter of the last [letter] written by the Apostle Paul.  This kind of confidence in the face of death doesn’t happen by accident" (Thomas).  Let's listen to this text once again because it reveals to us how to die without fear.  After listening to the text, we'll look at nine realities which can give us confidence whenever that last moment must come when we must take our final breath.  "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  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."
 
Paul faces death first with the reality of the sacrificial climax: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, …"  What does this mean?  A drink offering often accompanied a meat offering.  A Jewish author tells us that the priest would bring the meat offering on a dish and transfer it to a holy vessel.  Then he would put oil and frankincense on the meat. Taking his stand by the altar a certain place, he took a portion of the meat off the holy vessel (what was left would be eaten by the priests) and put it in another holy vessel, put on some more frankincense, carried it to the top of the altar, salted it, placed it on the fire, and then poured the drink offering of wine at the base of the altar (Edersheim from
http://philologos.org/__eb-ttms/temple06.htm).  You see, "[the drink offering] was the crowning [act] involved in the offering of the [meat] sacrifice" (Coffman).  Do you remember what Paul wrote to the Roman brethren in 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service"?  Paul saw his life as that of a living sacrifice to God, and death was like the drink offering which would be poured out as a climax to his sacrifice.  Paul faces death with the reality of the sacrificial climax.  Just as the drink offering was the final act involved with a sacrifice to God, so death would the final act in Paul's sacrificial life to God as well!  Isn't that an inspiring way to view death? You see, if we live our lives each day as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, then death just becomes our last act of our service to Him as well!  If you have displayed a life that has been favorable to God, then your death will be favorable to Him as well.  Like those sacrifices under the old covenant, your passing will be a sweet-smelling aroma to God.  This is the reality of the sacrificial climax.
 
Paul faces death next with the reality of the ship sailing on. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure is at hand."  Another preacher gives these insights about the meaning of the word "departure": "[This also] pictured a concept common to his readers.  This was the word for unyoking an animal from the shafts of the cart or the plow.  Death marked a rest from labor.  This was also the term for loosening bonds or chains.  Death would mean release for Paul.  He would be promoted from a Roman prison to a heaven palace. The Greeks also used the term for [packing] a tent.  Life in this world [is] temporary.  It was to pull the tent pegs, pack the gear, and move on.  It is the same word for loosening the moorings of a ship so it could set sail. Paul was ready to set sail for home" (Thomas).  Someone else explains it this way: "If Paul were writing this today instead of ships he would probably use airplanes to illustrate his meaning.  It is as if Paul were saying 'the time has come to catch my plane.'  He uses the same word in Philippians 1:23 but lets back up to Phil 1:21 to get the context of what he was saying.  There he said, 'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart [and that's our word] and be with Christ, which is far better.'  Paul says that death for the Christian is like a departure.  We are cutting loose from this life and setting sail for the next" (Hamby).  For Paul, the Christian's voyage will end at the port where Jesus dwells.  That heavenly destination will make sailing through all the rough waters of our earthly existence worthwhile.  This is the reality of the ship sailing on.
 
Paul faces death thirdly with the reality of the good warfare. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight."  Paul had previously admonished Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:11-12: "But you, O man of God, flee these things [the love of money and greediness] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."  This is a spiritual battle that Christians are involved in, and Paul also admonished the Christians of Ephesus with these words: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand" (6:10-13).  Christians are a part of that continual cosmic battle with God and His forces against Satan and his forces.  Satan's forces continually launch evil and wickedness while we must over their attacks with good and righteousness.  This is the good warfare where we battle against everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and we strive to help others to think as Jesus would have them to think in accordance with His truth (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  As a soldier in the Lord's army, you can look back at the battles where faith has won the victory time and time again.  And you can rest assured that faith will overcome your death as well. After all, the Captain of our salvation holds the key to death and to eternal life (Revelation 1:18; John 3:16).  This is the reality of the good warfare.
 
Paul faces death next with the reality of the finished race. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, …"  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-26: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore, I run thus: not with uncertainty."  Mere participation in a race is not Paul's point.  He wants his converts to gain the prize through disciplined lives.  Paul says that he runs with all he has to gain the victory.  In this case, victory means not giving up.  Satan will surely try to make every Christian quit or abandon the arena of this marathon.  That's why the writer of Hebrews admonishes us in 12:1-2: "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  This race has hardships, and Paul had seen his fair share of those with beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, betrayals, heretics, and suffering Christians. But at the tape, there awaits victory, joy, glorification, and being with God.  Paul kept pushing himself, and so must we.  A marathon is won one stride at a time as we keep pressing on.  And isn't it wonderful that we can run in this race together?  Paul had a strong finish, and we also should persevere to finish strong.  "We too can be confident at [the end of our race] if we have not given up" (Hamby).  Just as Jesus victoriously cried at His death: "It is finished or accomplished," so we also can cross the tape with such joy.  This is the reality of the finished race.
 
Paul faces death fifthly with the reality of the kept faith. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."  Remember all the warnings that Paul has given to Timothy concerning the faith, that inspired body of doctrine to which we are to be obedient?  Paul says that the faith can be shipwrecked (1 Timothy 1:19), it can be left or abandoned (1 Timothy 4:1), it can be denied (1 Timothy 5:8), it can be erred or not practiced properly (1 Timothy 6:21), it can be overthrown (2 Timothy 2:18).  In contrast to all these negative behaviors, Paul says that he has kept or been obedient to the Gospel's truths (Kelly).  He has striven to put into practice that which he preached.  In fact, he says this in 1 Corinthians 9:27: "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."  Paul knew very well that he and his audience could lose their crowns if they did not follow the teachings of Christ (Oster).  Because Paul subjected himself to the same truths and realities of the Gospel, he had not been sidetracked, led astray, or seduced by other false doctrines.  He had remained loyal to Jesus and His teachings.  If we remain loyal to the New Testament's teachings, we also can die knowing that we have been obedient, and the promise of eternal life will be our reward too (Revelation 14:13).  This is the reality of the kept faith.
 
Paul faces death next with the reality of the righteous crown. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  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."  James 1:12 affirms: "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those that love Him."  1 Peter 5:4 declares: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away."  The Christian looks forward to the crown of righteousness, the crown of life, the crown of glory.  That crown has been made possible by the Lamb of God who wore a crown of thrones to make our final crowns a reality.  Our heavenly crowns will be imperishable because we will also be immortal.  Our prize is a glorious crown and eternal life (Revelation 2:10)!  This is the reality of the righteous crown.
 
Paul faces death seventhly with the reality of the righteous Judge. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  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, …"  "There was a dying Christian man who asked his Christian doctor to tell him something about the place to which he was going.  As the doctor fumbled for a reply, he heard a scratching at the door, and then he had his answer.  'Do you hear that?' he asked his patient.  'It’s my dog. I left him downstairs, but he has grown impatient, and has come up because he hears my voice. He has no notion what is inside this door, but he knows that I am here. Now then, isn’t it the same with you?  Even though you don’t know or understand everything that’s on the other side, you know Who is going to be there. That’s what makes the difference'" (Thomas).  You see, "heaven is not first about gates of pearl and golden streets.  It is about the presence of the Lord Jesus.  'I go to prepare a place for you ... that where I am there you may be also' (John 14:3).  For the lover of God, the presence of [the Judge] is the ultimate reward" (Ibid).  And that Judge makes no mistakes.  There's a hymn that gets it right: "It will be worth it all; when we see Jesus, Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Him, One glimpse of His dear face, all sorrows will erase.  So bravely run the race, till we see Christ" (Rusthoi).  This is the reality of the righteous Judge.
 
Paul faces death next with the reality of the final commencement. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  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, …"  On that Day, on the Judgment Day.  We have some important days in our American history: 4 July 1776 was the signing of the Declaration of Independence; 9 April 1865 was the signing of the treaty at Appomattox Court House that ended the Civil War; 7 December 1941 was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked; 11 September 2001 was the day of the twin towers’ massacre. All of these dates are important to us as Americans, but nothing in all history will compare to that Day, the day Christ comes again, the day the earth will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10), the day that all the dead will be brought back to life (John 5:28), the day when all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and hear His final verdict as to where each will spend eternity (2 Corinthians 5:10). For the Christian, this will be the final commencement.  This will be every Christian's graduation to glory, and a whole new dimension will come into being with that place that Jesus has prepared where there will be no more evil, no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more crying, and no more sin.  "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).  On that day, Jesus will reward the faithful, and all the wrongs will be righted by the righteous Judge.  Be sure your name is on the program called the Lamb's Book of Life for that graduation!  This is the reality of the final commencement.
 
Paul faces death next with the reality of the great homecoming. "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  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."  Oh, yes, we know that biblical characters who live faithfully like Paul will make it to heaven, but what about ordinary folks like us? Notice what Paul says again: "and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."  Did you hear that word "all"?  Everybody who has been looking for Jesus' return and living according to His teachings will get to enjoy the reward of heaven together forever!  What a great homecoming that will be! "And the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  The old hymn has it right: "One day the trumpet will sound for His coming.  One day the skies with His glory will shine.  Wonderful day, my beloved ones bringing; glorious Savior, this Jesus is mine!  Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me; buried, He carried my sins far away.  Rising, He justified, freely, forever.  One day He's coming, oh glorious day" (Chapman)!  This is the reality of the great homecoming!
 
“How inspiring, how noble, how unbelievably beautiful is the attitude of this grand apostle in the contemplation of his death” (Coffman)!  Paul knew that "we’re not in the land of the living going to the land of the dying.  We’re in the land of the dying trying to get to the land of the living" (Thomas)!  Golfers spend a lot of time working to put a ball into a hole.  You may not be a golfer, but you need to be thinking about how you're going to put your remains in a six foot hole.  Jesus' resurrection solves the problem of the six foot hole!  This reality is what allowed Paul to speak with such confidence as he faced death.  Will your death be grievous or victorious?  Are you fighting the good fight of faith?  Are you ready to stand before the righteous Judge?  Are you prepared to hear His verdict concerning your eternal destiny?  If you can't face your death confidently right now, then why won't you let Jesus help you to do so?