2 Timothy 4:6-8
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.…
I. THE REWARD. It is described as a "crown of righteousness"; and, without question, such a phrase conveys the idea of some thing exquisitely pure, brilliant, and honourable. The crown is the reward of a conqueror; the righteousness is the diadem of deity Himself. And yet we cannot deny that it would be difficult to follow the idea into detail, and keep unimpaired its interest and its beauty. There is something indefinite in the phraseology, if we wish to ascertain from it the precise character of the recompense. When, however, we turn to the Being, by whom the recompense will be bestowed, and find Him described as "the Lord, the righteous Judge," we "may gain that precision of idea which is not elsewhere to be procured. For we should never forget that, by our thoughts and actions, we lie exposed to God's righteous indignation. And from this we may proceed to another fact. We require you to observe that a surprising change must have been effected ere a sinner can dwell with anything of delight on the title now under review. We press on you the truth, that if the crown is to be bestowed by the hands of the Lord, the righteous Judge, the recipient must have been the subject of a great moral revolution; for he is not only to be acquitted, he is actually to be recompensed. The bliss of an angel may be great, the splendour of an angel may be glorious; but it was not for angels that Jesus died, it was not for angels that Jesus rose. There will be for ever this broad distinction between the angels and the saints. The angels are blessed by the single right of creation; the saints by the double right of creation and redemption. Who, then, can question that the portion possessed by saints will be more brilliant than that possessed by the angels?
II. THE TIME AT WHICH THE CROWN SHALL BE BESTOWED. It must be that day when, with the cloud for His chariot, the archangel's trump for His heraldry, and ten thousand times ten thousand spirits for His retinue, the Man of Sorrows shall approach the earth, and wake the children of the first resurrection. And from this we conclude that St. Paul did not expect the consummation of his happiness at the very instant of his departure from the flesh. He knew, indeed, that to be "absent from the body" is to be "present with the Lord"; he knew that in the transition of a moment the prison dungeon would be exchanged for the palace, the turmoil of earth for the deep rapture of peace which never ends; but he knew also that the crowning time of the saints shall not precede the second coming of their Lord. The crown, indeed, was prepared, but then it was "laid up." It should never be forgotten, that the resurrection of the body is indispensable to the completeness of happiness. If it be not, the whole scheme of Christianity is darkened, for the Redeemer undertook to redeem matter, as well as spirit.
III. THE PERSONS ON WHOM THE CROWN SHALL BE BESTOWED. There is nothing more natural to man, but nothing more opposed to religion, than selfishness. He who has earthly riches, may desire to keep them to himself; he who has heavenly, must long to impart them to others. It is an exquisitely beautiful transition, which St. Paul here makes, from the contemplation of his own portion, to the mention of that which is reserved for the whole company of the faithful: "not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." He could not gaze on his own crown, and not glow with the thought, that myriads should share the coronation. Ye wish to ascertain whether ye be of those who love His appearing. Take these simple questions, and propose them to your hearts, and pray of God to strengthen you to give faithful answers. Do ye so hate what is carnal that it would be delightful to you to be at once and for ever set free from the cravings of earthly desires? Do ye so long to be pure in thought, in word, and in deed, that you feel that perfection in holiness would be to you the perfection of happiness? But, finally, if we would win the "crown of righteousness" which is spoken of by St. Paul, we must use the means.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.