The Last Years of Paul’s Life
Text: Philippians 2:17-30
I. Paul had written the Roman brethren that he would like to go to Spain after seeing them - Romans 15:23-25, 28
A. Things didn’t go quite as Paul planned.
B. After going to Jerusalem, he was arrested, but he did go to Rome – as a prisoner instead of a free man The book of Acts ends before Paul’s life ended
C. Near the end of Acts, Paul is arrested and held several years in Caesarea while Felix waited for a bribe that never came - Acts 24:26-27
D. When threatened with being taken to Jerusalem, where he would likely be assassinated, Paul finally used his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar - Acts 25:10-11
E. Even though Paul was sent as a prisoner to Rome, he did not travel alone
1. Notice the use of “we,” indicating that Luke traveled with Paul - Acts 27:1
2. Be aware that we are not told how many traveled with Paul and Luke
F. They land in Crete - Acts 27:8
1. Notice that the stay is not a short one - Acts 27:9
2. We don’t know how long they stayed, just that considerable time passed as they waited for favorable winds
G. Eventually they set sail only to be caught up in storm that eventually leaves them shipwrecked on the island of Malta.
1. After three months, after the storm season passed, the journey was continued to Rome - Acts 28:11
H. Paul is placed under house arrest for two years, and that is where the book of Acts ends
II. So what is the rest of the story? What happened to Paul?
A. It isn’t that we don’t know, but we have to piece the story from the various letters Paul wrote.
B. There are at least four letters written by Paul during his time under arrest: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
1. Ephesians 3:1; 6:20
2. Philippians 1:7
3. Philemon 1:1, 10
C. There were probably five, if you accept that Hebrews is also a letter by Paul.
1. It was written from Italy - Hebrews 13:24
2. The author was in prison - Hebrews 10:32-34
3. He mentions that Timothy was recently freed - Hebrews 13:23
a. The word apoluo means to be released, such as from prison or from an obligation.
b. We know that Timothy spent time with Paul while Paul was in prison - Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1
c. Paul had planned to send Timothy to Philippi - Philippians 2:19
4. Paul states that he signs all his letters in a similar fashion - II Thessalonians 3:17-18.
a. You can find a similar worded verse near the end of all of Paul’s letters
b. Compare to Hebrews 13:25
5. Finally Hebrews was typically included in manuscripts of Paul’s letters.
a. “ It is also worthy of note that in several of the early Greek manuscripts this epistle is located, not after Philemon as in our Bibles, but grouped among the other Pauline epistles, thereby revealing that those who arranged the manuscripts considered Hebrews to be of Pauline origin” [Dr. W. Gary Crampton, “Hebrews: Who Is the Author?”]
b. “Next come the 14 epistles of Paul ... The Book of Hebrews is placed after Second Thessalonians and before First Timothy. Then afterward we have what are known as the Pastoral Epistles given to pastors or evangelists, all individuals: Timothy, Titus, Philemon and then last of all is the great prophetic book of Revelation. The position of Hebrews in the vast majority of official manuscripts shows it in the midst of the epistles of Paul” [Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., “The Book of Hebrews”].
D. Paul’s plans
1. Paul wondered if it was time for his departure from this world, but there was much to accomplish - Philippians 1:7,12-14,21-24
2. But notice Paul’s confidence - Philippians 1:25
3. He plans to come to Philippi again - Philippians 1:26
4. Timothy would be sent to Philippi and Paul would follow shortly himself - Philippians 2:19,23-24
5. Philemon was told to have a room ready for Paul - Philemon 22
6. The writer of Hebrews hoped to be restored to the brethren soon and that he would visit them with Timothy - Hebrews 13:19,23
E. However, take note that Luke tells us that Paul waited two years for his trial.
1. That means Luke knew that his house arrested ended.
F. Paul looks back and talks about his first defense and his deliverance - II Timothy 4:16-17
III. After Paul’s release
A. Titus was left in Crete - Titus 1:4-5
B. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus while journeying to Macedonia - I Timothy 1:3
C. He plans to join Timothy there - I Timothy 4:13
D. Paul plans to winter in Nicopolis (on the western edge of Greece) - Titus 3:12
1. Paul is already there and wants Titus to join him there.
2. Either Artemas or Tychicus would be sent to either take over in Crete or be Titus’ traveling companion
E. Some early Christian writers, while not inspired, do mention that Paul was released by Caesar, traveled two years in Spain, and was arrested again.
1. “By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance.” [Clement of Rome, I Clement 5:5-6]
2. “Moreover, the acts of all the apostles were written in one book. For 'most excellent Theophilus' Luke compiled the individual events that took place in his presence — as he plainly shows by omitting the martyrdom of Peter as well as the departure of Paul from the city [of Rome] when he journeyed to Spain. As for the Epistles of Paul, they themselves make clear to those desiring to understand, which ones [they are], from what place, or for what reason they were sent” [Muratorian Canon, 34-40]
F. Nicopolis would have been a good spot to begin a journey to Spain.
IV. II Timothy was then written during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome
A. Paul is in prison - II Timothy 1:8
B. He is looking at the end of his life - II Timothy 4:6-8
C. He asks for Timothy to come to him, so Timothy is not there this time - II Timothy 4:9-12
D. He mentions having left a cloak and books in Troas - II Timothy 4:13
1. Indicating that it wasn’t long since he was last in Troas
2. He wants Timothy to reach him before winter - II Timothy 4:21
3. There is a urgency, not just because of the approaching winter but perhaps a knowledge that he won’t be around much longer
E. Note the greetings from the local brethren to Timothy – all are Roman names - II Timothy 4:21