This letter was written by the Apostle Paul, while in prison in Rome. This was Paul’s second imprisonment. He was released from his first imprisonment, where he was under house arrest (Acts 28:30). Tradition holds that at the time of writing this, his last epistle, Paul was in Mamertine Prison, which was a “death row” prison. It is clear from the letter’s contents that Paul expects to be executed.
His purpose in writing this letter to his primary disciple Timothy was to bolster Timothy’s courage, and provide him with all the reasons why he too ought to embrace living life as a faithful witness who does not fear death, loss, or rejection. By application, Paul’s letter applies to any believer who desires to gain the most from their time on earth.
Paul passes the torch of ministry to Timothy, charging him in the presence of God and Christ to preach the gospel. Timothy must always be ready to teach, at all times of the year, to rebuke and patiently instruct. Eventually people will not be willing to hear the truth of God’s word. They will prefer to listen to things that only agree with their sinfulness, teachings that please them, and will prefer to believe in myths rather than truth. Timothy must be serious and focused in fulfilling his ministry as a gospel-preacher, as well as endure all persecution.
Paul knows he is going to die soon. Unlike other letters, where he writes of running the race to win, now Paul concludes that he has finished the race, he served God unto death. He looks forward to the heavenly reward (a crown of righteousness) Christ will give him and all others who endure to the end.
Then, Paul urges Timothy to try as hard as he can to see him before he is executed. Most of his other ministry partners are away from him, except Luke. Some seem to have abandoned him, while others are merely away ministering in other parts of the world. Paul warns Timothy about certain people, like Alexander the coppersmith, who hurt Paul in some way. But Paul does not hold a grudge against Alexander, knowing God will judge him. He explains how no one supported him at his first defense, but that he does not want God to hold it against these people. He was able to preach the gospel regardless, and eagerly looks forward to joining Jesus in His kingdom after death.
Paul asks that Timothy greet old friends Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. He repeats his request that Timothy try as hard as possible to visit him before winter, possibly when he is to be executed. He sends a few greetings from other believers, and encourages Timothy that the Lord is with him.