“The Time of my Departure is at Hand”
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” II Timothy 4:6
“THE TIME:” the proper, due season, (syn) the occasion, the opportunity. We read in Matthew 25:13 and Mark 13:32-33 as to the time of leaving, “no man knows the day or hour.” Jesus told His disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power” – Acts 1:7. Yet we read in I Thess. 5:2,4 – “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night…But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that day should overtake you as a thief.”
God has given so many signs to the church to indicate the times. They are ever before our eyes. We do not need to hunt for signs, miraculous indicators. We may, by faith and the Holy Spirit’s revelation understand those sacred secrets that our Father sees fit to make known to our hearts. Yet rather than looking for signs, let us look for God’s Son, our Savior, who encourages our hearts. ‘Hold the fort for I am coming.’
“MY DEPARTURE:” what personal comfort! Our dear Lord knows when it is best that we leave here. The Psalmist wrote, “My times are in thine hand.” He no doubt, wrote prophetically of Jesus’ committal and complete dependence upon His Father. It is so comforting for us to take the same attitude for the course of our lives. Our Father determines the experiences, opportunities and privileges of our life span.
It is evident that several Old Testament overcomers had such close contact with God that they knew when it was about time. We note in the New Testament that Jesus (Lk. 9:31) and Peter (I Pet. 1:13-15), as well as Paul, spoke of their departure when it was near. Since becoming a pastor in 1965, I have ministered to several in hospitals that seemed to have a clear understanding that their earthly sojourn was about over. Paul here seems to say, “My temporary stay here is about over; I’ve got leaving on my mind.” Glory to God, he wasn’t crying “Oh let me stay a little longer.” He wasn’t singing, “Wait a little longer please, Jesus.” He spoke of “having a desire to depart and to be with Christ.” The Greek word for departure in its usage was both a military and nautical term. The military term spoke of breaking camp. The nautical expressed a release, a loosing preparatory to setting sail. GLORY, OH GLORY HALLELUJAH!
“AT HAND:” this, from the Greek, expresses that which is imminent, a suddenness, it is upon us. Oh beloved, the first flight out will leave here right on time! All transports have their designated leaving time, whether it is a ship from the dock, or an airplane from the airport, or a family for their new home, or our spirit from our body. The soul of man is like a waiting Falcon, when its release is destined for the sky. “To depart, and to be with Christ,” the apostle Paul said, “is far better.” He wrote in II Cor. 5:8 of being “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” Considering II Cor. 12:1-4, Paul is certainly one man that should know. Do you know where you are going when you leave here? Where will you be when you get there? How long will you stay? Who will you be with? Answer to these questions and others, tell us part of the reasons we would want to go.
“I AM NOW READY:” when Paul spoke of his desire to depart in Philippians, he was not yet completely ready. Neither was Elijah when he asked the Lord to take his life. Actually Paul’s life was being poured out at the time he wrote Philippians and II Timothy. Paul had not yet fully apprehended that for which he had been apprehended. ARE WE READY?
Preparation is necessary for any trip, but especially this one. Readiness is most important. There is usually the packing of luggage, a loading up. There is the consideration of taking the proper dress for the area and climate. You are not wise if you take a lot of things you will not use when you get there. Those “made ready” will be seen soon as a bride adorned for her husband – all glorious within, her clothing of wrought (or inwrought) gold (divine handiwork). “She will have long since taken on the linen of His righteousness. But preparation for this trip also involves some unpacking and unloading, some laying aside and stripping off of encumbrances. There needs to be a loosing of all the ties and lines that would hold our little boat to those earthly shores.
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not is chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lust thereof” – Rom. 13:10-14. Are not these words appropriate for our day? We are assured with the conditions about us that the day of our departure is “at hard.”
Paul’s preparation was certainly a pattern for us, and proof of his love for Christ’s appearing. For he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” – II Tim. 4:7-8.
Paul’s exemplary life could be seen as an altar, an offering, a living sacrifice poured out even upon the service of our faith. Phil. 2:17. “I am now ready to be offered.” His life had become a holy pilgrimage. “The time of my departure is at hand.” It had been a warfare with battles will won. It was faith’s fight, for grace’s flight to glory’s heights. He encourages us on to victory in the same type of conflicts – I Tim. 6:12, Phil. 1:27-30. Paul’s life could be seen as a course well run. He ran for the prize, according to the rules. Thank God he stayed on track (Acts 20:24). He admonishes us to run with patience. Paul’s life may also be seen as a trust and for faithfulness for which he received the Lord’s “WELL DONE.” I Tim. 6:20; II Tim. 1:14.
As Paul looked forward to a gracious flight, he also expresses elements involved in our preparation for leaving here. There is a GOOD FIGHT, A GREAT FINISH, and a GLORIOUS FUTURE. In a good fight, we are laying hold of that which is laid up and holding it fast. Paul’s course was a course of conduct as well as instruction. While sitting at Jesus’ feet, he was also walking by faith and running with patience. He had been learning by experience in it all, and now for him promotion into that eternal state was at hand. Yet the full rewards of graduation day await the time of commencement exercises. “At that day” – I Cor. 3:13-15 and 4:4-5. “For the day shall declare it.” “Henceforth,” a glorious future, with the crown of a winner, the right to reign, the sign of authority. Yet with this crown of glory, the full overcomer will use it as another way in which to give honor and glory to our victorious Lord, Putting it before His feet.
“KEPT THE FAITH:” This is a bottom line. It is impossible to please the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, without faith. Faith in the provision, power, and promise of God’s Word, serves to make us a good soldier, (II Tim. 2:3-5) and a great runner. Success is promised to those who continue in the faith. They that trust in the Lord with all their hearts and keep on trusting are winners. Our adversary would use times of great confusion and deep puzzlement to hinder our faith, getting our eyes off the prize. Thank God for the privilege of “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” Paul’s keeping of the faith was indeed manifold. This was evident by obeying the Word, and also by committing his trust to Timothy and others. As he speaks of this wonderful “henceforth,” he is not just thinking of himself, full overcomers think also of the success and enjoyment of others.