2 Timothy 4:6 “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.”
Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the second time when he wrote these words. The first time he had been set free. This time he fully expected the emperor to put him to death. He saw how quickly and unrelentingly his end was coming, like the offerings of wine that were sometimes made at the temple. Large jars or bowls would be poured out at one of the corners of the altar. You can picture the liquid easily sluicing through the mouth of its container and soaking into the ground below. In a few moments it was all gone and could never be put back again. So Paul saw his earthly life quickly slipping away. In a few moments it would be gone. It could never be put back into his mortal, perishable body again.
But Paul isn’t complaining. He betrays no fear. He doesn’t seem to be struggling against his inevitable end. He says “the time has come for my departure.” The word he uses for time describes something more than time on the clock, or time on the calendar. It is the right time, the fitting time for something to happen. We often hear people say, “When it’s your time, it’s your time.” More accurately, “when it’s God’s time, it’s your time.” Like Paul, we don’t have to be afraid of this day. How do we find the courage to face death without fear?
Paul gives us a clue when he doesn’t speak of his death, but of his departure. He knew this wasn’t the end of him. It was the beginning of a journey. He was setting off on a new and better life in a new and better place.
By rights, this ought to be the most frightening journey of our lives. Death, the Bible tells us, is the punishment for our sins. If we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t have to die. But we all sin, and someday we will all die. Inside, we all know it’s true. Perhaps the most popular hymn sung at funerals is the old standard Amazing Grace. How do we describe ourselves in that hymn? We call ourselves “wretches.” We confess that we were lost. That’s sin, and the wages of sin is death.
For believers, death does not mean we end in the punishment we deserve. The punishment for our sins has already been suffered. When God entered our world to save his people in the person of Jesus, he died, too. He didn’t die for any sins he had committed. He was the holy God. He died for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. He paid the price so that we wouldn’t have to.
Then he rose again from the dead to show that death itself would never be the same. He transformed death from fearful punishment into an exciting departure on the greatest journey, the greatest adventure of our lives. During the pandemic of the last year many of us who love to travel have had to put our travel plans on hold. It hasn’t been the right time for us to leave home and see the country, or see the world.
Regardless of our circumstances, when death comes it is the right time for our departure. Christ is sending us on the journey to heaven. There we will see and enjoy greater things than we have ever seen before. That journey, that trip, is never untimely. When it’s God’s time, it’s our time—and that time is always right.