2 Timothy 4:17b-18 “And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”
“The lion’s mouth” is probably less a reference to the later Roman practice of feeding Christians to the lions, and more an allusion to the words of Psalm 22, “Rescue me from the mouths of the lions.” It was a colorful way of saying, “I am not dead yet. My execution has been delayed.”
But it was only a matter of time. Still, Paul understood that even in his death the Lord would rescue him from every evil attack and bring him safely to his heavenly kingdom.
For isn’t death the ultimate deliverance? Martin Luther once warned people not to lose their proper respect for death: “I am not pleased with examples which show how men die gladly. But I am pleased with those who tremble and quake and grow pale before death and yet suffer it. Great saints do not die gladly. Fear is natural because death is punishment. Therefore it is sad.”
But the Savior who never leaves us alone went through death for us to absorb all its punishment. Death’s stinger has been plucked. Jesus’ return to life means that when we go through death, he will be there with us, too. Now life is waiting for us on the other side. The death that looked like danger ends in heaven’s safety.
You see, Paul felt deserted at his first hearing, but the Lord stood by him. Soon, however, his trial would not go so well. The judge would condemn him. The officers of the court would lead him away. The executioner’s sword would swing. His head and body would be separated.
At that very moment the Lord would open an escape hatch between his world and ours. As Paul stepped through that door, he would see that he was not alone. The great cloud of witnesses who surround us, watching us from heaven, would welcome him (Hebrews 12:1). He would see the face of the Lamb who sits on the throne, the Lamb who would spread his tent over him (Revelation 22:4 and 7:15). Paul would be truly safe.
Dear friends, we never face danger alone. Here, the Lord stands by our side. After we die, we will stand at his side, safe at home.