Thank you so much for this great question! This shows me that you are reading God’s Word with a great desire to fully understand what the Lord would have for you to know. In truth, many of us could not know when our lives will end, though we may have an idea given our specific situation. But I believe that Paul did know at this time. We must remember that the Lord often revealed His plan to Paul by visions and angels (see Acts 9:6; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23,24). However, at this particular time in Paul’s life, there might be another reason why Paul was so certain that he would shortly die. According to the MacDonald’s commentary on II Timothy, this letter of the Apostle Paul’s to Timothy is his last known writing to Christians. At this time, he was languishing in a Roman prison and awaiting his execution which had been ordered by the emperor Nero. Realizing that he did not have a long time to live, he wrote to Timothy, who was a faithful servant of the Lord, that he “hold firmly to the truth and life that Timothy had been taught” by Paul.  Because Timothy was a prominent young leader among the churches, Paul was warning Timothy (and as well, all Christians) to hold fast against the false teachers that would surely come in the perilous days ahead who would try to lead Christians astray from the sound teachings of God’s Word.

Now, let’s look at II Timothy 4:8 as I believe this is important to understand. We read, “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”. I’m sure you realize that we are not saved on the basis of our good works or of works of the law (Ephesians 2:8,9), but the “judgment” spoken of here is what we call the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10-13). If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, then you are saved, and you will not come into condemnation (John 5:24). The judgment seat of Christ is not at all a judgment for sins, but rather the Lord Jesus will review the individual service of born-again Christians and will recognize the service of each Christian that was praiseworthy, but will not reward service which was not praiseworthy. MacDonald in his Bible Commentary describes II Timothy 4:8 as follows: “The Lord is here spoken of as the righteous Judge, but the thought is not that of a criminal court judge but of one at an athletic contest. Unlike earthly judges, He will have full and complete knowledge, He will not show respect of persons, He will evaluate motives as well as deeds, and His judgments will be accurate and impartial”.

So, are you a true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ (a Christian)? I pray that you are, and if you are, you will not appear before the “Great White Throne” judgment spoken of in Revelation 20, where the souls of the unbelievers from all time will be judged and cast into the lake of fire. If you have truly believed, you will be rather at the judgment seat of Christ where good service will be recognized.  But, and this is important, if you are a believer, then Paul’s warnings about false teaching are for you too just as they are for me and all believers, and just as they were for Timothy. If you are not sure you are saved, please read Romans 10:9 and also Acts 16:31, and may the Lord bless His Word to your heart.  (SF)  (528.4)