FAITH IS THE VICTORY. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Paul reflected in the dungeon on the fate that waited him. Paul confidently expected Christians to rally around him, but it was too dangerous. Opposed, arrested, deserted, Paul awaited execution. He wrote to Timothy:
At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:16-18).
The Lord will rescue him by death from his enemies and he will safely arrive in the far better heavenly kingdom. Faith assured him that death was victory.
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:5-10).
He had completed the purpose and work the Lord had called him to do. Nothing else remained but to receive his reward.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
Of Paul’s final trial, nothing is known beyond a tradition that he was condemned by resolution of the Senate on the charge of treason against the divine Emperor. Simon Peter and Paul were in prison together possibly as much as nine months before being executed.
The date honored in the city of their martyrdom is June 29, A.D. 67. Peter nailed to a cross as a public spectacle at Nero’s Circus on the Vatican, head downward at his own request, and Paul, as a Roman citizen was taken to a less public place along the Ostian Way. They stopped at the third milestone.
The soldiers stripped him naked to the waist. Paul knelt down as to pray and lowered his head. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” The executioner’s sword flashed—Paul was in Glory!