2 Timothy: Last Words of Paul Written from the Mamertine Prison
By Steve Ray

[NOTE: In my articles on the Pastoral Epistles, I use each one to relay a theme: 1 Timothy emphasizes Timothy; Titus emphasizes Paul’s ecclesiology; 2 Timothy emphasizes the end of Paul’s life.]

It was dark and damp. The scurrying feet of nasty rats was constant in the everlasting darkness. He could feel the scratchy feet as the rodents scrambled over his body and their yellow teeth nipped at his flesh. It was hard enough to sleep on the wet dungeon floor and the rats only made it worse.

The acrid stench was unbearable—the years of accumulated excrement and urine was revolting. Vile prisoners fought over scraps of food. Once a doomed man was lowered into this subterranean chamber through the hole in the roof, there was no escape and death was certain.

Julius Caesar had dispensed with his enemies here and it was now in use by Emperor Nero who was using it to dispense with the Apostle Paul.

Welcome to the Mamertine Prison, located in Rome near the Roman forum at the base of the Capitoline Hill. It can still be visited today and it was here that many believe, with good reason, that St. Paul spent his last days.

Earlier, about ad 61-63, Paul had spent two years under house arrest in Rome awaiting his appeal to Caesar—much better conditions than he suffered now. The Acts of the Apostles abruptly ends with the earlier imprisonment during which Paul wrote letters to Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and to a man named Philemon.

But Paul was eventually released and early writings indicate that he spent several more years (c. ad 63-67) preaching Christ and traveling as far as Spain (Rom 15:24, 28) (Endnote 1). But now Emperor Nero ascended the throne and the Christians took the brunt of his cruelty. Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom under his insanity.

While bound in shackles and awaiting execution (2 Tim 2:9; 3:6) Paul wrote his last existing letter to his most loyal friend and companion, Timothy. It is a very personal final letter. Prison could not dampen Paul’s spirit or confidence in his eternal destiny.

He spent those miserable days and nights praying for Church. His spirit soared far above the stench of the dungeon and while caged he exulted in his “Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10).

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