Paul calls his death a departure (4:6) because when we die our soul and spirit departs our body (Gen. 35:18; Eccl. 12:7). The Greek word for “depart” is analusis, from which we get our word analyze, which means to break something down into its component parts—like our body, soul & spirit.
Paul also called his death an offering (4:6). Israel’s priests offered the lives of animals to pay for sins (Heb. 5:1), but Paul knew better than to think his death paid for his sins. Of course, religion doesn’t! One religion says that dying for the Lord makes you a martyr and you don’t have to pay for your sins in Purgatory. Paul knew there’s no Purgatory (Heb. 1:3; 10:12), so why’d he call his death an offering?
It was because he knew that after you are saved by faith in Christ’s sacrifice you can offer your life to God as “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). To do that, you have to sacrifice a lot of things, like any animosity you might feel toward others (Eph. 4:32-5:2). The Lord loved your brethren enough to die for them. Can’t you love them enough to forgive them? You have to sacrifice your pride to do that, but Paul compares that sacrifice to the smell of Christ’s sacrifice. He made the same comparison to the financial gift the Philippians gave him (Phil. 4:18). They offered themselves as living sacrifices in doing so (IICor. 8:1-6).
Sometimes we are called upon to be dying sacrifices like Paul. You might be “ready” to die too if you’d been to heaven like Paul (Acts 14:20; II Cor. 12:2-4). If you’ve ever wondered if heaven is all it is cracked up to be, take it from someone who has been there, it is “far better” (Phil. 1:23).
Who makes the bigger sacrifice, one who dies for the Lord or one who lives a long life for Him? If God allowed boasting in heaven, you can imagine how men would boast that the sacrifice they made was bigger. Since God doesn’t allow boasting in heaven, people there are probably telling others that they made bigger sacrifices. Wouldn’t it be heavenly if men did that here? Paul thought so. He said if he poured out his life as a dying sacrifice, that would just be the drink offering on top of the living sacrifice the Philippians had made (Phil. 2:17 cf. Num. 15:5). He rejoiced to think of things that way. And they rejoiced to feel the same way (Phil. 2:18)! This is an example of “let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phil. 2:3).
Paul wasn’t ready to die because he was “aged” (Phile. 1:9), but because he knew if his imprisonment furthered the gospel, imagine how his death would embolden the brethren (Phil. 1:21-25)! He was also ready because he had finished his course (II Tim. 4:7), all the preaching God gave him to do and all the epistles He needed him to write. Israel’s priesthood was divided into “courses” (II Chron. 31:2), offering animal sacrifices. Paul’s life was a course (Acts 20:24) of offering his life a living sacrifice and then a dying one. When John finished his, his ministry was done (Acts 13:24,25), and so was Paul’s. Paul knew God would protect him till he finished his course (II Tim. 4:17).
“The faith” Paul kept (4:7) is the body of truth given to him (cf. Rev. 14:12). He also “fought” for it (4:7). He told Timothy to fight “the” fight of the faith, but he fought “a” good fight. He’s talking about how well he fought the good fight. Because of that he’d receive the reward (I Cor. 3:13, 14) of a “crown” (4:8) if he strove for it “lawfully” (II Tim. 2:5) by not mixing in the rules of the kingdom gospel.
The crown symbolizes how we’ll “reign” (II Tim. 2:12) over the angels (I Cor. 6:3). Paul says his reward was there “henceforth,” from that time onward. It was there waiting for him (cf. Mt. 6:19,20). It is a “crown of righteousness” because we earned it. That’s different from “the gift of righteousness” we got when we got saved (Rom. 5:17). It’s a crown of righteousness because without an old nature we’ll always judge righteously. The Lord is called “the righteous Judge” because men could charge Him with unrighteousness for making men with dark histories like Paul and ourselves rulers over men. Paul says otherwise! He says all who love His appearing” (v.8) will receive a reward, because only those who live for the Lord love His appearing. Those who live for themselves dread it, for they know they will have to give account of themselves to God.