According to the tradition, the second letter to Timothy is the last letter and the spiritual testament of the Apostle to the nations. Paul, sensing his coming death (2 Tim 4:6–8), presents to his beloved disciple his last will.
In the OT we have examples. In Gen 47:29–49:33, Jacob gives his farewell speech. Moses’ speech in Deut 31–34, is yet another example of the last tastemant. Finally, David’s last words to his son Solomon are recorded in 1 Kings 2:1–10. In the NT, we have Luke 22:14–24 and John 13–17 - Jesus’ last will, and Acts 20:17–38 - Paul’s final speech to the leaders of Ephesus.
Following his release from house arrest in Rome in A.D. 62, Paul resumed his itinerant ministry in the Mediterranean world. Writing to Titus from somewhere in Macedonia, probably between A.D. 62 and 66, he said that he planned to visit Nicapolis (Titus 3:12). Assuming that he did visit Nicapolis, Paul went from there to Rome, evidently indirectly. His visit to Troas (2 Tim. 4:13) probably took place shortly before he wrote 2 Timothy. It may be that Paul’s arrest required his leaving his cloak, books, and parchments there, but that is only speculation. In any case, Paul ended up in Rome as a prisoner again (2:9). He had already had his initial hearing and was awaiting trial when he wrote this epistle (4:16). He believed that the Roman authorities would execute him soon (4:6).
Timothy seems to have remained at Ephesus for some time following his reception of Paul’s first epistle to him and then, presumably, Paul’s personal visit of him there (1 Tim. 3:14). He was evidently in Ephesus when Paul wrote this second epistle to him (2 Tim. 1:16–18; 4:14 cf. 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 4:19).
The apostle is imprisoned (2 Tim 1:8.12.16–17; 2:9), experienced loneliness, because some of his disciples left him, “being in love with this world”. On the other hand, others were sent by him to mission fields (2 Tim 4:10). Therefore, in this letter, he asks Timothy to come as quickly as possible and bring also Mark with him (2 Tim 4:9.11.21). They should bring the cloak and his scrolls, especially “the parchments” (2 Tim 4:13). However, the main point of the letter is a call to Timothy that he should safeguard the purity of the doctrine/faith in the community and protect himself from errors. Paul, particularly, calls him to an exemplary life according to faith.
The letter pictures Paul as an old man, tired from the journey he had just completed and now imprisoned. But, when the letter was written, it is not clear. Opinion defer. Some say it was written during his first imprisonment in Rome, other say that during second imprisonment (around 67). Finally, some scholars question the authorship of Paul of this letter altogether, which seems rather doubtful taking into consideration so many personal information in this letter.
Paul probably wrote 2 Timothy in the fall of A.D. 67. There are two reasons for this date. According to early church tradition Paul suffered execution shortly before Nero committed suicide in June of A.D. 68. Second, Paul penned this last of his canonical epistles fairly near the time of his execution, though before the winter of A.D. 67–68 (4:21).
The letter is Paul’s last testament or a farewell speech. It has clear characteristics:
Paul leaves the Gospel and the whole deposit of faith to his beloved disciple, Timothy. He himself received it, now he passes it on to other. He calls his disciple to keep preaching the word of God continuously, protect it from errors and pass it on to other generation of Christians.
Paul, after completing his mission, now is awaiting the promised reward.
Ever since Rome had burned in July of A.D. 64 and Nero had blamed the Christians, it had become dangerous to be a Christian. It was also dangerous to have contact with leaders of the church such as Paul. Consequently many believers, including some of Paul’s coworkers, had chosen to seek a much lower profile and become less aggressive in their ministries. Timothy faced temptation to do the same. Paul wrote this epistle to urge him to remain faithful to his calling and loyal to his father in the faith. Timothy needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with Paul and the other believers and to continue to “preach the Word” as he had done.
“2 Timothy is unlike either 1 Timothy or Titus. It is an intensely personal letter written to encourage Timothy in his difficult task and to ask him to come to Rome. Since it was written to one of Paul’s best friends who knew his theology, and not to a church who did not know his theology (Titus) or to a church who knew his theology but was choosing to ignore it (1 Timothy), one is not surprised if 2 Timothy does not sound like other letters. It was not intended to be a theological treatise”.