The Second Epistle to Timothy has a melancholy interest as the last letter which Paul ever wrote, written from his second imprisonment in Rome, only a short time before his martyrdom. In the Introduction to First Timothy the uniform first testimony of the early church that Paul was released, shortly after the close of Acts, and engaged for several years in missionary work, was stated. On this point the testimony is clear, and goes back even to Clement of Rome, a companion of Paul named in one of his Epistles, who states in his Epistle to the Corinthians that Paul was enabled to carry out his purpose of preaching the gospel in the extreme West. This verdict of antiquity is supported by criticism, and the allusions in the three Pastoral Epistles can only be explained by conceding that there was a release, a period of missionary activity, and finally a second arrest, and imprisonment in Rome.
On this hypothesis Conybeare and Howson outline the interval between the dates of the two letters of Timothy. Shortly after the first was written Paul is supposed to have again visited Ephesus, to have gone from thence, in company with Titus, to Crete. The latter was left in charge of the work there when Paul left for Europe ( Titus 1:5 ). Where the Epistle to Titus was written cannot be certainly known, but it was at some point on the route from Crete to Nicopolis, a city situated on the Grecian shore of the Adriatic Sea ( Titus 3:12 ). If Paul reached there for the winter, as he proposed, it is probable that here he was again arrested, and from thence borne to Rome to trial. The only writing extant that came from this second period of imprisonment is the Second Epistle to Timothy.
Timothy, his "beloved son" in the gospel, was still laboring in distant Ephesus, but the aged apostle, about to go to rest from his weary labors, desired to see him once more in the flesh. Hence, he bids him come, as speedily as possible; but, lest he might arrive too late to receive his parting words, he impresses upon him in this letter, with the earnestness of a last charge, the various duties of his office, and especially of opposing the dangerous heresies which threatened to destroy the vitality of the Christian religion.