Something will be awarded to Paul, and it is not heaven, but a crown.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; v8 in the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing”
Christianity has many doctrines, and each doctrine has to be believed. One doctrine that rarely finds itself in many pulpits is the doctrine of Christian reward. This is because the system of theology that some preachers follow has no room for Christian reward.
For such persons, heaven becomes a reward for those Christians who remain faithful. Per such theological thought, unfaithful Christians are not Christians, rather, their unfaithfulness only proved that they were never Christians in the first place.
But as you can see from the 2 Timothy 4:7-8 passage, Paul is not thinking about heaven at all, rather, he is talking about something that is based on works; something that is based on how the believer fights a *good fight, and finish the race, and keep the faith. Those are all “works” words, not justification words.
Secondly, those activities or works are not instantaneous, they are process. No race or fight is done instantly, each has a starting point and ending point. But scripture is clear that justification is based on faith alone in Christ alone, and it occurs at the same time that one believes.
Just as “believe” or faith takes place instantly, so justification occurs instantly, and both occur at the same time. If that is true (and it is), then a passage like this cannot be twisted to become justification passage if the interpreter really respects the use of hermeneutics tools.
Reward is not a gift, nor is gift a reward; one is freely received without any work done, the other is received because a work is done. Paul is saying that because he did fight (works), finished the race (works), kept the faith (works), a crown of righteousness is laid to be awarded to him.
Why would Paul expect reward? Is it because he believed in Christ on Damascus road? No! but because after believing in Christ, he remained faithful in serving God in all that he did. He put his faithfulness in such terms as fight, finish the race, and kept the faith.
Based on that, he spoke confidently concerning his future reward and said, “which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day”.
Yes, Paul was so sure about his reward, and we can also be sure provided we keep the rules or remain faithful. Shalom!