The sentence of death in this scripture does not mean any decree of heaven, or appointment of God that they should die, nor any sentence of death passed on them by the government, but an opinion or persuasion in their own minds. They looked upon themselves as dead men. The tribulation was so violent and overwhelming that Paul had no hope of escaping death. Paul means that there was such a violent upsurge of evil against preachers of the faith that death was staring them in the face. He was expecting death, but things had not come to that point. In the natural course of events he should have died, but God did not allow that to happen so that Paul would learn to trust in God and not himself. Paul’s troubles were of such a nature as to take away all expectation of help except from God alone. God does not refuse His protection to people in extreme danger, especially when they belong to Him. He rescues them when they are in deep despair. Their affliction was so great that they would not have withstood it if God had not been with them.
Intimating that a rescue in such circumstances would be like raising the dead. It is probable that on this occasion Paul was near dying and had given up all hope of life, perhaps, as at Lystra (Act 14:19), he was supposed to be dead. He felt that he was raised up by the immediate power of God and regarded it as an exertion of the same power by which the dead are raised. Paul means to intimate that so far as he depended on any power of his own, he was dead. He had no power to recover himself, and but for the gracious interposition of God he would have died.
We may never face the kind of problems that Paul did. In America we have freedoms that protect us from unreasonable men. However, laws can change and people can become less tolerant of a God they don’t know. But be joyful! The God in whom we trust will yet deliver us. (v.10)