1 Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians

1 Θεσσαλονίκη

Reading 0,12 - 5 Chapters - 89 verses - 1,857 words

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Background of the Thessalonian Letters

It is helpful to trace the locations of Paul and his companions that relate to the Thessalonian correspondence. The travels were as follows:

1. Paul and Silas fled from Thessalonica to Berea. Since Timothy is not mentioned (see A, 17:10 ), it is possible that he stayed in Thessalonica or went back to Philippi and then rejoined Paul and Silas in Berea (Ac 17:14).

2. Paul fled to Athens from Berean persecution, leaving Silas and Timothy in Berea (see Ac 17:14).

3. Paul sent word back, instructing Silas and Timothy to come to him in Athens (see Ac 17:15; 3:1-2).

4. Timothy rejoined Paul at Athens and was sent back to Thessalonica (see 3:1-5). Since Silas is not mentioned, it has been conjectured that he went back to Philippi when Timothy went to Thessalonica (3:1-2).

5. Paul moved on to Corinth (see Ac 18:1).

6. Silas and Timothy came to Paul in Corinth (see 3:6; Ac 18:5):

7. Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians and sent it to the church.

8. About six months later (A.D. 51/52) he sent 2 Thessalonians in response to further information about the church there.

Author, Date and Place of Writing

Both external and internal evidence (see 1:1;2:18) support the view that Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians (from Corinth; see note on 3:1-2). Early church writers are agreed on the matter, with testimonies beginning as early as A.D. 140 (Marcion). Paul's known characteristics are apparent in the letter (3:1-2,8-11 compared with Ac 15:36; 2Co 11:28). Historical allusions in the book fit Paul's life as recounted in Acts and in his own letters (2:14-16 compared with Ac 17:5-10; 3:6 compared with Ac 17:16). In the face of such evidence, few have ever rejected authorship by Paul.

It is generally dated c. A.D. 51. Weighty support for this date was found in an inscription discovered at Delphi, Greece, that dates Gallio's proconsulship to c. 51-52 and thus places Paul at Corinth at the same time (see Ac 18:12-17 and note on 18:12; see also chart, p. 1673). Except for the possibility of an early date for Galatians (48-49?), 1 Thessalonians is Paul's earliest canonical letter.

Thessalonica: The City and the Church

Thessalonica was a bustling seaport city at the head of the Thermaic Gulf. It was an important communication and trade center, located at the junction of the great Egnatian Way and the road leading north to the Danube. It was the largest city in Macedonia and was also the capital of its province.

The background of the Thessalonian church is found in Ac 17:1-9. Since Paul began his ministry there in the Jewish synagogue, it is reasonable to assume that the new church included Mme Jews. However, 1:9-10; Ac 17:4 seem to indicate that the church was largely Gentile in membership.


Paul had left Thessalonica abruptly (see Ac 17:5-10) after a rather brief stay. Recent converts from paganism. (1:9) were thus left with little external support in the midst of persecution. Paul's purpose in writing this letter was to encourage the new converts in their trials ,33-5), to give instruction concerning godly living (4:1-12) and to give assurance concerning the future of believers who die before Christ returns (4:13-18; see Theme; 4:13,15).


Although the thrust of the letter is varied (see Purpose), the subject of eschatology (doctrine of last things) seems to be predominant in both Thessalonian letters., Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the second coming of Christ, with ch. 4 giving it major consideration (1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23-24).Thus, the second coming seems to permeate the letter and may be viewed in some sense as its theme. The two letters are often designated as the eschatological letters of Paul.

How to read 1 Thessalonians

Seductive images and sexual pressures are everywhere in today’s culture. It seems like the situation was not much different in Thessalonica. We face the same questions the early church did: “How do we live holy lives in the midst of an immoral culture?” As we struggle to maintain a pure life in a permissive society, 1 Thessalonians provides solid guidelines and an encouraging promise: “He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it” (1Th 5:24).

Paul’s passionate, pastoral heart comes through in his joy over and deep concern for the Thessalonian church. His confidence lies in the power of God’s Word to transform them. Pay careful attention to the beautiful picture of discipleship in 1Th 2:8, as love compels you also to share the gospel and your life with those the Lord places in your path. Overshadowing and undergirding all this is the reality of seeing life through the lens of eternity. Look for instruction on how Jesus’ second coming might inspire you to face an uncertain future with great hope and motivate you to live a life pleasing to God.

1 Thessalonians Interpretive Challenges

Primarily the challenges for understanding this epistle involve the sections that are eschatological in nature:

    1. the coming wrath (1:10; 5:9)

    2. Christ’s return (2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23)

    3. the rapture of the church (4:13-18)

    4. the meaning and time of the Day of the Lord (5:1-11)


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God's character in 1 Thessalonians

  1. God is faithful - 5:24

  2. God is wrathful - 1:10; 2:16

Christ in 1 Thessalonians

First Thessalonians discusses the believer's hope in Christ, particularly in His second coming (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:16; 5:23). Paul instructs believers to prepare for the Day of the Lord, for it shall come "as a thief in the night" (5:2). However, this Day is not to be feared by believers, for Christ obtains our salvation and guards against the wrath of God.