The Lord's Second Coming
The Church in Thessalonica was founded about A.D. 51, on Paul's Second Missionary Journey (Acts 17: 1-9).
It seem, from Acts 17:2, that Paul was there only three weeks. But Philippians 4:16; I Thessalonians 2:9; II Thessalonians 3:8 imply that he was there longer. It may be that he preached in the synagog three sabbaths, and liter in some other Place. But, at most he was not there long enough to fully instruct the church.
Driven out of Thessalonica, he went to Berea, about 50 miles to the west. But soon was driven from Berea, leaving Silas and Timothy there. When he got to Athens, 200 miles to the south, lonesome, he sent word back to Berea for Silas and Timothy to come to him with all possible speed (Acts 17:14, 15). When they reached Athens, Paul, filled with anxiety about the young church in Thessalonica, immediately sent Timothy back. By the time Timothy returned Paul had gone from Athens to Corinth. Timothy brought word that the Thessalonian Christians were enduring their persecutions bravely; but some had died, and the others were puzzled to know how those who had died would get any benefit of the Lord's Coming, a doctrine that Paul evidently had specially stressed in Thessalonica.
Then it was that Paul wrote this Letter, to tell them, mainly, that those who had died would be at no disadvantage when the Lord Comes.
Thessalonica. Modern "Saloniki'" Situated at the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea, facing a fine harbor. on a rich and well-watered plain, on the great Northern Military Highway from Rome to the East. Within sight of Mt. Olympus, home of the Greek gods. Leading city of Macedonia in Paul's day. Still a prosperous city.
Pauli's Work in Thessalonica. Though there only a short time, Paul created a great stir. His enemies accused him of "turning the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). A "great multitude of Greeks and chief women" believed (Acts 17:4)' Ii was heralded all over Greece (I Thessalonians 1:8, 9).
Chapter 1 Fame of the Church
"In power" (5), must refer to miracles which accompanied and arrested Paul's preaching, though none are mentioned in Acts. "An example" (7), to all Greece, of fortitude under persecution, and of a genuinely Christian manner of life. "Wair for his Son" (10), thus Paul closes every chapter with a reference to the Lord's Coming
(2 : 19 ; 3 : 13 ; 4: 16-18; 5 :23) .
Chapter 2. Paul's Conduct Among Them
This chapter is given mainly to Paul's vindication of his conduct in Thessalonica. The language rather conveys the impression that the enemies who were so bitterly persecuting the Thessalonian Christians were militantly engaged in a campaign to blacken Paul's character.
He reminds them that he had taken no pay from them, which was in itself evidence that he could not have been actuated by motives of covetousness, as some travelling philosophers were.
And reminds them also of his unselfish and tender devotion to them, and that he was, in every way, an example to them of the things which he preached.
Their Suffering (13-16). It seems that the unbelieving Jews and "certain vile fellows of the rabble" (Acts 17:5), who had driven Paul out of Thessalonica, were still, with relentless fury, venting their wrath against Jason and the rest of the Christians there. Paul tries to comfort them by reminding them that the mother churches in Judea had been persecuted in the same manner. So had Christ. So had he himself. But "wrath to the uttermost" (16), is their lot: those who killed the Lord and persecute the Church. There is no hope of their repentance, and no escape from their doom: the impending
destruction of Jerusalem, and their eternal doom in the Day of Judgment.
Paul's Plan to Return to Thessalonica (17-20). "Once and again" (18), means that at least twice he had made an effort to get back to Thessalonica, but "Satan hindered" him. In the early part of this same Missionary Journey Paul had made certain plans, and the Holy Spirit hindered him (Acts 16:6, 7). Then it was God who was interfering
with his plans. Now it is Satan. We wonder how Paul knew that in one case it was God, and in the other case Satan. How did Satan hinder him? Possibly, by illness, or by opposition of the civil authorities. At any rate, Paul knew that it was the arch enemy of the Church who was keeping him away from his beloved Thessalonian brethren. He was still praying "night and day" (3:10-11), that he might return. He felt that one of the brightest stars in his crown in the day of the Lord's Coming would be the Thessalonian Church, his "hope, joy, crown and glory" (19-20).
Chapter 3. Timothy's Report
Paul, in deepest anxiety for the new-born Thessalonian Church, had sent Timothy back to encourage them under their bitter persecution. (See Introductory Note, and Acts 17:15; 18:1, 5; I Thessalonians 3:1, 2, 6.) Timothy's return with the news of their steadfastness and devotion filled Paul with unbounded joy.
Chapter 4. Immorality. Love. The Lord's Coming
Immortality (1-8), was common among heathen peoples. It may be that, in his report of the general steadfastness of the Thessalonian Christians, Timothy had mentioned some cases of moral laxness which occasioned this exhortation "Sanctification" (3), as here used, means sexual purity. "Vessel" (4), seems to mean "body," though some think it means "wife," that is, fidelity to the marriage vow , or,
that in order to avoid immorality, each should have his own wife. "Wrong his brother" (6), that is, invade the rights of another's home, of which some may have been guilty.
Brotherly Love (9-12). It seems that those who had means, of whom there were many (Acts 17:4), were taking the doctrine of Christian charity seriously, and were dispersing their means to the poorer brethren of all the Macedonian churches. This was an opportunity for those who were inclined to be lazy, and they were making the most of it. As Paul commended the charitable, he rebuked the lazy. To be willing to live off of their neighbors was contrary to every principle of brotherly love. Able-bodied beggars, they were glad for others to practice brotherly love, while they themselves
exhibited the essence of self-love. It looked bad to those outside the Church.
The Lord's Second Coming (13-18). Here we come to the main topic of the Epistle. Its mention in every chapter implies that Paul must have given it particular emphasis in his preaching at Thessalonica.
Though it is commonly spoken of as the Lord's "Corning" or "Appearing," it is specifically called "Second" coming in Hebrews 9:28. Jesus word, "again," in John 14:3, means a second time. So it is perfectly proper and Scriptural to speak of it as the "Second Coming."
It is mentioned or referred to in almost every New Testament book. The chapters in which it is explained most fully are Matthew, 24, 25; Luke 21; I Thessalonians 4, 5; II Peter 3.
The Thessalonian Epistles are commonly regarded as the earliest written New Testament books. They are about the Lord's Coming again. The last of the New Testament books is Revelation, of which the final word is, "I come quickly," "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). Thus the New Testament begins, and thus it ends.
"Fallen asleep" (14), is a Scriptural expression for the Christian's death (Matthew 27:52; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 13:36; I Corinthians 15:6, 18, 20, 51; II Peter 3:4). It is found often in Christian epitaphs in the catacombs. Jesus taught it. It must be true. Only asleep. One day we shall awake. Glorious morn! This does not mean lapse into
a state of unconsciousness till the day of resurrection. There is an intermediate state of conscious bliss (Philippians 1:23).
"With a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God" (16). This is similar to Jesus' words (Matthew 24:30-31). It may be literal. "The clouds" (17), will be his triumphal chariot. He went away in the "clouds" (Acts 1:9), and so will return (Revelation 1:7). The angels will be with him, in all the glory of heaven (Matthew
25:31). The saints of past ages will be raised, those still in the flesh will be changed, and, as Enoch and Elijah were translated, the whole Church will rise in joyful welcome to the Returning Savior, to be with Him forevermore. It thrills us through and through
to think of it.
Chapter 5. The lord's Coming
Its Suddenness (1-11). There is nothing here to indicate when it will be. Only that, whenever it is, it will be with unexpected suddenness. "Signs" will precede the Coming, so that patient believers may feel that it is near, while the world generally scoffs at the idea. But even those who are watching are warned lest they be caught off guard. It will be as a "thief in the night" (2). Jesus had said that over and over (Matthew 24:36 ,42 ;25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:39, 46; 21:25-35), and with solemn earnestness warned his disciples to "watch." (For note as to the time of His Coming see under II
Thessalonians 2 and II Peter 3.)
Honor Pastors (12-13). Seeing it was a very young church, the pastors must have been, quite largely, novices. Yet the people were urged to love and esteem them. When church members love their pastor, and are at peace among themselves, other things being equal, the church is sure to grow.
Fifteen Exhortations (14-22). Beautiful. So characteristic of Paul. Thus he closes most of his Epistles, however abstract, argumentative, or abstruse, with exhortations to peace, longsuffering, joy, prayer, thankfulness and every good,
"Spirit and Soul and Body" (23). "Spirit" and "soul" are often used synonymously, but here there seems to be a distinction. "Soul," the principle of life. "Spirit," the organ of communion with God. Christ redeems the entire human personality. The language certainly contemplates the resurrection of the body.
"Holy Kiss" (26). The kiss, between persons of the same sex, on the cheek, was a common mode of salutation in many ancient countries. It became a custom in the churches. As its use as a salutation passed its use in the churches ceased.
"Read to All the Brethren" (27). This shows that Paul intended his Epistles to be read in the churches. That is what the New Testament books were written for (Colossians 4:16; I Timothy 4:13; Revelation 1:3).