First and Second Thessalonians were sometimes called the “Eschatological Epistles”. The
Thessalonian epistles, more than any other of Paul’s letters, emphasize the Lord’s return. The theme of 1 Thessalonians can be summed up as “the resurrection of the saints and the rapture of the Church.”
A. Paul began his life as Saul, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin (Ph. 3:5), apparently
named after Israel’s first king. He was called Saul of Tarsus, because he was born in
Tarsus, the chief city of the Roman province of Cilicia (Ac. 9:11; 22:3)
B. Eighteen of the 28 chapters of the book of Acts are devoted to Paul’s ministry. He
wrote 14 of the 27 New Testament epistles (if we include Hebrews), 100 of the 260
chapters in the New Testament.
C. Silvanus (Silas) and Timothy, were Paul’s travelling companions on the second
missionary journey when the church was founded (Acts 17:1-9). Though Paul was
the single inspired author, most of the first-person plural pronouns (we, us, our)
refer to all 3.
II. The City of Thessalonica
A. Thessalonica was built by Cassander in 315 B.C. near the site of an ancient city called
Therma, named for the hot springs in the area. He chose this place for its excellent
location and named it after his wife, Thessalonica, who was a half-sister of
Alexander the Great. Cassander was a Greek general under Alexander.
B. Many years later, when the Romans conquered the area (168 B.C.), they divided
Macedonia into four districts and named Thessalonica the capital of one of these. In
146 B.C. the Romans reorganized Macedonia and made Thessalonica the capital of
the new province which encompassed all four of the older districts. In 42 B.C.
Thessalonica received the status of a free city from Anthony and Octavian (later
called Caesar Augustus) because the Thessalonians had helped these men defeat
their adversaries, Brutus and Cassius. The Romans ruled Thessalonica with a loose
hand; though the Roman proconsul (or governor) lived there, no Roman troops were
garrisoned in the city. The citizens were allowed to govern themselves, as in a Greek
city-state, which they did through a group of five or six politarchs, a senate, and a
C. In World War I the Allies based soldiers in Thessalonica, and during the Second
World War the Nazis extracted 60,000 Jews from the city and executed them.
Thessalonica still exists today with a population near 300,000. It is called Salonica (or
III. The Church at Thessalonica:
A. At Troas (Troy), Paul received the Macedonian vision to go to Europe, Acts 16:8-14.
This was the beginning of spreading the gospel from the continent of Asia to the
continent of Europe.
B. Going to Thessalonica brought the ministry of the gospel to Western civilization.
Macedonia was the former kingdom of Alexander the Great (he wanted to dominate
the world and spread one world domination and enlightenment through the Greek
culture. He wanted to marry East and West).
C. Paul founded the Thessalonian church on his second missionary expedition. Paul got
an immediate response to the gospel. When Paul left Thessalonica, he went to
Berea, then Athens and finally Corinth where he wrote First Thessalonians.
D. Paul came to minister in Thessalonica for three successive and successful weeks.
The Jews accused Paul’s evangelistic team of “turning the world upside down.” Paul
fled the city in the face of much opposition. The principal people in the church at
E. Thessalonica were Gentiles (1 Thessalonians 1:9; Acts 17:4).
IV. The Purpose of the Letter
A. Specifically, the Holy Spirit led Paul to pen this inspired epistle in order to meet
several needs. He encouraged his children in the faith to persevere despite their
persecution. He refuted false charges made by the local enemies of the gospel: that
the missionaries had preached in order to fatten their wallets and gain other
personal benefits; that Paul had left Thessalonica hurriedly and had not returned
because he was a coward and a hypocrite. Paul also wrote to correct some errors
that had cropped up in the church: an inclination to moral laxity and laziness, and a
tendency not to respect the church’s spiritual leaders. Paul gave instruction too on
the subject of what would happen to Christians who would die before the Lord’s
V. The Place and date of writing.
A. References in Acts 17 and Acts 18 as well as in 1 Thessalonians make it clear that
Paul wrote this epistle from Corinth.
B. Evidently the letter was written shortly after Paul arrived in Corinth (Acts 17:1-10;
18:1). The references to Gallio’s proconsulate in Corinth (cf. 18:12) on ancient
secular inscriptions make it possible to date Paul’s stay in Corinth fairly accurately –
in the early 50 s (Jack Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1969, p. 282). Conservative scholars date 1 Thessalonians between
A.D. 50 and 54. This would make the epistle one of Paul’s earliest inspired writings,
probably his second (after Galatians).
With the Holy Spirit’s emphasis on the Lord’s return, we should live a holy life. The Lord
may come any time, that’s the clear teaching of the Bible. The question is, are you ready
to meet Him