In our day of intense interest in end times and what will happen in future we find some answers in the letters to the Thessalonian church.
“You won’t learn unless you ask questions!” Countless teachers and parents have explained that truth to children as they begin their educational experience. Those who desire to train others and impart knowledge don’t mind responding to queries. Questions help them know what students are thinking and learning. Those who don’t verbalize their doubts, voice their concerns, or seek to clarify what they have heard often harbor misunderstanding, go the wrong way, or live in ignorance.
Paul, master teacher, also felt like a father to believers in the churches he had planted on his missionary journeys. In both roles, he eagerly welcomed students’ questions and patiently responded. With limited time in each location, however, Paul could not cover every topic, resolve every conflict, or answer every question, so he wrote letters to his beloved churches. Each letter had a purpose and spoke to specific needs.
Paul wrote this epistle, his first to the church at Thessalonica, to answer believers’ questions and to commend them on their faith and commitment to Christ. The Thessalonians had questions . . . and they asked them. As we read this short, personal letter, let’s too look for answers.
The Message of 1 Thessalonians: Hope and Preparation for the Second Coming.
Hope: Paul encouraged the Thessalonian Christians by reminding them that one day all believers, both those who are alive and those who have died, will be united with Christ. Christians who die before Christ’s return have hope—the hope of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting with the Lord.
Importance for Today. All who believe in Christ will live with him forever. All those who belong to Jesus Christ—throughout history—will be present with him at his second coming. No matter how bad the situation or bleak the outlook, we can take heart, knowing that our future is secure in Christ. We can be confident that at death or at the Second Coming, we will be with loved ones who also have trusted in Christ.
Preparation for the Second Coming: No one knows the time of Christ’s return—it will come suddenly, when people least expect it. Thus, believers should live moral and holy lives, ever watchful for his coming, not neglecting daily responsibilities, but always working and living to please the Lord.
Importance for Today. The gospel is not only what we believe but also what we must live. The Holy Spirit helps us to be faithful to Christ, giving us strength to resist lust and fraud. Live as though you expect Christ’s return at any time. Don’t be caught unprepared.
Paul established the church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (about A.D. 51). He wrote this letter a short time later to encourage the young believers there. He wanted to assure them of his love, to praise them for their faithfulness during persecution, and to remind them of their hope—the sure return of their Lord and Savior.
To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith and give them the assurance of Christ’s return
The church at Thessalonica
Approximately A.D. 51 from Corinth; one of Paul’s earliest letters
The church at Thessalonica was very young, having been established only two or three years before this letter was written. The Thessalonian Christians needed to mature in their faith. In addition, there was a misunderstanding concerning Christ’s second coming—some thought Christ would return immediately; thus, they were confused when their loved ones died because they expected Christ to return beforehand. Also, believers were being persecuted.
“For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died” (4:14).
Paul, Timothy, Silas
Paul received from Timothy a favorable report about the Thessalonians. However, Paul wrote this letter to correct their misconceptions about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ.
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Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 2039.
Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Thessalonians, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1 Thessalonians”.