“Introduction to the First Epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)
“1 Thessalonians,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians is believed to be the earliest of Paul’s existing epistles and may be the oldest book in the New Testament. Paul’s teachings in this epistle are primarily focused on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, including the hardships that followers of Jesus Christ will face before His return (see 1 Thessalonians 3:3), the Resurrection of Christians at the Second Coming (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13–14), and the timing of Christ’s Second Coming (see 1 Thessalonians 5:1–2). Through their study of this book, students will learn about the Second Coming and receive encouragement to remain faithful to the Lord.
“Paul wrote the epistles to the Thessalonians from Corinth during his second missionary journey,” around A.D. 50–51 (Guide to the Scriptures, “Pauline Epistles,” scriptures.lds.org).
Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians to the members of the Church in Thessalonica. Thessalonica was the most populous and prosperous city in the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia because of two important features: the city was built on the best natural harbor in the Aegean Sea, and it was located on the major highway that connected Rome and Asia.
During Paul’s second missionary journey, the Spirit directed Paul and his companions—Silas, Timothy, and Luke—to travel across the Aegean Sea into Macedonia (see Acts 16:6–12). This initiated the preaching of the gospel in Europe. After preaching in Philippi (see Acts 16:12–40), Paul and Silas traveled to Thessalonica.
Paul labored with Silas in Thessalonica, but they were forced out of the city by Jewish leaders (see Acts 17:1–9). Later, Timothy reported to Paul that the Thessalonian Saints had remained faithful despite persecution and that their righteous influence was spreading (see Acts 18:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:7–8; 3:6–8).
The Thessalonian converts were some of the first Europeans to embrace the gospel, and they faced persecution as a result. They also had many questions about the Second Coming. Therefore, in his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote words of encouragement and strength and addressed their questions about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
One of Paul’s main themes in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians is the Second Coming. He focused on the participation of the righteous in the events of the Second Coming, especially Saints who had died previously (see 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:13–17; 5:1–10). Unlike many of Paul’s other epistles, 1 Thessalonians does not contain any major rebukes but instead offers praise and commendation for the Thessalonian Saints.
1 Thessalonians 1–3 Paul expresses great appreciation for the Saints in Thessalonica. He reminds his readers of his kindly ministry among them and expresses joy for their faithfulness. He encourages the Saints to grow in love toward one another and toward all men.
1 Thessalonians 4–5 Paul tells the Saints to be holy and to sanctify themselves. He explains that when the Lord comes again, Saints who have been faithful in their testimony of Christ, both those who have died and those who are still alive, will rise and meet the Lord. The Apostle reminds Church members to prepare and watch for the day of Christ’s coming.