I Thessalonians


·         Most scholars believe Paul wrote this letter.


Place & Time of writing

·         Corinth around 51, so on Paul’s second missionary trip.


Unique Characteristic

·         Probably the second letter Paul wrote (after Galatians).



·         Paul introduced Christianity to Thessalonica on his second missionary trip.

·         He stayed in Thessalonica for about three weeks.

·         Paul also visited on his third missionary trip.



·         Paul is thankful for the faith of the Thessalonian Christians and instructions on the return of Jesus


Opening I Thessalonians Up


Why did Paul write the letter?

Paul introduced Christianity to the city of Thessalonica on his second missionary trip.  According to Acts 17:2, he stayed there for about three weeks.  He then headed south and eventually came to Corinth, where he stayed for a year-and-a-half.  While there he grew concerned about the Christians in Thessalonica and sent Timothy to check on them.  Timothy came back and reported their healthy faith with no problems (3:6), except apparently for one question:  some of them wondered about the return of Jesus.  Probably Paul had mentioned that when he was there for three weeks but did not explain it enough to satisfy their curiosity.  Therefore Paul wrote this letter in which he wrote that he was thankful for their faith and described the return of Jesus in more detail.


The return of Jesus

This idea threads through the letter:

·         1:10:  “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”

·         3:13:  “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”

·         4:13-17:  “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep [have died], or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.   We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him [have died].  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

This idea has led people to many different conclusions.  I included the entire passage here so that you can read it and reach your own conclusions.  I will discuss the different options more in the next letter because it also focuses on the return of Jesus.

    One note:  the word “rapture” is used by many Christians to describe the return of Jesus.  The word “rapture” is in 4:17, but only in the Latin.  “A carrying off” or “be caught up” in Latin is “raptus.”  That is the origin of the word “rapture.”


How to live as a Christian

·         4:7:  “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

·         4:11:  “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind our own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.” 

·         5:16-18: “ Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.





1:1:  Greetings

1:2-end of chapter 3:  Paul discusses the Thessalonian Christians, their faith, his desire to see them, and Timothy’s encouraging report on their progress

4:1-12:  How to live as a Christian

4:13-5:11:  The return of Jesus

5:12-28:  Concluding remarks


Timeline so far      Additions are boldfaced     All dates are approximate



Rome Empire conquered Israel without fighting


Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus, Cassius, and others.  Mark Antony tries to seize power, and he and Octavian (Caesar’s nephew) fight for power.


The Roman Empire made Herod the Great king of Israel


Antony married Cleopatra in Egypt


Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s forces; they committed suicide the next year.


Octavian is given name of Augustus, becomes Augustus Caesar.  This is the beginning of Pax Romana

4 BC

Jesus born

4 BC

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee to Egypt because Herod the Great wanted to kill Jesus

4 BC

Herod the Great died

4 BC

After Herod the Great died, the kingdom of the Jews was divided and given to Herod’s three sons:

The northern part, north of Nazareth, went to Philip.

The middle part called Galilee, north of Jerusalem but where Nazareth was located, went to Herod Antipas.  (He is referred to as “Herod” in the Gospels and so this can be confusing.)

The southern part called Judea, where Jerusalem and Bethlehem was located, went to Herod Archelaus. 


All years after this point are AD



Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to Nazareth instead of moving to Bethlehem


Archelaus was removed from power because he was so brutal

6 and after

The Romans did not choose another of Herod’s descendants to control Judea (southern Israel) but instead appointed Roman governors


Jesus lost in Jerusalem at age 12; Joseph and Mary found him in the Temple; possible Bar Mitzvah


Jesus probably worked as a carpenter


The Roman governor in charge of southern Israel was Pilate


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist


Jesus traveled in Israel and preached, taught, and performed miracles


1.  Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pilate, raises from the dead three days later and ascends out of sight about a month-and-a-half later

2.  The Apostles return to Jerusalem and pick a replacement for Judas

3.  Day of Pentecost

4.  Over 3000 people become Christian

5.  Christianity spreads outside of Israel


Peter was the leader of the Christian movement


Paul became a Christian


Paul went on his First Missionary Trip


Council of Jerusalem


We do not know what John did during this time period


Paul went on his Second Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Galatians and I Thessalonians


Nero was Roman emperor


Paul went on his Third Missionary Trip

·         Paul wrote Romans, and I & II Corinthians


Paul arrested in Jerusalem, taken to Rome, and lived under house arrest

·         Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians


Paul released from prison and travelled; he may have gone to Spain


Fire in Rome.  The emperor Nero blamed, persecuted, and killed many Christians.  This was the first Roman persecution of Christians. 


1.  Paul back in Rome

2.  Peter and Paul martyred around this year in Rome


Some of the Jews got tired of the Roman rule and killed many Roman soldiers.  They thus took back the land of Israel for the Jews.


The Romans counter-attacked.  The Romans lost one battle, but won the war.


Mark written around this year


The Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple. 


Matthew and Luke written around this year


Domitian is Roman emperor


John and Acts written around this year


1.  Persecution of Christians

2.  John was placed on the island of Patmos as a prisoner of Domitian


1.  Domitian died

2.  John was probably released from Patmos; he probably traveled to Ephesus where he stayed for the rest of his life


John died


First listing of the 27 books in a letter written by an Egyptian bishop


Two councils “closed” the NT canon to those 27 books


NT divided into chapters


NT divided into verses



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