Survey of 1 Thessalonians

Book Type: The New Testament's eighth Pauline Epistle; the thirteenth book of the New Testament; the fifty-second book of the Bible.

Author: Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, named directly in 1 Thessalonians 1:1.

Audience: Paul wrote to the church he founded in the city of Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1–9). Though he lived among these people only a short time, he shows great love for these Gentile believers in this, his first of two letters to them. The Thessalonians likely faced severe persecution, and had sent many questions to Paul, which he addresses throughout the letter.

Date: Approximately AD 51.

Overview: First Thessalonians consists of five chapters that comprise two major sections. The first section address Paul's personal thoughts concerning the church. He expresses much thanks for the way the Thessalonians live (1 Thessalonians 1:2–10), describing them as positive examples for the churches. Chapter 2 retells some of Paul's ministry to this young church (1 Thessalonians 2:1–16). He concludes the chapter with a longing to see them again to bring him glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:17–20). Though Paul is concerned regarding the status of the church (1 Thessalonians 3:1–5), Timothy had recently returned with good news of their faith and love (1 Thessalonians 3:6). Paul thanks God (1 Thessalonians 3:9) and ends the section with a prayer for the believers receiving his letter (1 Thessalonians 3:11–13).

The second major section covers the remainder of the book and addresses various practical concerns (1 Thessalonians 4—5). First, Paul urges them to live a life that pleases the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:1). He addresses their concerns about the coming of the Lord, noting the dead in Christ will rise first at the rapture, followed by believers still living. All believers will then meet the Lord in the air and be with Him forever, which Paul calls a source of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).

Chapter 5 then addresses the "day of the Lord," a day that will come suddenly upon those unprepared (1 Thessalonians 5:1–11). Paul concludes with instructions to respect their leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13), correct the idle (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and various other instructions for Christian living (1 Thessalonians 5:15–22), concluding with a final blessing and instructions regarding greeting one another and reading the letter to all (1 Thessalonians 5:23–28).

Key Verses (ESV):

1 Thessalonians 3:5: "For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain."

1 Thessalonians 3:7: "For this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith."

1 Thessalonians 4:14–17: "For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

1 Thessalonians 5:16–18: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

1 Thessalonians 5:8–9: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."