Player needs JavaScript turned on.

First and Second Thessalonians Overview

Let’s start this evening by talking a little bit about the Apostle Paul.

Paul is his Roman name and means “little.” Saul is his Hebrew name and means “asked of God.”

Paul was born about the time Jesus was, in the city of Tarsus, province of Cilicia.

Paul’s father was a native of Palestine, a Roman citizen, merchant by trade, and a strict Pharisee. Paul had at least one sister and one nephew (Acts 23:16).

He appears to have learned tent-making as a youth; His rabbinical training was under Gamaliel at Jerusalem; He became a leader of the persecution of the Christian church; He was converted while on his way to Damascus for that purpose. 

See Outline of Highlights of Paul’s life.

Key Phrases in Paul’s Letters:

In Christ

Over 200 times in Paul’s 13 letters the phrase, “In Christ,” “in the Lord,” or “in Him” occurs! This beautifully speaks of the believers union with Christ.

Another 32 times Paul speaks of what believers are “with” Christ. We are crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, raised with Christ, seated with Christ in the Heavenly places!

Grace to You and Peace

The normal Greek greeting was similar to their word for “grace.” The normal Jewish greeting was “peace.” Paul usually combines the two!

Faith, Hope, Love

Paul’s 13 letters are arranged in such a way that the 9 letters to the 7 churches come before the 4 letters to the 3 individuals.

First and Second Thessalonians are the last letters from Paul we’ll look at written to churches.

By now we can notice a pattern in Paul’s letters:

An Introduction where he identifies himself and those he’s writing with and to, sending them greetings; Thanksgiving and intercession for the readers; Then he deals with doctrinal questions; Then he gives the application to their lives, addressing practical issues; He then gives greetings from those he’s with and shout outs to those he is writing to; His letters usually conclude with a benediction of some kind.

See Progressive Additions of Paul’s Epistles to the Canon of the New Testament (Jensen). 

The City of Thessalonica:

Thessalonica is in Macedonia (Europe) not far from Philippi, which Paul evangelized on his second missionary journey before coming to Thessalonica.

Originally named Therme, it was re-founded in 315 B.C. by Cassander and named Thessalonica after his wife; it became the leading city of Macedonia when the country was made a Roman Province in 148 B.C.

It was a busy seaport city located at the intersection of two key roads. One of them was the Via Egnatia, the main road from Rome to Asia Minor. It connected the Adriatic and Aegean Seas.

Paul established 3 churches along this road: Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea!

It was the largest city in Macedonia and its capitol. It perhaps had 200,000 people in it. It was within sight of Mount Olympus, legendary home of the Greek gods.

It was also the home of a sizeable Jewish community. The synagogue also appears to have drawn many gentile “God-fearers” who had become disenchanted with Greek paganism.

According to I Thess. 1:9 and 2:14-16, most of the Thessalonian converts were Gentiles who had come out of idolatry.  

That may explain why there are no quotations in I Thessalonians from the Old Testament! You can find that background in Acts 17.

Paul started the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey when he was there for just a few weeks.

Opposition there was very intense, and some were so mad at him they followed him to the next cities he travelled to beat him up again!

Paul later commends the Philippian Christians, because even in Thessalonica they sent financial gifts to help him.   -Philippians 4:16

After Thessalonica, Paul travelled to Berea, Athens, and Corinth, and Ephesus.

Meanwhile, the disciples back in Thessalonica were also encountering vigorous persecution, as Paul refers to in these two letters!

At Athens, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to get a report. Timothy reported the church was making it, but had some concerns and false ideas about Christ’s return.

From Corinth, where Paul stayed for 18 months, Paul wrote these two letters to the Thessalonian Christians.

First Thessalonians is the 52nd book of the Bible; 13th book of the New Testament; 8th of Paul’s 13 letters.

Theme: Jesus will return to gather His followers to Him.       –Paul Kent

Silas and Timothy join Paul in writing this letter.

It was written in the early 50’s, perhaps Paul’s first letter, but generally it is thought Galatians came first.

The return of Christ is mentioned at the end of every chapter.

I Thessalonians tells more about Christ’s Second Coming than any other of Paul’s letters. It also gives the Bible’s most detailed description of the Rapture.

I Corinthians 15 explained the involvement of living believers in the Rapture.

I Thessalonians 4 explains how deceased believers will be involved.

I Thessalonians 5 explains the terrible “Day of the Lord” tribulation that will follow the rapture.

II Thessalonians explains why believers will not be involved in the Tribulation!

Some said the days of persecution they were in were the Tribulation, meaning they had missed the rapture!

Paul says no, the tribulation time won’t be until the Antichrist emerges.

Chart: First and Second Thessalonians Compared.

Outline of I Thessalonians:                                   Dr. Harry Adams

Commendation of the Thessalonians                       1:1-10

Reflections of a personal nature                               2:1-3:13

Exhortations to excellence                                       4:1-12

The hope of the Lord’s coming                                4:13-5:11

Practical behavior appropriate for Christians           5:12-28

Second Thessalonians is the 53rd book of the Bible; 14th book of the New Testament; 9th of Paul’s 13 letters.

Theme: Christians should work until Jesus returns.               -Paul Kent

Silas and Timothy also join Paul in writing this letter.

It was also written in the early 50’s, perhaps around 6 months later.  

It looks like someone claiming to be Paul had written the Thessalonians a letter claiming the Lord had returned and they missed it.   See 2:2

Others had taken Paul’s words about the imminence of the rapture/ second coming, and had stopped working!

Paul confronts that directly with words we still need to know today: “If a man won’t work, don’t let him eat!”

“Blessed are the balanced.”        -Warren Wiersbe

Christ is coming back, so let him find you bearing fruit when He comes!

Outline of 2 Thessalonians:                                   Dr. Harry Adams

Words of encouragement                                         1:1-12

Correction of a misunderstanding of prophecy        2:1-17

Exhortations on Christian living                              3:1-18

A Closer Look at I and II Thessalonians.

First Thessalonians:


Thessalonians was an Acts 1:8 church. Compare I Thessalonians 1:8 with Acts 1:8!


Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath.

Could simply mean Great White Throne Judgment/ Lake of Fire.

But look at Revelation 3:10

That time of wrath is clearly the time of the Tribulation spoken of in Revelation 6-19.


Beautiful words by Paul that all servants of Christ should consider, especially Pastors!


The wicked can only anticipate God’s coming judgment, whereas believers can expect God’s blessing.


Again, quite a giddy tone, like Philippians 1:6.


Beautiful: could be taken as referring to Rapture or 2nd coming –

When Jesus brings the saints on earth to the presence of the Father in Heaven!

4:13-18        The rapture

The word rapture comes from the Latin word used in I Thessalonians 4:17.

Goes right along with I Corinthians 15:51-58.

Here the rapture seems to be presented as the next event.

Later in 2nd Thessalonians, when they ask about the Second Coming of the Lord, he will refer to the necessity of Antichrist being revealed before that time comes. 

Chart: Rapture and Revelation Compared

Chart: The Pretribulational Rapture (Adams)

Refer again to Revelation 3:10

In my mind that is clearly speaking of the Tribulation beginning when the seals are opened in Revelation 6 to 19.


Day of the Lord begins as a time period after the rapture, and it includes the tribulation, the 2nd coming, Millennium, Great White Throne Judgment.

See chart by Walvoord: Day of the Lord 

5:12-24        Beautiful words!

I Thess. 5:23

Second Thessalonians:


Judgment of the wicked, reward of the righteous!


Coming Day of the Lord in relation to the rapture

The antichrist will be revealed

Daniel 7:8, 9:26-27

Man of lawlessness          Daniel 11:36-39, Revelation 13 (Beast out of the Sea)

2:7     Restrainer not taken out of the way (Holy Spirit)

2:8     Lawless one will be destroyed at Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 19:20)