1st Thessalonians: Encouragement

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1st Thessalonians

Thessalonians history, Looking to the future.

Background: Paul writes to the Thessalonian church from Corinth around 51 AD
Theme: Paul commends the Thessalonians and encourages them to excel
Outline: The Thessalonians' History and Looking to the Future
Key Verse: "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." (1Thes 4:16-17, NIV)

First Thessalonians Chapter Index



These notes use and refer to the Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol 2, New Testament).

I. Salutation and Greetings (1:1)

II. Personal Commendations and Explanations (1:2-3:13)

1:4The The BKC has an excellent paragraph presenting the balance between the sovereignty of God (who chooses to give us eternal life) and the fact that we are responsible to trust in Jesus for our salvation.

1:10 "Jesus, who saves us from the coming wrath." Regardless of differences between Christians on the order of end time events, they agree that all unsaved persons are objects of God’s wrath. In particular, the White Throne Judgment and eternal punishment will apply to all unsaved, whether they are still alive at that time or resurrected to face judgment. Some think the wrath here may refers to this eternal judgement, others to the bowl of wrath near the end of the tribulation period, and others the entire tribulation period. Paul and the early believers were saved from the last two by dying before those events occurred (as we may also be), but all mankind needs saving from the eternal judgement.

2:19 "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?" Our glory and part of we look forward to in eternity is seeing those Christians we have helped and grown with in this life. This is quite different from some religions which see rewards as physical riches or others that see the next life as a non-personal spiritual existance. We will know and rejoice over other believers.

3:13 "May he strenghten 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." It is only possible for us to be blameless and holy in God's presence because of the Grace and finished work of Jesus on the cross. Perhaps the specific 'presence' here is the judgement of believers (separate from the later judgement of unbelievers at the white throne), which does occur over a period of time. The holy ones would apparently be the resurrected saints

III. Practical Instructions and Exhortations (4:1-5:24)

4:13-18 The rapture includes the dead in Christ and the living in Christ being given resurrection and transformed bodies and meeting Christ at the same time. This is intended to comfort those who have seen Christians die, and wondered if the dead would miss the return of Christ.

4:15 Mr. Constable,  BKC,  states "Clearly Paul believed that he and his Thessalonian readers might well be alive when the Lord returned. He believed that he rapture was imminent, that it could take place at any moment ..." The two statements are different. I also believe that the Lord could certainly return in my lifetime, yet I do not hold to an ‘any moment’ rapture because I believe certain predicted events and signs must occur first. Both Mr. Constable and myself would like to think that Paul held our particular views — but his writings are not sufficiently clear to justify saying that he held to an ‘any moment’ return of the Lord. It is important to state that we both look forward to meeting our Lord in the air, whether we are resurrected or still alive for this great event.

5:2 There is much disagreement among Bible believing christians on when the rapture happens in relation to the period called the Tribulation. Many hold that the church will be raptured near or at the end of this period of time. Mr. Constable, BKC,   places it at the beginning (which many also agree with). He uses "day of the Lord" to refer not to a day, but to a period of approximately seven years.

5:9 Mr. Constable holds that the entire seven-year period is wrath. Some place the time of wrath at or near the end of that period of time, with the rapture preceding it. For them this period of time has a different purpose, one of winning many in the world to Christ in the midst of great trial.

5:10 BKC: Again, many do not see the entire tribulation period as the wrath of God. But Paul could easily have meant alive or dead literally as he had just pointed out that both the dead and living would be gathered at the rapture. It is difficult, as unbelievers are called asleep.

5:12 BKC The presence of multiple elders in a church is taken by some as evidence for local church government by a body of elders (typically laymen and a pastor). Others would see this as multiple pastors. I do not think the early church was as rigid and developed in this matter as we are today, where a professional clergy is the norm.

IV. Conclusion (5:25-28)


New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney : Highly recommend this book for a good background to the life of Jesus and the New Testament. The first half covers background, what the world was like under Roman rule and what the conditions of the Jews were. The second half gives background, outline, and introductions to each of the New Testament books (including Acts).

Bible Background Commentary (New Testament) by Craig S. Keener : Printed by InterVarsity Press, this is an excellent one-volume resource for understanding the customs and background (history, language, and geography) behind the verses of the New Testament. It is not an interpretation of the New Testament as are most commentaries, its purpose is to give background information. I highly recommend this to the serious student of Scripture, who already has a good grasp of the meaning and application of the New Testament.

Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament, Volume II) by the Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary : Admittedly a 'dispensational' interpretation, meaning that the authors take the book of Revelation very literally and teach that Jesus will take the Church out of the world before the 'Tribulation Period'. Although I do not agree totally with their opinions, I have found this to be a fair commentary, also explaining the views of others which the authors do not hold. If you use my notes you will receive some insight as to where the points of disagreement are. Highly recommended as the best short commentary on the market. I am easily in agreement with 98% of what this commentary teaches, and who knows if I am right about the other 2%??

Updated March 2012
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