Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

The city of Thessalonica was the largest city and also the capital of the province of Macedonia.  It is located in what is now northern Greece, on the Thessaloniki Bay making it an important port city.  Thessalonica was also located on a major junction of the great Egnatian Way, the same trade route that the city of Philippi was located on, where a road split off and headed north to the Danube river.  This made the city a strategic place for both the Roman Empire and the spread of the Gospel.

Paul first visited and set up a church in the city of Thessalonica, as recorded in Acts 17, on his second missionary journey.  He stayed there for less time than normal due to persecution.  His abrupt exit left the young church open to the persecution he was fleeing, a persecution they endured for which Paul commends them in chapter three.

He is also writing the church in Thessalonica to give them instructions and explain some subjects, perhaps things that he would have taught them had he been able to stay in the city longer.

Dealing with the subject of persecution in the church often brings up the subject of the “end times” as well.  In the first century, Christians were expecting that Christ’s return was imminent and could happen at any moment.  Most expected that they would live to see Jesus come back to set up His Kingdom.  This thought and desire permeates all of Paul’s letter to the church here and as such, this letter has been given the title of one Paul’s “eschatological letters.”

Eschatology means “the study of (or doctrine of) last things.”  Most of us think of the book or Revelation as the primary source for such study, but in fact much of what we know about the end times, death, and Jesus’ second coming actually come from Scripture outside of the book of Revelation and it is through those things that we begin to have the language and context to look at John’s Revelation.


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