Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thessalonians Introduction

We continue our journey through the New Testament One chapter at a time by looking at the two oldest documents in the New Testament: The letters to the Thessalonians. Below is a brief introduction that I wrote for my Ugandan friends.

1 Thessalonians was written to the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. This church was founded around AD 50 after Paul, Timothy, and Silas left Philippi. According to Acts (Acts 17:1-9,) Paul preached there for three weeks before a riot forced him to move on to Berea and later to Athens. Written from Corinth in AD 51, 1 Thessalonians is the first of Paul’s letters written and is likely the first of the New Testament books/letters written. This letter deals primarily with questions concerning the second coming of Christ: its time, the suffering of Christians in relation to it, and the destiny of those who die in advance of Jesus’ return.
2 Thessalonians was written shortly after 1 Thessalonians. In addressing the suddenness of the second coming of Christ in the first letter, the opposite position arises in the church. In 2 Thessalonians Paul must address the false teaching that “the day of the Lord is already here” (2 Thessalonians 2:2). In the discussion about the second coming of Jesus Christ, there is a balance between the imagery that he will return suddenly and unexpectedly (like a thief in the night) and the imagery that certain signs and events must first take place (wars and rumors of wars.) Paul addresses the first extreme in the first letter and the second extreme in the second letter. Between the extremes is a healthy balance.

Key Learning: The second coming of Jesus Christ is imminent (that is, it could happen at any time) but it is also scheduled (that is, there are things that must happen before he returns.) What these things that must first happen are is a matter of considerable debate.

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