Book of the Week 52: I Thessalonians


Human Author: Paul (and Silvanus and Timothy)

OT or NT: New Testament

Number of Chapters: 5

Basic Facts

  1. I Thessalonians is the fifty-second book of the Bible.

  2. In terms of literary genre, I Thessalonians is classified as an epistle, or letter.

  3. The Greek name for the book of I Thessalonians is PROS THESSALONIKEIS A, which means “to the Thessalonians – One” or “for the benefit of the Thessalonians – One.”

  4. I Thessalonians contains important information about the return of Christ.

  5. Paul is writing, at least in part, in response to a good report from Timothy about the Thessalonian church.

Story of the Book

Paul begins his letter by greeting the Thessalonian church. He thanks them for their prayers, conviction, and sincere faith in the midst of affliction. He assures the believers that Jesus will deliver them from God’s coming wrath that is coming on those who are disobedient (I Thessalonians 1:1-10). Paul continues by reminding the Thessalonians of his labor among them in sharing the gospel with integrity (I Thessalonians 2:1-12). He thanks the believers for persevering in the midst of persecution just as the believing Jews had done before them, and laments that the wrath of God is coming down on the unbelieving Jews (I Thessalonians 2:13-15). Paul writes that he and others are longing to see the believers in Thessalonica but were hindered from visiting, so he sent Timothy to visit them instead. Paul rejoiced that Timothy brought back a good report (I Thessalonians 2:16-3:13). He urges the believers to abandon a life of sin, especially sexual sins, but he commends them for already practicing their faith by loving one another (I Thessalonians 4:1-12). Paul both comforts the Thessalonian believers by reminding them of the coming resurrection of the dead. He assures them that Christ will deliver them from the wrath of God that is coming at an unknown future time when Jesus returns (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). The letter closes as Paul gives the believers final instructions to build one another up, to respect those who labor for the gospel, and to pray and serve with humility (I Thessalonians 5:12-26). At the very end of the letter, Paul puts the church under an oath to ensure that this letter is read to all the believers in the city (I Thessalonians 5:27-28).

Jesus Revealed in I Thessalonians

Jesus is revealed in I Thessalonians as the Savior who will one day return. Paul writes to the Thessalonians in order to build them up and encourage them in the face of persecution, telling them that one day Jesus will return and raise to life all those who have fallen asleep in Christ. This is a euphemism for those who have died, especially those who have died for the sake of their faith in Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). Paul specifically encourages the believers by assuring them of real hope in their future resurrection from the dead when Jesus returns. Just as Paul encouraged the believers in Thessalonica by assuring them of their hope in the resurrection at the return of Jesus, we too have hope and assurance that Jesus will one day raise us up to eternal life when He returns. Until that day comes, Paul calls the Thessalonian believers to walk according to the will of God; namely that they would receive sanctification by putting away their former life of sin by walking in the love of Christ, brotherly love, forgiveness, and hope (I Thessalonians 4:1-8). We too must live holy lives, actively pursuing our sanctification through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit until Jesus returns.