30th October 2023

Pauls’ First Letter to the Thessalonians is probably one of the earliest writings in the New Testament. Paul, Silas and Timothy first visited Thessalonica (northern Greece) in around 51 AD. They established a congregation of Christian believers in the city, but, following accusations of stirring up opposition to Caeser, they were forced to flee (Acts 17.1–9). They journeyed through Greece to Athens and it was from Athens that Paul wrote this letter (1 Thess. 3.1). Perhaps only a few months had passed between the birth of the church in that city and Paul’s letter to them.

So what was so important that Paul had to write to that young church?

His letter contains no long theological discussions about justification or faith or Jewish-Gentile relations; he does not berate them about problems in their church. Rather, the first half of the letter reminds them of Paul’s time with them and how they had come to faith; how he longed to return to them. Then the second half of the letter is dominated by the coming “day of the Lord”, and an encouragement that even believers who have died will not miss out on the blessings of that “day”.

The “day of the Lord” is a multi-layered concept, but the heart of it is the promise that, in Christ, there will be a day when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain” (Revelation 21:4, ESV). It was one of the most important things Paul had to say to the Thessalonians – are we listening too?

Ian Waddington