1 & 2 Thessalonians Lecture
Here's my latest teaching on Paul's letters to the Thessalonian Church - my favourite teaching so far. Use it to supplement your own study (after reading 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians) or if you're interested in building up your understanding of some of the tougher topics, like end-times, the rapture and the 'lawless one'.
As for a wee overview if you need to be sold a little more... 1 & 2 Thessalonians are two separate letters written by Paul (one of the apostles) in the mid-first century. He had two separate purposes for writing each letter, and like with any of the epistles, we’re snooping on ancient post. Paul and some friends founded the Thessalonian Church on his second missionary journey after what seemed to be a relentlessly discouraging mission trip. Paul is encouraged by the faith that is sparked in Thessalonica (modern-day Greece) and, though he was kicked out of the city by opposers to the gospel, he sought to still guide this young Church by writing letters to them. I picture these letters like the hands which cup around a small flame in order to protect it from being blown out. The environment for the Thessalonian Church was one of persecution and opposition, so it was important for them to know how to act amidst trials as well as to understand the hope they have in Christ.
A great summary for 1 Thessalonians is: Even in persecution, live righteously until Christ returns.
So what’s this about Christ’s return? Paul sought to incite an eternal perspective in this young Church so that they could see the immense value of sticking with Christ, despite its cost in the short-term. The Thessalonians actually anticipated that Jesus would return immediately (which Paul sought to correct), and when members of their congregation died, they questioned what this meant for their deceased’s salvation. Paul answered these questions, as well as addressing some internal issues in the Church like laziness and immorality.
Shortly after writing 1 Thessalonians Paul wrote his second letter to the Church, this time to address a persuasive false teaching that Christ had already returned. Paul reminds them of theology he'd already taught: that certain events were yet to be fulfilled which would precede the return of Christ. This small passage is pretty obscure and difficult for us to conclusively understand, but Paul and the Thessalonians both seemed to know specifically what he was describing. Have a listen to the lecture to hear about the good (and bad) interpretations proposed for the harder stuff in these letters.
A great summary for 2 Thessalonians is: Jesus has not yet returned, so keep working until He does.