Thessalonica was the capital city of the Roman province of Macedonia. Paul established a church there after he left Philippi. Soon, however, there was opposition from Jews who were jealous of Paul's success in preaching the Christian message among the non-Jews who had become interested in Judaism. Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica and go on to Berea. Later on, after he reached Corinth, Paul received a personal report from his companion and fellow worker Timothy about the situation in the church at Thessalonica.
Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians was then written to encourage and reassure the Christians there. He gives thanks for the news about their faith and love; he reminds them of the kind of life he had lived while he was with them, and then answers questions that had arisen in the church about the return of Christ: Could a believer who died before Christ's return still share in the eternal life that his return will bring? And when will Christ come again? Paul takes this occasion to tell them to go on working quietly while waiting in hope for Christ's return.
Outline of Contents
Gratitude and praise (1.2—3.13)
Exhortation to Christian conduct (4.1-12)
Instructions about the coming of Christ (4.13—5.11)
Final exhortations (5.12-22)
First Thessalonians may be the oldest document in the New Testament. Here Paul gives advice to the people of Thessalonica concerning Christ's return and encourages them to make themselves ready. Many of these themes are continued in 2 Thessalonians.