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Sunday, September 9 2012

The Epistles: First Thessalonians

Studies in this complete Epistles series:
What Is An Epistle? Luke Acts Romans First Corinthians
Second Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
First Thessalonians Second Thessalonians First Timothy Second Timothy Titus
Philemon Hebrews James First Peter Second Peter
First John Second John Third John Jude Revelation

Thessalonica (or Thessaloniki) was a large city on the Thermaic Bay of what is today northern Greece. The famous Mount Olympus can be seen from the city (see the photo below). In earlier times, it had been within the heart of the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great (see A History Of Jerusalem: Greeks, Ptolemies, Seleucids), however by the first century AD, the Roman Empire had risen to politically and militarily, but not culturally or academically, dominate the region (see A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars).

The apostle Paul visited and traveled through Thessalonica on his second and third missionary journeys (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey and Paul's Third Missionary Journey). As with practically everywhere else, Paul encountered those who accepted the Gospel ("some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few"), as well as those who rejected it ("lewd fellows of the baser sort").

Thessaloniki and Mount Olympus

"17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews [see Israel In History and Prophecy: Judaism]: 17:2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days [see When Is The LORD's Day?] reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 17:3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. 17:4 And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.

17:5 But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 17:6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; 17:7 Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. 17:8 And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things." (Acts 17:1-8 KJV)

At that time, those of Thessalonica who rejected the Truth even pursued Paul far beyond their own city. The result was that Paul was driven to even more places to preach the Gospel.

"17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea [see also The Berean Lesson]: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 17:12 Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.

17:13 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people. 17:14 And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. 17:15 And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed." (Acts 17:10-15 KJV)

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good"

Paul's first epistle to the Thessalonian believers was one of the first that he wrote. While not his longest letter, it nevertheless contains a great amount of Christian teaching, including his famous "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."

Paul's Second Missionary Journey

"1:1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church [see also Can You See The Church?] of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith [see Works Means Obedience], and labour of love [see The Yoke Of Freedom], and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ [see Could Christ Return Tonight?], in the sight of God and our Father;

1:4 Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. 1:5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. 1:6 And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: 1:7 So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. 1:8 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. 1:9 For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 1:10 And to wait for his Son from heaven [see What Is The Day Of The LORD? and The Seals Of Prophecy], whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 KJV)

Like all true servants of the LORD, Paul taught the Word of God, not his own philosophy. Paul also demonstrated the common trait of all true servants of the Messiah - he was not a diplomat ("neither at any time used we flattering words"), nor a harlot in a pulpit ("not as pleasing men") telling people what they wanted or demanded to hear.

"2:1 For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: 2:2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi [see The Epistles: Philippians], we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. 2:3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: 2:4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. 2:5 For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness: 2:6 Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ.

2:7 But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: 2:8 So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls [see What Does The Bible Really Say About Your Soul?], because ye were dear unto us. 2:9 For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." (1 Thessalonians 2:1-9 KJV)

Timothy was a close associate of Paul, first as a disciple, and later as an apostle in his own right. During much of that time, Timothy served as the means of communication for Paul.

Paul's Third Missionary Journey

"3:6 But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 3:7 Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: 3:8 For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord [see The Church In The End Time]. 3:9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; 3:10 Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

3:11 Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable [see also Blaspheming The Name Of God] in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints." (1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 KJV)

People are people, whether Jews or "Greeks" ("Greek" had also become a generic term for Gentiles, even when the Gentiles were Romans). The Word of God teaches a single morality for all people.

"4:1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 4:2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus [see Christ Died For Repentant Sinners and The Constitution Of The Kingdom Of God].

4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 4:5 Not in the lust of concupiscence [see Concupiscence], even as the Gentiles which know not God: 4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 4:7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. 4:8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

4:9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 4:10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more;

4:11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 4:12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 KJV)

"The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air"

One of the most familiar prophecies of the resurrection is found in this epistle i.e. "The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air," that refers to the first resurrection, which will occur on the day of Christ's return (see The Feast Of Trumpets Prophecy). For the true Christians of Thessalonica, past and present, the photo below may well be very nearly what they will see at the moment of their salvation, as described by Paul (people all around the Earth will experience the same, over their own area, as the returning Messiah makes at least one "orbit," gathering His first harvest, before all will descend with Him at Jerusalem; see When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin).

Thessaloniki From Space

"4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 KJV)

No one knows when the day of Christ's return will come (see Could Christ Return Tonight?).

"5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 5:2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 5:3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape [see The Two Signs Of Christ's Return].

5:4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 5:6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 5:7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 5:10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 KJV)

Paul's "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" is a key principle of Christian living.

"5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves. 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.

5:16 Rejoice evermore. 5:17 Pray without ceasing. 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

5:19 Quench not the Spirit. 5:20 Despise not prophesyings. 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

5:25 Brethren, pray for us. 5:26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss. 5:27 I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.

5:28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." (1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 KJV)

Fact Finder: What is going to happen from the day of Christ's return?
See The Church In The Kingdom Of God and What Is The Day Of The LORD?

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This Day In History, September 9

9: Germanic tribes under the command of Hermann (who was known to the Romans as Arminius) annihilated three Roman legions (see also Legions Of Men And Angels) of Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. As shown on the map below, the Roman Empire (see A History Of Jerusalem: Pompey And The Caesars), while extending across Europe from Israel to Britain, was never able to extend into Germany - that itself later became "the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" (see The Holy Roman Empire).

The Roman Empire

337: Constantine's three sons, already Caesars, each took the title of Augustus. Constantine II and Constans divided the western empire while Constantius II took control of the eastern empire (see Constantine's Crusades In History And Prophecy and A History Of Jerusalem: Constantine and Muhammad).

1087: King William I of England died at age 60. Known as William the Conqueror, he was one of the greatest British kings and was much involved in European history - events of long ago that make the political world in which we find ourselves living today. A future British king, the oldest son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, will be King William V.

1379: The Treaty of Neuberg divided the Austrian Habsburg lands between the Habsburg Dukes Albert III and Leopold III.

1493: The Battle of Krbava field, a decisive defeat of Croats in Croatian struggle against the invasion by the Ottoman Empire. Centuries later, it was the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the British that enabled the present-day state of "Israel" to come into existence.

1513: Forces of James IV of Scotland battled English troops in Flodden near Branxton, in the English county of Northumberland.

1543: Mary, Queen of Scots, was coronated.

1585: Pope Sixtus V blocked Henry of Navarre's rights to the French crown.

1754: William Bligh was born. As the 35 year-old captain of the Bounty in 1789, his crew made their famous mutiny. Bligh and 18 loyal members of his crew were set adrift in a small lifeboat, which they amazingly managed to sail about 6,500 kilometers (4,000 miles) to Timor. Some of the mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island after burning the ship just offshore.

1855: During the Crimean War, the Siege of Sevastopol ended when Russian forces abandoned the city.

1867: Adolphus abdicated as duke of Nassau and was granted 8.5 million thalers (the German word from which "dollar" originated) and a few castles as compensation.

1886: The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works was finalized.

1914: During the First World War (1914-1918), the newly-formed "Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade" became the first fully-mechanized battle group in the British Army.

1948: After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from North Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was proclaimed with Pyongyang as its capital.

1965: Hurricane Betsy struck New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving 76 people dead and $1.42 billion (in 1965 dollars, about $15 billion today) in damages. It is regarded as the first hurricane to exceed $1 billion in damages.

1976: Mao Zedong, Chinese communist leader died. He proclaimed the People's Republic of China in 1949 in Beijing.

1993: The "Palestine Liberation Organization" (as the terrorist organization was first named by its founders) officially recognized Israel as a legitimate state.


Copyright © Wayne Blank