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The Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Notes for 1 Thessalonians

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DATE: A.D. 52-53

PLACE: Thessalonica was a Roman colony and very important in the life of the Roman Empire. It was located 100 miles west of Philippi and about 200 miles north of Athens. It was the chief city of Macedonia. Cicero said, “Thessalonica is in the bosom of the Empire.” It was first named Therma because of hot springs in that area. In 316 B.C. Cassander (who succeeded Alexander the Great) named it in memory of his wife, Thessalonike, a half sister of Alexander the Great. Thessalonica is still in existence, and the present-day name is Salonika.
The church in Thessalonica was a model church. Paul cited it to the Corinthians as an example (see 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

OCCASION: This was the earliest epistle written by Paul. It was written from Athens or, more likely, Corinth on his second missionary journey. Paul had to leave Thessalonica “posthaste” due to the great opposition to the gospel. The enemy pursued him to Berea, and again Paul was forced to leave. He left Silas and Timothy at Berea and went on to Athens. It was evidently there that Timothy brought him word from the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6), together with some questions that they had raised. Paul wrote his first epistle in response to their overture.

THEME: Although Paul was in Thessalonica less than a month (Acts 17:2), he touched on many of the great doctrines of the church. Among them was the second coming of Christ. This theme was not above the heads of the new converts, according to the great apostle. The particular phase in the second coming of Christ which he emphasized was Christ’s coming for believers. The second coming of Christ in relationship to believers is a comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:18). This aspect is quite different from His catastrophic and cataclysmic coming in glory to establish His kingdom by putting down all unrighteousness (Revelation 19:11-16).


1. To confirm young converts in the elementary truth of the gospel.

2. To condition them to go on unto holy living.

3. To comfort them regarding the return of Christ.

A heathen inscription in Thessalonica read: “After death no reviving, after the grave no meeting again.”

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