Bible in a Year, Week 10: 1, 2 Thessalonians

This is the tenth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is 1 & 2 Thessalonians. It should only take about 5 minutes a day, or about 1-2 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read 1 & 2 Thessalonians:

Background: Thessalonica was a leading city in Macedonia at the time of Paul. It was a crossroads by land and by city. It was a center for commerce, business, and the Roman military. At that time it had a population of about 200,000. Paul had visited the city on his second missionary journey around 51 A.D. It seems that he wrote 1 Thessalonians shortly after in late 51 or early 52 A.D from the city of Corinth.

1 Thessalonians 1: Paul opens this letter in standard form consisting of three parts: A) Author, B) Recipients, C) Greeting. Following this Paul states his thanks for the Thessalonian Christians. Of course, thanks is given to God for his work in them. His Word powerfully worked in their hearts as they heard the good news about Jesus from Paul. As they joyfully responded to the gospel, they continued to welcome Paul with much hospitality. Even after that they continued in their faith despite much opposition that resulted in many sufferings. Paul was thankful though that they were remaining in the faith.

1 Thessalonians 2-3: The theme of thanks continues into the next chapter. Now he specifically thanks the Thessalonians for everything that happened during his ministry in Thessalonica. They received him with love. They listened carefully to his message. Most importantly, they took the message of the missionaries for what it really is–the Word of God!

Paul longed to see these dear brothers and sisters in Christ but simply was not able. Thus, they sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians. He did just that, and returned with a very promising and encouraging report about their faith in Thessalonica. Again, Paul was very thankful for that!

1 Thessalonians 4-5: Paul gives an encouragement in chapter four that is valid for all Christians of all times in all locations. The encouragement is to live sanctified and God-pleasing lives. It is not God’s will that we would follow the ways of this world or the passions of our sinful flesh. Rather, God wants us to live according to our new spiritual life by the strength of the Holy Spirit whom he has given to us.

It seems as though Paul’s short time in Thessalonica did not afford him to the time to teach everything that he had wanted to teach about the will of God. They did not understand very well teachings concerning death, the resurrection, and End Times. Paul takes the opportunity than to teach a little more. He reminds these Christians that we do not need to mourn and grieve like others. Certainly we do mourn the loss of a loved one. But our mourning is tempered with hope and joy. For we know that those who die with faith in Jesus will immediately go to heaven.

Moreover, we also know that they will not be left behind or separated from us if we happen to be alive when Jesus returns on Judgment Day. On Judgment Day, the bodies of those who have already died will be raised. This is the resurrection. These bodies will join their souls in heaven. At the same time, those who are living on Judgment Day will go to heaven–body and soul together. Therefore, we need not fear that those who die will be lost. Rather, all Christians will eventually be united forever in heaven.

However, we are to live our lives with watchfulness and attention, waiting patiently for the return of the Lord. As we do this we will live lives of joy, praying continually, and giving thanks for all that God has done for us. God will keep us with his peace!

Background: Paul seems to have written 2 Thessalonians shortly after 1 Thessalonians. The would mean that he likely also wrote this letter from the city of Corinth around late 51 or early 52 A.D.

2 Thessalonians 1: This letter also begins with the standard opening: A) Author, B) Audience, C) Greeting. Once more than Paul gives thanks to God for these Thessalonians. Not only were they remaining in the faith, but they were also growing in faith! Even greater reason to give thanks was that they were doing so while being persecuted. The comfort for those Thessalonians for us though is that God will eventually repay those who wrong us, and we will receive God’s free reward finally in heaven.

2 Thessalonians 2: The teachings about death and End Times still had not been fully resolved. False teachings were springing up that were causing the Thessalonian Christians to be worried. Paul informs Christians here that Judgment Day will not come until the time that God has set. Only he knows that day.

Even though God alone knows when Judgment Day will be, he does give us signs for when the end is drawing near. One sign is the coming of the “man of lawlessness,” also known as the Antichrist. This is not to be confused with antichrists. Those are any that stand opposite and opposed to Jesus and the message of the truth. The Antichrist is different. In modern terms, we could almost think of the Antichrist as an “archenemy” to Jesus.

Paul gives several signs that point to who the Antichrist is:

  1. Doomed to destruction (a comfort!)
  2. Exalt himself over God, even proclaim himself to be God
  3. Establish himself within the church
  4. Was already on the rise at Paul’s time
  5. Will not go away until Judgment Day
  6. Works alongside Satan
  7. False miracles, signs, and wonders
  8. Deceives people
  9. In a delusion and lie

From these descriptions, it is very clear who the Antichrist is. It is the office of the pope in the Roman Catholic Church. Every description fits. The pope was on the rise at the time, in particular the teachings of the pope. That office continues through the present. He calls himself the “vicar of Christ,” his substitute here on earth. Obviously he takes his seat within the church. There are false signs, wonders, and miracles. That’s how certain Catholics become “saints”–they have to perform a miracle. Worst of all, he deceives people with the lie that heaven must be earned by the performance of good works. We can only give thanks and praise to Jesus that he alone is able to overthrow this powerful enemy!

2 Thessalonians 3: Paul then encourages the Thessalonians at the end of chapter two and into chapter three to stand firm in their faith. By holding on to Christ’s teachings, praying continually, and working hard in their daily lives, they would in fact remain strong to the end. God give us the strength and the faith to do so as well!

Next Week’s Readings (starting 3/13/11):  1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

Posted on March 10, 2011, in Bible in a Year, Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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