MAILBOX BIBLE COURSE

LETTERS TO THESSALONIANS  by William MacDonald

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Harold Smith

© Copyright Walterick Publishing Ministries, Inc. - Kansas City Kansas - Used by Permission

I am ever grateful also to William MacDonald for  permission granted to me to use the following book for  email courses lessons. Copyright Walterick Publishing Ministries, Inc. - Kansas City Kansas - Used by Permission.
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LESSON 1      LETTERS TO THESSALONIANS  FIRST THESSALONIANS


PREFACE
In this commentary we adopt the following chronology of future events because we believe that it best harmonizes with the entire body of Scriptures.
1. First the rapture, that is, the coming of Christ for His saints. He comes to the air, the dead in Christ are raised, living believers are changed, and all go to the Father's house. This could take place at any moment, and will take place in a moment of time. The principal references to the rapture are John 14:1-4; 1 Corinthians 15:23,51-54; Philippians 3:20,21; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 9:28; 10:37; James 5:7-9; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Revelation 22:7,20.

2. Following the rapture, two important events will take place in heaven: the judgment seat of Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb. The believer's works will be reviewed at the judgment seat of Christ, and he will be rewarded or suffer loss (Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:7,8). The marriage supper of the Lamb will celebrate the glorification of the church as the bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:1-9).

3. Following the rapture, the earth faces a time known as the tribulation period. It may not start immediately after the rapture; there may be an interim period during which there will be a world-wide apostasy, a false messiah known as the man of lawlessness will be revealed, and the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem (2 Thes. 2:1-4).

The tribulation itself will be a period of approximately seven years (the seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy) during which God will pour out judgments of ever-increasing intensity upon the earth (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:4-28; Rev. 6-19). The last half of the period is known as the great tribulation; it will witness distress and disasters of unprecedented severity (Matt. 24:15-31).

The tribulation marks the beginning of a longer period of time known as the day of the Lord when God directly intervenes in the affairs of the world, primarily with regard to the nation of Israel, but also in reference to the Gentile nations (Ezek. 30:1-5; Joel 2:1-11; 1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:2, ASV). The day of the Lord extends to the end of this world's history (2 Pet. 3:10).
Toward the end of the great tribulation, the Lord Jesus will return from heaven to earth to destroy His enemies and to inaugurate His millennial kingdom (Zech. 14:4; Mal. 4:1-3; Matt. 24:3,27,30,37,39; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; 2:8; Jude 14; Rev. 1:7; 19:11-16). All Old Testament references and most New Testament references to Christ's second advent deal with this event.
The 1000-year reign of Christ on earth will be an era of peace and prosperity (Isa. 2:4; Amos 9:13-15). He will reign with Jerusalem as His capital (Isa. 2:2,3; Jer. 3:17; Zech. 14:10,17,18), the church as His bride (Rev. 20:4; 21:9-27; 22:1-5), and Israel as His principal subjects (Deut. 28:13; Zech. 8:3,10-13), though Gentiles will also share in the blessings of His kingdom. It will be a time of fertility, longevity, and equity (Isa. 32:1; 35:1-7; 65:17-25; Rev. 20:4).

6. Following Christ's kingdom, Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10), the heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:7-13), and the wicked dead will receive their final doom at the judgment of the great white throne (Rev. 20:11-15).

7. The final chapter is the eternal state, consisting of new heavens and a new earth (Rev. 21:1).
Not all Christians will agree with this chronology. There are numerous other viewpoints. And quite frankly there are difficulties no matter which viewpoint you hold. It is the nature of prophecy to be clear as to the major facts but not always clear on details until the events transpire.

So we offer this interpretation not as the final word but as a point of departure. It will give the student an outline of coming events. He can start with this and reject or modify it as he feels necessary from his own private study of the Word.


INTRODUCTION

It was during Paul's second missionary journey that the light of the gospel first broke in upon the darkness of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-10). Here is how it happened:
After Paul and Silas had been released from jail in Philip-pi, they travelled to Thessalonica via Amphipolis and Apollonia. Thessalonica at that time was a strategic city, both commercially and politically. True to form Paul went to the Jewish synagogue and showed from the Old Testament that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. He then went on to declare that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. That lasted for three Saturdays. Some of the Jews were convinced, and took their place with Paul and Silas as Christian believers. Also, many of the Greek proselytes and quite a few of the leading women of the city were converted. Then the backlash started. The unbelieving Jews rounded up some of the hoodlums from the marketplace, incited a riot, and besieged the house of Jason where Paul and Silas had been staying. When they didn't find the preachers in the house, they dragged Jason and some of the other believers before the city rulers (politarchs), accusing them of having turned the world upside down. It was an unintended compliment. Then they charged the Christians with plotting the overthrow of Caesar by promoting another king named Jesus. The politarchs were troubled. They required Jason and his colleagues to post bail, probably adding strict orders for his guests to get out of town. Then Jason and the others were released.

The Christian brothers in Thessalonica decided that it would be wise for the preachers to leave town, so they sent them by night to Berea.

The remarkable thing is that when Paul and Silas departed, they left behind a local assembly of believers who were instructed in the doctrines of faith and who were unmoved by the persecution they endured. It would be easy to conclude from Acts 17:2 that Paul and his companions were in Thessalonica for only three Sabbaths. However, that may have been only the duration of their teaching ministry in the synagogue. Some suggest that Paul and his team may have spent as long as three months in the city. The apostle's letters to them show that the Thessalonians had a broad acquaintance with Christian doctrine, and they could scarcely have received this in three or four weeks.

From Berea Paul went to Athens (Acts 17:15). There he heard that the believers in Thessalonica were being persecuted. He tried to visit them, but Satan hindered (1 Thess. 2:17,18), so he sent Timothy to them (3:1,2). Timothy brought back a report that was, on the whole, encouraging (3:6-8), and this prompted the apostle to write this letter. In it, he defends his ministry against slanderous attacks; he calls for separation from the prevailing immorality of that culture; he corrects misapprehensions about those who had died in Christ; he rebukes those who had quit working in view of Christ's coming; and he urges the saints to respect their spiritual leaders.

This is probably the first book of the New Testament to be written, and certainly the first of Paul's letters. It is generally dated AD 50-51, placing it within 20 years of the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus.

One of the most important themes of 1 Thessalonians is the return of the Lord Jesus. It is mentioned at least once in each of the five chapters. G. R. Harding Wood put these references together and came up with the following excellent outline:
The Christian who is expecting the return of the Lord Jesus has no room for:
1. Idols in his heart (1:9,10)
2. Slackness in his service (2:9,19)
3. Divisions in his fellowship (3:12,13)
4. Depression in his mind (4:13-18)
5. Sin in his life (5:23)
I. INTRODUCTION (1:1)
A. The author and his associates (v. la): Paul, and
Silvanus, and Timothy
B. The persons addressed (v. Ib): unto the church
1. Geographical designation: of the Thessalonians
2. Spiritual position: in God the Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ C. The greeting (v. 1c): Grace to you and peace

1:1 The letter opens with the names of three men who had been accused of turning the world upside down. The charge was intended as a slander; it was actually a tribute.
Paul was the author of the letter. Silvanus and Timothy were travelling with him at the time, so he included their names. Silvanus is the same as Silas, the one who had sung a duet with Paul in the prison at Philippi (Acts 16:25). Timothy is the young brother from Lystra who had joined Paul just before the trip to Thessalonica (Acts 16:1).

The letter was written to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The word church was used at that time to describe any kind of an assembly, so Paul wants to make it clear that this is not a heathen assembly but one that is related to God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord.

The greeting "grace . . . and peace" embraces the best blessings that anyone could enjoy on this side of heaven. Grace is God's undeserved favour in every aspect of our lives. Peace is the unruffled quietness which defies the crashing, crushing circumstances of life. Grace is the cause and peace the effect.

II. PAUL'S INTEREST IN THE SAINTS (1:2,3)
A. His gratitude for them (v. 2a): We give thanks to God always for you all
B. His prayers for them (v. 2b): making mention of you in our prayers
C. His constant remembrance of them (v. 3): remembering without ceasing
    1. The virtues remembered
a) Faith: your work of faith
b) Love: and labour of love
c) Hope: and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ
    2. The place of remembrance: before our God and Father

1:2 Whenever Paul prayed he mentioned the Thessalonians. (Are we as faithful in remembering our Christian brothers?) And it was always with thanksgiving that he prayed for them, as he thought of their work of faith, their labour of love, and their patience of hope.

1:3 Their work of faith probably refers primarily to their conversion to God. This description of faith as a work reminds us of the time when some of the people asked Jesus, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:28,29). In this sense, faith is an act or deed. But it is not toil by which a man earns merit or in which he can boast. In fact, it is the only work that man can perform without robbing Christ of His glory as Saviour and without denying his own status as a helpless sinner. Faith is a non-meritorious work by which the creature acknowledges his Creator and the sinner acknowledges his Saviour. Of course the expression ' 'work of faith" also includes the life of faith which follows conversion.

In addition to their work of faith, Paul remembered their labour of love. This speaks, of course, of their service for God motivated by love to the Lord Jesus. Christianity is not a life to be endured for duty's sake, but a Person to be served for love's sake. To be His slave is perfect freedom, and "love for Him makes drudgery divine." Compared to love, the profit motive is a cheap, tawdry inducement. Love for Christ draws forth service that the dollar would never inspire. The Thessalonians were living testimonies to this fact.
Finally, Paul was thankful for their patience of hope. This speaks of their steadfast waiting for Jesus. They had been undergoing persecution as a result of their valiant stand for Christ. But no cracks had appeared in what Phillips calls their "sheer dogged endurance

The place of remembrance is indicated by the phrase "before our God and Father.'' As Paul entered the presence of God in prayer, he rehearsed the spiritual birth and growth of the saints and breathed out his thanksgiving for their faith, love, and hope.

TEST PAGE LESSON 1 OF LESSON 76  LETTERS TO THE THESSALONIANS
                               
Place a T (True) or F(False) for your answer at the beginning or end of the question;
           
1.  Thing must get worse before the Rapture takes place.

2.  The Jewish temple will be built again.

3.  During the 1000 years reign the Battle of Armageddon will take place.

4.  Paul first visited the Thessalonians on his first missionary journey

5.  The Letter may have been the first one written in the New  Testament
             
Fill in the blank spaces with the correct word/s
             
6. _____is the cause and ___ is the ________

7.  Paul ____________their ______of love.

8. _____was _________for the patience of ______

9. When ...............prayed he..................Thessalonians

10. Paul ______the ____to ______ their _____leaders

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