Introductory Notes by Arno C. Gaebelein

© 1997 by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.
Neptune, New Jersey

First Edition, 1947 Revised Edition, 1997

Unless otherwise indicated,
Scripture quotations are taken from the King James version of the Bible.

Introductory Notes taken from
Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

© 1970, 1985 by Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.

Introductory Notes
by Arno C. Gaebelein

Paul’s Visit to Thessalonica

Thessalonica, situated on the northern part of the Aegean sea, was a large, wealthy, and influential city in the Roman province of Macedonia. On account of its great commerce many Jews had settled there and a flourishing synagogue existed in the city.

The visit of the apostle Paul is recorded in Acts 17. It seems that persecution had hastened his departure from Philippi—“[We] were shamefully entreated… at Philippi” (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Leaving there, Paul, Silas (Silvanus), and Timothy traveled the famous highway Via Egnatia to Thessalonica.

On their arrival, Paul followed his usual custom and visited the synagogue. Acts 17:2 tells us that he “went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the [Old Testament] scriptures.” Without mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus, Paul showed that the promised Messiah (Christ) was to suffer first and then rise from the dead. Then the apostle boldly declared, “This Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ” (17:3). Paul also taught that Christ would come again.

As a result of his testimony a church was at once gathered out (Acts 17:4). A number of Jews accepted Christ, but the church was mostly composed of “devout Greeks.” “Not a few” women who occupied positions of distinction also believed. That the majority of the converts were Gentiles is also indicated by the statement in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 that they had “turned to God from idols.”

1 Thessalonians

First Thessalonians is the first Epistle Paul wrote. Even the most outspoken critics acknowledge that it is a genuine document. Irenaeus (about a.d. 140) bore witness to this. There are many other historical evidences besides the content of the Epistle itself that prove conclusively that Paul was the author.

The Epistle was written from Corinth when Timothy returned there from his visit to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6; Acts 18:5), about a.d. 52 or shortly thereafter.

The apostle had been compelled to break off his ministry in Thessalonica suddenly on account of the persecutions that had arisen in that city (Acts 17:10) and he must have felt that the new converts needed more instruction. He was moved by the Holy Spirit to write this first Epistle to instruct those converts and to encourage them in their conflicts.

Timothy had brought him news of the tribulations they were undergoing. They were especially distressed by the death of a number of believers and were sorrowing almost as those who had no hope. The believers feared that the departed ones would have no share in the glory and the kingdom of the returning Christ. To relieve them of their anxiety, Paul gave them further light on the coming of the Lord in relation to those who were “asleep” and the reunion with those who had gone before. Those who were still alive could “comfort one another with [his] words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

The blessed hope of the coming of the Lord occupies a very prominent place in this Epistle. In our day we often hear the statement that the coming of our Lord is an unessential doctrine. However, any preaching or teaching that ignores the doctrine is incomplete, omitting one of the most vital truths that the Spirit of God has linked with the gospel and the life and service of the believer. The importance of this truth is indicated by the prominence it is given in the first Epistle the apostle wrote; in the chapters of this letter the doctrine of the coming of Christ is unfolded and shown to be practically connected with the Christian’s life (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 2:19-20; 3:13; 5:1-11; and 4:13-18, in which one of the greatest revelations in the Word of God about His coming is made known.)

Christians wait for Him and serve in anticipation of His coming when all service will be rewarded and the servant crowned. Christ will take up His own to meet Him in the air and bring unexpected judgment for the world. For the believer the hope of His coming is comfort and consolation as well as the incentive to a holy life.

2 Thessalonians

The second Epistle to the Thessalonians was written from Corinth by the apostle Paul, who linked his name with Silvanus and Timothy in the salutation. How long this was after the first Epistle cannot be positively ascertained, but the Thessalonians probably received the second letter about a year after they had received the first document.

From 2 Thessalonians 2:2 we learn that now they were greatly troubled by the idea “that the day of Christ [was] at hand.” They had received the comforting first Epistle and then false teachers appeared on the scene, who said that their hope was vain, that the day of the Lord was actually upon them, that the threatened tribulation had begun, and that they had to pass through all its horrors. The Thessalonians were already passing through fearful persecutions and tribulations, and the false teachers probably told them that these sufferings were the signal of the beginning of the day of the Lord. This greatly agitated the believers and robbed them of the blessed hope. If they were to be on earth when God’s wrath was poured out, the blessed hope would cease to be that.

It seems that the false teachers had gone so far as to produce a document that they pretended was a letter from Paul in which he confirmed their false teaching. Therefore, so that his readers might know that 2 Thessalonians was really his letter, he added the following note in 3:17: “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.”

Who were the teachers who aimed at the joy and hope of those earnest believers and troubled them with a false message? Unquestionably they belonged to the same class of Judaizers who had sneaked into the Galatian churches. They swept aside the comforting revelation of the coming of the Lord and the gathering of the saints unto Him, and put the church on earthly, Jewish ground. These Judaizers taught that what is in store for the ungodly nations and the unbelieving Jews would be shared by true Christians; the tribulation would start before the Lord comes for His own. To correct this error, the Spirit of God moved the apostle to write this second Epistle.

Besides showing that the day of the Lord was not yet present, Paul foretold what must precede that day—see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. The passage is a great unfolding of important, fundamental prophecy, revealing what will take place when the Lord has taken away His true church. Here we find the prediction of the apostasy that will have for its head and climax the “man of sin” (2:3), the final, personal antichrist. This is the same person of whom Daniel 11:36-45 speaks and who is described in Revelation 13:11-18 and in other portions of the prophetic Word.

In 2 Thessalonians 2 we also read of the conditions necessary for the coming of that apostasy and the lawless one, and the fate of all who do not receive “the love of the truth” (2:10). The “strong delusion” (2:11) of him “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2:9) will be believed and accepted by the apostates of Christendom.

For the Lord’s people, however, there is hope, as we learn from both 1 and 2 Thessalonians. These comforting Epistles certainly deserve our attention.

Outline Of The Book Of 1thessalonians

    I. Salvation And Fellowship (1:1-10)

    II. Results Of Ministry (2:1-20)

    III. Comfort Given And Received (3:1-13)

    IV. Separation From Evil (4:1-12)

    V. Rapture And Judgment (4:13-5:11)

      A. The Blessed Hope (4:13-18)

      B. The Day of the Lord (5:1-11)

    VI. Exhortation And Blessing (5:12-18)

Outline Of The Book Of 2 Thessalonians

    I. Assurance for persecuted Christians (1:1-12)

    II. apostasy and the Antichrist (2:1-17)

    III. Admonitions To Persevere (3:1-18)

First Thessalonians