Be Ready for Jesus to Return

About 1 Thessalonians

Thessalonica was a large city in Macedonia. Macedonia included the north part of the country that we call Greece. It included also the south part of the country that we call Yugoslavia. Thessalonica was an important port, and roads from several different directions joined there. So, people could travel easily to Thessalonica. It is still an important city today.

Paul was a great Christian teacher. He went to Thessalonica to teach the people there about Jesus Christ. He stayed there for only a short time, perhaps only a few weeks. Two other men, called Silas and Timothy, went there with him. As a result of what Paul taught them, some Jews at Thessalonica believed Christ. Many other people who were not Jews also believed. But the Jews who refused to believe Christ caused a lot of trouble for Paul and his friends. Paul had to leave the city at night. Paul and his friends went to Berea, which was a city about 50 miles west from Thessalonica. (See Acts 17:1-15.)

Paul taught the people at Berea too. Then he travelled to Athens, a city in the south of Greece. But Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea. Paul waited at Athens for them to come to him there (Acts 17:15-16). Paul was sorry that he had not had enough time at Thessalonica. He wanted to teach the new believers there a lot more about Christ. But he could not go himself (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18). So, he sent Timothy (chapter 3:1-3).

While Timothy went back to Thessalonica, Paul travelled to Corinth (Acts 18:1). The city called Corinth was also in the south part of Greece. After that, Silas and Timothy arrived in Corinth (Acts 18:5). Then Timothy told Paul the news about the Christians at Thessalonica. Paul was very happy to know that they were continuing to believe Christ. He wrote this letter to them from Corinth.

Paul, together with Silas and Timothy, wrote this letter in the year AD 50 or AD 51. That was about 20 years after Jesus died. So, this letter may be the first of Paul’s letters that we have in the Bible. Paul wrote it only a few months after he had first taught the Christian message at Thessalonica. So, he was writing to people who had been Christians for only a short time.

Paul tells them that he always thinks about them. He wants very much to visit them again (chapters 2 and 3). Paul also teaches them about how they should do only good, right things, to make God happy. And in chapters 4 and 5, he teaches them about Jesus’ return to the earth.

Chapter 1

Paul thanks God for the believers at Thessalonica

1 This letter is from Paul, Silas and Timothy to the Christians at Thessalonica. You are united to God the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that God will continue to be very kind to you. We pray also that he will cause you to be without trouble inside yourselves.

2 We thank God for all of you at all times. Every time that we pray, we always pray for you. 3 We speak about you to God, who is our Father. We remember the good things that you do. You do those things because you believe Christ. You work very much because you love Christ and other people. We remember also how you continue to hope strongly because of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 3 The believers at Thessalonica were sure that Jesus would save them completely. They were sure that he would return to the earth one day. They were sure that they would live with him always. They ‘hoped strongly’ for these things.

4 You are like brothers and sisters to us, and God loves you. We know that God has chosen you to be his own. 5 We know that, because our good news came to you not only with words. When we told it to you, the power of God’s Spirit was there too. Also, we felt completely brave and strong when we spoke. You know how we lived among you. You know what kind of people we were. We were like good guides for you. 6 And you learned to live as we lived. So you learned also to live like the Lord. People caused you a lot of trouble and pain because you believed the message about Christ. But you did believe it, and God’s Spirit caused you to be very happy. 7 And so you became like a guide to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

Verse 7 Macedonia included the north part of the country that we call Greece. It included also the south part of the country that we call Yugoslavia. Achaia was the south part of Greece.

8 Because of you, people in many places have listened to the message about the Lord. It was not only the people in Macedonia and in Achaia who listened to these things. But people everywhere know how you believe God. So, we do not need to say anything. 9 Those people themselves speak about how you believed our message. They tell how you turned to God. They tell us how you stopped worshipping false gods. They themselves say that you are now God’s servants. God is alive, and only he is really God. 10 Also, you are waiting for God’s Son to come from heaven. God caused his Son, Jesus, to become alive again after he had died. And Jesus saves us so that God will not be angry with us at that future time.

Verse 10 ‘That future time’ means: the time when God will show what he has decided about each person. He will decide where they go after death. He will be angry with people who have not obeyed him. (See, for example, Ephesians 5:6; John 3:36 and Colossians 3:6.)

Chapter 2

Paul’s work in Thessalonica

1 Our friends, you yourselves know that our visit to you had good results. 2 Before we came to you, the people at Philippi had done bad things to hurt us. And they had spoken very bad words to us. You know that. But our God caused us to be brave so that we could tell you his good news. Many people tried to stop us, but we did tell you God’s message.

Verse 2 Philippi was another city in Macedonia. It was about 115 kilometres (75 miles) east from Thessalonica. Paul and his friends had been at Philippi before they came to Thessalonica. Some people at Philippi had hurt Paul and Silas very much. Then they put Paul and Silas into a prison. (See Acts 16:12-40.)

3 We were telling you the good news so that you could believe God. We told you only true things. We had no wrong purpose. We did not want you to believe things that are not true. 4 Instead, we say what God wants us to say. He has chosen us to tell his good news. We do not speak so that we can make people happy. But we do want to make God happy. And God discovers what our purposes really are, deep inside ourselves. 5 We never tried to say nice things about you so that you would like us. You know that. We never demanded money or other things from you. We never had a secret purpose like that. God knows this. 6 We did not want people to say great things about us. We did not want you to do that. And we did not want anyone else to do that. We are Christ’s special workers and teachers. So, we could have used our authority over you. We could have caused you to do things for us. We could have caused you to supply things for us.

Verses 3-6 We think that some people at Thessalonica may have said bad things about Paul and his friends. They may have told the Christians there that Paul did not really love them. They may have said that really Paul only wanted power and money for himself. So, in this chapter, Paul is explaining that he never had any wrong purpose like that. He only wanted to do what was best for the believers at Thessalonica.

7 But instead, we were kind when we were with you. We were kind like a mother who looks after her little children. 8 We were very fond of you. So, we wanted very much to tell you the good news from God. Also, we wanted to give ourselves completely to help you. We wanted to do these things because we loved you very much. 9 Our friends, you should certainly remember how we worked so very much. We worked during the day and at night. We worked so that we did not need to ask any of you for anything. So then, we did not cost you anything while we taught you God’s good news.

Verse 9 While Paul, Silas and Timothy were at Thessalonica, they worked, to get some money. We do not know the kind of work that they did. But we know that Paul could make tents. (See Acts 18:3.) (Tents are houses that people make from cloth or animals’ skins. They use long pieces of wood to hold up the cloth or skins.)

10 When we were with you believers, we did nothing wrong. We did only what is completely good and right. You know that, and God knows it too. 11-12 You know that we helped each of you. We were like a father who helps his own children. We taught you and we helped you to be brave and strong as believers. And we told you very strongly what you must do. You must do what makes God happy. God has chosen you to belong to his own people, the people that he rules over. He wants you to be with him always, in the beautiful place where he lives.

13 There is also another reason why we continue to thank God always. When we told God’s message to you, you believed it as words from God. You knew that it was not only a human message. You believed it as God’s message, which it certainly is. And God’s words do powerful things in you who believe him.

14 And now, my friends, you have become like the Christians who belong to God’s people in Judea. People in your own country have caused trouble and pain for you. And that is what happened in Judea too to the believers in Christ Jesus there. People in their own country caused trouble and pain for them.

Verse 14 Judea was the south part of Israel. The people who lived there were sometimes called Jews.

15 The people who caused that trouble even killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets. And they caused trouble for us so that they caused us to leave their country. God is not happy with those people. He is very angry with them. They are very much against people everywhere 16 because they do not want us to speak to people from other nations. They do not want God to save anyone from another nation. Those people always continue until they have done their last sin. But in the end, God has punished them.

Verse 15 Prophets are people who speak God’s messages.

Paul wants to visit the believers at Thessalonica again

17 But you are like brothers and sisters to us. We have had to go away from you for a short time. But it was only our bodies that left you. We did not stop thinking about you. We wanted very, very much to see your faces. And we tried very much to visit you again. 18 We wanted to return to you. Certainly, I, Paul, tried again and again to return, but Satan made it impossible. 19 We wanted so much to visit you because you cause us to hope so strongly! You make us sure that God will continue to work in you. You cause us to be very happy! To us, you are like a crown that a winner receives. The crown shows that the winner has done well. You show that our work among you had good results. So, you are our crown that makes us very happy. We will be very happy when we stand in front of our Lord Jesus. That will be when he comes again. 20 Yes, it is because of you that we are so happy. We are happy about the results of our work.

Verse 19 A crown is a special kind of hat that people gave to winners then.

Chapter 3

Timothy has told good news to Paul about the believers at Thessalonica

1 When we could not wait any longer to know news about you, we decided to stay in Athens city alone. We thought that it was the best thing to do. 2 And we sent Timothy to visit you. He is like our brother. He works with us for God, to tell people the good news about Christ. We sent Timothy so that he could help you to believe Christ strongly and to be brave. 3 So then none of you will stop believing because of the troubles and pain that people cause you. You yourselves know that there must be troubles and pain for us. That is part of God’s purpose for us.

4 Even when we were with you, we told you to be ready for future trouble. We told you that people would certainly cause you a lot of trouble and pain. And that did happen. You know that. 5 That is why I had to send Timothy. I could not wait any longer, so I sent him to you. I wanted to know whether you were continuing to believe Christ. I was afraid that Satan had caused you to turn away from Christ. So all our work among you would have no results.

6 But now Timothy has come back to us from you. And he has told us good news about you. He has told us how you are continuing to believe Christ. You are continuing, also, to love God and each other. And you are always happy when you think about us. You want very much to meet us again, as we want to meet you. Timothy has told us these things. 7 So, we have become stronger and braver because of you, who are like brothers and sisters to us. People have caused us very much trouble and pain. But we were very happy to know that you were continuing to believe Christ.

8 Now, because of you, we are like people who have become alive again. You are united to the Lord. And if you continue to believe him strongly, that makes us very happy. 9 Now we can thank God very much for you! We are very, very happy when we talk to God about you. And so we thank him for that. 10 We continue to ask God that we might visit you. We pray like that every day and every night. We want very, very much to visit you. We want to teach things to you that you still need to know. So then you can really believe Christ as you should believe him.

11 We pray this to God himself, who is our Father, and to our Lord Jesus. We pray that they will prepare the way for us to visit you. 12 We pray also that the Lord will cause you to love each other more and more. We love you. And we want you to go on loving all people more and more in the same way. 13 So, the Lord will cause you to become strong inside yourselves. You will be completely good and clean for God, who is our Father. So then nobody can ever say that you have done anything wrong. And you will stand in front of God when our Lord Jesus comes. Jesus will return to this earth, with all those who are his own.

Chapter 4

A life that makes God happy

1 Now, friends, we want to say this to you. We taught you how to live so that you make God happy. And certainly, you are living like that. Now we ask you very strongly to continue to live like that more and more. On behalf of the Lord Jesus, we ask you to do this. 2 You know what we told you. We told you what you must do. The Lord Jesus gave us authority to tell you those things.

3 What God wants is this: He wants you to be completely good, and separate from everything that is bad. So you must not have wrong sex. You must not have sex with anyone who is not your own wife or husband. 4 Each of you must learn how to rule his own body. So then you will always do what is right and proper. 5 You should not be like the people who do not know God. They are always wanting very much to have sex. They cannot stop themselves, because they want it so much. But you should not be like those people. 6 No man among you should ever have sex with a woman who is not his own wife. He would be taking something that is another man’s. So, he would be doing a wrong thing to that man, who is like his brother. The Lord will punish everyone who does things like that. We have told you this very seriously before. 7 God did not choose us to do bad and dirty things. He chose us to be completely separate from everything that is bad. 8 So anyone who does not obey this rule is not refusing to obey a human person. Instead, he is refusing to do what God says. And God gives you his Spirit, who is completely good.

9 But I do not need to write to you about how you should love other believers. God himself has taught you to love each other. 10 Certainly, you do love all the believers in all Macedonia. But we ask you strongly, friends, to love each other more and more. 11 Try very much not to cause trouble for anyone. Be busy only with your own things, not with other people’s things. And work with your hands. We told you before that you must do these things. 12 Then, if you do these things, other people will think good things about you. People who do not believe Christ will think good things about you. They will know that you are honest and good. Also, if you do these things, you will not need anyone else to supply anything for you.

Jesus’ return and the believers who have died

13 Friends, we want you to understand properly about the people who have died. So you will not be sad about them, as other people are sad about their dead friends. Those other people are sad because they have nothing to hope for, after death. 14 But we believe that Jesus died. We believe that he became alive again after death. So, we also believe this about the people who have died united to Christ. We believe that God will bring those people back with Jesus.

15 We are now telling you something that the Lord has said. We tell you this about the day when the Lord will come. Those of us who are still alive on that day will not go to meet the Lord first. We will certainly not go before those people who have already died. 16 On that day, God will shout with authority. Also, people will hear the voice of an important angel. They will hear the sound of God’s trumpet. And the Lord himself will come down from heaven. Then those people who have died united to Christ will become alive again. And they will rise first. 17 After that, those of us who are still alive at that time will go up. God will take us up to be together with them in the clouds. He will take us to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always. 18 So tell these things to each other. So you will not need to continue being sad.

Verses 13-18 Timothy may have told Paul that the Christians at Thessalonica were confused. They may have been sad about their Christian friends who had died already. They did not know what to believe about those people. So, Paul wanted them to know that they would all live with Christ always.

Chapter 5

We must be ready for Jesus to return

1 Friends, we do not need to write to you about the dates and times when these things will happen. 2 You know very well about how the day of the Lord’s return will happen. That day will surprise people very much, as when someone comes to rob people at night. 3 At that time, people will say, ‘We are safe and there is no trouble for us.’ But then, when they are not ready for it, a lot of trouble and pain will happen to them. That trouble will happen to them like the pains of a woman who is giving birth to a baby. And it will be impossible for anyone to get free from that trouble.

4 But you people, who are like brothers and sisters to us, you know about these things. So, you are not like people who live in the dark. And so the day when the Lord returns should not surprise you. That day will not surprise you as when someone comes to rob people. 5 All of you are people who are the Lord’s people. So, you belong to the light and to the day. We are not people who belong to the night or to the dark. 6 So, we should not be like other people. We should not be like people who are sleeping. Instead, we should be like people who continue to be awake. We should think clearly about what is happening.

7 It is at night that people sleep. It is at night that people are drunks. 8 But we belong to the day. So we should watch and we should think clearly. We must continue to believe God and to love him. So we will be like soldiers who put on breastplates. Also, we must continue to hope strongly that God will save us. So we will be like soldiers who put on metal hats to keep their heads safe.

Verse 8 A breastplate is a big metal plate that a soldier wore over the front of his body. The breastplate made it impossible for anything to hurt the soldier during a war.

9 God did not make us his people so that he could be angry with us. He has not chosen us so that he can punish us. Instead, he has chosen us so that he can save us. He saves us because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done. 10 Jesus died for us so that we can live together with him. When he comes, we will live with him. Whether we are alive or dead at that time, there will not be any difference. We will all live with him. 11 So, tell these things to each other so that you do not feel sad or weak. Help each other to become stronger as believers, as you are doing already.

Paul’s last words in this letter

12 Now we ask you, our friends, to remember how valuable your leaders are. They work among you and they look after you. They teach you how you should live as the Lord’s people. They tell you when you do wrong things. 13 Show them how valuable they are to you. And love them very much because of the work that they do. Do not quarrel with each other.

14 Tell lazy people that they should work. Speak to those people who are afraid. Help them to be brave. Help those people who are weak. Be patient with everyone. Friends, we ask you strongly to do these things. 15 If a person has done something wrong to you, do not do something wrong back to them. Be careful that none of you does things like that. But always try to do good things to each other and to everyone else.

Verse 14 All the Christians at Thessalonica were waiting for Jesus to return. They thought that he would come soon. Some of them may have thought that they did not have to continue to work. But nobody knows when the Lord will return. So Paul is teaching them about that. They must continue to work. They must go on living in a way that makes God happy.

16 Always be happy. 17 Pray at all times. 18 Whatever things may happen to you, continue to thank God. God wants you to do this, because you are united to Christ Jesus. 19 Do not stop letting God’s Spirit work in you as people might put out a fire. 20 Listen carefully when people speak messages on God’s behalf. Remember that those messages are important. 21 But think carefully about everything, to see if it really is from God. Then be careful to remember and to obey everything that is good. 22 Refuse to have anything to do with any kind of bad or wrong thing.

23 God causes us to be without trouble inside ourselves. And I pray that God himself will make you completely good and clean. I pray that God will look after your spirits, your souls and your bodies. I pray that he will look after you completely. Then you will be completely good and clean when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 24 God has chosen you to be his people. And he always does what he has promised to do. So, he will do this for you.

25 Our friends, please pray for us. 26 Say ‘hello’ to all the believers. Kiss them as you would kiss your brother.

27 I tell you very seriously, on behalf of the Lord, that you should read this letter to all the believers. 28 I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will continue to be very kind to you.

Word List

AD 50 means 50 years after Jesus came, and so on.
a spirit. Good angels come from God’s home above the earth. They are God’s servants and they bring messages from God to people.
a person or an animal that is alive.
a person who knows and accepts Christ.
a big metal plate that a soldier wore over the front of his body.
a special kind of hat that people gave to winners then.
the place beyond the earth where God and Jesus Christ live.
a person who is born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
look after
to give help to someone and to supply what someone or something needs.
master; another name for God or Jesus, which means that he is greater than everyone else.
people who live together in the same country.
someone who speaks God’s messages.
to hurt someone, or to cause trouble for them, because they have done bad things.
another name for the Devil. He is the bad spirit who is the enemy of God. He is the ruler of bad angels and of all that is bad. He is the enemy of Christians.
what you do when you do not obey God.
a part of a person that we cannot see. Our soul is in us while we are alive. It continues to live after we die.
a being that is always alive, even without a body. There are good spirits, like God’s Spirit and his angels. And there are bad spirits, like Satan and his angels. A person’s spirit is the part of them that will always be alive. It will be alive even after their body is dead. God can speak to our spirit.
a metal pipe with a wide end. People use their mouths to make music with it.
to tell someone that they are very great and that you love them; to love and thank someone (God) more than anyone else.

Book List

A. Marshall ~ The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament ~ Zondervan

P. Ellingworth & E. A. Nida ~ A Translator’s Handbook on Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians ~ United Bible Societies, Stuttgart

L. Morris ~ The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians ~ New International Commentary on the New Testament ~ Eerdmans Publishing Company

F. F. Bruce ~ 1 & 2 Thessalonians ~ Word Biblical Commentary ~ Thomas Nelson

Various Bible versions


© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2009

This version published April 2009

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.