Paul's Letters to the Thessalonians
by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Introduction | Outline | Themes | Questions | Bibliography

[This page is still under construction; more will be added some day.]


Outlines of the First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians:


Letter Opening (1:1-10)

  1. Sender & Recipients (1:1ab)
  2. Formulaic Greeting (1:1c)
  3. Extended Thanksgiving for the Thessalonians' faith, love, and hope,
    and for their imitation of Paul's example, despite persecutions (1:2-10)

Letter Body (2:1—3:22 more descriptive; 4:1—5:22 more exhortative)

  1. The example of Paul's conduct among the Thessalonians (2:1-12)
  2. Thanksgiving for the believers' acceptance of God's word,
    and their faithfulness despite being persecuted by unbelievers (2:13-16)
  3. Paul wanted to visit Thessalonica again, but could not (2:17-20)
  4. Timothy was sent to visit them, and returned with good news (3:1-8)
  5. Thanks to God; prayer for believers to live in love and be blameless (3:9-13)
  6. Exhortations to live a life pleasing to God, in holiness and love (4:1-12)
  7. Encouragement regarding the dead, and instruction about the Lord's coming (4:13-18)
  8. More instruction about the day of the Lord, and encouragement to be ready (5:1-11)
  9. Ethical and practical exhortations for community life (5:12-22)

Letter Conclusion (5:23-28)

  1. Prayer for their sanctification (5:23-24)
  2. Brief practical exhortations: pray for us; read this letter (5:25, 27)
  3. Brief greeting to the community (5:26)
  4. Brief final blessing (5:28)

Letter Opening (1:1-12)

  1. Sender & Recipients (1:1 - almost identical to 1 Thess)
  2. Formulaic Greeting (1:2 - slightly longer than 1 Thess)
  3. Thanksgiving for their faith and love, which will save them when their persecutors
    are punished (1:3-10), and a prayer for their worthiness of God's calling (1:11-12)

Letter Body (2:1-17 more descriptive; 3:1-15 more exhortative)

  1. Instruction about what must take place before the Lord's coming (2:1-12)
  2. Thanksgiving that God has chosen the Thessalonians for salvation,
    with a prayer for their comfort and strength (2:13-17)
  3. Paul requests prayer for the apostles, and again prays for the believers (3:1-5)
  4. Exhortations against idleness, and admonitions to follow Paul's example (3:6-13)
  5. Instructions about how to treat those who are disobedient (3:14-15)

Letter Conclusion (3:16-18)

  1. Prayer for their peace (3:16)
  2. Personal postscript/greeting (3:17)
  3. Final blessing (3:18 - almost identical to 1 Thess)

Historical Context of 1 Thess:

Historical Context of 2 Thess:

Literary Features of 1 Thess:

Literary Features of 2 Thess:

Theological Issues and Themes

Ethics in 1 Thess: “Leading a Life Worthy of God”

Eschatology in 1 Thess:

Eschatology in 2 Thess:

Comparing the Eschatology of 1 Thess & 2 Thess:

1 Thess 4:13-18; 5:1-11 2 Thess 1:5-12; 2:1-12

4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

5:1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 When they say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! 4 But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5 for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6 So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7 for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

2:5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. 6 For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2:1 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? 6 And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, 10 and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, 12 so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

Questions for Comparing 1 Thess and 2 Thess:

Questions for Review and Discussion:

1 Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians:

For Further Reading and Study 

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

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This page was last updated on February 17, 2015
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