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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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Christians of Thessalonica, to whom St. Paul sent two epistles. It is recorded in the Acts, that St. Paul, in his first journey upon the continent of Europe, preached the Gospel at Thessalonica, at that time the capital of Macedonia, with considerable success; but that after a short stay he was driven thence by the malice and violence of the unbelieving Jews. From Thessalonica St. Paul went to Berea, and thence to Athens, at both which places he remained but a short time. From Athens he sent Timothy to Thessalonica, to confirm the new converts in their faith, and to inquire into their conduct. Timothy, upon his return, found St. Paul at Corinth. Thence, probably in A.D. 52, St. Paul wrote the First Epistle to the Thessalonians; and it is to be supposed that the subjects of which it treats, were suggested by the account which he received from Timothy. It is now generally believed that this was written the first of all St. Paul's epistles, but it is not known by whom it was sent to Thessalonica. The church there consisted chiefly of Gentile converts, 1 Thessalonians 1:9 . St. Paul, after saluting the Thessalonian Christians in the name of himself, Silas, and Timothy, assures them that he constantly returned thanks to God on their account, and mentioned them in his prayers; he acknowledges the readiness and sincerity with which they embraced the Gospel, and the great reputation which they had acquired by turning from idols to serve the living God, 1 Thessalonians i; he reminds them of the bold and disinterested manner in which he had preached among them; comforts them under the persecutions which they, like other Christians, had experienced from their unbelieving countrymen, and informs them of two ineffectual attempts which he had made to visit them again, 1 Thessalonians 2; and that, being thus disappointed, he had sent Timothy to confirm their faith, and inquire into their conduct; he tells them that Timothy's account of them had given him the greatest consolation and joy in the midst of his affliction and distress, and that he continually prayed to God for an opportunity of seeing them again, and for their perfect establishment in the Gospel, 1 Thessalonians 3; he exhorts to purity, justice, love, and quietness, and dissuades them against excessive grief for their deceased friends, 1 Thessalonians 4; hence he takes occasion to recommend preparation for the last judgment, the time of which is always uncertain; and adds a variety of practical precepts. He concludes with his usual benediction. This epistle is written in terms of high commendation, earnestness, and affection.

It is generally believed that the messenger who carried the former epistle into Macedonia, upon his return to Corinth, informed St. Paul that the Thessalonians had inferred, from some expressions in it, that the coming of Christ and the final judgment were near at hand, and would happen in the time of many who were then alive, 1 Thessalonians 4:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:6 . The principal design of the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians was to correct that error, and prevent the mischief which it would naturally occasion. It was written from Corinth, probably at the end of A.D. 52. St. Paul begins with the same salutation as in the former epistle, and then expresses his devout acknowledgments to God for the increasing faith and mutual love of the Thessalonians in the midst of persecution; he represents to them the rewards which will be bestowed upon the faithful, and the punishment which will be inflicted upon the disobedient, at the coming of Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1; he earnestly entreats them not to suppose, as upon authority from him, or upon any other ground, that the last day is at hand; he assures them, that before that awful period a great apostasy will take place, and reminds them of some information which he had given them upon that subject when he was at Thessalonica; he exhorts them to steadfastness in their faith, and prays to God to comfort their hearts, and establish them in every good word and work, 2 Thessalonians 2; he desires their prayers for the success of his ministry, and expresses his confidence in their sincerity; he cautions them against associating with idle and disorderly persons, and recommends diligence and quietness. He adds a salutation in his own hand, and concludes with his usual benediction.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Thessalonians'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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