The Sources Of Paul’s Teaching On The 2nd Coming Of Christ In 1 And 2 Thessalonians -- By: G. Henry Waterman

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 18:2 (Spring 1975)
Article: The Sources Of Paul’s Teaching On The 2nd Coming Of Christ In 1 And 2 Thessalonians
Author: G. Henry Waterman


The Sources Of Paul’s Teaching On The 2nd Coming
Of Christ In 1 And 2 Thessalonians1

G. Henry Waterman*

1 and 2 Thessalonians are among the earliest of Paul’s letters. 1 Thessalonians must have been written soon after Paul’s first visit to Thessalonica, as recorded in Acts 17:1–9. At the beginning of 1 Thessalonians, Paul expresses his thanks to God for the Thessalonians’ response to the message he had brought to them. He says: “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5). He goes on to say, “In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:6). In chapter 2, Paul reminds them of his recent visit (1 Thess. 2:1–12) and speaks of the keen anxiety he felt for them, which was only relieved when Timothy arrived with the good news that the Thessalonians were standing firm in their new-found faith even in the midst of continued persecution (1 Thess. 2:173:8).

It is evident that the immediate occasion for the writing of 1 Thessalonians was the arrival of Timothy with this good report. If this is the same event as that referred to in Acts 18:5, the letter must have been written shortly after Paul’s arrival in Corinth. The Delphi inscription which mentions that the proconsul of Achaia was Gallio, before whom Paul was brought after a year and a half stay in the city (Acts 18:11–17), enables us to pinpoint the date of the writing of 1 Thessalonians during the early part of the year 50.2

Timothy must have brought with him certain questions from the Thessalonian Christians about the second coming of Christ (perhaps in written form3 ), to which Paul replies in his letter. The two questions may be phrased as follows: (1) What about our fellow-Christians who have died? Will they share in the second coming of Christ? (2) Can you tell us when the second coming will take place?

2 Thessalonians must have been written shortly after 1 Thessalonians. The Thessalonians are still undergoing persecution (2 Thess. 1:4). The occasion of this letter seems to have been an unsettling report, based...

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