Sunday School Bible Survey:      I THESSALONIANS

Theme: Second coming of Christ

Key verses:
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thess. 4:16, 17).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The apostle Paul (1:1)

DATE: The Epistle was written from Corinth, A.D. 54, shortly after Paul's departure from Thessalonica (Acts 16 & 17), and is the earliest of his letters.

THEME: The theme of the Epistle is threefold:

  1. To confirm young disciples in the foundational truths already taught them;
  2. To exhort them to go on to holiness;
  3. To comfort them concerning those who had fallen asleep. The second coming of Christ is prominent throughout. The Epistle is incidentally most interesting as showing the richness in doctrine of the primitive evangelism. During a mission of about one month the apostle had taught all the great doctrines of the Christian faith.

The divisions of the Epistle are sufficiently indicated by the Chapters.

  1. The model church, and the three tenses of the Christian life (1:1-10)
  2. The model servant and his reward (2:1-20)
  3. The model brother, and the believer's sanctification (3:1-13)
  4. The model walk, and the believer's hope (4:1-18)
  5. The model walk, and the day of Jehovah (5:1-28)


  1. Most Bible teachers believe I Thessalonians was the apostle Paul's first epistle (about 54 A.D. according to Scofield). It was written from Athens or Corinth, while on his second missionary journey.
  2. Paul had to leave Thessalonica quickly due to great opposition to the gospel. Paul's enemies pursued him to Berea, and again he was forced to leave in a hurry. Paul left Silas and Timothy at Berea and went on to Athens (Acts 17). It was evidently there at Athens that Timothy brought Paul word from the church in Thessalonica (I Thessalonians 3:6), together with some questions that had been raised. Paul wrote his first epistle in response to their message.
  3. In 315 BC, Cassander, the son of Antipater, founded the city of Thessalonica and named it after his wife, the half sister of Alexander the Great.
  4. Thessalonica was a Roman colony and very important in the life of the Roman Empire. Cicero, the Roman philosopher and statesman, said, "Thessalonica is in the bosom of the Empire."
  5. It was located 100 miles west of Philippi and about 200 miles north of Athens. It was a strategic city, and the largest city in Macedonia (the northern part of Greece). It had a population in Paul's day of 200,000 people.
  6. The city is still in existence, with a current population of 400,000. The present-day name is Salonika.
  7. Thessalonica was the principal artery of communication between Rome and her eastern provinces. Situated at the northwestern corner of the Aegean Sea, Thessalonica had a beautiful harbor and a busy waterfront.
  8. The majority of people in Thessalonica were Greeks, and most were idolaters (cf. I Thess. 1:9). Wherever there is idolatry and false religion, there is gross immorality. In Thessalonica there were heathen temples with perverted lewd worship (cf. 4:3-8).
  9. Archaeologists have found an inscription in Thessalonica: "After death no reviving, after the grave no meeting again." Thank God, Paul brought these idolaters the true Gospel.
  10. In fact, the church in Thessalonica was a model church. Paul cited it to the Corinthians as an example (cf. I Thessalonians 1:7; II Corinthians 8:1-5).

  1. It was a saved church — "delivered from the wrath to come" (1:10b).
  2. It was a sound church — "having received the Word" (1:6).
  3. It was a suffering church — "in much affliction" (1:6b; cf. 2:2; 3:4).
  4. It was a soulwinning church (1:8).
  5. It was a separated church — "ye turned to God from idols" (1:9b).
  6. It was a serving church — "to serve the living and true God" (1:9c).
  7. It was a second-coming church (1:10a).

OUTLINE (from J. Vernon McGee):

  1. The Christian's attitude toward the return of Christ (1).
    (to serve... to wait... (1:9, 10)
  2. The Christian's reward at the return of Christ (2)
  3. The Christian's life and the return of Christ (3:1—4:12).
  4. The Christian's death and the return of Christ (4:13-18).
  5. The Christian's actions in view of the return of Christ (5).

"Although Paul was in Thessalonica less than a month (Acts 17:2), he touched on many of the great doctrines of the church. Among them was the second coming of Christ. This theme was not above the heads of the new converts, according to the great apostle. The particular phase in the second coming of Christ which he emphasized was Christ's coming for believers. The second coming of Christ in relationship to believers is a comfort (I Thessalonians 4:18). This aspect is quite different from His catastrophic and cataclysmic coming in glory to establish His kingdom by putting down all unrighteousness (Revelation 19:11-16)" — J. Vernon McGee.

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —