Good morning! Today with First Thessalonians, we read what most scholars believe is the earliest existing Christian literature. This letter to believers in Thessalonica is written early in the fifth decade of the Common Era, meaning it’s perhaps only twenty years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. In its theology and counsel, we see a recently-converted Paul trying to shepherd a group of Christians to keep the faith despite hardship, expecting the resurrected Christ’s imminent return.
The key hallmark of First Thessalonians is its breathless anticipation of rapture any day. The rapidly expanding Christian community was just beginning to feel disquiet with the fact that their persecution by Jewish leaders and Romans seemed open-ended because Christ had still not come back. Paul commends their steadfast faith, then spends time addressing what was evidently a recent concern for those who died before Christ’s triumphant return. Paul reassures them that the dead will be the first to rise, then living believers will be “caught up into the air” with Christ. The origin of Paul’s end-time description here is somewhat mysterious, but seems likely to be some mix of popular mythology and Messiah legends from the period between the Testaments. Either way, the descriptions in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 have contributed greatly to the end-times imagery in Western culture today, although they have never been realized. Happy reading!
Read 1 Thessalonians. (Note that the link here is only to chapters 1-3. For copyright reasons, you will need to click the button at the bottom of the linked page to read the rest.)
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Thessalonians. Thanks for reading!