While in Athens, Paul’s spirit is provoked when he sees all the idolatry in the city. Paul says, “For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.”
Paul tells the people to repent, “Because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man who He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” And when they hear of the resurrection of the dead, some mock Paul but some believe and join him.
After Paul leaves Athens, he goes to Corinth where he spends much of his time during his second missionary journey. There he meets Aquila and his wife, Priscilla, who are tentmakers like Paul. Paul stays with them, and while in Corinth he writes two letters to the church in Thessalonica.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul commends them for their faith and reminds them of his first visit – “For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica after the rioters dragged Jason (Paul’s host) before the Roman leaders, accusing him of rebelling against Caesar. Out of concern for the church, Paul sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonians and report back to him. Timothy reports that things are going relatively well, but some have died. The Thessalonians believers thought that the ones who died would miss out on Jesus’ second coming; therefore, they were in great mourning. The Thessalonians were also questioning the timing of the return of Jesus. Paul focuses on writing about Jesus’ second coming in his letter, as he mentions it in every chapter of the book. Paul assures the Thessalonians that the Lord’s wrath will not be poured upon the believers on the day of His return, and that their salvation in Christ is sealed. Paul says both the dead and the living are destined to be saved in the second coming.
Paul explains that the souls of the ones who died will come down from heaven when Christ returns, and their bodies will be resurrected and reunited with their souls. Since no one knows when Jesus will return, Paul tells the Christians not to be like the pagan unbelievers, the ones in the dark who are walking in the flesh involved in all sorts of sexual immorality and refusing to work, depending upon the wealthy to provide for them. He encourages them to stay awake and sober because that day is going to come like a thief in the night for the unbelievers. “But you, brethren, are not in the darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”
We will read Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians tomorrow, so keep reading. (Acts 17:16-18:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5:11)