Study Guide

1-2 Thessalonians Themes

  • Community

    Newsflash: Jesus didn't come to save some guy sitting all by himself in a corner—he came to save the whole world. Which means that Christians are all in it together, right? Enter Paul. He's really big on love and togetherness, which means that he has some input on how the Thessalonian Christians should be behaving towards each other. (Of course he does.) But Paul isn't just some distant authority figure. It's also pretty clear that he gets as much from being part of this community as they get from him.

    Group hug?

    Questions About Community

    1. Why do you think Paul feels so close to the Thessalonians? Is it because they're so good at following his word? Or is something else going on?
    2. So the Thessalonians are awesome at loving, right? Then why does their community have any problems at all?
    3. Do you think Paul asks too much of the Thessalonians? Or is he right to expect them to keep moving on up the ladder of holiness?
  • Good vs. Evil

    Time for the ultimate showdown! At its heart, the Bible is really just an old-fashioned epic of good vs. evil. In the letters to the Thessalonians everyone is convinced that someday very soon, God will vanquish evil and reward good behavior. So if you find yourself aligning with Satan and the forces of evil, you might want to be out of town when Jesus comes back. Just a suggestion.

    Questions About Good vs. Evil

    1. Paul is pretty sure that God is gonna knock out all evil one day. Why is he so optimistic?
    2. Who do you think the "man of sin" could be? Are there any modern parallels to this kind of figure?
    3. Satan gets name-dropped here a bit. What do you think Paul means when he invokes "the evil one?" Why would Satan be foiling all his plans?
  • Hope

    Hope. It's a warm, fuzzy word that makes us think of a future filled with rainbows, kittens, and all kinds of good things. But when Paul imagines the future, he sees anything but rainbow-colored kittens. He sees the destruction of the Earth and everlasting torment for the vast majority of people living on the planet. Good news, though: you can escape this whole God's wrath thing if you just listen to what Paul is telling you. Or so says Paul…

    Questions About Hope

    1. Why is the end of the world a hopeful and happy day for Christians? Wouldn't it at least be a little sad to watch God's wrath pour down on non-believers?
    2. Is Paul's vision of the end of time really just one big revenge fantasy?
    3. How exactly does one qualify for the Rapture? Is just being a follower of Jesus enough or do you have to listen to Paul, too?
    4. What if you're pretty darn awesome, but not exactly "blameless?" Does close count in horseshoes and the apocalypse?
    5. Was Paul wrong about his belief that Jesus was coming soon? Or did he just get the dates mixed up?
  • Christian Identity

    What does it mean to follow Jesus? What does a Christian identity look like? Well, Paul has some ideas. He's all about instructing believers in the things they need to do in order to live good Christian lives. Not only is this stuff that God wants for them (which Paul is totally privy to); it's also stuff that sets them apart from the Gentiles.

    Questions About Christian Identity

    1. Why do you think Paul is so concerned about managing his own reputation and identity in the community?
    2. One of the things that makes the Thessalonians right-thinking Christians is that they believe what Paul is peddling. How do you think Paul sees other Christians that might have a slightly different point of view? 
    3. Why is Paul so interested in stopping everyone's sexy times?
  • Perseverance

    In the first century, being Christian wasn't easy. There was a ton of pressure to just conform already and worship Greek and Roman gods like everyone else. Your neighbors didn't want to hear you talking about some guy named Jesus who was gonna come back and end the whole world. It was sort of social suicide. So it took a lot of guts to believe in the face of all that opposition. And Paul is pretty darn proud of the way his little community of believers keeps on keeping on.

    Questions About Perseverance

    1. How does the fact that Paul is also being persecuted help his case? Does it make him more of an authority on perseverance?
    2. Do you think Paul's vision of the end of the world is encouraging? Why do you think reading about this would have helped Christians keep going?
    3. Why does Paul single out the Thessalonians for so much praise? Are they really doing that awesome of a job? Or is he just trying to flatter them a little?