1 and 2 Thessalonians weren’t on Paul’s to-do list. He hadn’t planned to take the story of Jesus on the road to Europe.
He was busy starting churches all over what is now Turkey when he had a vision of a man pleading with him to come to what is now northern Greece, a territory Romans called Macedonia. “Help us! Please come to Macedonia!” (Acts 16:9).
Paul left right away. When he got there, he started the first church in Europe, out of the home of a woman named Lydia, in the city of Philippi (Acts 16:15). Paul and Silas, one of his traveling associates, ended up getting beaten and imprisoned for exorcising a demon-possessed girl who could predict the future. Her masters had them arrested because these slave masters couldn’t make any more money off of her after Paul healed her.
Paul and his team later accepted the invitation of city officials “to leave town” (Acts 16:39). The mission team moved on to Thessalonica, where they planted another church. But after only three weeks there, they got run out of town again (Acts 17:2, 10).
As Paul and his entourage traveled south toward the city of Corinth, where he would spend a year and a half starting a new church, Paul felt worried about the community of new believers he had to leave behind in Thessalonica. So, he sent Timothy back to check on them. He also wrote them two letters: 1, 2 Thessalonians. First Thessalonians is a how-to letter for living the Christian life. Paul wrote the follow-up letter of 2 Thessalonians perhaps a few weeks or months later. He seems to have written it to answer questions the people had about the second coming of Jesus.
“Paul, Silas, and Timothy” (1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1).
This may be the first of anything written in the New Testament. Paul probably wrote these two letters about 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. On his second mission trip, Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians shortly after he left the town of Thessalonica, in about AD 51. The two letters were written perhaps just a few weeks or months apart.
Paul likely wrote these letters from Corinth, a port town about a 300-mile walk (480 km) south of Thessalonica, 400 miles (645 km) by sea, which could be faster with good winds. Both towns are in what is now Greece. Paul and his mission team had left Thessalonica and traveled south. When they reached “Athens” (3:1), Paul sent Timothy back to check on the Thessalonian believers. Meanwhile, Paul moved on to Corinth, where he spent a year and a half starting the church there. That’s when Timothy returned with good news that the Thessalonian folks were holding onto their faith (Acts 18:1-5). Paul wrote the letters after that.
DESTINATION OF LETTER
Paul wrote to new believers in north Greece’s port city of Thessalonica, in the Roman province of Macedonia.