Rapture Ready — Prepared for the Lord’s Return
Philippe R. Sterling
Pleasing God involves excelling in love and purity and living in anticipation of the Rapture.
Paul was imprisoned in Philippi on his second missionary journey. After a miraculous display of God’s power, the magistrates appealed to him to leave town. Paul then went on to Thessalonica, the capital of the province of Macedonia. He was there only a short time when he was forced out by a mob. He went on to Berea and after several weeks of ministry there, agitators came from Thessalonica and stirred up a mob again against him. Paul went on to Athens and while there sent Timothy to Thessalonica to find out how the believers there were doing. Paul then went to Corinth. Paul arrived in Corinth in weakness, in fear and in much trembling (1 Cor 1:23). While at Corinth, Silas and Timothy arrived from Thessalonica with great news for him: the church there was doing well. With joy, Paul sends this letter to them.
Literary Structure and Content
I. Greeting: Paul greets the Thessalonian believers (1:1).
II. Thanksgiving: The Thessalonians had a faith worth talking about (1:2-10).
A. Paul gives thanks for the Thessalonians work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope (1:2-4).
B. Paul mentions examples of their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope that had become
C. Paul summarizes the spiritual course of the Thessalonians: they had turned away from their idolatry to
serve the living and true God and they were waiting for God’s Son from heaven who would deliver them
from the wrath to come, that is the Tribulation (1:9-10).
III. Body of the Letter: Paul encourages the Thessalonians to stay the course in serving God and waiting for His
Son from heaven (2:1–5:11).
A. Paul reviews his relationship and concern for the Thessalonians from the point of first sharing the good news
of Christ with them to the present (2:1–3:13).
1. Paul reminds the Thessalonians about the time he spent with them evangelizing, making disciples
and planting a church — he provides principles by which anyone can engage in fruitful ministry (2:1-16).
a. Take the good news to those who have not heard (2:1-6).
1) Paul’s effort in Thessalonica though brief was not in vain (1).
2) Paul boldly proclaimed the truth (2).
3) Paul’s ministry was effective because it did not come from error, impurity or deceit (3).
4) Paul’s aim was to please God (4).
5) Paul did not come with flattering speech, greed or glory seeking (5-6).
b. Build into the lives of those who believe (2:7-12).
1) Paul expressed the tenderness and affection of a mother (7-8).
2) Paul expressed the example and exhortation of a father (9-11).
3) Paul’s aim in ministering among them as a spiritual mother and father was that they would
walk worthy of God (12).
c. Let God’s word do its work (2:13-16).
1) When the Thessalonians sat under Paul’s teaching, they welcomed it not as the word of men, but
for what it really is, the word of God which performs its work in those who believe (13).
2) Sometimes people are so hostile to the grace of God that they not only reject it, but they also
actively oppose it, and incur God’s wrath (14-16).
2. Paul expresses his concern for the Thessalonians spiritual health by sending a helper, sending
letters, and praying — he provides key principles that promote spiritual health (2:17–3:13).
a. I Want to Be With You: Paul was taken away from the Thessalonians and hindered from coming to
b. I Want to Know How You Are: Paul sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonians in
their faith (3:1-5).
c. I Want to Complete Your Faith: Timothy brought back good news of the Thessalonians’ faith and
Paul wished to complete in person what lacked in their faith (3:6-10).
d. I’m Praying for You: Paul prayed that God would direct his steps to the Thessalonians and that
they would be blameless at the coming of Christ (3:11-13).
B. Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to excel at pleasing God (4:1-12).
1. Excel in living to please God (1).
2. Excel in purity (2-8).
a. We have apostolic commands given by the authority of Christ (2).
b. God’s will is our present sanctification (3a).
c. A critical area of present sanctification is sexual purity (3b-8).
3. Excel in love (9-10).
a. We are taught by God to love one another (9).
b. Those who practice brotherly love are to excel still more (10).
4. Excel in work (11-12).
a. God commands quiet diligence in everyday work (11).
b. Our work is a witness (12).
C. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to keep hoping in deliverance from the Tribulation by the Rapture
1. The Rapture: The Lord will one day descend from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first and we
who are alive and remain until His coming will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the
a. Have a confident expectation of a future reunion with your loved ones who have died in Christ (13).
b. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the basis of this confident hope (14).
c. The Lord Himself has provided the comforting information about His coming from heaven to
gather believers together through resurrection and rapture to be with Him always (15-17).
d. We are to comfort one another with this blessed hope (18).
2. The Coming Wrath of God: Believers will escape the coming wrath of God, the Tribulation, and should
await their deliverance by living in accordance with their identity as children of light (5:1-11).
a. Wise Up to End Times Doctrine: God has promised to rescue believers from the end time calamities
that lie ahead (5:1-3, 9; 1:10).
b. Live Up to Your Spiritual Identity: Believers have a standing as children of light and should not live
in spiritual stupor (5:4-7).
c. Wait Up for the Rapture: Believers should equip themselves against the spiritual stupor that
characterizes the surrounding world by building each other up in faith, love and hope as they await
their deliverance from the wrath to come (5:8-11).
IV. Closing Exhortations: Paul gives concluding exhortations in regards to leadership, fellowship and worship
A. Leadership: Paul requests of the Thessalonians to appreciate their leaders, esteem them highly in love for
their work, and live in peace (5:12-13).
B. Fellowship: Paul urges the Thessalonians to minister in a variety of ways to each other, depending on the
state of the person who needs the ministry — admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the
weak, be patient with all and seek the good of all (5:14-15).
C. Worship: Paul names various elements of personal and public worship — rejoice always, pray
continuously, give thanks in everything, yield to the Holy Spirit, receive revealed truth, tests all things, hold
fast what is good, abstain from every form of evil 5:16-22).
V. Farewell: Paul’s farewell includes a prayer for the sanctification of the whole person so as to be blameless at
the coming of Christ, a request for prayer, an encouragement to spiritual affection, a charge to read the letter,
and a benediction of grace (5:23-28).
Theological Reflection and Application
Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians conveys information about personal discipleship, spiritual development, and the eschatological events of the Rapture and the Tribulation. Paul’s relationship with the Thessalonians provides a model for discipleship. Paul balances the loving nurture of a mother with the encouragement and exhortation of a father. The Thessalonians for their part receive the word and grow in faith, love and hope. Pleasing God involves excelling still more in love and purity and living in anticipation of the Rapture. Jesus will rescue believers from the wrath to come, the Tribulation. God makes possible the present sanctification of the cooperating believer so that there can be a blameless presentation at the coming of Christ. Be ready for the Rapture.