|Acts 17:2 tells us that Paul was in Thessaloniki for three Sabbaths before he was run out of town by an angry mob stirred up by the Jews who rejected his message of the suffering Savior. The exact number of days Paul was in Thessaloniki is not known, but we know it was less than a month. This is important for us to recognize because of the content of the letters to the church there.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.
In his second letter to this church the apostle reminds them of what he taught them during his three-Sabbath visit. He taught them about the rapture, our gathering together to Jesus. He taught them specifics about prophecy and to not be deceived by those who say the rapture had already happened. He told them a falling away would precede the rapture, and that only after the rapture could the lawless one rise to power. He taught them about the Tribulation and the Second Coming.
In his brief visit to this city, Paul taught the church about prophecy!
He also told them this in his first letter:
1 Thessalonians 5:19-24
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.
The word “quench” can mean “to extinguish”. It can also mean “to suppress divine influence”. The latter definition is the one that we find in this context. Paul adds on another admonition when he says not to “despise” prophecies. Despise means “to belittle or esteem lightly”. He then says to test all things and keep in memory (meaning “hold fast”) what is good and abstain from evil. Whether or not Paul knew or assumed he would not be in town long, these were the subjects that were at the top of his list to cover.
Yet here we are today at the end of church history, and prophecy is esteemed lightly, abstinence is seen as evil, divine influence is quenched, and teaching and teachers are seldom tested against the word.
When Paul was in Thessaloniki, the home he was staying in was attacked. The people who were hosting him were harassed and threatened and falsely accused.
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
When Paul came to Berea, he did exactly what he had done in Thessaloniki. He went to where his beloved countrymen would meet and reasoned with them from the scriptures. The reception was different in Berea than it was in Thessaloniki, but the message wasn’t.
This is why Paul would later write to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:2-4
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
Preaching the word is not “in season” at this time, but we are to preach it anyway. You may be thinking, I am not a preacher. Yes, you are! It may not be your vocation, but it is your commission. Sometimes you may get run out of town and other times there may be a more fair-minded reception. Regardless of the response, the message must remain unchanged.
A wonderful country preached named Vance Havner put it like this:
“It’s not our business to make the message acceptable, but to make it available. We are not to see that they like it, but that they get it.”
Havner was right, and this is what Paul did in Thessaloniki in a very short window of time. Our window of time is closing too, but our mission remains the same. Preach the word so that people “get it”, so that they might be saved!
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus