This article examines questions about Paul’s attitude toward the future in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Whether the fate of the dead, future bodily resurrection, the parousia, or questions about judgment and destruction, Paul has plenty to say about what is to come in one of his earliest letters. This essay takes up Paul’s attitude toward the future in 1 Thessalonians to consider its role in the formation and maintenance of the recipients’ social identity. What social categories govern Paul’s vision of the future? How does he portray those categories? How does his portrayal of the past (including past social categorizations) relate to his vision of the future? How does his portrayal of past and future relate to the behavioral expectations set forth in the letter? Drawing on models from the field of Social Identity Theory, I argue that Paul defines the community in relation to “the day” (1 Thess 4:8) of Christ’s anticipated return and all that it entails. He portrays the past, in terms of both the Christ story and the conversion of the Thessalonians, to cohere with that anticipated future. This coherent representation frames and strengthens the ethical expectations Paul articulates in the letter.

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