(13) But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
(14) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
(15) For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
(16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
(17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
(18) Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians speaks of the physical return of Christ in five places with exact timing requiring care from the reader in order to discern the purpose of the coming. Many muddle Christ coming for his saints with Christ coming to judge Israel and the nations. The physical return of Christ is mentioned at 1:9-10, 2:19-20, 3:13, 4:13-18, 5:1-11.
The taking away (or catching up) of believers from this earth (in Latin; rapture) prior to the coming wrath of God falling on this world (4:14-18, see also John 14:1-3) is provided in chapter 4 and forms the basis of the Christian’s expected return of Christ – this could happen at any time. This is overlayed with what Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15) – the resurrection of the saints involves the changing of our corruptible body to a new body, which is incorruptible.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)
It is important to note that church saints are saved by grace – there is no further judgement, hence they escape the Tribulation, and it is this point many churches miss – they preach that wrath falls upon Christians, when the Bible states emphatically this is not the case; Christ has borne the wrath of God, and by grace we are saved.
…you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)
This is not to muddle that fact many; hundreds of thousands of people, will come to the saving knowledge of Christ during the Tribulation (Rev 7:9; 14:12 etc.) and will suffer persecution, even death and be saved from hell; these are not church saints, but tribulation saints.The Bible preludes the passage in Thessalonians with the expectation that Christ is to return after his ascension at Pentecost (Acts 1). Jesus himself, in John 14 states he will return.
"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3).
This passage in 1 Thessalonians 4 sets out the seven stages of the rapture (4:16 – 17):
The world will not see the actual rapture; they will not see Christ, but the impacts will be profound because the salt of the world (Christians) will be removed, leading to rapid declension and chaos.
The Day of the Lord is when Christ comes to judge Israel and the Nations for rejecting the Son of God (5:1-11).
David L Simon
Posted: 05 Sep 2021