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Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18,But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

The Apostle begins this portion by telling us that he does not want us to be ignorant, or uninformed, about the great event of the Lord’s return to take His people to be with Him in glory.  Although the word ‘rapture’ is not found in the English translations of the Bible, it is a truth that is taught very clearly.  The Lord will return to the air to take all His redeemed people to Heaven.  We don’t know when this event will take place, however, the Lord’s return is ‘imminent’, which means He could return at any moment.  These Thessalonians were commended in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10because they, “…turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven…”  These dear people lived in anticipation of the Lord’s return to take them to Heaven. 

The Apostle Paul did not want these people to be discouraged about those believers who had already passed away, as if they had missed out on this glorious event.  He did not want them to sorrow, or grieve, like people who have no hope.  Paul goes on the say that “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”  This shows us that believers who ‘sleep in Jesus’, or have died, are with the Lord in Glory.  We have that truth brought out in 2 Corinthians 5:8which says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  When a believer passes away, he is immediately in the presence of the Lord in Heaven.  So, when the Lord returns to rapture His church, all those believers who have died will come with the Lord.  We learn that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.”  The word for ‘prevent’ is better interpreted as ‘precede’, or go ahead of them which sleep. 

Putting this event in chronological order, we see that the Lord, when He returns to rapture His people, will bring those believers who have died with Him.  As we just read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”  Upon the Lord’s shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, those who have died in Christ will have their bodies gloriously raised as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:44, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”  At this point the spirit and soul of the deceased believer will be re-united with his risen and glorified body.  As we read, this raising of the dead will happen first, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”  As those resurrected saints are brought from the graves, we believers who are alive will be caught up, or raptured, together with them and together we will meet the Lord in the air.

Although there is a specific order to this event, we learn from 1 Corinthians 15:52that this well take place, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…”  The most blessed part of this glorious event is that, “so shall we ever be with the Lord.”  To be gathered to Him, to be changed to be like Him, to be with fellow believers in His presence, and to be in His presence for all eternity!  What a wonderful promise given to all those who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior!  (137.4)