1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
1 Th 4:15 (KJB)
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.
Prevent - To go before or precede
In this verse Paul gives the “ordo raptus,” that is, the order of the rapture of the Saints. Paul specifically states that the word he is giving them is coming from the Lord and not him. When the Lord returns to earth to claim all His redeemed ones, the first ones to be raised will be those who have previously died because they will be reunited with their bodies and then changed in a twinkling of an eye into their new spiritual bodies. Then after this event, those Christians which are alive will then be changed and raptured into Heaven. Now keep in mind, that this event is going to be a very quick event. I remember when I was a young Christian around 1981 and read material on the rapture and in one book it stated that General Electric did an experiment on the speed of a twinkling of an eye and they measured it as 11/100 of a second. So all this is going to happen very fast.
1 Th 4:16 (KJB)
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:
A shout - Command, order, or signal
Trump - Trumpet
Dead - The lifeless bodies
First - Used of place, order, or time
In this verse Paul continues to show how this event will unfold. First, he tells the Thessalonians that the Lord himself is going to come from Heaven, this means that He will oversee the entire rapture of all the Saints. Notice that it states that He will descend from Heaven with a shout. That shout is going to be a shout of command, where He will dispatch all the angels of Heaven to gather all the Elect of God from everywhere on the earth and beneath the earth, that is, those who have previously died. In the following 2 sections of Scripture we read a little more detail concerning the rapture of the saints. In Matthew 24:31, it speaks about a great trumpet and this does not mean that a real trumpet will be employed but could mean that a trumpet was sounded when there was some type of occasion but here in 1 Cor. 15:52, it is called the last trump which may refer to the last call on the earth which is the call of the Elect to come home.
(1 Cor 15:52 KJV) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
(Mat 24:29-31 KJV) Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: {30} And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. {31} And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Here we read in Matthew 24:29-31, that when the Lord returns, the unbelievers will mourn but He will dispatch all His angels to gather all the Elect.
(Mark 13:24-27 KJV) But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, {25} And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. {26} And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. {27} And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
Here we read in Mark 13:24-27, that the stars of Heaven will be falling which means that the universe is now dissolving and here too we read that Christ is going to dispatch His angels to bring His Elect home to glory. With words such as trumpet, shout, stars of Heaven falling, I fail to see how this is going to be a secret rapture as the dispensationalists believe. From the Scriptures, we can see that this day is going to be anything but secret and silent. These things are being done right in the presence of the entire world, if it wasn’t, then why would all the tribes or people of the earth mourn?
1 Th 4:17 (KJB)
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.
Caught up - Snatched away
Immediately following the calling of the dead Saints to arise, those Saints who are alive will then be raptured to the Lord while He is still in the air and they will join all those Saints who previously died and will be taken to Heaven and remain there for eternity. The clouds here could have two possible meanings. The first, is that these are representative of the second Heaven where the believers will be united with the Lord and then after that, all will go to the third Heaven, which is God’s abode. The second meaning could be that there will be millions of believers being raptured at the same time and it may look like clouds, or clouds of believers. Just like on a cloudy day, the clouds obscure the sun. Maybe on the last day, the millions of believers may look like a cloudy day because of the amount of them. I think the first meaning is more proper because of the wording of the verse that we are meeting the Lord in the air and that is where the clouds are.
1 Th 4:18 (KJB)
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Comfort - Encourage
Since Paul has now fully explained what happened to the believers who have previously died, they may now take comfort in the fact that just because they have died, does not mean they have been forgotten nor forsaken. They will partake in the end time events just as strongly as those who are alive when the Lord returns on the last day.