1st Thessalonians 4 Part 3
1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Christ’s second coming is referred to over three hundred times in the New Testament. Let’s look at what will happen when He returns. In 4:16 and 17 it says the Lord Himself will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ (those bodies) will rise first and then everyone who is still alive on earth will rise and meet them in the air. “So we shall always be with the Lord.”
This is the Rapture which literally means “to snatch up” or to “catch up”. All believers (and only believers) will share in this event. Also in verse 16, notice that Jesus Himself is coming. He’s not sending someone or sending for us. He’s actually coming to get us!
This will be an event of majesty and honor. There will be “the cry of command” or in some translations, “a shout” which is an authoritative utterance. One commentator likened it to the battle cry of the military heralds. Jesus called Lazarus from the grave with a loud authoritative voice. He will call for His church too.
John 5:25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
Some translations say, “with a shout and an arch angel’s cry” and most commentators believe that Jesus will give the shout and the archangel will add to it. There will also be a trumpet. Trumpets are mentioned a lot in the Old Testament at times of victory and festivals. In the book of Numbers God communicated with the huge camp of Israelites by signals from 2 silver trumpets.
John Calvin thinks these three things happening are how a field marshal gathers his armies to battle. The shout, the voice and the trumpet picture one great event. It is a call to those who have been saved by grace to rise and follow the King of Kings.
When they meet in the air, both the dead in Christ and those still alive on earth will get resurrected bodies like Christ’s. It will be a body that never wears out or be subject to pain, disease or death. As John Wolvoord wrote, “it will be suited for the glorious presence of the Lord.”
Finally when we tell someone they look divine it will be true!
We get some idea of the resurrected body in the account of the transfiguration of Jesus:
Matthew 17:2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
The reunion of those who have died in Christ is very important to Paul. He stresses the fact they will be together again. He says, “We shall always be with the Lord.” There is permanence in our fellowship with Christ and each other. It’s a comforting and encouraging thought. And in fact Paul says we should comfort each other with these words.
The reason we can comfort others is because God chose to reveal this to us. He doesn’t leave us in ignorance or without hope. This is going to happen: a promise from God is the same as already done. Hope in the Bible is not the way we use hope – it’s a sure thing.
A Christian faces death not in despair, but with sureness of what will happen. And the really important thing about all of this is that we’re ready. We need to be right with God. We need to accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. We need to live each day like it might be our last because some day it will be.
Our preparation should be: repentance, renewal, diligent proclamation of the gospel and Christ-like living.