Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4:17(NASB)
Paul was keen to explain what will happens to Christians at the end of the Church age, as well as instructing us on how to live godly lives during this present dispensation. He did not want believers to remain uninformed about our future destiny, but was eager to enlighten us about the blessed hope we have in Christ.
As children of the light, we are to be alert to the times in which we live and rest our trust in Christ. We are not to become dependent on the things of this world like unsaved people, but to familiarise ourselves with our blessed hope in Christ Jesus our Saviour, and look for the day of His return to take us to be with Himself.
The previous verse details the future bodily resurrection of Church age saints who have already died, while verse 17 explains what will happen to Christians who are still alive when the Church age closes: "We who are alive and remain [on the earth] will be caught up together with them [Church-age saints, who died in faith and have just been resurrected] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall always be with the Lord."
There cannot be a clearer picture of what takes place when the trumpet call of God blasts out at the end of the Church age. The bodies of Christians who have died will be raised first, and then the living Christians will be caught up with them, raptured into heaven to meet the Lord Jesus in the air: "And so we shall forever be with the Lord."
After the bodies of dead Christians are resurrected from their earthly graves, the living believers will be raptured – caught up – seized – grabbed – taken into heaven to be with Jesus, forever. This was not something that Paul dreamed up, as some Christians like to claim.
The message to the Thessalonians was delivered "by the Word of the LORD," for the Lord Jesus Himself will come down from heaven with a loud word of command. There will be an archangel's voice and the trumpet call of God. Believers who have already died will rise first, and afterwards Christians who are still alive on earth, will be caught up in their company – to meet the Lord in the air.
This is the most astonishing promise which is given to ALL who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ. The spirit and souls of Christians who are already with the Lord will be united with their new, eternal, resurrected bodies, which will be freed from the ravages of death.
The bodies of believers who are still alive will be changed into eternal, incorruptible bodies in a moment of time, and together with 1 Corinthians we have the most amazing panoramic view of all that will take place on that wonderful day when, in the twinkling of an eye, we will all be changed and taken to be with the Lord forever.
This is indeed a very encouraging and exciting truth that Paul shared, and so we are exhorted to "encourage one another with these words." Following our departure from this earth, will be that dreadful 'Day of the Lord' (the 7-year Tribulation period, followed by the Millennial rule of Christ on earth). And when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom, we (the Church) will accompany Him. Hallelujah!
Let us occupy in the work that God has prepared for us to do and encourage one another as we see the day getting closer. But let us also remain alert and ready for that wonderful day, when the trump of God sounds, and we are taken as He promised, to be with the Lord forever.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the wonderful truth that Jesus is coming to take us to be with Himself forever. May I prepare my heart and soul to be ready for that special day when the trump of God sounds and both the dead and living members of Your Body will receive our new, eternal bodies. I long for that day when we will all be translated into Your presence, but in the meantime, I pray that I may live and work to Your praise and glory. In Jesus' name, AMEN.