‘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.’ — 1 Thessalonians 4:17–18
The return of Christ is a huge topic in the Bible. There is actually more written about the Lord’s second coming than His first coming. First and Second Thessalonians talks about the return of Christ a great deal. In his first letter, Paul mentions it in every chapter (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11; 5:23).
The attitude of the saved person toward the Lord’s coming is very different from the unsaved. For the unsaved, the return of Christ is something that is destructive, painful, dark, and wrathful (1 Thess 5:1-10). But for the believer, the return of Christ is:
- something to be anticipated and something that brings deliverance (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9-10)
- a time of joy, rejoicing, and reward (1 Thess 2:19)
- a reunion in which living saints are reunited with saints who have already died (sleep in Jesus) (1 Thess 3:13; 4:13-14)
- an event that brings hope and comfort (1 Thess 4:13,18; 5:11)
- not something that should be a surprise (1 Thess 5:1-7)
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we read about the coming of the Lord and the rapture. There are several reasons this brings the believer great hope and comfort:
- The return of Christ is as certain as the death and resurrection of Christ (v.14)
- Christ will return with all church age saints (‘in Jesus’ is a specific reference to the church) (v.14). This will be a great reunion of the entire body of Christ, both those who died before His return and those who are alive at His return.
- The return of Christ will include the resurrection of the bodies of believers and the catching up (the ‘rapture) of living saints (v.15-17).
- This is a big deal to God as seen in the shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet (v.16).
- This takes place ‘in the air’ which distinguished it from Christ’s coming to the earth (v.17). There are many good reasons to believe that this happens before the day of God’s wrath described in Revelation when God judges the world and prepares Israel as a nation to receive Him (see 1 Thess 5:9; 1 Thess 1:10; Rev 3:10; 1 Thess 2:13).
- The whole goal of Christ’s return is to receive us unto Himself so that forever we are with the Lord (v.17). The return of Christ is about being in the actual presence of Christ and being together with the whole body of the church for ever.
If you are a believer in Christ, then His return is something that could happen at any minute, something to anticipate with great hope, and something that should encourage you in the face of persecution, death, and trial.
If you are not a believer in Christ, then you should believe on Christ today lest you face an awful day of destruction and darkness that comes on the world after the church is taken out of the world. You will not escape no matter how many promises of peace are made (1 Thess 5:3).