13 ¶ 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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 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. 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: 17 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. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Depending on context sleep can be a euphemism for death.
Psalm 13:3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
John 11: 11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.
Paul is telling the Thessalonians not to be sorrowful as those would be who have no hope when a loved one that is in Christ passes away. Verse 14 tells us that it naturally follows that if we believe that Christ rose from the dead that those who die in Christ will also rise.
For review, look again at 1Thessalonians 1:10;
“And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”
The church will not face the wrath God is bringing on the world.
Then, you can see 1Thessalonians 2:19;
“19 For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?”
The church is in Christ’s presence at His return. And then chapter 3, verse 13;
“To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.”
I have already shown that the, “saints,” are God’s people. Christ is returning with all His saints.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Verse 15 tells us that if we are alive when this event occurs this will not, “prevent,” which can mean not to allow to happen or it can mean to go on before as in pre-event, a meaning we no longer use in common speech.
Psalm 88:13 But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.
Psalm 119:148 Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
Matthew 17:25 He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
When the trumpet sounds, the dead in Christ go first, and then we which are alive follow.
1Corinthians 15:51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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.
When this singular event, the fulfillment of the promise of the Resurrection of Christ, takes place we believe is before the Great Tribulation, God’s wrath upon the whole world, as we have been promised that we are delivered from that as stated previously as several early Christian leaders such as Victorinus, Shephard, Cyprian, and Ephraim the Syrian seemed to understand. The pretribulation “rapture” of the church, followed by a Great Tribulation, and the physical return of Christ to the earth to rule for a thousand years appears to have been understood by a great many Christians in the first three centuries of the Christian era. It wasn’t until the state church of Rome, glorifying man’s hope of a creation of God’s kingdom on earth, that this once common belief went underground.
The Bible word for what we call the “rapture,” of the church is the word, “translation.” “Translation,” is used in the Bible for removing something from one place to another. Although we understand,” translation,” today as referring to the meaning of a word in one language in another, different language that is called, “interpretation,” in the Bible as in an “Interpreter,” at the U.N.
Enoch was taken by God alive and well from this earthly plane of existence.
Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
He was translated. Notice the mention of this three times in the next verse.
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Why did the Holy Spirit use the word, “translation”? In my opinion, because all existence is based on God’s speech and any work that He does from one form of existence (the physical world) to the spiritual (the invisible world – to us anyway) is a type of translating from one language to another.
Three times, in the Bible, the phrase, “Come up hither,” is used which we understand to be, “Come up here.”
Proverbs 25:7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
This would correspond to the events around the Resurrection of Christ and His ascent to God the Father.
Now, for the second time.
Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.
This corresponds to the time when the apostle, John, the beloved, representing the church, is carried forcibly to heaven to see the events there he related in the book of the Revelation. Notice that the next verse says by what means he entered heaven.
2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
Now for the third.
Revelation 11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
This is when the two Jewish witnesses are called up representing the believing Jews toward the end of the Great Tribulation. Jesus, when speaking to his Jewish disciples said,
Matthew 24:29 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.
So, while there appears to be three distinct translations of the people of God this passage in 1Thessalonians is referring to the translation of the church.
Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
After all we are currently seated with Him in heaven.
Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
There are many things in the Bible that have happened in eternity that we have not experienced yet but faith tells us that we shall. Here are more passages that indicate that Christ’s people are to be gathered to Him before His return to rule.
Psalm 50:4 He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. 5 Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
Solomon, as a type of Christ, calls out His bride, His church, in the Song of Solomon.
Song of Solomon 2:8 ¶ The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. 9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.
10 My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
It is important to note that this is not the Second Advent, when Christ comes to rule on the earth. This is the church meeting Christ, “in the air.” When Christ returns to rule, as the passages in the letters to the Thessalonians show, He returns with the church. The next great event in history will be the translation, or rapture as it is popularly called from the Latin rapto, of the church. As Ephraim the Syrian wrote in the AD 300s,
For all the saints and the elect of God are gathered prior to the Tribulation that is to come and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. (from Paul Alexander’s The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition, (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985), 210.
Extant writings on this subject from early church writers include Shephard in AD 150, Victorinus, and Cyprian, both in the middle of the third century. So, without going into a long detailed description and explanation here let it suffice, for my purposes here, to explain that there will be a translation of the church, a Great Tribulation shaking the earth, and then the physical return of Christ to rule for a thousand years. This is what the Bible teaches and the early church taught. It is not necessarily healthy or important to go into when these events might take place because we don’t know when or whether the Great Tribulation is a seven year period or the last half of a seven year tribulation. These are more appropriate subjects for the study on the book of Revelation.
What is important right now is that these verses in 1Thessalonians tell them and us that at some point all of us will be called out of this doomed earth by the Lord, to remain with Him forever. That alone is enough to shout about, one would think. We should be looking up.
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;