1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
This passage is quite vivid in its explanation of the rapture: the Lord descends from heaven; when He descends there will be a shout and a voice from an archangel; and there will be a trumpet blast. John MacArthur suggests that it will be like the trumpet of Exodus 19:16-19, which called the people to come and meet God on Mount Sinai. This trumpet blast was very loud and long, and as it sounded it became louder and louder (v.9). MacArthur also suggested that it will be a trumpet of deliverance as in Zephaniah 1:16 and Zechariah 9:14.
This loud trumpet blast and the shouting of the archangel is of course the heralding of Jesus the King, our deliverer. For as He descends, the archangel will loudly announce Him, and then the trumpet will proclaim Him. Nothing is said in this passage about who hears the shouting and the trumpet, and if nonbelievers hear it what response they have. My guess is that nonbelievers won’t hear anything, or if they do, they will have no idea what it is.
But what follows the Lord’s descent and the loud announcement and trumpet is the focus here. First the dead in Christ will rise up out of their graves to meet the Lord. Then all the believers who are alive will be seized, or snatched up by the Lord. They will first join those in Christ who were just resurrected, and then together they will go to meet Him.
Now when the Lord Jesus descends from heaven, it seems that He will halt in midair, somewhere in the sky where there are clouds (this term “in the clouds,” however, I think also has a spiritual meaning—like clouds of glory or clouds of heaven; see Dan. 7:13; Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7). At that point, suspended in the sky, He will miraculously, by His great power, seize us, or snatch us up to be with Him! And, as He takes us up, He also transforms us—makes us immortal, just like Him (1 John 2:2). This all happens instantly, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).
And thus, as verse 17 tells us, “We shall always be with the Lord.” This of course is the whole point of the rapture: to deliver us from what is to come on the earth, and then to keep us with Him always—in His Father’s house (Jn. 14:2).
Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Nielsen