I Thessalonians 4:13-17 has always puzzled me.
God will bring with Him those who are dead.
- Bring them to heaven?
- Bring them back to life?
- Bring them to earth?
We who are alive and remain till the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep
- If you stop here, it makes sense. Obviously, the dead arrive before or ahead of the living.
- But if this happens “in the twinkling of an eye,” how can one really “precede” the other?
The Lord returns with a shout and a trumpet and the dead in Christ will rise first.
- First before whom?
- Before the living?
- Before unbelievers?
- What will rise? Their bodies? Aren’t their spirits already risen?
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’ll always be with the Lord.
- If this passage, along with I Cor. 15 were the only teaching on eschatology, I’d be convinced of a post-tribulation rapture.
And why the word asleep instead of dead? From earthly perspective, death is final. From heavenly perspective, we’ve just begun to live! On earth, we’re body/soul/spirit. In heaven (or wherever the holding place is for spirits separated from their bodies) there’s only spirit. Or is our soul there too? After the resurrection of the dead, there will be a reunion of the body and the spirit/soul.
I find it fruitless to discuss this subject with those who have already made up their minds about their position on eschatology, but I’m willing to listen to a fellow struggler.
2023 Update. I don’t think it’s wrong to wrestle with eschatology Scriptures and search out wisdom and understanding, but I object to those who pick an interpretation, dogmatically defend it, and shun those who differ in their conclusions. I think we’ll all be a little surprised at how things shake down in the future.