If you eagerly look forward to the return of Jesus Christ, you will not be disappointed with the most extraordinary, spectacular event the world has ever known. Nothing imaginable will compare to the moment we believers in Christ hear the trumpet call of God, the voice of an archangel, and the shout of Jesus as He descends from heaven to draw us to Himself as we meet Him in the clouds.
Sound like a fairy tale? It is not. The Bible describes the event in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NKJV): But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
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 will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 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. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.
For believers, it’s a win-win situation. Whether we were followers of Jesus and died serving Him, or we are followers of Jesus actively living and serving Him at the time of His descent from heaven, we will be caught up with Him in the clouds to be with Him forever.
Who are those who are asleep? You knew them as your friends and loved ones who died knowing Christ as their Savior. Generations upon generations of people have died and are buried in cemeteries, mausoleums, tombs, or lawn crypts. War, disease, accidents, etc., took life’s breath from them, and as the Bible says, they fell asleep. Their spirit immediately went to be with the Lord, but their physical bodies lie in graves or urns or are scattered on mountaintops and oceans, depending on how their remains were laid to rest.
The Lord loves us all, jealously and tenderly. But when He returns, He has determined who will go first to meet Him in the clouds. 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 will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. THEN we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
Those who are asleep—the dead in Christ—will ascend first when the shout of Jesus is heard. Their graves will split open, and their new, resurrected bodies will ascend to meet Jesus in the clouds. The Word emphatically declares that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. The sleepers are a uniquely precious group of people who have been “asleep” on this earth while their spirits enjoy eternity with the Lord. Psalm 116:15 says Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Precious, in that verse, means “rare, excellent, weighty, noble."
Being in the presence of the Lord is the best way to become like Him. Talking to Him, meditating on His word, worshipping Him—all invite His presence, yielding the Savior's sweetness. His glorious presence rubs off on us. Imagine dying and being in His presence every single day. Yes, that would make a person precious, rare, excellent, weighty, and noble in a few short hours! When we die, our relationship with Christ will deepen and grow dramatically. It makes sense that Jesus would reward these precious ones with their new bodies first!
Perhaps that is why those who are asleep will rise first, and then we who are alive will join them. Whether we are awake or asleep in Christ, it’s all good! Are you ready for His return? It could happen today!
©2023, Chris Werre