Caught Up Together Unto Him

Once the archangel begins speaking, the action moves to Thessalonians, in which we are caught up together unto him in the clouds. Both Thessalonians and Corinthians reveal a vital part of the story.

The focus of I Corinthians 15 was the saints receiving their new bodies. The saints will receive their new bodies when the trumpet begins to sound. Thessalonians is concerned with the gathering together, when we will be caught up together unto him.

The Lord’s Descent from Heaven

I Thessalonians 4:15-16 
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.
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:

In verse 15 we see the same two groups of people as in Corinthians, those alive at the coming of the Lord and those asleep.  And there’s more – the Lord Jesus himself will be there! This is a part of the story not revealed in Corinthians.

I Thessalonians 4:16
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:

This is the verse that reveals the timeline for Christ’s return, when we shall be caught up together unto him. The timeline centers on the descent of the Lord Jesus from heaven, represented by the ?L? on the line below.

The Timeline of Christ's Return

The transition to the new era, which includes our gathering together unto him, begins with a trumpet call that continues throughout the entire event.? During that trumpet call we will also hear the voice of the archangel. At one point during his address the Lord Jesus will descend. After this the archangel will finish speaking, and lastly the trumpet will cease.?

The Lord Jesus will descend from heaven with a shout. Usually if one person is speaking and another interrupts with a shout, it causes confusion.  Of course, that is not the case here.

This amazing time has been in the planning for many, many years. Nothing will occur that has not been determined well beforehand, and all will occur at the precise time determined.

The Dead Rise First

In Corinthians the dead rise when the trumpet sound begins.  In Thessalonians it seems to follow the Lord?s descent from heaven.  Is this a contradiction? Just when do the dead rise up?

To figure this out, we need to review the parts of a sentence. (A moment of silence for our English teachers would be appropriate here.)

Lesson #1 – The Main Action

I Thessalonians 4:16
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:

The subject of verse 16 is the Lord himself.  He is the subject of the sentence, he is the one taking the action.

The simple predicate, the main action,  is shall descend.

All the rest of the verse is supplemental information surrounding his descent. All the action in these verses centers around the Lord’s descent from heaven.?That is why we say his descent from heaven anchors the timeline.

Lesson #2 – In Association

The word and in the phrase “and the dead in Christ shall rise first” ties this action to the first clause, the Lord?s descent from heaven. And does not indicate time, only an association.

The dead rising in association with his descent means the dead will rise around the same time as his descent, the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the archangel. This association ties all three together, an exact time is not pinpointed. 

We know the exact time from Corinthians – that the dead will rise at the beginning of the trumpet call.? The trumpet call is associated with the Lord’s return in both Corinthians and Thessalonians. There is no contradiction between these two accounts.

Lesson #3 – The Association Continues

I Thessalonians 4:17
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.

This word Then in verse 17, like the word and, does not specify a precise time. It is used of mere sequence, without any notion of cause. It could be translated thereupon or thereafter, as well as then.[i]  

The action in this verse, by the association noted above, follows both the Lord?s descent from heaven (the main action of verse 16) and the dead rising first (which is associated with the main action of verse 16). This establishes the statement in verse 15, that “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.”

Caught Up Together Unto Him

So what about the timeline?

There is another phrase stating that the living will not precede the dead. That phrase is together with them. The confusion comes from the translation into English. In the Greek and Aramaic, as well as some translations, this phrase comes earlier in the verse.

The way many of us understood verse 17, the living saints are not joined with the newly risen saints until they are in the clouds.? Our perception changes when we move the phrase together with them to its proper place. To restate verse 17 accordingly,

Then we which are alive and remain shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air . . .

Without the timeline it is easy to confuse the dead rising with the saint?s being caught up into the clouds. ? With the timeline we see the true order of events.

When Thessalonians refers to the dead rising first, it is speaking of their rising from the dead, not rising up into the clouds. After the dead are risen, then together, all of us will be caught up into the clouds.?

Do we that remain alive ascend to see the Lord Jesus before those who had fallen asleep?? No. Do the dead get there before the living?? The answer to both questions is ?No,? because we are all caught up together unto him. Again, there is no contradiction between the events in Corinthians and Thessalonians.

Here is verse 17 in some other translations.

The Aramaic Interlinear[ii]
And then we who remain who are living will be caught up with them as one in the clouds, for the meeting of our Lord in the air, and thus we will always be with our lord.

Berry?s Interlinear[iii]
Then we the living who remain, together with them shall be caught away in [the] clouds for [the] meeting of the Lord in [the] air: and thus always with [the] Lord we shall be.

The Revised Version (1881) and American Standard Version (1901)
then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Keys to Understanding: Translations

The primary subject and action are still the Lord descending from heaven. He does not come upon the earth at the time of the of the gathering together. When the Lord Jesus descends it will be to the clouds, where we will be caught up together to be with him.

This being ?caught up? is a passive action on our part. We will not decide when to go up. We will be caught away according to the Lord?s plan, at the precise moment determined. We know it will follow the Lord?s descent from heaven. We may assume it will be before the end of the trumpet call.  But we will not know exactly until it actually happens.

Next, the great gathering.


[i] Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940), s.v. epeita.

[ii] The Way International Research Team, ed. The Aramaic-English New Testament, Vol. II, 2nd Ed. (New Knoxville OH: American Christian Press, 1992).

[iii] George Ricker Berry, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.).

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