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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18, NKJV)
Paul continues to describe the return of Jesus Christ from the Christians’ point of view. What will happen to Christians when Jesus Himself descends from heaven “with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16)? The dead Christians will rise, and then the living Christians will be caught up from the earth. Together, they will meet the Lord in the air. This is not an invisible rapture that so many believe will happen. No, the Lord is visible here (not invisible), the voice of the archangel is heard, and the Christians visibly join each other to meet the Lord. (This is the “change” from mortal to immortality of 1 Cor. 15:52-53.) The rapture is a false doctrine. “Thus” in verse 17 gives further proof of its error. “Thus” is an adverb of manner that means “in this way,” or after this fashion. So, in this resurrected and immortal state “we shall always be with the Lord.” There is no coming back to earth (it is no more, 2 Pet. 3:10-12). Death is abolished and the kingdom is delivered up to God the Father, not delivered back to earth seven years later (1 Cor. 15:24-26). We are comforted by the expectation of glorious reunion with the Lord Jesus and the saints who sleep in Him. This truth consoles us when death comes. The world can never offer such comfort (1 Thess. 4:13).