1 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.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Shall be caught up.—“Our Assumption,” as Bishop Ellicott well calls it. The spiritualising of our natural bodies without death, as described in 1Corinthians 15:50, et seq., will enable us to be “caught up” equally well with, and in company with (both of which thoughts are included in “together with”), the resurgent dead. “Clouds” and “air” will be support enough for material so immaterial. Theodoret says, “He showeth the greatness of the honour: as the Master Himself was taken up upon a shining cloud, so also they that have believed in Him.” The absolute equality, then, of quick and dead is proved.

To meet the Lord in the air.—St. Chrysostom says:” When the King cometh into a city, they that are honourable proceed forth to meet him, but the guilty await their judge within.” The phrase “in the air” certainly does not mean “heaven.” The word “air”) in itself properly signifies the lower, denser, grosser atmosphere, in which the powers of darkness reign (Ephesians 2:2); but here it is only used in contrast with the ground, and means “on the way from Heaven whence He comes,” of course not to dwell there, but to accompany Him to His Judgment-seat on the earth.

And so.—Now that St. Paul has settled the question of disparity between the dead and the living, he does not think it necessary to describe what is immediately to follow; that, the Thessalonians were sure to know (see Hebrews 6:2): it only remains to say that having once rejoined the Lord, they would never be parted from Him.

4:13-18 Here is comfort for the relations and friends of those who die in the Lord. Grief for the death of friends is lawful; we may weep for our own loss, though it may be their gain. Christianity does not forbid, and grace does not do away, our natural affections. Yet we must not be excessive in our sorrows; this is too much like those who have no hope of a better life. Death is an unknown thing, and we know little about the state after death; yet the doctrines of the resurrection and the second coming of Christ, are a remedy against the fear of death, and undue sorrow for the death of our Christian friends; and of these doctrines we have full assurance. It will be some happiness that all the saints shall meet, and remain together for ever; but the principal happiness of heaven is to be with the Lord, to see him, live with him, and enjoy him for ever. We should support one another in times sorrow; not deaden one another's spirits, or weaken one another's hands. And this may be done by the many lessons to be learned from the resurrection of the dead, and the second coming of Christ. What! comfort a man by telling him he is going to appear before the judgment-seat of God! Who can feel comfort from those words? That man alone with whose spirit the Spirit of God bears witness that his sins are blotted out, and the thoughts of whose heart are purified by the Holy Spirit, so that he can love God, and worthily magnify his name. We are not in a safe state unless it is thus with us, or we are desiring to be so.Then we which are alive - Those who shall then be alive; see 1 Thessalonians 4:15. The word here rendered "then" (ἔπειτα epeita), does not necessarily mean that this would occur immediately. It properly marks succession in time, and means "afterward, next, next in the order of events;" Luke 16:7; Galatians 1:21; James 4:14. There may be a considerable interval between the resurrection of the pious and the time when the living shall be caught up to meet the Lord, for the change is to take place in them which will fit them to ascend with those who have been raised. The meaning is, that after the dead are raised, or the next thing in order, they and the living will ascend to meet the Lord. The proper meaning of the word, however, denotes a succession so close as to exclude the idea of a long interval in which other important transactions would occur, such an interval, for example, as would be involved in a long personal reign of the Redeemer on earth. The word demands this interpretation - that the next thing in order after the resurrection of the righteous, will be their being caught up with the living, with an appropriate change, into the air - though, as has been remarked, it will admit of the supposition of such a brief, momentary interval ἐν ἄτομος ἐν ῥιπη ὀφθαλμου en atomos en rhipē ophthalmou, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52) as shall be necessary to prepare for it.

Shall be caught up - The word here used implies that there will be the application of external force or power by which this will be done. It will not be by any power of ascending which they will themselves have; or by any tendency of their raised or changed bodies to ascend of their own accord, or even by any effort of their own will, but by a power applied to them which will cause them to rise. Compare the use of the word ἁρπάζω harpazō in Matthew 11:12, "the violent take it by force;" Matthew 13:19, "then cometh the wicked one and snatcheth away;" John 6:15, "that they would come and take him by force; John 10:12, "the wolf catcheth them;" Acts 8:39, "the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; 2 Corinthians 12:2, "such an one caught up to the third heaven;" also, John 12:28-29; Acts 23:10; Jde 1:23; Revelation 12:5. The verb does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament In all these instances there is the idea of either foreign force or violence effecting that which is done. What force or power is to be applied in causing the living and the dead to ascend, is not expressed. Whether it is to be by the ministry of angels, or by the direct power of the Son of God, is not intimated, though the latter seems to be most probable. The word should not be construed, however. as implying that there will be any reluctance on the part of the saints to appear before the Saviour, but merely with reference to the physical fact that power will be necessary to elevate them to meet him in the air. Will their, bodies then be such that they will have the power of locomotion at will from place to place?

In the clouds - Greek, "in clouds" - ἐν νεφέλαις en nephelais - without the article. This may mean "in clouds;" that is, in such numbers, and in such grouping as to resemble clouds. So it is rendered by Macknight, Koppe, Rosenmuller, Bush (Anasta. 266), and others. The absence of the article here would rather seem to demand this interpretation Still, however, the other interpretation may be true, that it means that they will be caught up into the region of the clouds, or to the clouds which shall accompany the Lord Jesus on his return to our world. Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Mark 14:62; Revelation 1:7; compare Daniel 7:13. In whichever sense it is understood, the expression is one of great sublimity, and the scene will be immensely grand. Some doctrine of this kind was held by the ancient Jews. Thus rabbi Nathan (Midras Tillin, 48:13) says, "What has been done before will be done again. As he led the Israelites from Egypt in the clouds of heaven, so will he do to them in the future time."

To meet the Lord in the air - In the regions of the atmosphere - above the earth. It would seem from this, that the Lord Jesus, in his coming, would not descend to the earth, but would remain at a distance from it in the air, where the great transactions of the judgment will occur. It is, indeed, nowhere said that the transactions of the judgment will occur upon the earth. The world would not be spacious enough to contain all the assembled living and dead, and hence the throne of judgment will be fixed in the ample space above it.

And so shall we ever be with the Lord - This does not mean that they will always remain with him in the air - for their final home will be heaven - and after the trial they will accompany him to the realms of glory; Matthew 25:34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom," etc. The time during which they will remain with him "in the air" is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. It will be as long as will be necessary for the purposes of judging a world and deciding the eternal doom of every individual "according to the deeds done in the body." There is no reason to suppose that this will be accomplished in a single day of twenty-four hours; but it is impossible to form and conjecture of the period which will be occupied.

17. we which are alive … shall be caught up—after having been "changed in a moment" (1Co 15:51, 52). Again he says, "we," recommending thus the expression to Christians of all ages, each generation bequeathing to the succeeding one a continually increasing obligation to look for the coming of the Lord. [Edmunds].

together with them—all together: the raised dead, and changed living, forming one joint body.

in the clouds—Greek, "in clouds." The same honor is conferred on them as on their Lord. As He was taken in a cloud at His ascension (Ac 1:9), so at His return with clouds (Re 1:7), they shall be caught up in clouds. The clouds are His and their triumphal chariot (Ps 104:3; Da 7:13). Ellicott explains the Greek, "robed round by upbearing clouds" [Aids to Faith].

in the air—rather, "into the air"; caught up into the region just above the earth, where the meeting (compare Mt 25:1, 6) shall take place between them ascending, and their Lord descending towards the earth. Not that the air is to be the place of their lasting abode with Him.

and so shall we ever be with the Lord—no more parting, and no more going out (Re 3:12). His point being established, that the dead in Christ shall be on terms of equal advantage with those found alive at Christ's coming, he leaves undefined here the other events foretold elsewhere (as not being necessary to his discussion), Christ's reign on earth with His saints (1Co 6:2, 3), the final judgment and glorification of His saints in the new heaven and earth.

Christ will have a church to the end of the world, and some will be found alive at his coming, and will be

caught up, or snatched up, to denote its suddenness, it may be in the arms of angels, or by some immediate attractive power of Christ; and it will be

together with them that are now raised from the dead; they shall all ascend in one great body, and it will be

in the clouds; as Christ himself ascended in a cloud, Acts 1:9, and so will return again, Matthew 24:30, he making the clouds his chariots, Psalm 104:3.

To meet the Lord in the air:

1. To congratulate his coming, when others shall flee and tremble.

2. To put honour upon him; as the angels will also attend him for that end.

3. To receive their final discharge.

4. To be visibly joined to their Head.

5. To be assistants with him in judging of the world, and to reign with him upon earth.

And whether the last judgment will be upon the earth, or in the air, I shall not determine; but after this Christ and his saints shall never part. Their first meeting shall be in the air, and their continuance will be with him while he is in this lower world, and after that they shall ascend with him into heaven, and so be for ever with him. Augustine imagined that the saints that are found alive shall in their rapture die, and then immediately revive, because it is appointed to all men once to die; but the apostle saith expressly: We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed, 1 Corinthians 15:51. Then we which are alive and remain,.... See Gill on 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

shall be caught up; suddenly, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and with force and power; by the power of Christ, and by the ministry and means of the holy angels; and to which rapture will contribute, the agility which the bodies both of the raised and changed saints will have: and this rapture of the living saints will be

together with them; with the dead in Christ, that will then be raised; so that the one will not come before the other, or the one be sooner with Christ than the other; but the one being raised and the other changed, they will be joined in one company and general assembly, and be caught up together:

in the clouds; the same clouds perhaps in which Christ will come, will be let down to take them up; these will be the chariots, in which they will be carried up to him; and thus, as at our Lord's ascension a cloud received him, and in it he was carried up out of the sight of men, so at this time will all the saints ride up in the clouds of heaven:

to meet the Lord in the air; whither he will descend, and will then clear the regions of the air of Satan, and his posse of devils, which now rove about there, watching all opportunities, and taking all advantages to do mischief on earth; these shall then fall like lightning from heaven, and be bound and shut up in the bottomless pit, till the thousand years are ended: here Christ will stop, and will be visible to all, and as easily discerned by all, good and bad, as the body of the sun at noonday; as yet he will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive him; but when that and its works are burnt up, and it is purged and purified by fire, and become a new earth, he will descend upon it, and dwell with his saints in it: and this suggests another reason why he will stay in the air, and his saints shall meet him there, and whom he will take up with him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it; and then shall all the elect of God descend from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, and he with them, and the tabernacle of God shall be with men; see Revelation 21:1. The resurrection by the Mahometans is called (q), "a meeting of God", or a going to meet God:

and so shall we ever be with the Lord; now the saints are with him at times, and have communion with him, but not always; but then they shall be ever with him; wherever he is; first in the air, where they shall meet him; then in the third heaven, where they shall go up with him; then on earth, where they shall descend and reign with him a thousand years; and then in the ultimate glory to all eternity: and this will be the issue and accomplishment of the counsel and covenant of grace, of the sufferings and death of Christ, and of his preparations and prayers.

(q) Alkoran, Surat. 6. v. 31. p. 113. Ed. Hinckelman.

Then we which are alive and remain shall be {i} caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

(i) Suddenly and in the twinkling of an eye.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 4:17. Σὺν αὐτοῖς] i.e. with the raised νεκροὶ ἐν Χριστῷ.

ἁρπαγησόμεθα] we will be snatched away. The expression (comp. 2 Corinthians 12:4; Acts 8:39) depicts the swiftness and irresistible force with which believers will be caught up. But, according to 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, the apostle must have conceived this ἁρπάζεσθαι as only occurring after a change has taken place in their former earthly bodies into heavenly, to qualify them for a participation in the eternal kingdom of the Messiah.

ἐν νεφέλαις] not instead of εἰς νεφέλας (Moldenhauer), but either in clouds, i.e. enveloped in clouds, or better, on clouds, i.e. enthroned in their midst. According to the Old Testament representation (Psalm 104:3), God rides on clouds as on a triumphal chariot. Also the Messiah appears on clouds (Daniel 7:13). According to Acts 1:9, Christ ascended to heaven on a cloud; and according to Acts 1:11, Matthew 24:30, He will return on a cloud. Theodoret: Ἔδειξε τὸ μέγεθος τῆς τιμῆς· ὥσπερ γὰρ αὐτὸς ὁ δεσπότης ἐπὶ νεφελῆς φωτεινῆς ἀνελήφθη, οὕτω καὶ οἱ εἰς αὐτὸν πεπιστευκότες κ.τ.λ.

εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ κυρίου] to the meeting of the Lord, i.e. in order to be led towards the Lord. εἰς ἀπάντησιν, corresponding to the Hebrew לִקְרַאת, is united both with the genitive (Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:6), as here, and with the dative (Acts 28:15). From the words it follows that the apostle did not think of Christ descending completely down to the earth.

εἰς ἀέρα] into the air, belongs to ἁρπαγησόμεθα, and can as little be considered as equivalent to εἰς τοὺς οὐρανούς (Flatt) as it can denote through the air, i.e. through the air to the higher regions (Flatt). Nor, on the other hand, can it be the apostle’s meaning—although Pelt, Usteri, Paulin. Lehrbegr. pp. 356, 359 (hesitatingly), and Weizel in the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1836, p. 935 f. assume it—that the Christian host would be caught up into the air, in order to have their permanent abode with Christ in the air. For, according to 2 Corinthians 5:1, the future eternal abode of Christians is ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.[60] Nevertheless the apostle was constrained to express himself as he has done. For when Christ descends down from heaven, and Christians are caught up to meet Him, the place of meeting can only be a space between heaven and earth, i.e. the air. Comp. Augustine, de civit. Dei, xx. 20, 1 Thessalonians 2 : Quod enim ait … non sic accipiendum est, tanquam in aëre nos dixerit semper cum domino esse mansuros; quia nec ipse utique ibi manebit, quia veniens transiturus est. Venienti quippe ibitur obviam, non manenti. But that Paul adds nothing concerning the removal of the glorified Christian host to heaven, following their being caught up with Christ, and of the resurrection of all men connected with the advent, along with the judgment of the world, is naturally explained, because the description of the advent as such is not here his object, but his design is wholly and entirely to satisfy the doubts raised by the Thessalonians in respect of the advent.[61] But to effect this purpose it was perfectly sufficient that he now, specifying the result of the points described, proceeds: ΚΑῚ ΟὝΤΩς ΠΆΝΤΟΤΕ ΣῪΝ ΚΥΡΊῼ ἘΣΌΜΕΘΑ] and so shall we ever be united with the Lord.

οὕτως] so, that is, after that we have actually met with Him. It refers back to εἰς ἀπάντησιν.

σύν] imports more than ΜΕΤΆ. It expresses intimate union, not mere companionship.

ἘΣΌΜΕΘΑ] comprehends as its subject both ΝΕΚΡΟῚ ἘΝ ΧΡΙΣΤῷ and the ΖῶΝΤΕς.

[60] Also on this account Paul cannot have thought on a permanent residence on the glorified earth (Georgii in Zeller’s theol. Jahrb. 1845, I. p. 6, and Hilgenfeld in the Zeitsch. f. wiss. Theol., Halle 1862, p. 240).

[61] For the same reason also the silence concerning the change of believers who happened to be alive at the advent is justified. Against Schrader, who thinks on account of this silence that the author must have conceived the circumstances of the advent “in an entirely sensible manner;” “the incongruities of this representation, if it is understood sensibly,” cannot be Pauline, because with Paul the doctrine of the last things has a “purely (?) spiritual character.”1 Thessalonians 4:17. ἐν νεφέλαις, the ordinary method of sudden rapture or ascension to heaven (Acts 1:9; Acts 1:11; Revelation 11:12; Slav. En. iii. 1, 2).—ἁρπαγησόμεθα. So in Sap. 1 Thessalonians 4:11, the righteous man, εὐάρεστος τῷ θεῷ (1 Thessalonians 4:1) γενόμενος ἠγαπήθη (1 Thessalonians 1:4), is caught up (ἡρπάγη).—ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖςσὺν Κυρίῳ, the future bliss is a re-union of Christians not only with Christ but with one another.—εἰς ἀπάντησιν, a pre-Christian phrase of the koinê (cf. e.g., Tebtunis Papyri, 1902, pt. i., n. 43, 7, παρεγενήθημεν εἰς ἀπάντησιν, κ.τ.λ., and Moulton, i. 14), implying welcome of a great person on his arrival. What further functions are assigned to the saints, thus incorporated in the retinue of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 3:13; cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:10),—whether, e.g., they are to sit as assessors at the judgment (Sap. 1 Thessalonians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Luke 22:30)—Paul does not stop to state here. His aim is to reassure the Thessalonians about the prospects of their dead in relation to the Lord, not to give any complete programme of the future (so Matthew 24:31; Did. x., xvi.). Plainly, however, the saints do not rise at once to heaven, but return with the Lord to the scene of his final manifestation on earth (so Chrysost., Aug., etc.). They simply meet the Lord in the air, on his way to judgment—a trait for which no Jewish parallel can be found.—καὶ οὕτως πάντοτε σὺν κυρίῳ ἐσόμεθα (no more sleeping in him or waiting for him).17. then we which are alive and remain] Better, we that are alive, that remain (or survive). The phrase of 1 Thessalonians 4:15 repeated; see note. The Apostle distinguishes, as in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, between those “living” and those “dead in Christ” at the time of His advent, marking the different position in which these two divisions of the saints will then be found.

shall be caught up together with them in the clouds] In the Greek order: together with them will be caught up in the clouds, emphasis being thrown on the precedence of the dead: “we the living shall join their company, who are already with the Lord.” Together with implies full association.

“Caught” in the original implies a sudden, irresistible force,—seized, snatched up! In Matthew 11:12 it is rendered, “The violent take it by force;” in 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4 St Paul applies it to his rapture into the third heaven.

“In” signifies not into, but “amid clouds,”—surrounding and upbearing us “like a triumphal chariot” (Grotius). So Christ Himself, and the angels at His Ascension, promised He should come (Matthew 26:68; Acts 1:9-11); comp. the “bright overshadowing cloud” at the Transfiguration, and the “voice out of the cloud” (Matthew 17:5). There is something wonderful and mystical about the clouds, half of heaven and half of earth, that fits them to be the medium of such events. They lend their ethereal drapery to form the curtain and canopy of this glorious meeting. “What belongs to cloudland is no less real than if set down on the solid ground.”

Such a raising of the living bodies of the saints, along with the risen dead, implies the physical transformation of the former to which the Apostle afterwards alludes in 1 Corinthians 15:51 : “we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (comp. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; Php 3:21). Some change had taken place in the sacred body of Jesus after His resurrection, for it was emancipated from the ordinary laws of matter. And this transformation the Apostle conceived to be possible without dissolution.

to meet the Lord in the air] Lit., into (raised into) the air. “The air,” like the “clouds,” belongs to the interspace between the heaven from which Christ comes and the earth to which He returns. Here He will meet His Church. She will not need to wait until He sets foot on earth; but those who are ready, “looking for their Lord when He shall return” (Luke 12:35-40), will hear His trumpet call and “go forth to meet the Bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:6). St Paul employs the same, somewhat rare Hebraistic idiom which is found in this passage of St Matthew, as though the words of Christ lingered in his ear.

and so shall we ever be with the Lord] Where the Apostle does not say; whether still on earth for some longer space, or in heaven. The one and all-sufficing comfort is in the thought of being always with the Lord. This, too, was the promise of Christ, “Where I am, there shall also My servant be” (John 12:26; John 14:3). Those living in the flesh cannot be so in any complete sense; “at home in the body,” we are “absent from the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6).1 Thessalonians 4:17. Ἅμα) Ammonious, ἅμα μὲν ἐστι χρονικὸν ἐπίῤῥημα· ὁμοῦ δὲ, τοπικόν, “ἅμα is an adverb of time, ὁμοῦ of place.” You see here the propriety of the apostle’s language.—εἰς ἀέρα, in, or rather, [caught up] into the air) The ungodly will remain on the earth. The godly, having been acquitted, will be made assessors in the judgment.—καὶ οὕτω, and so) When Paul has written what needed to be written for consolation, he treats of [lit. he wraps up] the most important matters in this brief style.—πάντοτε, [ever] always) without any separation.—σὺν Κυρίῳ, with the Lord) not only in the air, but in heaven, whence He came.—ἐσόμεθα, we shall be) both [the living and those raised from the dead].Verse 17. - Then we which are alive and remain; or, are left; that is, the saints who shall then be found alive on the earth. The apostle classes himself among the living, because he was then alive. Shall be caught up. The expression describes the irresistible power with which the saints shall be caught up, perhaps by the ministry of angels. Together with them; with the dead in Christ who are raised. In the clouds. Our Lord is described as coming to judgment in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7). According to the Old Testament representation, God is described as making the clouds his chariot (Psalm 104:3). To meet the Lord; in his descent from heaven to earth. In the air. Not that he shall fix his throne in the air, but that he passes through the air in his descent to the earth. And so shall we ever be with the Lord; shall share a blessed eternity in the vision and participation of his glory. The apostle does not here describe the solemnities of the judgment; but stops at the meeting of Christ and his risen saints, because his object was to comfort the Thessalonians under bereavement. Together with them (ἅμα σὺν αὐτοῖς)

Ἅμα, at the same time, referring to the living. We that are alive shall simultaneously or one and all (comp. Romans 3:12) be caught up. Σὺν αὐτοῖς along with them, i.e., the dead. Thus ἅμα is to be const. with shall be caught up. The A.V. and Rev. are inaccurate. These are the important words as related to the disquietude of the Thessalonians.

Shall be caught up (ἁρπαγησόμεθα)

By a swift, resistless, divine energy. Comp. 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4; Acts 8:39.

In the air (εἰς ἀέρα)

Rend. into the air, and const. with shall be caught up. Ἁὴρ the atmosphere with the clouds, as distinguished from αἰθὴρ the pure ether, which does not occur in N.T.

And so

After having met the Lord.

Links
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Interlinear
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Parallel Texts


1 Thessalonians 4:17 NIV
1 Thessalonians 4:17 NLT
1 Thessalonians 4:17 ESV
1 Thessalonians 4:17 NASB
1 Thessalonians 4:17 KJV

1 Thessalonians 4:17 Bible Apps
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Parallel
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Biblia Paralela
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Chinese Bible
1 Thessalonians 4:17 French Bible
1 Thessalonians 4:17 German Bible

Bible Hub
1 Thessalonians 4:16
Top of Page
Top of Page