The “Day of the Lord” is portrayed in Scripture as a day of fear and trembling, justice and judgment. On that day, God will come as a Mighty Warrior and conquer the nations (Joel 2:1–11; Zeph. 1:14–16). The Day of the Lord is a recurring theme in Old Testament prophecy. And we know from the New Testament that this term can specifically refer to the Second Coming of Christ, when He will return as King (1 Thess. 5:2; Matt. 24:30–31; Phil. 2:9–11).
Paul taught in today’s passage about Christ’s return and the Rapture of the church. After affirming the doctrine of resurrection, he anticipated the Thessalonians’ next question: How and when will this happen? And what about those who are still alive at that time? Christ’s return will be heralded by the voice of an archangel and the trumpet call of God (v. 16). At our Lord’s “loud command . . . the dead in Christ will rise first.” By “first,” Paul meant they would be raised before dead unbelievers destined for judgment.
As for living believers, “we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17; see also 1 Cor. 15:51–52). This event is known as the Rapture and will take place prior to the Tribulation. Why do we call it the “Rapture”? The Greek term harpazo—translated “caught up”—means “to snatch or take away suddenly.” The language implies that Christ’s return is imminent and could happen at any time. This is exactly what the term “Rapture” (from the Latin raptus) means.
From that point on, believers will live with Christ forever! (v. 17; see John 14:1–3). The application of this sermon is easy: “Encourage one another with these words” (v. 18). Christ’s return is indeed our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).
>> As we dig into this end-times teaching, you may find it is beneficial to read other relevant Scripture passages. Today, we invite you to read Matthew 24.
Lord, teach us to live in conscious expectation of your return, not as a distant promise but as an impending reality. Let us approach our problems and ambitions with an eternal perspective.