What happens after we ‘meet the Lord in the air’? 1 Thess. 4:17

POST OVERVIEW. A brief exegesis of 1 Thess. 4:17 and the phrase “meet the Lord in the air.” What does the Scripture teach about this phrase? What happens after we “meet the Lord in the air?”

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. – 1 Thess. 4:17


The fourth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians contains some of the apostle’s clearest teaching about the coming of the Lord and the Resurrection of the saints, but Bible students can still have questions about these events. One of the points of confusion can be about what happens after the glorified saints “meet the Lord in the air” (4:17), but the Bible is not unclear about this. The saints meet the descending Lord Jesus in the air and then we come with Him to earth as “He judges and wages war” (Rev. 19:11). Let’s explore what the Scripture says about this event.


First, the nature of Jesus’ mission at His coming requires that He come to earth after the saints meet Him in the air. When Jesus comes, He is coming to “strike down the nations and to rule them with a rod of iron and to tread out the wine press of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15). “There will be delay no longer” (Rev. 10:6). At His first advent, Jesus came to be a Savior and to be a sacrifice for sin, but when He comes at the end of the age, He will come as a judge to punish all sin. The time for mercy and grace will be over. Then Jesus “judges and wages war.” His mission will be to render recompense, and so we see Him throwing the beast and the false prophet into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20) and then we see Him rendering punishment on all unredeemed mankind. “And the rest (‘of the kings of the earth and their armies’ 19:19) were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Rev. 19:21). At the end of Revelation 19, Jesus has killed all those who oppose Him. (See also Rev. 14:19-20.) Therefore, because of the nature of His mission, Jesus must continue to earth after the saints meet Him in the air.


But second, we also have the clear teaching of the Scriptures that tells us that the saints meet the Lord in the air and then come with Him back to earth. In 1 Thess. 3:13, Paul says that “we will be without blame in holiness at the coming of our Lord Jesus WITH all His saints.” In 4:14, again Paul says, “God will bring WITH Him (with Jesus) those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” In Rev. 19:14, a verse that describes the Lord Jesus as He descends from heaven to judge the nations, we read, “The armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him (Jesus) on white horses.” The glorified saints, by their resurrection, have joined their King’s army and now come with their King as He judges the nations.


Thus, from Scripture’s clear teaching, after the saints “meet the Lord in the air,” they proceed to come to earth with the descending Lord Jesus as He comes to judge and wage war.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 2/22/2023                   #625