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:
1 Thessalonians 4:16
This verse summarizes the second coming, breaking it down into six parts.
First he says that the Lord Himself shall descend. This means the second coming is not a revival of a movement, nor is it a metaphorical coming. It’s not a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem or any other big catastrophic event in human history.
We’re talking about the literal return of the literal Jesus.
Second he says that the Lord will descend from Heaven. Jesus will return from the place he now is: The throne of God in Heaven. He ascended into Heaven not long after his bodily resurrection, and He will come in like manner (Acts 1:11).
Third Paul says that Jesus will descend from Heaven with a shout. This is the first of three “noises” that will accompany the Lord’s return. Here we have a shout. The word literally means “a cry of incitement” and comes from the word that means “to hail” or “to call an army to attention.” Jesus is going to call His people to attention, and will rally them to His side (as the next verse will explain).
Fourth, Paul says that Jesus will descend with the voice of the archangel. Might he be the one who is doing the shouting? It’s a fair guess. The word “archangel” is a compound of the words “arch” (meaning “chief” or “first in rank”) and “angelos” (meaning of course “angel”). He is the chief angel over the angels and the one shouting aloud and blowing the trumpet…
Fifth we learn that Jesus will descend with the trump of God. The sound of the trumpet is customarily the sound that calls an army to battle, or at the very least calls them to attention, similar to the shout previously discussed. The trump will be the loud clarion call that stirs all Christians—living and dead—to meet the Lord.
Finally, Paul says that the dead in Christ will rise first. Why? Because, as the next verse says, we all will meet the Lord in the air. The dead must rise first, before the living ascend to meet the Lord, because the dead are six feet lower in the ground than the living! They have that much farther to travel, so they rise first…
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.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
…and with the dead risen, the living join them and together we both—those who are dead and those who are alive and remain—will enjoy three things. First we will be caught up together with them. With whom? With the dead who rose first. We will be “caught up” with them. The phrase means “to seize” or “to pluck.” We will be plucked from our earthly abode in order to experience the second thing…
Second, we will meet the Lord in the air. Jesus isn’t coming back to establish a kingdom on earth. He’s not coming back to reign in Jerusalem like David or Solomon. His coming will stop in the sky and He will call His people up to Him.
Third, upon gathering the living and dead together, and meeting the Lord in the air, we—all Christians—shall ever be with the Lord. First he says we will meet Him, and then he promises we’ll ever be with Him. Our meeting, in other words, will be the beginning of our never separating from Him again. When we meet Him at His second coming, it will mark the end of sin and death and temptation and trial (1 Corinthians 15:54).
Look how much information is packed into just two short verses! We can have confidence and preparedness for the second coming; all we have to do is turn to the Book!