1 Thessalonians 4:15 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Thessalonians 4:15, NIV: According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15, ESV: For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15, KJV: For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15, NASB: For we say this to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15, NLT: We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.

1 Thessalonians 4:15, CSB: For we say this to you by a word from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord's coming will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

What does 1 Thessalonians 4:15 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This passage is meant to clarify misunderstandings about the nature of the end times, as well as what happens to Christians who die before the return of Jesus Christ. Writing to the believers at Thessalonica by divine revelation, Paul declares living Christians will not be caught up—"raptured"—ahead of departed Christians at the coming of the Lord. He commends the Thessalonian believers for waiting for God's Son from heaven (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Upcoming verses will contain Paul's teaching that Jesus' return involves an imminent, immediate reunion with Christ for all who believe in Him.

Paul believed this sudden, physical reunion—referred to as "the rapture"—could happen at any time. He told the Corinthians, "the appointed time has grown very short" (1 Corinthians 7:29). In Philippians 4:5, he announced that "The Lord is at hand." He wrote to Titus about leading a self-controlled, upright, and godly life while "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). His words to Titus show us that we must not wait passively for our Lord's return, but we should actively engage in a godly life. The apostle John affirmed the truth that the hope of being raptured compels us to purify ourselves (1 John 3:2–3).

Someday, perhaps even today, Jesus will come for all who have trusted in Him as their Savior. His return will fulfill the promise He made in John 14:3: "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself…"

Paul's reference to those who have "fallen asleep" points to those Christians who have already died. As shown in the prior verse, these believers will be taken just as much as those who are alive when Jesus returns. Paul's other writings clarify that this "sleep" is simply a metaphor for their temporary condition—a reference to the material body—not a state of spiritual unawareness (Philippians 1:20–24; 2 Corinthians 5:8; see also Luke 16:19–31).