1 Thessalonians 4:17 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

1 Thessalonians 4:17, NIV: After that, 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. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

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

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

1 Thessalonians 4:17, NLT: Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

1 Thessalonians 4:17, CSB: Then we who are still alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

What does 1 Thessalonians 4:17 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This verse continues an often-quoted description of "the rapture:" the sudden, bodily taking from earth of all Christians by Jesus Christ. That depiction, in turn, is part of Paul's reassurance to the Christians of Thessalonica. He is correcting certain fears and misunderstandings about the end times, including what happens to believers who die before Jesus returns. The prior verse describes the rapture as a dramatic event, which first involves the resurrection of those believers who have already died (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Following the resurrection of departed Christians, Jesus will snatch up living Christians who are "left." Being left should not trouble believers, because they are left for only a fleeting moment before Jesus takes them us up from the earth to join Him in the clouds of earth's atmosphere. This event will introduce Christians to an eternity in Jesus' presence.

The word "clouds" is used metaphorically, most likely as a reference to the sky. Alternatively, Paul might mean this as crowds of people, just as it represents a crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1. At any rate Jesus' arrival in earth's atmosphere suggests He offers Christians' safe passage through the Devil's territory, reflecting imagery used elsewhere in Scripture. The Devil is "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:12, but he is no match for Jesus. The apostle John offered strong encouragement by writing, "… he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Notably, Paul makes it clear that this meeting is "in the air," and not on the literal surface of the earth. This is why the rapture is considered to be a separate event from the second coming of Christ. When Jesus fully returns to earth, a second time, He will do so leading the armies of heaven (Revelation 19:11–16).