1 Thessalonians 4:17 (KJV) states,

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds....

It looks like those who are ALIVE and REMAIN will be caught up. Does "we which are alive" refer to those who are still alive after the Tribulation? If not, in what other way should this scripture be interpreted?

  • Also - possibly related to The Truth About the Rapture
    – Jesse
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 18:07
  • It refers to those who are alive, when Christ descends from heaven with a shout, at the voice of an archangel and the trump of God ~ 1Thes.4:16 That is when he will gather all believers unto Himself (some call this the rapture and refer only to the "Church" - New Testament saints), however I personally believe that would be all believers throughout the ages. Those who are alive, at the moment of His coming, are all those who will be caught up to meet Him in the air, being transformed without tasting death. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 13:14
  • It cannot be referring to believers that are dead, as those that are alive meet them in the air. Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 1:47
  • When the time comes, those who this warning is directed to will already have understood it. Commented Dec 23, 2018 at 3:49

8 Answers 8


I agree with the previous answer by Joseph and will seek to reiterate it by looking at the immediate context of 1 Thess. 4.

In 1 Thess. 4:13 Paul refers to "those who are asleep" and is simply trying to encourage them since it seems that some of them were grieving. They were under the misconception that the dead would not experience the coming of the Lord. Paul seeks to emphasize that when Christ comes, both the dead (sleeping) and the living will experience his coming.

This simple surface level reading of the text is made murky by the many confusing teachings on 1 Thess. 4:17 in regards to the "rapture". The word 'caught up' is from the latin word "raptura" and here in Thessalonians is the only time this word is used to refer to the 2nd coming. It seems that the confusion in your question comes from trying to understand how all the various teachings of the NT fit into a coherent picture. This turns into a puzzle game of trying to fit the different pieces together and often around the pieces of the millenium and the tribulation. I believe Paul is simply trying to encourage grieving people with hope, teaching that both the living and dead would experience the coming of the Lord.

Here is an interesting note on 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 from IVP Bible Background Commentary:

Judaism traditionally associated the resurrection of the dead with the end of this age and the inauguration of the kingdom, and readers would assume this connection in the absence of a direct statement to the contrary. When paired with a royal “coming”, the word for “meeting” in the air normally referred to emissaries from a city going out to meet the dignitary and escort him on his way to their city. The contrast that this image provides with the honor thought to be particularly due to the “Lord” Caesar and his emissaries could well have provoked hostility from local officials (cf. 2:12; 5:3; Acts 17:7).

It seems to me like this passage in it's original context was meant to inspire hope and vision of the Messianic King coming to visit his people. I believe it is best when read that way and not used as a piece in a messy and confusing puzzle of one various eschatological view.


In the Christian New Testament, there were false teachers who had taught (during the First Century at the time of Paul) that the resurrection had already taken place.

2 Timothy 2:17-18 (NASB)
17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.

Some believers were upset, because they believed that they were excluded from this resurrection. In other words, the hope of the resurrection relates to believers both alive and dead, and to be excluded from this resurrection would imply that you were not saved in the first place.

John 14:1-3 (NASB)
1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

There is no indication that there is any discrimination between living and dead believers. That is, all those who believe in Jesus are in mind. When Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching that the resurrection had already occurred, they were contradicting the words of Jesus - that is, they were making Jesus to be a liar.

1 Timothy 1:19-20 (NASB)
19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.

If we connect the Hymenaeus from 1 Tim 1:19-20 to the very (same?) Hymenaeus mentioned in 2 Tim 2:17-18, then the blasphemy appears to be in making Jesus to be a liar in that not all believers are included in THE resurrection (as Jesus had made the explicit promise in John 14:1-3, noted above).

Again, later in the First Century, as Paul began was writing his epistles, many people who heard these words of Jesus had already begun to die.

1 Corinthians 15:6 (NASB)
6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.

Thus when Paul talks about the resurrection in his epistles to the Thessalonians, there is no change of scope in the text that would separate living believers from those believers who are already dead. In other words, the event of the resurrection of believers includes those living and those dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 (NASB)
15 For this we say 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. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The last verse here begs the question: How do you comfort somebody with the message of the resurrection, when, if perchance you happened to be alive when it happened, you would have to remain behind (for whatever reason)? The issue here therefore is not about “rapture” or “tribulation.” That is, this resurrection will include all those who are (or had been) believers. Thus when this resurrection occurs, we have comfort (now in the present moment today right now) that we will have immediate corporal reunion with the Lord and with those loved ones who had preceded us in the Lord.


The word "air"is stated in Strong's Concordance (G109) G109 ἀήρ aēr ah-ayr' From ἄημι aēmi (to breathe unconsciously, that is, respire; by analogy to blow); “air” (as naturally circumambient): - air. Compare G5594.

This word has nothing to do with the atmosphere, but more likely refers to "the breath of God and the Shekinah Glory" that denotes his presence.

This word is constantly misrepresented by Pre-Tribulation rapture adherents in the mistaken belief that people will be driving in their car or walking along and disappear out of thin air. God is not a deity of chaos but of logical order. His creation of the universe is a perfect example of his methodical, orderly methods.



Whether we “wake or sleep”, we should live together with Him as He will awaken those who are currently “sleeping” in their envy and strife…being “dead” in trespasses and sins. To be "awake" = to be "alive".

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 KJV (9) For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (11) Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

Those who are “alive and remain” are the children of light….the children of the Day….who are already “watching” (awake) and are found “sober” (and not "drunk" on the wine of wrath) towards the revelation of Jesus Christ who comes to open up the Scriptures to our understanding which shall gather us all together. They “remain” as they abide in Him by doing His will:

John 15:4 KJV (4) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

They abide….remain…in Him and His words that they will hear also remain in them.

John 15:7 KJV (7) If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

They are found “awake” to His righteousness at the hearing of His voice….and will immediately open up to Him.

Those who are “alive” are found remembering to let brotherly love continue (their lights are already burning as they are found by Him remembering to do His will). They are found prepared and doing His will at the most crucial time: at the hearing of His voice as He opens up the Scriptures to their minds. They do not need to be “awakened” as they are found “alive” by doing His will.

Luke 12:35-40 KJV (35) Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; (36) And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.

Blessed (happy) are those servants whom the Lord when He comes (to open up the Scriptures to our understanding with His voice) and finds them “watching”….that is, awake already.

These people are “alive and remain”. They open unto Him immediately. He shall make them to sit down to “meat”…the meat of the Word of God…and will come forth and serve them. They will enter in to understand the mysteries of the kingdom as they will understand the true words of God that the Lord serves them.

(37) Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.

Others will not be found in this immediate “awakened” condition as they are found “asleep” (being forgetful) to doing His will and some will vocally respond negatively towards the hearing of His voice. He also comes for people who are found “asleep” as well and not just those who are “awake”.

Some need to be warned 2 or 3 times (2nd or 3rd watch of the night) to “awake to righteousness” and repent of their bad behavior when they hear His voice. If they do, happy are those servants. They awake to righteousness and cast off the works of darkness…the envy, the strife, the contentions, the hatred, etc and listen.

(38) And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. (39) And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. (40) Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not

But those who are “awake to righteousness” already won’t be found unprepared at the hearing of His voice as He opens up the Scriptures to our understanding which gathers us all together in Truth. They will not be found by Him being contentious and behaving in wrath, envy and strife as those who are “asleep” in the darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5:4-7 KJV (4) But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. (5) Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.

Those who are “asleep” are not “awake” to His righteousness as they fight and quarrel among each other ….provoking one another…over theological differences or over their respective handwriting of church dogmas (ordinances). There is envy and strife and divisions and hatred of one another. They have fallen asleep.

Yet, Jesus comes to “awake” them from their “sleep” with His voice as He opens up the Scriptures to their hearing ears.

(6) Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. (7) For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.

The “sleeping” are those who are “dead” in trespasses and sins as they fight and war with each other over those things that divide them that are being preached by those who do not have the Spirit. They live according to the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind in their fighting with each other.

Ephesians 2:1-6 KJV (1) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (3) Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (4) But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

But our God is rich in mercy. He has great love for us. He sends His Son to give us an understanding so that we may know Him who is true. The Lord comes to “awake” those who are “dead in sins and trespasses” and are made alive together with those are already “alive and remain”. Even when we were "DEAD" in sins, He quickens (makes alive) us together with Christ.

(5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

He raises us up TOGETHER (both those who were “asleep” and those who are “awake” already) and makes us sit together above the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

(6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

He comes to awake the “dead “who are “dead” in sins and the uncircumcision of the flesh. He quickens us together with Him and forgives us of all of our trespasses.

Colossians 2:13 KJV (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

He comes to “awake” those who are “sleeping” from their works of darkness (envy and strife and hatred of one another )that were done in ignorance of the Word of Truth.

They are to “arise from the dead” as they were “dead” in trespasses and sins. The Lord descends from Heaven with a command: “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead”. Christ shall give them light if they will “awake”.

Ephesians 5:14-21 KJV (14) Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. (15) See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, (16) Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

We are to be filled with what we hear the Spirit saying…..to drink it all in as we hear the living water…and not be found “drunk” on the wine of wrath towards what we hear the Spirit saying.

(18) And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Instead of responding with a multitude of words spoken in wrath, we are to be quick to hear what the Spirit is saying and slow to speak and slow to wrath. We are to speak within our own hearts instead with rejoicing and thanksgiving…making melody in our hearts to the Lord.

(19) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; (20) Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (21) Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

He that hears His word and believes on Him that sent the Son has everlasting life. He has passed from death to life.

John 5:24-30 KJV (24) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

The “dead” in sins and trespasses shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that truly hear shall live.

(25) Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (26) For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; (27) And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. (28) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

Some will hear and do good towards what they hear unto the standing up of life and they that will do evil unto the standing up of condemnation

(29) And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

As He hears (our responses to the hearing of His voice), He judges.

(30) I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a “shout”…that is, a command: to “ARISE”. He descends from Heaven with the voice of the “archangel”…the Spirit of Truth…and we are to hear what the Spirit says. The “dead in Christ” are those who will hear His voice and die to sin in response to the hearing of His voice. They will cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 KJV (15) 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. (16) 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:

The Lord awakes those who are “asleep” and they will die to sin. The “dead in Christ” will put away the works of darkness. Those “alive” already and those raised to life from being “dead” in trespasses and sins shall be caught up together in clouds.

It is not in “the” clouds but IN CLOUDS. These clouds are the ”clouds” of people who are focusing on things above. This is not a literal catching up into the literal air but of being gathered together in one mind and one body in Christ and praising God above who will set us high above the nations of this earth.

(17) 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. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

Again, He raises us up together (in “clouds”) and makes us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (meeting of the Lord in the “air”) so that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:6-7 KJV (6) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (7) That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

He shall make us to sit high above all of the nations which He has made….

Deuteronomy 26:18-19 KJV (18) And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments; (19) And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.

Deuteronomy 28:13 The LORD will make you the head and not the tail; you will only move upward and never downward, if you hear and carefully follow the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am giving you today.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 KJV (1) And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: (2) And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.


Q. Who does “we which are alive” refer to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17?

A. Jesus predicted that when he returned some of the people that surrounded him (his contemporaries, walking the same sand at the same time) would still be alive:

[Mat 16:27-28 KJV] 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. 28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Jesus returned in circa 70AD and judged Israel and fulfilled all the prophecies.

For more information I recommend this gentleman's videos.


I Thessalonians 4:17 Correct Versions.

Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. New World Translation

Then we who are alive, who remain, will be snatched away at the same time together with them in the clouds for a meeting with the Lord in the air, and thus we will be together with the Lord always. Lexham English Bible

then we who are living, who are remaining over, together with them shall be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in air, and so always with the Lord we shall be; Youngs Literal Translation

Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be snatched away in the clouds in the air to meet the Lord, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. New European Translation

There is no mention here of the righteous being caught up to Heaven. Christ descends from Heaven before the believers meet him. Christ will reign for ever on David's throne in Jerusalem, and they will be with him, here on earth. It is therefore impossible that they should spend eternity with him suspended in mid-air. 'The air' extending only a few kilometres above the earth's surface means that it cannot refer to Heaven, the dwelling place of God.

The Greek phrase translated "caught up" (Greek harpazo) really means to be snatched away; it does not carry the idea of any specific direction. It also occurs in Acts 8:39:

"The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more... But Philip was found at Azotus".

This records how Philip was miraculously transported from one place on earth to another. When Christ comes, the responsible will be gathered together to the place of judgment; they will not be left to make their own way there.

It is possible that their means of transportation to that place will be literally through the air. Jesus said that "in the day when the Son of man is revealed...two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Luke 17:30,36). This gives the same picture of a sudden snatching away. The disciples earnestly asked, "Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together" (Luke 17:37). As the eagles fly instinctively through the air and then land on earth where the carcase is, so the responsible will be brought to the place where they will meet their Lord in judgment.

The Truth Shall Make You Free

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 (NKJV)

Regards Warwick Hobbs

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other SEs. Our community looks for answers to reflect a good degree of research and references. Typically, we like answers that cite scholarly references according to our recommend formatting. If you have a moment to edit this post to do that, this would be appreciated. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:39

This question is playing out in front of our eyes right now. Those who did not take the MOB. Will be the ones whom, are alive, and remains.

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    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 17:38
  • Hi Windy, welcome to the site! It sounds like you are interested in eschatology and there are many others here who share that interest. This site is designed more for detailed answers based on principles of biblical interpretation than for comments and exhortations. I'm looking forward to hearing your views with biblical and well-researched answers. Thanks! Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 1:57

The dead in Christ are the saints that rose with him at the resurrection. When Christ stands up they are the dead in Christ they are part of the body of Christ. There is no rapture. There is a harvest both good and bad will be cut down together the rates will be gathered first then the wheat. The thing about one will be taken that refers to the wicked the good is left behind to be gathered in the store house . All will be judged by fie are you like The Hebrew children in the furnace walking with the son of man or do you get cast out

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