For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1Th 4:14-18 NKJ)
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed–in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Co 15:51-57 NKJ)
Stay with me in this text, let scripture not tradition speak for itself. Paul’s key thought here is the resurrection. Quite a few Christians in Paul’s time believed that Jesus was going to return immediately. When that didn’t happen, they started to wonder as to what would happen. The picture here in the Greek is one of a king returning from war, with trumpets blasting, the shout of the archangel, Jesus comes with all those souls that had died before his return. Their old bodies that were buried in corruption will be exchanged for immortality. We who are still alive, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians, will be changed in a moment, we will get new bodies. These new bodies will probably be able to do amazing things since they are not weighed down by sin. A keyword in the text is the word ‘coming—Parousia*.’ As soon as Paul mentioned this, his audience of his day would have associated Jesus’ return with the return of a Caesar. People being excited would run out to meet him and in a procession, leading him back into the city. So with our new bodies, we meet Jesus in the air and bring him back into the city, possibly the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21.
No rapture, just resurrection—Hallelujah! Rapture was the invention of John Darby, 1830 and later in the Scofield Bible. Whenever we have an eschatology based on fear we have a problem because as John tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1Jo 4:18 NKJ)