15 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. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
So the progression is like this....There will be a loud command with the voice of the archangel; then the trumpet call of God; and things will start to happen. Those in Christ which have died before the Lord's return, will rise first. Then those who are still alive will be "caught up together with them in the clouds. That's when we will be meeting Jesus in the air.
I really get excited about the part of the plan that lets me know when and where I get to see Jesus. Paul says, "And so we will be with the Lord forever!" Hallelujah! Praise God!
I am especially excited about the last sentence in the verses above. "Therefore encourage one another with these words." I hope we realize we Christians are to be an encouragement to each other during our entire lifetime. I would feel very empty without the encouragement I get from those in the family of God. But isn't it amazing that here at the very end of the earthly things as we know them, the inspired writer says the events of the return of Jesus to gather us to our eternal home, can be some of the greatest words of encouragement we can speak to each other. (Part 3, tomorrow.)
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!