Does 1 Thessalonians 4:14 teach that the disembodied souls will return at the second coming?

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1 Thessalonians 4:14

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:14, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” Some wrongly teach that Paul is here speaking of disembodied souls which ascend to heaven at death and return with Jesus when He comes at the second coming.

People Do Not Go to Heaven or Hell at Death

The Bible nowhere teaches that the soul of man is immortal and that it ascends to heaven at death. According to God’s Word, we are souls, and souls die. Man is mortal (Job 4:17). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). The concept of an undying, immortal soul goes against the Bible, which teaches that souls are subject to death.

At death, people go to their graves to await the Resurrection Day. “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth” (John 5:28, 29). The apostle Peter declared that, even the prophet “David … is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” And added, “David is not ascended into the heavens” (Acts 2:29, 34). For a Bible study on the state of the Dead, check: https://bibleask.org/bible-answers/112-the-intermediate-state/

The Dead Saints Will Be Raised at the Second Coming

At the resurrection, the saints will be raised, given immortal bodies, and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. There would be no purpose in a resurrection if people were taken to heaven at death. Jesus declared, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12).

The apostle Paul wrote, “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

And he added, “ 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” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Paul is not speaking of immortal souls, but of “them which are asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:13), “them also which sleep in Jesus” (verse 14), “the dead in Christ” (verse 16). Paul said, the “dead in Christ” rise (v. 16), not descend. “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” (v. 15).

All the saints enter the kingdom together (verse 17). If the dead preceded the living and spent some time with the Lord prior to the resurrection, then the apostle’s language would be quite inappropriate. If the saints are in heaven then why would Paul comfort the Thessalonians? Paul’s teaching was in harmony with that of his Lord: “And 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” (John 14:3).

Bible commentators like Jamisesen, Fausset and Brown, admit that “the disembodied souls are not referred to here. Paul simply wanted to emphasis the fact that as God brought forth Christ from the grave, even so would He bring forth the sleeping saints from the graves. “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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