By Campus Missionary Mary Rowley, based on 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18
I had a professor at Concordia – Wisconsin who was adamantly opposed to the phrase “please rise” when used during worship. To him, this phrase meant “please float above the ground.” He insisted that his students say “please stand” instead when they were assisting in worship.
In this passage of 1st Thessalonians, we see the one place where the phrase “please rise” would be appropriate enough for my professor. In this passage, Paul is describing the coming of the Lord. First he explains the way Jesus will return. He will descend from heaven and announce his presence with “a cry of command,” the “voice of an archangel,” and the “sound of the trumpet.” He then says that “the dead in Christ will rise first.” Now, this doesn’t merely mean that the dead will be raised back to life, which will be a miracle in and of itself. This also means that the dead will rise up into the air! And once they have, we who are still alive will join them in the clouds and meet the Lord.
This is the hope that we have, and it’s a pretty amazing hope. There are so many smaller ways that Jesus could choose to return. He could simply teleport us into heaven and start our eternal lives that way. He could transport us anywhere with the snap of his fingers. But instead, he’s going to announce his presence with great fanfare and float us above the ground to meet him in the air. It will be a far cry from any experience we’ve ever had. So if you look around one day and see the dead rising into the air, don’t be frightened – just wait. You’ll be rising next, and it will be amazing.