What Does “Dead In Christ” Mean?


I have a question about 1 Thes. 4:16-18. From this it appears that the ‘dead in Christ’ are sleeping until the Lord comes to resurrect them at the time of the Rapture and unite them with their glorified bodies. I have always heard that the souls of the ‘dead in Christ ‘ are with Him or held apart in a place of paradise awaiting the Rapture or the Second coming. 1 Thess. 4:16 seems to contradict this. It appears that they are being held in the grave.


From 2 Cor. 5:6-8 and Phil. 1:21-24 we know Paul believed that during the Church Age the spirits of believers who die go to be with the Lord. Therefore in 1 Thes. 4:16 he had to be talking about those spirits being given new bodies, which will happen at the time of the rapture.

Since our bodies quickly decay and turn to dust after burial, the phrase “the dead in Christ shall rise” was Paul’s way of saying that those who have died and are no longer physical entities will be given physical form again. This will be possible because they will receive a new immortal body just prior to the change of living believers from mortal to immortal. In 1 Cor. 15:51-53 Paul said all this will happen in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.