Q. In John 11:26 Jesus said “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die”. But in 1 Thes. 4:16 Paul said at the rapture the dead in Christ will rise first. This seems like a contradiction to me. Do we die or not die?
A. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said,
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
You were only quoting the second half of the sentence.
He was speaking of the time of the resurrection of believers, when those who have died will live again and those who have not died never will die. It’s the clearest hint of the rapture He ever gave.
Paul said the same thing, but in greater detail. He knew that when believers experience physical death their bodies are buried in the ground where they soon return to dust (Genesis 3:19). But their spirits go to heaven to be with the Lord (Phil. 1:21-24).
At the rapture the spirits of those who have died will receive new bodies and experience physical life again. At the same time the bodies of living believers will be changed from mortal to immortal and will never die (1 Thes. 4:16-17, 1 Cor. 15:53).
In 1 Cor. 15:51 Paul said,
“Listen I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep but we will all be changed.”
He used the word “sleep” instead of “die” because at death the body appears to be asleep and the spirit is still very much alive.