The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to the Thessalonians primarily addressing events that are yet to happen—the rapture and the pouring out of God’s wrath on planet earth in preparation to establishing Messiah’s Kingdom.
Paul wastes no time in addressing their expectation that Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, would return to deliver believers from “the wrath to come.” In fact, he praises them for the boldness with which they had shared their faith.
1Th. 1:8-10 For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing. For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
The question stands out, “What wrath to come?” In his letter to the Colossians, Paul clarifies that it will come on the children of disobedience.
Col. 3:6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
John the Baptist used this phrase in reference to the Lord separating the wheat from the chaff and purging the floor to determine who would enter the kingdom of heaven, the Messiah’s kingdom (Matthew 3:1-12 and Luke 3:1-9). When I was doing my study on the book of Revelation, one of the side studies I did was on the references to God’s wrath in scripture. I am not going to list all the verses here, but I will share some of my observations from that study.
• It is directed toward the wicked, the disobedient, the ungodly, the unrighteous, and the adversaries/enemies of God.
• It’s a time of God’s righteous judgment.
• It’s a time that will cause men to tremble with fear.
• It is a time of God’s vengeance.
• It is a time that some will escape.
These believers were suffering persecution to the point that they thought that the time of God’s wrath had already begun. Paul reminds them that they had been taught to expect tribulation.
1Th. 3:4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.
Paul continues to remind them of the truth they had been taught and encourage them in pursuing a life of faith and obedience. By the middle of chapter 4 it becomes clear that these believers were concerned that those who had died since becoming Christians had missed the rapture.
1Th. 4:13-15 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
The introductory words of this section identify the truth that he is about to teach as one that is very important. Paul doesn’t want anyone to be without knowledge or understanding of this truth. Paul reminds this body of believers that the death of a loved one who has placed faith in Christ should not produce a sense of hopelessness. We have a confident expectation of resurrection to life as evidenced by the resurrection of Jesus. It is at our resurrection that we will be given our glorified bodies. This is when our bodies are changed from mortal to immortal.