An excerpt from Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord:
Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17)
The dead in Christ will receive their new bodies first, followed by those who are alive and left at the parousia of Christ. Then at the same time both groups will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Clouds are a common feature of theophanies accompanying divine presence. It is in those clouds we meet and experience God’s presence in his Son. It is often assumed that the alive will receive their new bodies as they are being raptured to the sky. But the text does not state this. Presumably, the alive in their newly transformed bodies will join with the newly resurrected on earth as a testimony to the world, then shortly after that union they will be raptured. It should not be assumed the dead in Christ are raptured before the alive in Christ. The dead in Christ receive their transformed bodies before the alive receive theirs, but both groups—the resurrected and the remnant—will be united together on earth before they are raptured at the same time. Most translations indicate this picture, but the Greek text is explicit: hama (“together” or “at the same time”) syn (“with”) autois (“them”) harpagēsometha (“snatched away”). Joseph Plevnik summarizes this depiction:
The first act at the Lord’s coming from heaven is that the deceased faithful are brought back to life; then only, once they have been reunited with the living, is everyone taken up by the clouds to meet the Lord. These pointers [“first,” “then,” “together with”]. . . insist on this sequence of acts. The surviving faithful have no advantage over the deceased: the latter are brought to life, join the living, and are, together with the living, taken up by the clouds. Paul and the Parousia: An Exegetical and Theological Investigation (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997), 82.