I recently preached on 1 Thess 4:13-18, the famous rapture text, and in my study I came across a great quote from Gene Green, recently retired from Wheaton College, and now Academic Dean of North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies, in his 1-2 Thessalonians commentary in the PNTC series. I really liked his comments about what this passage does and does not mean:
This teaching was presented to comfort those in grief by connecting the confession of the creed (“Jesus died and rose again”) with the reality of the resurrection of the dead in Christ. This is not the stuff of speculative prophecy or bestsellers on the end times. The text is located at the funeral home, the memorial service, and the graveside. It is placed in the hands of each believer to comfort others in their time of greatest sorrow. The decidedly bizarre pictures of airplanes dropping out of the sky and cars careening out of control as the rapture happens detract from the hope that this passage is designed to teach. The picture presented here is of the royal coming of Jesus Christ. The church, as the official delegation, goes out to meet him, with the dead heading up the procession as those most honored. One coming is envisioned, which will unite the coming King with his subjects. What a glorious hope!