Dr. Couch, it is interesting what Paul is saying about "sleep" in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. I take it this is the sleep of the believer, correct?
The context is about the resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. They will be resurrected, and then, immediately "those who are alive" will be changed and caught up with them (the resurrected) in the "clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord" (v. 17).
Can you believe the amill and covenant guys don't know the difference between "up and down." The church resurrected, that is "those who are asleep" and "those who are alive" (could be us) are caught up (harpazo, snatched suddenly away) into the heavens to always be with the Lord, whereby when He comes to reign, "He comes down and His feet touch the Mount of Olives" (Zach. 14:4). They glibly say, "these two comings are the same."
They fail to notice too that the coming Zachariah speaks of has to do with His reign in Israel, in Jerusalem, over the Jews and over the world, whereas the rapture coming has to do only with the church, "those in Jesus," "those in Christ" (1 Thess. 4:14, 16).
Can you believe Ellicott says something absolutely dumb about 1 Thessalonians 4:17. He writes, "here [the catching away] is only used in contrast with the 'ground' and means 'on the way from Heaven whence He comes,' of course not to 'dwell' there, but to accompany Him to His Judgment-seat on the earth." Talking about being mixed up and messed up! What does Ellicott do with "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together WITH THEM (the church resurrected) in the clouds to meet the Lord IN THE AIR …"?
I write in my Thessalonian Greek commentary The Hope of Christ's Return (AMG) on verse 17:
Going up into the sky, into the air (aera), is an unmistakable description. Jesus is not coming down to establish His kingdom nor to judge men on earth. The Church saints are going upward. The reason seems to be clearly stated in 5:9—to escape the coming wrath or Tribulation that falls upon the earth. To meet is actually a prepositional phrase—"into [eis] a meeting with the Lord.
Guess what! Even amill A.T. Robertson gets the point. He writes "This (church) rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul's argument of consolation. … This is the outcome, to be forever with the Lord."
Ellicott along with so many deniers of the rapture doctrine really work hard to escape the obvious!
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch