And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.
Critics of the rapture will say the word is not found in the Bible. But the word used for "rapture" is the Greek word harpazō, and the Latin translation of harpazō is rapturus, from which we get our English word "rapture."
A literal definition of harpazō is "to take forcibly, to snatch, or to be caught up." This is the word Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 when he wrote,
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air . . . (emphasis added).
The context of Paul's teaching on the rapture was a response to believers in Thessalonica whose friends and loved ones had died. They were concerned these friends and family members would never see the rapture. So Paul wanted to educate them. A few verses earlier he wrote, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope" (verse 13). Paul concluded his teaching on the rapture by saying, "So encourage each other with these words" (verse 18).
Here is the good news for anyone whose believing friends or loved ones have died. In the rapture, not only will you be reunited with your friends and loved ones who have gone on before you, but you will be in the presence of Jesus himself. Therefore, Paul says, you do not need to grieve as those who have no hope.