Here's what I have found in my studies; I am sure that you will find this in disagreement with what you have been taught,
for very few rely on God's Word, but instead, they substitute man's ideas. I believe that the Bible is its own interpreter.
I believe that it is totally true, and never contradicts itself. Apparent contradictions have always been clarified for me
by going back to the original languages via a Strong's concordance and the Green's interlinear text.
God's WORD is very specific on where the dead are; (Eccl 12:7, 2 Cor 5:5-8). The flesh bodies of the dead will return to
dust from which it came (Gen 3:19), and will never reincarnate (1Cor 15:50, Heb 9:27) Shortly we will consider the 'rising
first' of 1 Thess, but first, allow me to clarify something if I can, something that you probably never considered.
If you continue reading in 1 Cor 15, verses 51 thru 54 say something that is often overlooked. Paul is saying we all have
TWO bodies, but ONE soul. He refers to his flesh body as 'this corruptible', and says it must put on 'incorruption', which
is the spiritual body we pass into immediately at death, whether we be SAINT OR SINNER. (Luke 16:19-31, Mark 12:25). Thus
our souls have angelic bodies after flesh death. We are through with the flesh, praise GOD. If we happen to have not known
and accepted Christ, we retain a 'mortal'(the word means 'liable to die') soul, 1 Cor 15:53). If it is we have known and accepted
Christ, then we have put on 'immortality', (1 Cor 15:53-54).
1) Everyone who has died in the flesh is in a spiritual body in Heaven (Lk 16:19-31, Mk 12:25, Prov 14:32, Eccl 7:1, Lk
23:43, Acts 7:59, Rom 14:7-8, 2 Cor 5:1-8, Phil 1:23-24, 1 Thess 5:10, Heb 11:13). Now they may not be on the right side of
the gulf, but all are there awaiting judgement. We learn from Rev 20,(read the whole chapter) that there will be no judgement
until after the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth. Since God has not "judged" anyone yet, then the 'hell' of Lk 16 must be
the anticipation of the sinners knowing that they will face it, and there is no way out. Since all will be there at the judgement,
and will have lived AT LEAST 1000 years, then we must have a different body; I know mine is so worn out it probably won't
make it another 30, much less 1000.
2) The soul has eternal life, (Jn 3:16) unless it remains 'mortal', in which case it is destroyed (perishes) in the lake
of fire (Rev 20:15). John 3:16 is so basic to all Christians, yet there are few who realize that it speaks of the eternal
soul. For example, look up the word "eternal", or "everlasting" in ANY dictionary, Strong's or even Websters and you will
see it means "without beginning or end". The "perishing" is seen in Rev 20:6 and 20:14 as the 'second death', or death of
the mortal soul. Souls that have put on the immortality with Christ are not subject to this second death. (Rev 20:6) John
used terminology in Revelation that will confuse you if you do not understand the difference between the Greek words 'nekron'
(Rev 20:6), and 'nekrous' (Verses 12 & 13). These are both from the same root word 'nekros' which means a corpse, either
literally or figuratively. Now it is for sure that a literal corpse will not be standing before God (in the flesh anyway).
Thus the ones that have not overcome (v 5), are these mortal souls 'the rest of the dead'. In V 5, we see that the ones that
have overcome will be granted immortality on the judgement day.(these are the "great" of V 12), and they are mixed with the
'small', thus the term 'nekrous'. At this time they will be separated as Jesus said in Matt 25:31-46.
Now, I realize this was a long time coming, but we will get back to your question about 1 Thess 4. Look carefully at the
subject Paul is teaching in 1 Thess 4:13. This subject does not change until chapter 5:1. In V13, Paul is saying, in effect,
that "I dont want you to be stupid like the heathen are about where the dead are."
V14--"Forasmuch as we know Christ died and then rose again, likewise THEM ALSO".. (they have ALREADY risen at their death,
Eccl 12:7 and 2 Cor 5:1-8), ..will God bring with Him (implied-when He returns)". (pause and ask yourself how God could BRING
them with Him if they are in some hole in the ground)
V15--"For according to God's Word, we which are alive when He returns cannot preceed".. ('prevent' is not a good translation--look
it up in the Strong's concordance).. "them which have already died".
V16-- "For the Lord will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:
BUT the dead in Christ will RISE FIRST. (I use the word "but" instead of "and" for the following reason: The word translated
Strong's # 2532 kai (kahee); apparently, a primary particle, having a copulative and sometimes also a cumulative force;
and, also, even, so then, too, etc.; often used in connection (or composition) with other particles or small words: It is
variously translated in the KJV-- and, also, both, but, even, for, if, or, so, that, then, therefore, when, yet.
V17-- "Then we which are alive".. (in the flesh).. "shall be caught up" (changed to our spiritual bodies as in 1 Cor 15:50-54).."in
clouds ( a great company, or group-- see Heb 12:1 where Paul talks about the 'cloud of witnesses')..to meetthe Lord in the
air". Paul further says WHEN this will happen. It is AT the last trump-- See 1 cor 15:52. This must be the same trump as the
"trump of God" in verse 16 above.
Thus, ALL who die in the flesh are changed into spiritual bodies immediately, with no waiting period, and REGARDLESS of
the condition of their soul. Think about it and study it for yourself. I cannot make any sense of God's Word otherwise. It
now seems to fit quite well for me. I had to give up a whole bunch of man's tradition on the way.
Hope this helps more than it confuses you.
In His Service