Paul suddenly seems to shift gears as we come into verse 13. He moves from talking about how to live the Christian life to speaking of the second coming of Jesus. Evidently there was a misunderstanding among the Thessalonians believers concerning what happened to people when they died. These verses written by Paul, though fairly plain in their meaning on the surface, have actually been the source of a great deal of discussion and controversy over the years. The main struggle is to understand how these verses relate to the teaching that Jesus will return to the earth some day. These verses don’t really portray Jesus as coming back to the earth, but rather, they show Jesus catching people up into heaven to be with him there. Some think this langue is symbolic, to a certain extent, while others see this as the first part of a 2-phase coming of Jesus. First this “rapture” happens, and then, 7 years later, the full second coming of Jesus takes place.
The main point of this passage, however, is to comfort us when a believing loved one dies. They will be raised and will be with the Lord before us, who happen to be alive when Jesus returns. Death does not stop the promises of God from coming true. You and I are going to be with the Lord one day. There is no doubt about it. That is a comfort and a joy that can buoy our lives up above any trouble or sorrow. So rejoice and be glad and take comfort in the promises of God!