"It is with these words that we are to comfort our selves if believers die- fall asleep in Jesus. They shall return with Him when He shall be manifested; but, as regards their own portion, they will go away as He went, whether raised from the dead or transformed, to be for ever with the Lord."This is traditional "Classical Dispensational" view (the believers are the "saints" who escort the Lord.
-Darby's Synopsis of the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians 4
Let's not ignore the witness of scripture. First, let's correct the translation of a similar passage in the Book of Jude.
Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
-Jude 14-15 (NKJV
did come (Young's Literal)
came (Revised Standard)
has come (Darby)
Whether you hold this as a past or future reference, the "saints" here are coming to execute judgment. It is the messengers of God, the Angels, that come with the Lord in judgment.
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzzi′ah king of Judah. Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. - Zech 14:3-6
This is the Lord returning to the Mount of Olives after the defeat of Israel's enemies. We see this again taught in the New Testament.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. -Matt 25:31-32Let's look again at 2 Thessalonians:
since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power... - 2 Thess 1:6-9
And back to the "rapture" passage in 1 Thessalonians.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
-1 Thess 4:16-18 (KJV)
This time we note the "archangel" and the "trump of God."
We know the archangel is Michael. And Michael is connected to the people of Israel.
Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth. (No one upholds me against these, except Michael your [Israel's] prince).
“At that time Michael shall stand up,The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;And there shall be a time of trouble,Such as never was since there was a nation,Even to that time.And at that time your people shall be delivered,Every one who is found written in the book.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,Some to everlasting life,Some to shame and everlasting contempt. -Dan 12:1-2This is 1 Thessalonian 4. There shall be the Archangel, at the time of Israel's deliverance, who will ne connected to the Lord's return and the resurrection of believers.
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” - Rev 11:15-16
Finally, we turn to the great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.This takes us back the resurrection which takes place when the Lord returns in the clouds with his angels with him to rescue Israel, at the last trumpet, at the voice of the archangel Michael.