In 1 Thessalonians, Paul describes the end-time appearance of Jesus: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven… and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (4:16-17). It is popular to interpret this passage as Paul’s allusion to a “rapture,” but the apostle’s rhetoric and context do not fit the rapture schema [click here for details in a previous article]. For instance, while readers might assume that Paul’s description of meeting the Lord refers to the “rapture,” the language and broader New Testament context shows that the purpose of this meeting is not to remain in heaven, but rather to return to Yeshua’s kingdom on earth.

Two initial contextual points push the reader away from a “rapture” interpretation. Specifically, Paul says that Jesus will “descend from heaven” (4:16) and believers will meet him in the middle of his descent “in the air” (4:17)—not in “heaven.” Beyond this obvious directional issue, Paul’s language of meeting the Lord (4:17) does not describe taking up residence in heaven after a rapture. Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul’s word for “meet” (ἀπάντησις; apántesis) always conveys an initial encounter after which a group of people escorts an individual to a final destination. In Paul’s context, when we “meet” the descending Lord in the air, we then escort the coming messianic king back down to earth.

The two other New Testament instances of ἀπάντησις (apántesis) appear in Acts and Matthew, and both contexts describe a group coming out to meet an individual and then leading him back in a procession. When Paul nears Rome at the end of Acts, Roman citizens meet him and then usher him back into the city: “We came to Rome, and the brothers and sisters there, when they heard about us, came to meet us (ἀπάντησιν ἡμῖν; apántesin humin)… [and] we came back into Rome” (Acts 28:14-16). Since Acts has the Romans come out to meet Paul and then escort him back to Rome, we should envision a similar meeting scene in 1 Thess 4:17: we are caught up to meet Jesus and then escort him back to earth.

Similarly, Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins notes that the virgins “went out to meet (ἀπάντησις; apántesis) the bridegroom” (Matt 25:1; cf. 25:6). However, the initial lamp-lit meeting in the darkness is not the final destination for either the virgins or the bridegroom; rather, the parabolic scene will be followed by a procession in which the virgins will accompany the marital couple to their home for the wedding banquet. The parable illustrates what 1 Thess 4:16-17 explicates: rather than revealing a “rapture,” the New Testament asserts that believers will meet Jesus and then accompany him to the messianic banquet, which will take place on a divinely renewed earth in the kingdom of God (cf. Isa 65-66; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21).

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80 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this. Do you think the Greek word “ἀπάντησις; apántesis” could be translated as “meet up” in English? According to Cambridge Dictionary, the phrasal verb “meet up” refers to meeting another person in order to do something together. It denotes that an activity will follow the initial meeting.

    • Hi Dr. Yes there is alot of debates going on about this issue. I dont get caught up in it’s arguement. Normally I will just make sure people know one thing, if we are raptured or not, if the KING come to establish HIS kingdom on earth at that time or not, and others believe that there is a rapture, but it will be the sinners that are not in YESHUA. As long as one’s heart is at the right place and is saved. If you belong to HIM, and love HIM is what matters, the rest is bonus

      • EVERYTHING SPIRITUAL does matter, in what we believe & the Bible has ALL the answers.Jesus does not touch down when He returns, He raises the righteous dead,this is the First Resurrection.We which are alive & remain who are righteous will be caught up with them into the air . The 7 last plagues destroy all the wicked & the Earth is once again a bottomless pit as it was before Creation.JESUS takes us to the marriage supper of the Lamb & we are all arrayed in white garments. On Earth the birds are called to a feast also, to eat the flesh of the wicked dead. In chapter 20 of Revelation,an angel descends with a chain to the bottomless pit & Satan & his angels are bound on the desolate earth for 1,000 years with noone to tempt & annoy. In Heaven the Saints are going through the Book of Life,Book of Records of every deed, & the Book of Rememberance of good deeds

        • You just made an legitimate argument for pre tribulation rapture and not post tribulation. If we rise up to meet Christ and them immediately escort Him back to earth then where is the Marriage Supper? Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

        • Also based in scripture we know that tribulation will last a total of 7 years. So when we see tribulation start then we know that according to the post tribulation model that Christ will return either at the 3.5 year point or at the 7 year point and that does not match up with what He says when He tells us that no man knows the time.

      • Rev Rev22:18 If any man add to these things. The so called rapture seems to mean taking people to safety. Why would those dead need” as they rise up with we who are alive protection” protection. Acts1:9 says He comes here Jude:14 says He comes with his saints. No RAPTURE.

      • There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death,Proverbs 14:12 it does matter what we believe ,a wishy waahy faith will never save us.It took Jesus’ life to save us, we need to accept that sacrifice.

  2. I think of John 14:2-3 that He will come back to take us to where He would be, a place prepared. His Father’s house has many dwelling places… so could it be earth again? so, together with our Lord, we witness the Judgement?

    • Yes, Patrick. The picture in John 14 is of Jesus going to heaven to prepare a place for believers in the Kingdom of Heaven, which will end up on earth when it descends (with Jesus) from heaven after the universal resurrection of the dead (cf. Jn 5:25-29; 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 21:1-2).

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

      • Thank you Dr Schaser, as an Seventh-Day Adventist, I was taught that 1 Thess 4 refers to Christ 2nd coming while Rev 21:1-2 is for the 3rd time Christ return together with those saints from 2nd coming after the 1000 yrs. Please teach me

        • In the 2nd coming Jesus raises the righteous dead & translates the righteous living so they meet together on the Sea of Glass. The Judgement is going og now & the righteous are judged first.Our Loving God lets us see the wicked’s judgment

          • When He has answered all our questions, after 1,000 yrs the New Jerusalem comes down to this earth,it splits the Mount of Olives into a plain & settles there.The New Jerusalem is transparent, & the wicked are incited by Satan & their great numbers ,to takes the city. Jesus is

        • Patrick, the New Testament doesn’t refer to a “third coming of Christ.” In Revelation, there is a 1,000 year period (which I would caution against taking too literally in terms of chronological time since numbers are symbolic, particularly in Revelation), but there’s nothing about Jesus leaving and coming back after this period. There is one appearance (or Parousia) according to the NT. More, those who meet the Lord in 1 Thess 4 do not go with him to heaven and then come back — they return immediately down to earth. The NT doesn’t explicate an exact timeline or schema, so I wouldn’t worry about being dogmatic about specifics of eschatology.

        • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

    • Pastor Pepler The Good Samaritan did what was right, But not saved. John 6:44, no one comes to me unless the Father draws him. Jeremiah 33:3, Call to me and I will answer showing great hidden things you have not known. you have a chances to show your congregation TRUTHS!

  3. John 11:24 Martha tells Jesus, correctly, that Lazarus shall rise again on the last day. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 The dead in Christ rise when the Lord descends, which is the last day, judgment day. We will not live again on earth with Jesus. Hebrews 9:27 Men die and are judged.

    • According to Revelation 21 the whole of heaven descends to earth. The dwelling of God is here not only when Jesus came for his earthly ministry, the whole purpose for the Messiah’s coming is to restore both humanity and the earth itself. Earth is BOTH our present AND future home.

  4. I have never understood the rapture, it just didn’t make sense to me. That would mean that He would return twice. I have been studying this. Thank you so much.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

    • Rapture was not clear to me until I read the book ‘Rapture the end time error that leaves the bible behind’ by David Currie. I found it helpful.

  5. Very good article, Dr. Nicholas. I greatly enjoy reading the insights from Israel Bible Center. I thank you, Dr. Eli, and several others who give of your time and who share your knowledge to help us understand the Bible in more depth.

  6. If you read Mattityahu(Matthew) 24:29-30 Y’shua clearly states that His return is after the tribulation. But some people will say G-d has not appointed us unto wrath.

  7. When then will we be judged? I thought we went to heaven and were judged by God, only after 7 years to descend with Christ being with Him in at Armageddon. Then establishing His kingdom on Earth. At the rapture Christ does not descend to earth but takes us back

    • Joan, try not to conflate what Paul says in 1 Thess 4 with what John says in Revelation. Paul doesn’t have a 7-year tribulation schema in his letters, and 1 Thess 4 doesn’t incorporate a tribulation into the discourse. In Paul’s own context, the meeting in the air occurs after the universal resurrection of the dead, at which time Jesus comes to earth in a procession of followers to judge the unrighteous (cf. 2 Thess 2:7-10). On being “raptured” to heaven, since Paul continues into Rome in Acts (per the above article) — he does not take the Romans back to where he came from. Thus, since the same word is used for “meet” in 1 Thess 4:17, we cannot assume that Jesus descends and then takes us back to heaven; rather, based on the textual evidence we have, we must assume we escort Jesus down to earth. You may find the following IBC article helpful: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/paul-really-report-rapture/

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  8. I asked my Rabbi about that and he told me just like G-d protected us from the plagues He poured out on Egypt He will protect us from His bowl judgments.

  9. I respectively disagree. Space allotted to respond is not sufficient. The wedding feast is in Heaven. We meet Christ and accompany Him to the feast in His home prepared for His bride, just as does the Virgins found ready. We return with Christ at his second advent; after the Tribulation.

    • Nothing wrong with disagreeing, Lowry. I would just caution against conflating what Paul says in 1 Thess 4 with what John says in Revelation. Paul doesn’t have a 7-year tribulation schema in his letters, and 1 Thess 4 doesn’t incorporate a tribulation into the discourse. In Paul’s own context, the meeting in the air occurs after the universal resurrection of the dead, at which time Jesus comes to earth in a procession of followers to judge the unrighteous (cf. 2 Thess 2:7-10).

      • In the context being discussed there is NO “universal” resurrection. It is a resurrection of the dead-in-Christ only. There is more than one resurrection: the 2 Witnesses, the Second Coming, & the end of the 1,000 years/2nd death.
        This is a dispensational issue.

        • Sherry you are right. There are 2 resurrections. The first when Jesus comes back & the righteous dead are raised, & we which are alive & remain will be caught up together with them Jesus doesn’t touch down this time. 1 Thes.4:15-17.We are welcomed into Heaven & spend the next

          • to finish my comment, we spend the n3xt 1,000 yrs going over the judgement books to see how God arrived at His decisions. The Judgement is going on now because Jesus has His reward with Him.After 1,000 yrs there will be the Resurrection of the wicked,the New Jerusalem comes down

          • . Satan again incites the wicked who are resurrected in the condition as they went to the grave. They attack the New Jerusalem which has descended on the Mount of Olives & split it into a plain.Hellfire comes from Jesus & they get their just reward.Read Revelation chapter 14- 22

          • Noeline, your first comment is richt.
            The rapture starts with first Cor. 49, in a Moment, in the twinkling o fan eye,……….the dead schall raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.
            Why should we get changed if we come back to the earth?
            Keep on reading the following verses.

          • This needs to line up with what we are taught in the Old Testament. The Kingdom of God is on earth (Isa. 2:1-5; Isa. 9:1-6; Zech. 14:16).

            There IS a thousand-year period — with mortal human nations ruled over by Christ ruling from Jerusalem. The resurrected, immortal saints live on the earth during this time, serving the mortal human nations and discipling them.

  10. This is comforting to know that our savior Jesus Christ is returning for those that are saved and have kept the faith, endured trials and tribulations.

  11. Sorry to disagree. Why would the church go up to meet Jesus in the air; then, immediately descend to earth to participate in 7-years of Great Tribulation under the government of the antichrist? Jesus’ 2nd coming will be at the conclusion of the Great Tribulation.

    • Nothing wrong with disagreeing, Gary. I would just caution against conflating what Paul says in 1 Thess 4 with what John says in Revelation. Paul doesn’t have a 7-year tribulation schema in his letters, and 1 Thess 4 doesn’t incorporate a tribulation into the discourse. More, the term “antichrist” never appears in Revelation. In Paul’s own context, the meeting in the air occurs after the universal resurrection of the dead, at which time Jesus comes to earth in a procession of followers to judge the unrighteous (cf. 2 Thess 2:7-10).

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  12. The idea of a pre-tribulation rapture, which tells that the Church will go to heaven as well as the prosperity gospel has already entered almost all Churches in Brazil. Indeed the Assembly of GOD in Brazil has inserted the pre-tribulationist rapture into its creed. Or yes or yes. Thanks Dr.Eli.

  13. That the first time I hear of it being explained that way and honestly it doesn’t click well within my spirit. But I will look into it with the scriptures.

  14. Does this tie into the Thousand Year Reign, so if I understand you’re point, we would go up to meet Christ and proceed back down to Earth for this period?

    • Since Paul doesn’t discuss a 1,000 year reign (that’s Revelation), it’s difficult to know what he would have said with respect to precisely when Jesus descends from heaven and the state of the world at that point. 2 Thess 2:7-10 may offer some insight into the Pauline schema, which seems to envision Jesus coming to earth and immediately entering into judgment against the unrighteous.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

      • Great insight in this epistle of Paul. Have you considered Revelation 20:12. Where John says” I saw a White Great Throne…I saw the dead, great and small….”dead where judged. Is this not the judgement we are going to face? Was this fulfilled or to be fulfilled?

  15. Hi Dr, please I had a dream and I am trying to find out the meaning. The following words were shown to me on a chalkboard: “Omni Deiu Excel Probate.” I want to know what they mean, please. Thank you.

    • I believe the Lord may be saying that as G-d, He is omnipresent and can speak through various means, and to therefore not ignore Him speaking through prophetic utterances but to rather prove and test all things and to hold onto what is excellent and good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21)

  16. I don’t disagree with your explanation of the verse, but I do with the participants. The Israelis have been in desert for 31/2 years prior to this and are the returnees. The Christians have already left the earth to be forever with the LORD. Israel is promised the earth forever.

  17. Bridegroom (Jesus) is returning for His bride; so the parallel here is the “Erusin” (betrothal-period), which’s where the parables tie in.

    Ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13)
    His Father’s house (Jn 14:1-4)

    Whether that means It’ll happen according to expectations or not, only the Father knows.

    Thank-you Dr Schaser for your insight.

  18. Thank you Dr. Schaser for this teaching.You have a book written on “Revelation”? I believe the “secret rapture” has done much harm to the church….most expecting an early escape from much tribulation and persecution. I understand what you have written……I only did not know the wedding feast was on earth.
    More to study,,,,,😊

    • Th Beast will join hands with America & a decree will be passed that those who don’t agree with them must be killed.I looks like certain death for God’s people,all through the ordeal God will feed them & their water will be sure.The Earth will be in a terrible condition

  19. “Meet him in the air” seems to be an Aramaic idiom meaning to rush out to meet someone. So, when my grandchildren come visit, I meet them in the air.

  20. Yes I definitely believe that those who have been resurrected will meet the Lord in the air and return to Jerusalem, where they will reign with our King for 1,000 years and then towards the end of the millennium the second resurrection will take place to convert all of mankind.

    • Gloria after the plagues fall the earth is desolate so we can’t live here. The righteous return with Jesus. to Heaven which was empty for half an hour, in prophetic time that is 7 1/2 days. Everyone will spend a Sabbath on the way.1000 yrs. is spent studying the Judgement

      • The 2nd Resurrection is to raise the wicked. We get one chance for salvation. Why did Jesus have to die for us if everyone will be saved? The vast majority will not be saved,NOW is the day of salvation.There would be no need for a judgment if that was so.

  21. This was big part of my coming to realise that “heaven” is God’s space and not the finish line for a “saved Christian”. Spearheaded by reading Matthew 24:37 (“…as it were in the days of Noah…”), that caused me to do a double take and rethink my whole position on eschatology and destiny for a believer. I remember exclaiming in disbelief after 3 days of reading scripture and studying in and out of translation: “What, heaven isn’t our home….Heaven isn’t our home!”

    I looked frantically within scripture for something to dissuade myself from remaining at that revelation, sighed briefly at Hebrews 13:14 until I realised it was the only place that said anything remotely like it but was a dodgey exegesis in SOME translations that suggested a heaven as our home/final destination reality and it simply didn’t occur anywhere else. I realised that “our citizenship in” and “inheritance of” heaven are very different from expecting to go live there. A citizen of Rome living in Antioch wasn’t expecting to return to Rome some day, Antioch was their forever home and they now represented Rome’s interests and values there instead. Just as we’re actually called to represent heaven here on earth. That is our mandate.

    Now, instead of waiting to escape and go somewhere else, I can focus on partnering with what God is doing in the world while eagerly awaiting His return and our final “anastasis” for the age to come. Thanks for doing articles like this and the preceding one that God used to help confirm fresh and contentious revelations in my life!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Shaun. Great point re “citizenship” (Phil 3:20) or “inheritance” in heaven (1 Pet 1:4) — these things come down to us at the eschaton, as opposed to us going to live in heaven. Your Rome-Antioch analogy is a very good one!

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

      • Citizenship and Inheritance are my own thoughts, but the Antioch concept was mostly borrowed from Tom Wright I’m afraid haha But indeed there is nothing new under the sun 😂 Thank you for writing such a clear and concise exposition of the matter!

    • This Earth renewed will be God’s dwelling place when the New Jerusalem descends to this Earth after the 1,000 years .We will all have a mansion in the New Jerusalem,there is no need for a temple as we worship the Godhead face to face.Revelation 21:22 We have land to cultivate.

  22. Yes Don Everly that is the truth, no one argues that, but us human makes such a big fuss about these different issues, and that is not what save us. We can all take versus out of the WORD, like seen above and believe what we want to. And that is my arguement, why focus on this, why wasting time debate over such minor issues, yes a awesome topic, and awesome to se different view points. Some people go very bad on this stuff, especially in South Africa, people hate others, people go in fist fight, people abandon church etc. Because of topics like “rapture, tighs, ressurection, sleep after death until MESSIAH comes, the Communion etc etc” and it is actually all irrelevant to our redemption. Be blessed and may the Countanance of GOD shine on everyone

  23. I agree that there no rapture. Q When the New Jerusalem (the bride of Yeshua) coming down from heaven (Rev 21:2), where will it finally settle down here on earth? Are there any clues in the Bible? There are lost of confusing theories, one pushing for his\her church’s dogma.

    • The New Jerusalem is a place (i.e., the kingdom of heaven); the most plausible inference would be that it resides on the same location as the current Jerusalem (but Revelation doesn’t explicate geographical location).

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  24. Hi Nicholas
    John 14:2-3 States that he goes to prepare a place for us, and he will come back and get US.
    So how then do we escort him back to the earth? Looking forward to your response
    Bronwyn

    • Thanks for your question, Bronwyn. It’s important to note that John 14 doesn’t say that Jesus will come to “get us” or to “bring us to heaven.” Later in the chapter, Jesus clarifies 14:2-3: “If anyone loves me… my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23). Jesus doesn’t say, “we will make his home with us in heaven,” but that “we will make our home with him [on earth].” Paul would agree with this scenario, and add that believers meet Jesus in air on his way down to earth.

  25. I have taught that very thing because it was what I was taught that this is the rapturing of the church. So my question is if this is not considered the rapturing of the church does scripture support a Catching away event? Because the Bible does say that the wrath of God will be poured out on the children of disobedience.

  26. Really? Sorry,but I disagree !!!Read Pe 3:10
    Read 2Pe 3:12 —-How can we come back to earth when ALL is burned up??? Nothing but ashes!!!

    • Miguel, it’s important to read biblical verses in their contexts: the very next verse (2 Pet 3:13) says that there will be a new heaven and earth after this one is dissolved (cf. Isa 65:17; 66:22; Rev 21:1); it is to this new earth that believers will return after meeting Jesus.

      • The new heavens and new earth will exist after all of the mortal human nations no longer exist. According to Zech. 14:16, such mortal human nations STILL exist after the coming of the Messiah. This is what the thousand years is for — for the discipling of those nations. (also cf. Isa. 2:1-5)

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