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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98 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

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  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).

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    • 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!

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  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.

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  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.
  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.
    • 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!
  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/
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