“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
In our last session, we found out that the clouds actually signify a
throng or a multitude of people – a multitude of witnesses or saints (Hebrews 12:1).
So, it’s time to finally to touch on one of the most important questions. Which is:
How do we meet the Lord in the air?
The original Greek text for “meet” in this passage is “Apantesis“.
Apantesis is a tricky word. It is not what many westerners should believe to be exactly the word meet.
Apantesis is a the technical term that describes what the town leaders do when a very important person comes to visit them.
They send a welcome delegation to meet him. Now this delegation team does not go back to the hometown of the visiting dignitary. Instead, they escort him to their own town.
This technical term is used here in a parable of Jesus concerning His return.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet (apantesis) the bridegroom.
From this parable of the ten virgins (bridesmaids), the bridegroom signified Jesus Christ. The Virgins were the welcome team of the bride, sent to meet (apantesis) the bridegroom and escort him to the bride’s place for the wedding ceremony.
“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.
But at midnight there was a SHOUT , ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet (Apantesis) him. ‘” (v. 5-6)
The question is : Where they to follow the Bridegroom back to where He came from or where He was going?
The story tells it all. We see here that the twelve virgin escorts waited for a long time for the bridegroom. These escorts slept off while they waited, because he delayed.
They slept until midnight when they were suddenly awakened by a SHOUT.
This shout is the same one we see in our opening passage – 1 Thessalonians 4:16;
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a SHOUT…”
We know from the parable, that five virgins acted a bit foolishly and didn’t anticipate the bridegroom’s delay enough to carry extra oil. So they went out to buy oil, leaving the wise five alone to handle the escort ceremony back to the wedding place of the bride.
The virgins, in this parable, typified the believers(Christians)- members of the Kingdom of Heaven.
This parable subtly answers another question:
WHO WAS LEFT BEHIND?
We will find out at the end of the story.
When these foolish virgins returned. The Bridegroom had already arrived and they were having the wedding feast at the bride’s place.
“And while they were going away to make the purchase, the
bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.” (v. 10)
You would notice that the five foolish virgins did not go to where the Groom came from
(Heaven). They simply returned to bride’s place – where they were meant to escort the groom to. This was where they left the other five wise ones.
By the time they arrived; the Groom had arrived and five wise ones, who were left behind, had escorted him back to the bride’s house for the wedding (marriage) feast (what Revelation 19:9 called the marriage supper of the Lamb). That is what apantesis means – escorting a delegate (visitor) to your place; not his.
Another example of the use of this word (apantesis) is found in the Book of Acts concerning
Paul the Apostle:
“There we found some brethren, and were invited to stay with them
for seven days; and thus we came to Rome.
And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far
as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet (Apantesis) us; and
when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.
When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the
soldier who was guarding him.”
Acts 28: 14-16
From this passage, Paul was on his way to from Jerusalem to Rome as
The Christians in Rome came to meet Paul as though he was a
visiting dignitary. He was a very important person to them.
This was a great encouragement to Paul.
Yet it is clear that Paul did not turn around and take these
Christians back to Jerusalem.
They met Paul and escorted him to their home in Rome, to stay with them for seven days. Here’s we see another example of the term apantesis.
There are other references of this word apantesis in the Bible. Let me briefly share one last example. In Matthew 14:22-34, Jesus walks on water towards his disciples (church). Peter
steps off and walks on water to meet (apantesis) Jesus. After their encounter,
they both returned to the boat where the disciples (Peter) were; not where
Jesus came from. This is very prophetic and informative.
It explains a lot. When Paul stated that we will meet (apantesis) the Lord in air, he meant that the believers, who are alive on earth, will escort the Lord Jesus and the cloud of witnesses (resurrected believers who had died in Christ) back to the earth; not follow them to heaven. That is what apantesis means.
This raises another question. If we are to meet the Lord to escort him back to the earth. Why do that in the air, as Paul stated?
Hopefully, that will be answered in the next session.