To Meet the Lord in the Air

By Lloyd Dale

April 2015


The proper application of the Greek word “apantesis” as used in

1 Thessalonians 4:17

“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 remaining alive shall be caught together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Th 4:16-17)


This morning (April 1, 2015) I took the time to listen to Don K. Preston’s three videos about 1Thessalonians 4:17 from his website: 

In his presentations Preston takes great pains to establish the technical meaning of the Greek word “apantesis” and to sell his book to the listener.

He correctly asserts that this word was used in ancient Greek society to refer “to a visiting royal dignitary” who was traveling to a specific destination.  The citizens of that city are looking for him.  When they know that he is coming, they go out to meet him and then they escort him to his destination.  He is coming to join them in their city and to live with them in their city.

We should not have any problem with Don’s explanation of the technical usage of the Greek word “apantesis” as it is the correct explanation of this word. 

However, a great problem arises in his application of that meaning to this passage of Scripture.  His application is stated as “Jesus meeting the disciples to remain with them on earth.”

Don creates huge problems for himself when he states Christ was to return to earth to restore spiritual fellowship to man while man is still on earth.  WOW!  In this case Don apparently allows his conclusions to drive his theology just as he has done in another place with the salient portions of the Fourth Gospel 13 – 17; the very thing which he decries in his video.  From this writers perspective, Preston is so determined to destroy the arch enemy of Dispensationalism, that in some instances he is ostensibly more interested in trying to destroy Dispensationalism rather than developing consistency in his preterist view for his listeners and readers  It is suggested that you listen carefully to the self stated purpose of his arguments on those videos.  His argument is oriented strongly toward the refutation of Dispensationalism with a minimal attempt to establish a preterist understanding of the passage.  It seems to be more about destroying despensationalism’s futuristic eschatology. In my opinion, if we establish a very strong Biblical foundation and argument for our eschatology, Dispensationalism will collapse of its own errors.

Where does Jesus teach his disciples that He “was to return to earth to restore spiritual fellowship to man while man is still on earth”?  I can find no such teaching in anything that Jesus taught His disciples.  In fact, this view that Preston espouses, directly contradicts Jesus and the apostles who wrote the New Testament documents as well as his own explanation in his video #11 in the “life after death” series; where Preston states that “Paul’s desire was to go to be with Christ;” and asks, “Where is Christ.” Answer: “In heaven.  And Christ was not going to return to physically dwell on earth.”  According to Preston’s explanation in these three videos about 1Thessalonians 4:17 under discussion here, Paul ostensibly never realized his desire to go to be with Christ in heaven because Jesus never came to take any one away.

Jesus specifically told His followers that they would receive their reward in heaven – not here on earth:

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: [Mt 5:12] 

Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: [Lu 6:23] 

Jesus also stated:

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Mt 6:19-21)

Peter expressly stated that the salvation which the believer’s “who are kept by the power of God” would inherit was reserved in heaven for them:

“Blessed the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy begets us unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, [1Pe 1:3-4]

In that same passage Peter instructed those first century followers of Jesus that their “salvation” was “ready to be delivered to them in the last time.” (1Pe 1: 5)  Thus, clearly affirming that, they did not have salvation until the Parousia of Jesus in power and great glory.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews clearly stated:

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him he shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Heb 9:28)

The passage in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17 is clearly announcing the fulfillment of Hebrews 9:28.  In this Thessalonians passage Paul is clearly announcing the fulfillment of Jesus appearing “the second time…unto salvation.”


The Proper Application of “apantesis”

Now, with the above information in mind, let’s see if we can properly apply Don’s correct, technically proper, definition of the Greek word “apantesis.”

In His three video presentations, Preston does not identify the “visiting royal dignitary” that is presented in 1Thessalonians 4 so we will do that now. 

The proper identify of the “visiting royal dignitary” in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17

According to the text, Jesus Christ the Lord was the “visiting royal dignitary” – “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven.”  According to the Bible Jesus ascended into the heavens and was seated at the right hand of the Father.  His descent from heaven and His appearing was announced “with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” 

Having properly identified the “visiting royal dignitary;” Now let’s see if we can identify the citizens that this dignitary is going to meet in the clouds in the air.

The Citizens that this royal dignitary was going to meet and the destination for all of them:

The citizens that this “visiting royal dignitary” was going to meet is identified in Scripture as all of His people who had been “eagerly waiting” [Heb 9:28], looking [Php 3:20b], and watching [1Th 5:6] for him.  It is appropriate to note here that Paul had informed these first century believers that their “citizenship” or ultimate dwelling place “was in heaven” [Php 3:20a] – not to be here on earth as Preston muses. Contrary to Preston’s musings, they were, in fact, expecting to go into the “heavenly kingdom” of Jesus Christ along with Him.  They were not expecting Jesus to come back down to earth and live with them.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote:

My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and if given the choice I don’t know which one I would choose. I am pressured by both. I have the desire to be departing and be with Christ--which is far better for me-- but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.” (Php 1:20-24)

When Paul wrote those words he was very well aware that Jesus was in heaven seated at the right hand of the Father[1].  Therefore, to be departing and be with Christ was surely his hope and expectation of a heavenly life with Jesus Christ and they were looking for [Php 3:20b] and expecting their savior to come from heaven and receive them unto Himself [Fourth Gospel 14:3; 17:24] that they might be there in heaven with Him which is exactly what Paul is describing in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17.

And in his letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote:

“Therefore, though we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord-- for we walk by faith, not by sight—but we would be pleased to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.” (2Co 5:6-8)

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, his son in the faith, Paul wrote:

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [we give] glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2Ti 4:18)

According to this letter, Paul certainly understood that the kingdom of Jesus was going to be a “heavenly kingdom” – not an earthly kingdom.

When they heard the “shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” they would then be aware of “His appearing” [2Ti 4:1] and “His kingdom” and would go out to meet Him and escort Him to their destination in His heavenly kingdom.


The ultimate destination of the visiting royal dignitary and the citizens that were going to meet Him

According to Paul, in the verse cited directly above, their destination was “His heavenly kingdom” [2Tim 4:18, 1Thess 4:13, 2Ti 4:1, et al.].  Although Preston does not acknowledge this fact in his musings, the dead had just been resurrected and the newly resurrected dead and the living that remained were to be “harpazoed” “together to meet the Lord in the air.”


A key, and often seriously misunderstood, verse in this passage is verse 14:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep/dead, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep/dead in Jesus God will bring with him.” (1Th 4:13-14)


Note very carefully, that this passage is referring to those who have died before the events described in 15-17.  They are dead and buried yet Paul declares that God will bring them with Jesus.  Most commentators on this passage, including Preston; falsely think that this statement is referring to “the Lord’s descent as described in verse 16.  In other words they falsely assume that these persons are already in heaven and that they are going to descend with the Lord in His appearing.  That simply cannot be the case because Jesus plainly stated that:

“And no man has gone up into heaven, except he that came down from heaven, the Son of man.” (Joh 3:13)

Contrary to his position stated above, Preston himself affirms with the writer of Hebrews:

“This the Holy Spirit declares, that the way into the Holiest of All (heaven) was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle is still standing.” (Heb 9:8)

Thus, according to Jesus there was no one in heaven to come down from heaven with Him when He descended with a shout…”  So to put it as candidly as possible, verse 14 is most certainly not referring to some saints descending with Jesus in the event described in 1Thessalonians 4:13-17.  What then does Paul’s phrase “God will bring with him” mean?  What is Paul referring to by this statement? 

In this writers understanding the English Standard Version gives us a better translation of this verse:

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again; even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1Th 4: 13-14 ESV)


In the full context of this passage, Paul explains exactly what he is referencing in verse 14 when he returns to the topic of “those that sleep in Christ” in verses 15 and 16:

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive, remaining unto the Parousia of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. 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:” (1Th 4:15-16)

Thus, we should now see that in verse 14, Paul is referring to God’s bringing the dead in Christ into resurrection with Him or maybe better stated as God...through Jesus, will bring those who are sleeping in Christ into resurrection.  After these dead are resurrected, they are gathered [harpazoed] together with those who remained alive unto the Parousia and together they are all “seized in clouds to a meeting with Jesus in the air and so always with the Lord we shall be”[2] and escort Jesus to their destination in His heavenly kingdom where they will forever be with the Lord.  Indeed Paul and the others had been “preserved unto His Heavenly kingdom” in fulfillment of His promises in Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:29-30, the fourth Gospel 14:2, and Revelation 3:21 and in fulfillment of His high priestly prayer in the Fourth Gospel 17:24:

“Father, I will that they, whom thou have given me, be with me also, where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou have given me…” (Fourth Gospel 17:24)



[1] At the right hand of the Father:  Psalm 110:1; Ro 8:34; Heb 1:3, 10:12-13, 12:2; et al.

[2] This is a literal word for word translation of this phrase.


Olive Tree Ministries
BAR LD Ranch

Lloyd Dale

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