The Lord Returns Will He Do A U-turn?
The Lord In The
Air" at His coming - Then Jesus does a U-turn
back To heaven??
Ed. F. Sanders
The Return Of Christ And The
Rapture In 1 Thess 4
Well known dispensational scholar
and pretrib apologist John F.
Walvoord writing about the pretrib rapture said "The major passage on
the Rapture is
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18"(2). I will agree that this is a
major rapture passage but it
not teach a pretrib
this we declare to you by a
word from the Lord, that we who are
alive, who are left until the coming (parousia)
of the Lord, will not
precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will
descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice
of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And
the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are
left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet
(apantesis) the Lord in the air,
and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thess 4:15-17(1)
What the passage does
1. v.15: The
passage is talking about
the 'the coming' of Christ (not 'a coming'). The Greek word is parousia
(parousia) which 'denotes both an "arrival" and a consequent
with"'(3). This is the same Greek word used to describe the
Coming in 1 Thess 2:19, 3:13 and 5:23 (also 2 Thess 2:1, 2:8)(4).
Paul here in vs.15 introducing a different return of Christ than in the
previous and following chapters? If there
were 2 future
'comings' of Christ why did Paul not distinguish them clearly (2 Coming
Coming?) The fact is
there is no exegetical or grammatical basis for concluding that Paul
two different comings separated by a period of years. There is only one
future return of Christ taught in the NT (Heb 9:28).
2. v.16: The return of Christ Paul is describing is public "with a
cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the
sound of the trumpet of God" - there is no 'secret rapture' here as
taught by Tim
LaHaye who is maybe the best known of the 'left behind' theologians.
3. v.17: We meet the Lord in the air and will then will be with Him
What the passage does
1. the rapture is
before the tribulation
Yet in spite of the obvious one
pretrib writer says:
2. The rapture is a 'secret' event
3. that Jesus comes to meet his saints then does a U-turn and goes back
heaven for seven years.
Saint U-turn. In
the pre-trib scenario, after we rise to meet the Lord in the air, we
will go to heaven and abide there seven years. At the end of the seven
years Christ comes down to earth, defeats the Antichrist, and cleanses
the temple(5)". This
is the Tim LaHaye 'left behind' theology in summary.
The 'u-turn' interpretation stands
or falls on the meaning of the word "meet"
in verse 17 (Greek apantesis,
W.E. Vine says the definition is:
meeting"...occurs in Matt.
(in some mss. in ver. 1, and in Matt. 27:32,
in some mss.); Acts 28:15;
It is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate. "It seems that
the special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly
Of the significance of "meet" the NIDNTT(8)
"The use of apantesis
in 1 Thess. 4:17 is noteworthy. The ancient expression
for the civic welcome of an important visitor or the triumphal entry of
ruler into the capital city and thus to his reign is applied to Christ.
we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them
clouds to meet the Lord (eis apantesin tou
Kyriou) in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.” The
thoughts occur in the parable of the ten virgins. The virgins leave to
bridegroom (eis apantesin tou nymphiou)
i.e. the Lord, to whom they wish to give a festive reception (Matt.
Bruce, a Plymouth Brethren scholar, comments on the word 'meet':
"When a dignitary
official visit or parousia to a city in Hellenistic times, the action
of the leading citizens in going out to meet him and escorting him on
the final stage of his journey was called the apantesis(9)...".
commenting upon the application of this unique word
pretribulation distinctive is
associated with the
It teaches that when we have met the Lord in the air, He will reverse
direction, lead us back to heaven, and there we will pass the seven
year period in which tribulation racks the earth. Does the word "meet"
mean to change direction and return along the path just traveled? It is
used only three times in Scripture: Matthew 25:6, Acts 28:15, and here
(1 Thess 4:17). If the word "meet" in 1 Thessalonians
essentially the same meaning as in the other two occurrences, then we
get a picture of Christ descending to the earth, being met by His
people in the air, and continuing down to set right the heresies of the
saints, and not Christ, reverse direction. The Captain
of the hosts does not retreat on His way to victory. He continues on".(10)
Well said! Even though this passage
does not say the rapture is before
the tribulation it is used as the main pretrib "proof-text" by
preachers and teachers who have not taken the time to exegete the
To use the passage (1 Thess 4:15-17)
basis for a pretrib rapture and u-turn is a
The passage simply does not
teach a pretrib event or establish the timing
rapture with respect to the tribulation! We must
Scripture based on exegesis
(determining what the passage really says) rather that eisigesis
(reading into the text what is not there).
second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a sudden, personal,
visible, bodily return! not a secret rapture then a
u-turn back to Heaven!
Also see: Matt. 24:44; 25:13; Mark 13:32-33; Luke 12:40;
14:3; Acts 1:11; 1
Thess. 5:2; Heb. 9:28; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 1:7; 22:20
(1) English Standard Version
(2) Quote from End Times
by Dr. John F. Walvoord, former President of Dallas Theological
Seminary. He also wrote the classic pretrib defense The Rapture
(1957) where he lists 50 reasons to believe the pretrib
rapture - not once citing a verse that says the rapture precedes the
Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
, W. E.
edition (c) by Wordsearch Corp.
(4) Also parousia is used of the return of Christ in Matt 24:3, 24, 37,
39, 1 Cor 15:23, Jam 5:7-8, 2 Peter 1:16,
(5) From an article on the Rapture Ready website (www.raptureme.com).
This is the site that publishes the "Rapture Index" The publisher of
the 'index' states "You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones
Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better
if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the
faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture".
(6) Found in Matt. 25:1 (some mss.), 25:6, Acts 28:15, and 1 Thess.
on 1 Thess 4:17 Peter E. Cousins says this word "to meet
in the papyri of the official reception given to a
visiting govenor, whom his citizens escort into the city from which
they have come to meet him" (New
International Bible Commentary
, (c) 1979 by Pickering &
(7) Vine, op. cit. W.E. Vine, himself a pre-trib
dispensationalist, is here citing from Moulton's Grammar
of New Testament Greek
, (4 Volumes, J.H.Moulton, Vol. I, p. 14).
Vine says the word is similar to synantesis
"a coming to meet with...is found in some mss. in Matt. 8:34, of
the coming out of all the people of a city to meet the Lord".
Brown, ed., New
of New Testament Theology
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,
(9) F.F. Bruce commentary on 1 Thessalonians in the New Bible
, p. 1159. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(10) From the book The Tribulation
People by Arthur Katterjohn, former professor at Wheaton