While watching a video of a dispensationalist preacher mocking a post-tribulation rapture by comparing it to a bungie cord (we go up, then right back down), I realized that there are a lot of Christians who do not understand why we will meet Jesus in the sky when he comes. This preacher’s own view of the “coming” of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 might be compared to a bungie cord (Jesus comes down, then right back up), but in reality there are no bungie cords in this passage.
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 the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
The Greek word for “meet” here is a somewhat technical term that often means “the action of going out to meet an arrival, especially as a mark of honour” (Liddell, Scott, and Jones). The noun and verb forms are used in 4 other places in the New Testament. A man goes out to meet Jesus’ disciples to show them to the upper room where they will celebrate Passover on the night Jesus is betrayed (Mark 14:13). Ten lepers go out to meet Jesus when he arrives in their village (Luke 17:12). When Paul arrives in Rome, Christians come from all over Rome to meet him (Acts 28:15). But the most relevant passage is the parable of the ten virgins, discussed in the next paragraph.
Jesus compares his coming to a bridegroom coming to his wedding feast. Ten virgins go out to meet him, although in the end only five are there to meet him. The purpose of going out to meet him seems to be hospitality and celebration. They are welcoming the bridegroom into the feast, and they walk with him into it. Like Jepthah’s daughter “came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances” (Judges 11:34), the virgins celebrate Jesus’ arrival and make it a joyful occasion.
There is one more reason why we’ll want to be in the sky when Jesus comes. Jesus also compares his coming to the flood that swept away the people of Noah’s day (Matthew 24:38–39). As Noah floated above the waters of God’s judgment, we will float above the earth as Jesus comes in judgment. When the bride is ready for the wedding feast, Jesus will come “to strike down the nations” (Revelation 19).