The Meeting in the Sky -- By: Thomas Ice

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 07:21 (Aug 2003)
Article: The Meeting in the Sky
Author: Thomas Ice

The Meeting in the Sky

Thomas Ice

Executive Director
Pre-Trib Research Center, Arlington, TX

Several months ago Dr. Tim LaHaye, Dr. Ed Hindson, and I did a weekend prophecy conference in the Philadelphia area. As usual, we had a time of questions and answers about Bible prophecy. One attendee turned in the following written question:

The Greek word for “meet” in 1 Thess. 4:17 is a technical term, used of an arriving dignitary or special guest, approaching the city of his destination. Residents would then go out to meet him and accompany him back to his destination. The word is only used in two other passages: Acts 28:15 and Matt. 25:1, 6. To do justice to the Greek word, Christ’s destination would be earth, not back to heaven, we would meet him in the clouds and accompany him back to earth. How do you explain that from a pre-trib view?

I want to take the rest of this article to point out the errors of assumption in this question and give a pre-trib reply to the question.

False Assumptions

Latent within the above question are false assumptions that must be corrected before anyone, pre-trib or anti-pre-trib, can respond to such a question. The Philadelphia questioner’s major, big-time error is his belief that the Greek word for “meet” is a technical term. (A technical term, as used here, refers to a word that would have specific connotations implicit in the word itself.) Here we have an example of a widely held belief in academic circles that is

categorically wrong. So what is the error and how did it get started?

Origin of the Error

Taking the last question first, we can trace the source of the error to a German scholar named Erik Peterson. Peterson wrote an article in 19301 saying that the Greek word “to meet” (apantêsis) “is to be understood as a technical term for a civic custom of antiquity whereby a public welcome was accorded by a city to important visitors.”2 Interestingly, it was in 1930 that English-speaking scholars Moulton and Milligan published their famous work on extra-biblical use of Greek vocabulary around the time of the New Testament.3 Moulton and Milligan say about “to meet” (apantêsis): “The word seems to have been a kind of technical...

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