“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet [apantēsis] the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess 4:17)
It is often heard (assumed) in postrib circles that apantēsis in 1 Thess 4:17 carries the technical meaning of “an immediate reverse escort.” This is mistaken. The term is used frequently in Koine Greek with no notion of “escorting back.” But this errant understanding of this term must be maintained in posttrib theology in order to have the church immediately escorted back to earth with Christ after the rapture. This is not part of the basic meaning of the noun—it is a contextual application determined only by its particular usage.
The term means:
to come near to and to meet, either in a friendly or hostile sense (Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains,” L&N)
meeting (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, BDAG)
meeting (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis)
For example, this term is used in Matt 25:1: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet [apantēsis] the bridegroom.”
This instance in Matthew 25:1 is ironic because posttribbers, rightly, believe that this is illustrating the rapture from Matt 24:31. And yet, the parable’s usage of this term clearly indicates that the five wise virgins did not “immediately escort” the bridegroom back from where they came from! Rather, they were escorted to where the Bridegroom (Christ) came from (heaven)—which supports the prewrath position, not the posttrib view: “and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut” (Matt 25:10).
Three explicit passages support this view describing that, after the rapture, Jesus escorts them to heaven—not earth— before the Father’s throne. And, yes, eventually, his bride will descend from heaven in the New Jerusalem to earth.
In addition, when Paul uses apantēsis, he does so by drawing from Jewish imagery from the Sinai event, not Hellenistic imagery. For further points correcting the lexical fallacy concerning the mistaken meaning of apantēsis, see my full article on this here:
The Greek Word Apantēsis (Meeting) Does Not Mean ‘an Immediate Escort’ Back to Earth: A Response to Posttribulationism