"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.." (I Thessalonians 4: 13-17 NIV)
The Greek word for "meet" occurs only four times in the New Testament and "it is used in the papyri of a newly arriving magistrate." "The special idea of the word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary." (Vines N.T. Words)
The best English words to define it are "greet" or "welcome,"especially in the context oftraditional welcoming and reception ceremonies. In moreformal houses, both private and public, there is generally a "hall" or "foyer" or "vestibule" where arriving guests are officially, and formally, and warmly "greeted" and "welcomed."
The "foyer" or "vestibule" hall is "an entranceway or transitional space from the exterior to the interior of a building."
When a guestarrives at the "door" and "knocks," a person at the house (host) opens the door and welcomes the guest, and then accompanies that guest back into the house. The Greek word does not allow for the idea that the guest is "met" or "greeted" in the foyer by the host and then the host and guestleave togetherto go back with the arriving guestto the place from whence the guest had previously departed, or to some other location. Rather, the idea is that the guest is "met" or "greeted" and then the hostaccompanies the guest on the last short leg of hisjourney. We see this in Acts 28: 15.
"And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage." (Acts 28: 15)
The brethren who came out to "meet" Paul did not meet him with the intent of leaving with him to accompany himto where he is going, for then it would read - "we came to meet them" rather than "they came to meet us." With the mere English word "meet," one does not necessarily see this distinction. The guest who arrives at a home does not "greet" or "welcome" the host of the home, but vice versa. They both "meet" each other, but only the host "greets" or "welcomes" the arriving guest.
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." (Matthew 25: 1-6)
This parable of Christ is based upon the Jewish wedding ceremonies and traditions. A bride and groom, who are betrothed, schedule a date for the wedding. The groom is in waitingin his housewith his family and attendants. The bride is likewise in her house with her family and attendants. On the eve of the wedding day, the bride with her "maids of honor" eagerly waitin her home for thecoming of the groomfor her. The bride does not know at what hour of the night (it was traditionally at night when the groom came to his bride) her espoused will come, so she "keeps vigil" with her virgin maids of honor, with lamps burning, looking for the first "sign" of his arrival. It is a very intense and exciting time of faithfulwaiting and anticipation.
When the first sign of the groom's coming is noticed by some watchman, the cry is made - "go out to welcome (meet or greet) him." Upon this announcement, the bride and her attendants will arise to go out from her house for the purpose of welcoming him and in order to accompany him the remaining way back to her house for celebration. The bride does not meet the groom and then turn around immediately and leave with him. Yes, she does eventually leave with him, from her house to his house, but not till he has gone all the way toher house; And, he is met or greetedoutside the home before he goes all the way to the home of his bride.
When Christ comes, he will be welcomed and greeted by all believers who are living on earth at that time. That is one of the purposes of the "rapture" or the being "caught up (raptured) to meet (greet or welcome) the Lord in the air." The sky above becomes the grand foyer, the holy vestibule, where raptured believersrise to formally "greet" and warmly and officially "welcome" the coming King of kings.
The Greeks had several words for the air or sky and the word in the rapture passage above denotes the "lower air," not the upper atmosphere or outer space. Further, when this official greeting takes place, in this lower sky, the raptured saints do notleave with Christ to go back to Heaven, from whence he left, butleave with Christ to come the rest of the way to earth, when "his feet shall (then) stand upon the Mount of Olives." (Zechariah 14: 4)
Friend, will you be ready for that day? Will you be as the five foolish, or as the five wise virgins? Are you "keeping vigil" for the Lord's coming? Will that daycatch you unawares and unprepared? Will you be left out of the coming celebrations of the saints?