While it’s true that God will be repaying those in the body of Christ with “ease” at the unveiling of Christ from heaven with his messengers (while at the same time repaying the unbelievers who will be alive at this time with “affliction”), I submit that our ease will be a continuation of a blessing that we will have already begun enjoying prior to this event. I’ll be going into more detail in parts 2 and 3 on how much time (at minimum) I believe will transpire between the beginning of our eonian life and the unveiling of Christ from heaven with his messengers at the end of the eon. For now, I just want to look at some of the reasons why I believe the coming of Christ with his messengers as described by Paul in the above passage will be distinct from (and will take place some time subsequent to) the coming of Christ that will involve the commencement of our eonian life.
Although the exact circumstances that prompted Paul to write what he did in this passage are not known, the point that needs to be emphasized here is that, according to Paul, the coming of Christ referred to in this passage will involve the resurrection of a certain group of saints – i.e., the body of Christ, of which the Thessalonians were members. And their resurrection will not take place after the living are gathered together to meet Christ; it will take place before. Only after the “dead in Christ” have been raised will the living (along with those just resurrected) then be snatched away to meet Christ in the air.
Another (related) reason for believing that Christ's return to earth concludes the second half of the 70th week is as follows: After escaping from the deadly persecution of the “serpent”/”dragon” (i.e., Satan) and fleeing into the wilderness, we read that the “woman” referred to in Rev. 12 (who likely symbolizes believing Israel) is to be “nourished a season, and seasons, and half a season, from the face of the serpent” (Rev. 12:14). Again, this refers to a period of 1,260 days (v. 6), or 3½ years - i.e., the second half of the final heptad prophesied in Daniel 9. Since the people symbolized by the “woman” are to be protected from Satan for this exact period of time, it follows that they will no longer need the sort of miraculous protection they'll be receiving in the wilderness after this period comes to an end. But the only reason this could be the case is if this period of miraculous nourishment in the wilderness is to end with Christ’s return to earth to deliver faithful Israel from her enemies and set up his kingdom (cf. Luke 21:27-28).
In the last passage referenced, we find God drawing a contrast between the unbelievers within the nation and the believing remnant, whom God refers to as “my chosen” (v. 9). He goes on to speak of how his chosen among the nation will be tremendously blessed on the earth in the future, using language that clearly refers to life during the eon(s) to come (vv. 17-25). Remarkably, we also read in Isaiah 27:13 that the scattered children of Israel will be gathered to their homeland to “worship Yahweh on the holy mountain at Jerusalem” in conjunction with the blowing of “a great trumpet” – which is the only specific reference in the Old Testament to a “great” trumpet.
Given these meanings of the word, it makes perfect sense that apantēsis would be used in the context of bridesmaids meeting a bridegroom, or of the brothers from Rome meeting Paul. They're all examples of a friendly meeting taking place between two parties coming from different locations. What exactly happens after these meetings is simply not inherent in the meaning of the word itself. It is the context in which the word occurs - and not the word in itself - which alone can provide this information. If what is said (or not said) in the immediate context makes it unclear as to what exactly takes place after the meeting (as I believe to be the case in 1 Thess. 4:17), some other broader contextual considerations will have to be appealed to in order to determine this.