Herein we report a feasible method to synthesize Ce3+ incorporated Y3Al5O12 phosphors by a rapid combustive reaction method. The rapid combustion only takes a relatively short duration at a lower temperature of 580 °C. The phase identification study demonstrates that cubic Y3Al5O12 is obtained. The mean crystal size decreases when Ce content exceeds 10 mol%. The samples show a yellow emission feature at around 530 nm. A red shift is observed with the increase of Ce3+ concentration, which is due to the further splitting of 5d levels of Ce3+. The thermoluminescence as well as the afterglow are observed, which are due to the liberated carriers from traps created by lattice defects. The rapid combustion process is advantageous to the creation of defects, which may cause the generation of afterglow.