1 Thess 4:13-5:11; Does death have the last word? (1 Thessalonians 4); Patrice Berger

1 Thess 4:13-5:11; Does death have the last word? (1 Thessalonians 4); Patrice Berger

prédication 1 Thessaloniciens 4 : Patrice Berger, 2023_07_14, église AB Lausanne

titre : 1 Thess 4:13-5:11; Does death have the last word? (1 Thessalonians 4); Patrice Berger

Résumé : Death is a cataclysm for which all of humanity is responsible and it is always a trauma because we were not created to experience it. However, it is there and universal, but Paul points to one of the aspects that depends on the resurrection of Christ: believers will experience the same type of resurrection with Christ. This reality will unfold following the return of Jesus. Certain, unexpected moment that only God knows (and no man).
Let this be an encouragement in the midst of sadness.

1 Thess 4:13-5:11; Does death have the last word? (1 Thessalonians 4); Patrice Berger

Does death have the last word?

1 Thessalonians 4/13-18
13 We do not want you, brothers and sisters, to be ignorant about those who have died, lest you be sad like others who have not of hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring back through Jesus and with him those who are dead.
15 This is what we declare to you from the word of the Lord: We the living, who remain for the return of the Lord, we will not precede those who are dead.
16 For the Lord himself, at a given signal, at the voice of an archangel, and at the sound of the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven,
and those who are dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are still alive will all be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
18 So encourage one another with these words.

More encouragement

Recall the encouragements in the preceding paragraph:

  • intimate life within the framework of marriage,
  • true and respectful fraternal relations.

Again encouragement
Again a very concrete subject.

The death

Concerning an aspect of the future of those who have died

Why this answer to the questions?
Obviously, there had been deaths since the time when the apostle had passed but perhaps questions

because of deaths due to persecution
and also a relative confusion because the Lord Jesus had still not returned and the apostles were talking about him in the present tense (which translates rather certainty but also a closeness).
What does the apostle recall?

Yes to sadness

Inevitably, we are sad, we were not created for this, it remains a wound, a trauma.

Not created for this

Death is the direct consequence
of • the rebellion of all mankind against God,

  • our independence from Him,
    which confronts us with something that God did not want us to know.
    Those responsible are men.

Do not retain only sadness or remain
You have to be a

  • religious
  • or evangelical fanatic
    to say:

“Hallelujah, he is in heaven! »
We are sad. It is not right to conceal this pain by artificially anesthetizing it with commonplaces

  • more or less biblically true
  • or puerile.


Incidentally, we never say about someone who is not in Christ

  • “He is much better off where he is” no, it’s hell…
  • “He no longer suffers” precisely his suffering
    becomes without end…
    It’s despair, without end, without return!

Which is not the case for those who are attached to Christ!

No despair

On the other hand, we are not sad in despair because
everything stops and there is nothing after.

Important reminder in the face of usual conceptions
Paul is obliged to recall this
The conception of what happens after death

  • among the
    ancient Greeks • and Romans
    was quite close to our current Western conception.


  • vaguely the soul remains but we don’t really know where,
  • even rather judgment style.

In this, we understand that the first believers were quite troubled by what they usually heard around them.

Paul encourages them

God wanted this epistle to reach us so that we may also be encouraged despite the sadness. God desires that all be no
longer • in ignorance

  • but that sadness be healed by the hope of life forever with Christ.


  • Hope is sure, certain.
  • Hope is uncertain.

Hope based on God

This hope is again based on the words of the Lord Jesus, it is based on what God does and not on what we could do

  • in our lifetime
  • or those who survive us.

God’s action

  • What has God done? He allowed Jesus to die and rise again
  • What will God do? The same with those who died, with Jesus at their head.

No end point
What encouragement!
Nothing stops after our life!

Decided by God for all
It is at the moment decided by God that this will happen

  • as well for those who have died,
  • as for those who are still alive.
  • No distinction,
  • all together!

solemn moment

It is a solemn moment!

Several aspects: Glorious Jesus Himself is involved,

  • the voice of the archangel
  • and the sound of the trumpet mark this moment which can be seen in two ways.

Hebrew vision

The sounding of the trumpet was the time to gather God’s people.
We actually see it in one or another passage of the book of Judges.

Greco-Roman vision

(Which corresponds more to the codes of the recipients of the letter)
This suggests that when an important political authority were to arrive in a city, a delegation went to meet him outside the city to accompany him into the city.
It is this idea that is at the heart of these verses.

All to meet Christ


  • already deceased
  • and the living
    are all integrated to meet this triumphal procession which celebrates the glorious return of Christ.

All = All believers
These are those who are in Christ, who have chosen him as Lord and Savior of their lives. God respects the choices and He will not integrate into His procession people against their will, that is to say people who will have been sufficient vis-à-vis Him during their lifetime.

Real moment, Paul places the reality of the resurrection of all believers with Jesus

  • under the leap of certainty,
  • of encouragement,
  • of teaching to be transmitted
  • and as an imminent reality.

1 Thessalonians 4. 17
Then we who are still alive will all be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.


On reading, one has the impression “of now” when we read the writing of the apostle. We lose a little with the translation the idea of ​​“all together removed”:
It was indeed, an expression used for the action of a magnet of the pieces of iron which are picked up directly.
Jesus would be like this magnet that automatically draws believers to Him.

« Big Questions »

The big question is when will this certain and glorious return happen?

1 Thessalonians chapter 5.1-11
1 As regards times and seasons, you, brothers and sisters, need not have anyone write to you about them.
2 For you yourselves well know that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
3 When men will say,
“Peace and security!”
then a sudden ruin will fall on them, like the pains on the pregnant woman;
they will not escape it.

4 But you, brothers and sisters, you are not in darkness so that this day surprises you like a thief.

5 You are all children of light and children of the day.
We are not of the night nor of the darkness.
6 Let us therefore not sleep like the others, but let us watch and be sober.
7 For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
8 But we who are of the day, let us be sober, put on the breastplate of faith and love, and wear the hope of salvation as a helmet.

9 For God did not ordain us for wrath, but for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us that whether we were awake or slept, we might live together with him.

11 Therefore encourage one another and edify one another, as you already do.

When ?

The big question is when will this glorious return take place.
Obviously the apostle had already shared on the subject because the beginning of the verses that we have just read sounds like a reminder.

no date

Obviously, God does not give a date: it would be unbearable to live with the expiry date of current humanity…

On the other hand, He leaves us information about the context.

The surprise

  • Like a thief who commits his crime at night in an unexpected way,
  • even like childbirth.

The difference between these two images comes from the fact that

  • the first insists on total surprise,
  • the second, there are relatively obvious signs. Our sister Andress is giving birth this month and even behind a camera, we suspect something, there are signs…
    It’s exactly the same idea in what the apostle tells us.

Signs of the context

The surprise will be total at a time when humanity will be too pleased with itself, that it will have succeeded in producing a so-called « Peace & Security ».

A little as if humanity had managed to create « the rest » promised by God.
God rests at the end of creation, it is not fatigue but everything is perfect and accomplished.
God wants to lead His people into the land of Canaan to have a taste of rest.

The desire for rest is within us
This aspiration is within us

  • a reality,
  • a heritage
    that comes to us from Eden.

It is therefore normal that humanity

  • has always tried to recreate it and
  • tried to taste this “rest” to respond to this aspiration,
    but without God, it is an impossible mission. It is sin that makes this impossible.

The pride of humanity

Certainly then, when humanity will be very happy to have arrived at this pale copy, that it will be surprised by the One who will really establish true rest.

near or far

Are we near or far?
The more it goes, the closer we get.
Globalization tends towards something global.

The Patience of God

But there is another element that comes into play in relation to God’s decision: His patience so that as many as possible can taste liberation in Christ.

2 Peter 3/8
8 But if there is one thing, beloved, you must not forget, it is that in the eyes of the Lord one day is like 1000 years and 1000 years is like one day.
9 The Lord is not slow in fulfilling the promise, as some think;
instead, he is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

A federal councilor reportedly said, “As fast as possible, as slowly as necessary. (Alain Berset)

It is necessary to talk about it

The subject of this glorious return of Christ is important.
Edify yourselves: the return of Jesus, let’s talk about it!

Implication for now

  • The certain return of Christ
  • and the resurrection of all believers
    has an implication that concerns us right now.

Not a departing tourist

The believer is absolutely a privileged person who has a ticket to heaven
and who behaves unlike his Saviour.

A bit like when you go shopping in the « duty free », before boarding at an airport.


Just as Jesus is light, so His first creative act was to separate darkness and light.

Bright and active we too

We believers are called to demonstrate that we are actively preparing for Christ’s glorious return by having a luminous attitude.

The people who went to meet the dignitary, before he returned to the city, were active and put everything in place to honor the guest who arrived.
It is the same for us.


In the image of Jesus who is Light, we are also luminous, transparent, clear, trustworthy people, active in preparing for this return and in the best of dispositions.

Contrary to ambivalence, concealment of people who arouse mistrust, who waste the graces of God, using the time that God offers to futilities, degrading their lives (drinks or other) to be distracted ( in the sense of distraction) instead of being vigilant.


This concrete and direct application, concerning our life now, is solemn


God gives us life capital
What do we do with it?

  • Is it turned,
  • oriented,
    in view of the certain return of Christ?

Is this one of the priority elements of our decisions?


Or is life capital squandered

  • on self-centered hedonistic trivialities,
  • on consumption, leisure, horizontal investment and speculative purposes that we cannot take with us?

In fact, the model of life that is continually offered to us in our society is through school or family education and commercial, philosophical or ethical policy…

The works of darkness

All of these aspects represent “works of darkness” because the resources God gives are not directed
to • honoring him,

  • including preparing for the sure return of Christ.

A careless and distracted welcoming committee, it is as if the welcoming committee of the dignitary who was to come takes advantage of the means made available for the event by • making
good restaurants,

  • building houses,
  • s ensuring financial investments,
  • going on a trip,
  • frequenting shows.

Then the dignitary arrives, nothing is ready, nothing is up to par, the people are not ready to receive him.

We are rightly indignant when an elected official embezzles public money for personal ends. But aren’t we worse off with the abilities God gives us?

Let’s not fall into the trap

It is for this reason that Paul encourages believers not to fall for the trap.


We are called to be a consistent welcoming committee, on the alert for all the good ideas that could honor the distinguished guest who is arriving, our Lord and Saviour.

Youth Olympics

When the Youth Olympic Games were awarded to our canton, the organizing committee did not ask itself the questions:
Is it safe?
But is it really us?
Is it really certain?

No, they set to work to get everything ready, they believed in the announcement and the decision of the event.

Paul tells us the same thing in a different way:
1 Thessalonians chapter 5
8 But we who are of the day,
let us be sober, (save all your energy for useful and constructive things)
put on the breastplate of faith (that’s sure , it will take place)
and love (state of mind of the organizing committee)
and let us have as our helmet the hope (not hope) of salvation (the satisfaction of tasting the final and perfect completion with of Christ).

9 Indeed, God has not ordained us for wrath,
but for the possession of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
(God is patient
“As quickly as possible, as slowly as necessary.”)

Jesus Christ
10 who died for us that
we might either watch (being active now)
or sleep (because already dead)
live together with him.

11 Therefore encourage one another and edify one another, as you already do.

The return of the Lord is an underdeveloped subject.

Bible Passages

1 Thessalonians 4:13

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:17

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

2 Peter 3:8

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Related Links / Notes

Series : Epistle 1st Thessalonians

Study Notes are translated from the original French version prepared by the pastor Patrice Berger. The orginal French notes are in « note » form, and are not a direct transcription of the video, however they are quite close the original text preached at the church. The notes provided here follow that form, and are detailed enough to help provide a deep understanding of the texts of the parables.

All services as well as some of the bible studies are streamed on the channel  YouTube église AB Renens-Lausanne.  Also visit the You Tube channel of the Swiss Action Biblique Youth Groups (JAB Suisse Romande).

Bible verses cited in this series are avalaible online in the KJV Bible among others and also as a podcast on Spotify